Full Usenet Automation with Sickbeard, SABnzbd and CouchPotato
Even at 30+ years old, Usenet remains a great source of digital content for your downloading pleasure. Usenet offers optimum speeds, reliability and safety, even compared to more recent technologies such as torrent file-sharing.
If you are not familiar with Usenet and all of its advantages, start with our Introductory Usenet articles.
Bottom Line Summary
- Use SABnzdb (free), a web browser-based Usenet newsreader, together with add-ons like Sickbeard (free) and CouchPotato (free) to find and download all the content you could ever want. Sickbeard caters to TV content while CouchPotato caters to movie content.
- For best results, use a high-quality and fast Usenet provider that caters to the needs of automated Usenet users, such as UsenetServer.
- And that’s it! You can even kiss torrent file-sharing good-bye as automated Usenet has all the benefits of torrents plus additional advantages too (safer, older content more available, often faster downloading speeds).
Many people are not aware, but with the right (free!) tools you can make Usenet a lot like torrent file-sharing. Only safer.
Usenet is safer because you do not have to share files (and thus your IP address) with anyone, including potential torrent monitoring snoops.
Usenet can replace P2P file-sharing because most if not all the files available on torrent file-sharing networks are also available on Usenet. Even better, files are usually available sooner and for a longer time compared with torrents.
A number of free tools created by Usenet enthusiast make this not only possible but relatively easy too. These tools are all explained in detail below and include:
- SABnzdb (free) – recommended Usenet newsreader for automating downloads that runs in your web browser.
- Sick Beard (free) and CouchPotato (free) – add-ons for SABnzdb that help you identify content in advance and then download it automatically as soon as it is available on Usenet.
- Sickbeard caters to TV content and CouchPotato caters to movie content.
Absolutely key to achieving automated Usenet success is to have good Usenet service. So, while the tools you use are free you will have to pay for good Usenet access to make all this possible. We strongly recommend UsenetServer or Newshosting – Usenet providers recommended by CouchPotato itself (check their website if you need any further confirmation).
How to Use SABnzbd
Basically, SABnzbd is a script-based newsreader app that works on Windows, Mac or Linux. SABnzbd runs from within your web browser (at an address that may look something like https://localhost:9090/sabnzbd).
Installing SABnzbd is a simple process using its wizard.
After installing SABnzdb, you’ll need to set it up. Launch SABnzbd to begin the setup. You will first be asked to select a language and a theme (the default is fine).
Under ‘Access Options’ you can select whether you want to control it remotely from another location. If you select the remotely accessible option, you will have to set up a username and password for accessing SABnzdb from a remote location.
The next step involves setting up the news server SABnzdb should use. Enter the Usenet NNTP news server of your Usenet service provider.
Top Tip – SABnzdb lets you use multiple servers to help avoid incomplete items. If you have a second Usenet account (such as a block account) enter its address too and check the box ‘backup’. This way SABnzdb will only access the backup NNTP server if it encounters missing pieces on the main (primary) news server you entered.
You will also need to enter the number of connections SAB should use. You can enter as high a number as recommended by your Usenet provider. For example, one of our recommended Usenet providers Newshosting allows up to 30 simultaneous connections for download speeds that will amaze you. If you don’t know what number to use, enter 10.
You will have now entered enough information for SABnzbd to work. But for a better automated Usenet experience you will have to fine tune the settings a little more.
Fine Tuning SABnzbd
Once the basic setup is complete, take the following additional steps. There are many options to choose from but we will only discuss the most important ones here.
Launch SABnzbd, select the Config wrench icon in the upper-left menu and select the ‘General’ tab. Under the section ‘SABnzbd Web Server’ look for ‘API Key’. The API key is a long string of alphanumeric data that you must copy as you will need it a little later for further configuring the settings.
If you scroll all the way down to the bottom, under the section ‘Tuning’ you will find the option ‘Cleanup List’; it may have some file extensions clustered together. Content that you download from Usenet sometimes comes with superfluous files attached to it that SABnzbd will delete automatically. If there are any additional file extensions you may want to add for automatic deletion, add them here.
Now move onto the next sub-category in the configurations menu – Folders. Here you will be able to configure where your downloads will be saved. Note that SABnzdb uses different folders for temporary downloads and for completed downloads. SABnzdb’s default setting are to automatically save downloads to your main hard drive.
You will have to change the default values if, for example, you want to save your Usenet downloads to an encrypted location whether folder, drive or cloud storage.
Top Tip – For ultimate Usenet downloading safety, save your downloaded media to encrypted locations. Just make sure you mount (decrypt) the drives before starting your Usenet app and downloading.
The last option in the configurations sub category is ‘Sorting’ where you can select various options for organizing your downloads the way you prefer.
