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How to Use Usenet (Guide updated for 2019)

The complete set of steps for how to use Usenet. From how to sign-up and download to block accounts and full automation. 

Collage image generated from Google image search

Learn how to use Usenet step-by-step from providers to indexers & more.

In this detailed Usenet Guide, you’ll find all the steps you need on how to use Usenet and enjoy its newsgroups. You can read from the start or advanced users may want to use the index below to jump further down the tutorial.

Top Tip – One of the most important things is to choose the best Usenet provider. It's hard to go wrong with Newshosting for your newsgroup access. 

To help break it down for you, here's an index to our guide on how to use Usenet:


        Step 1: Find the Best Usenet Provider for your Needs

        There is no shortage of options for Usenet newsgroup providers (there are 100+ Usenet providers to choose from!).

        That's good news for potential customers like you as the fierce competition means that many good value options are available.

        If price is your main concern, don’t worry as Usenet access is available for as little as a few dollars per month or pennies per Gigabyte.

        Similarly, pricing has converged and is similar for most providers and plans. Therefore, what distinguishes the best Usenet provider for you will likely be speed and customer service.

        If money is no object, you can go for VIP treatment and choose a provider with the largest retention periods, unlimited data download plans and robust customer service. Customer service is important when, as is inevitable, you run into snags. You want answers and you want them quick. Plus, you want them from human beings not generic FAQs that tell you [email protected]!t.

        In-between there are plenty of balance packages that can cater to every need.

        Our favorites are listed below, but you should do your own homework. When trying to find the best Usenet provider, consult the list of factors on that page and consider searching available newsgroups to see which providers have the most uncensored Usenet newsgroups you are interested in. Most carry the full range of binaries newsgroups.

        The Leading Usenet Providers

        These are the largest and most well-established Usenet providers on the market today.

        • Newshosting is arguably the best overall choice for a Usenet provider with its excellent value for money at a good price point, reliable service, fast speeds, a free newsgroup browser and a large number of newsgroups. It also offers the most generous free trial account of 30 GB / 14 days
        • Eweka is the best European-based Usenet provider. It has over 125,000 newsgroups and has been the go-to provider for years for customers in Europe. Read more in our post Best European Usenet
        • UsenetServer is an excellent choice like Newshosting with even faster speeds and longer retention periods, but with slightly fewer newsgroups. It is great for advanced users and those thinking about embracing full Usenet automation (see Step 9 below)
        • Tweaknews enjoys a good price point and is famous for its high completion rates as it has servers in Europe and carries a large number of newsgroups
        • Giganews is the most expensive and slickest of Usenet providers with good customer service and the largest number of newsgroups. It also offers a free trial of 10 GB
        • EasyNews is considered the best web-based Usenet provider and so it is ideal for beginners. A web-based interface with thumbnail viewing is also great for those interested mostly in images and video binaries. EasyNews has a large user base and probably the best customer service
        • NewsDemon is the cheapest of the leading Usenet providers. It appeals to the most price-conscious but do expect some incomplete download items and bare-bones customer service

        RANK

        USENET

        FEATURES

        BEST PRICE

        MORE INFO

        1

        Newshosting best overall usenet provider

        • overall best Usenet provider
        • excellent value for money
        • free newsreader & VPN

        $8.33/mo
        $19.95/mo

        save 58%

        2

        • high retention & completions
        • 125,000 newsgroups
        • free newsreader with search

        €7.00/mo
        €9.60/mo

        save 27%

        Try risk-free for 7 days

        3

        UsenetServer fastest usenet provider

        • fastest Usenet downloads
        • 3764 days retention
        • best for experienced users

        $7.95/mo
        $19.95/mo

        save 60%

        Try risk-free for 14 days


        Step 2: Sign up with your Chosen Usenet Provider

        The sign-up process for most Usenet providers is generally the same: you pay (or start a free trial) and receive your credentials by e-mail.

        This e-mail will contain the address of the provider’s Usenet server, called an NNTP newsserver address (news.example.com), and an access password.

        You will need to enter this NNTP address and password into your newsreader app's settings, which is usually very straight forward and under the menu item ‘Server' (see screenshots below).

        Sometimes the e-mail you receive from the Usenet provider will include additional information such as download links for any free newsreader software they offer (see Step 3 below). Some newsgroup providers may also provide you with a username, specific port numbers or details for enabling secure SSL connections.

        Screenshot of entering NNTP news server address into GrabIt newsreader.
        Screenshot of entering username and password into GrabIt newsreader.

        In your Settings, always use secure connections (also called SSL) as this prevents your ISP from detecting your Usenet activities. It’s smart to enable SSL as many ISPs frown on Usenet activities and will throttle or shape (basically, slow down or impede) your Usenet downloading.