Finding and Downloading Content with SABnzbd
Downloading content using SABnzbd is fairly easy once you learn how to find and mark it for download.
SABnzbd uses .NZB files that serve as pointers to binary content on Usenet for processing and downloading SABs (much the same as .torrent files act as pointers for shared files on BitTorrent networks). Because binary content on Usenet is split into numerous pieces (the larger the download the greater number the pieces), NZB files enable users to download a single file even when the original content was broken up into dozens or even hundreds of pieces and locations on Usenet.
SABnzdb use the NZB to begin downloading all the pieces that the NZB points to until the entire file is assembled into a single file. NZB files make things easy so you don’t have to worry. Best of all, SABnzdb does all this legwork for you.
For the best NZB search sites, see our complete list of Best NZB Search Sites for lots of different choices, including free ones. Some premium NZB accounts will even provide you with an API key enabling you to closely integrate your NZB searches with SABnzdb for even greater Usenet automation.
How to Use Sickbeard
Most people wouldn’t think of ditching their BitTorrent file-sharing activities for Usenet, but you should really give this some thought. Tools such as Sick Beard make Usenet just as easy as torrents, retaining all the advantages of torrents but eliminating the risks including of torrent monitoring and surveillance. With Usenet, you don’t share your IP address with an unknown number of unknown users with unknown motives.
Top Tip – ISP throttling and traffic shaping can still be issues with Usenet (as with torrents) so consider shielding your Usenet activities from your ISP by using a VPN. Many Usenet providers now bundle their packages with a VPN for this very purpose.
If you’re still not convinced, one of the perks of using Sickbeard is that fresh content is often available on Usenet before it’s available on torrent file-sharing networks.
Sickbeard automates the entire process of finding and downloading content on Usenet. All you have to do is search for the content you want by typing into its database and Sickbeard will find and download it for you immediately or as soon as it is available. The step-by-step process is explained below.
Top Tip – If you don’t already have a Usenet provider, choose the best quality newsgroup access you can afford. It is important that you choose a Usenet provider with robust access to the binaries newsgroups and with a no-logging policy. See our recommendations, catering to all budgets, for help in making your choice. If you are a newcomer or skeptical, first try a short-term or free trial account.
Installing & Configuring Sickbeard
To install the Sickbeard add-on for SABnzbd first download it from https://code.google.com/p/sickbeard/.
As soon as you execute the file, it will pop up in your web browser. Even if you close your web browser, Sickbeard continues to run in the background until you expressly choose exit from Sickbeard’s menu. You can see that Sickbeard is still running by an icon in your system tray for Windows (the bottom right of your display).
Now it’s time to configure Sickbeard with SABnzbd. Find and select configuration settings and fill in the SABnzbd details.
- Choose a NZB method
- Change the SABnzbd address to if it has not changed automatically
- To enable remote access (it’s up to you), add your username and password for SABnzbd
- Enter your API Key from SABnzbd (remember that this was discussed above and can be found in SABnzdb’s General settings)
- Now select the Test button to make sure everything is working fine
- If everything is A-OK, save your settings
Add Your Favorite Content
Now it’s time to select your favorite content by selecting the ‘Add Shows’ option where you can add new content to your watch list. Select ‘Add New Show’ option and type in what you are interested in. When you find the content, select it and then select next.
Select a Folder
You will have to select a parent folder in which to save your downloaded files. Sickbeard will create sub-folders for your downloaded content and organize them in logically divided folders (for example, by episodes and seasons).
How to Use CouchPotato
CouchPotato (or “cp”) is another great add-on that automates Usenet downloading via SABnzbd for a virtually effortless experience. CouchPotato works with Windows, Mac and Linux.
Installing and Configuring CouchPotato
Installing CouchPotato on Windows is quite simple – just download the install file from the CouchPotato website https://couchpota.to/ and run the installation wizard. (Mac users will first need to download the Python scripting language on which CouchPotato is based).
Once installed, CouchPotato will open in your web browser. Follow the instructions and enter as much of the information as you can. For example, if you want to operate CouchPotato remotely, you can set a username and password for doing so.
Adding Content for Download
To add content to your CouchPotato download list, simply search for the content you want and then add it. You can also choose the quality of media files you are interested in (for example, 780p, 1080p etc). CouchPotato will automatically take care of the rest of the retrieving and downloading process.
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Now that you know how to use SABnzbd, Sickbeard and CouchPotato, you can download and watch all the latest content whenever you like at your convenience. These tools may take you a little time to get used to and master but are well worth the effort.
Just keep in mind that the most important element in this whole process is your choice of Usenet provider, so choose a Usenet provider wisely.
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