        After entering the necessary information in your newsreader app, hopefully everything works smoothly right from the start. If not, common problems include making sure you have correctly entered the information they sent you by e-mail, including any case-sensitive passwords or usernames and not having any typos in the NNTP address. 🙂


        Step 3: Choose Your Usenet Download Software

        edit

        Old School vs Modern Methods

        From this point, your path can go into two directions: you can use Usenet as it has been used for decades or you can embrace more modern methods. 

        Some Usenet providers will give you access (for free) to their own newsreader or you may already have a favorite stand-alone newsreader that you would rather use than the one offered by your Usenet provider. 

        Screenshot of the SABnzbd free Usenet newsreader.

        SABnzbd: a free Usenet downloader

        Normally, you don’t have to worry about your newsreader app settings too much. Entering the NNTP address and password you received as part of Step 2 is usually all that is required. 

        Overall, the most important factor for fast Usenet downloading is your choice of Usenet provider. It is always a good idea to start a free trial in order to test speeds for your particular location and setup.

        That's because to test download speeds, the only real way for you to determine this is to give it a whirl by take a free trial or short test period. Relying on reviews isn't helpful and can be counterproductive because your setup, location and use varies. This means the speed you experience can vary too.

        Top Tip – Regarding your newsreader app settings, the sweet spot for the number of simultaneous connections for faster Usenet downloads is usually 8 to 15. Counter-intuitively, using more connections may actually decrease your downloading speeds unless you benefit from a super-fast connection such as 100+ Mbps connection in which case you could go up to as many as 50 simultaneous connections.


        Step 4: Download a Full Newsgroup Listing

        Some newsreader apps will do this automatically when you first connect to a Usenet server but if not it's usually easy to spot how to do this. Update your Usenet server’s available newsgroup listing.

        Screenshot of a full newsgroup listing in GrabIt newsreader.

        Download a list of all newsgroups (select to zoom).

        Your newsreader app will fetch a comprehensive list of all the newsgroups available from your Usenet provider. As that can be 110,000+ newsgroups, this can take a while, especially the first time, so be patient.

        Top Tip – Check out an uncensored Usenet newsgroup list or search newsgroups.

        RANK

        USENET

        FEATURES

        BEST PRICE

        MORE INFO

        1

        Newshosting best overall usenet provider

        • overall best Usenet provider
        • excellent value for money
        • free newsreader & VPN

        $8.33/mo
        $19.95/mo

        save 58%

        2

        • high retention & completions
        • 125,000 newsgroups
        • free newsreader with search

        €7.00/mo
        €9.60/mo

        save 27%

        Try risk-free for 7 days

        3

        UsenetServer fastest usenet provider

        • fastest Usenet downloads
        • 3764 days retention
        • best for experienced users

        $7.95/mo
        $19.95/mo

        save 60%

        Try risk-free for 14 days


        Step 5: Subscribe to Newsgroups of Interest to You

        Once the newsgroup list is updated you can browse and search through the list for newsgroups that interest you.

        Searching is probably your best bet as it is not easy to browse through thousands of newsgroup names. But even searching newsgroup names is not always enough. It's too easy to miss a newsgroup you may be interested in. 

        Plus many newsgroups have names that do not always reflect their contents. For example, alt.binaries.boneless is one of the more popular newsgroups with media files but you would never have guessed that from its name.

        For this reason you should also Google around a bit. Perform searches such as “best Usenet newsgroup for images/audio/movies/videos of [fill in your interest]


        Step 6: Sample the Content Available in Newsgroups

        For each newsgroup you have now subscribed to, update the group in order to see the posts available. Scroll through the list of posts once it's updated. The subject lines may already tell you a lot.

        You can also download a sample selection of content (files & posts) to check them out or satisfy your curiosity.

        Pay attention to the size of posts too because a post can just as easily contain a small 35K image file as it can a 6 MB audio file, large 100 MB video clip or full 2 GB movie file.

        Over time, sampling the contents of newsgroups you subscribe to will give you a sense of which newsgroups to keep and stay on top of versus those you can discard. Simply unsubscribe to any newsgroup(s) you don't want to follow any more.


        Step 7: Use NZB Indexers 

        If the content you want seems hard to come by when using a classic newsreader, you just want to expand your Usenet knowledge or you are using more modern NZB downloader software, try out some NZB indexers (aka NZB Search).

        Using NZB search engines (see our list of the best NZB search sites) you can download .NZB files which act much like .torrent files, telling your Usenet software exactly where it can download all the necessary bits and pieces from Usenet and reassemble them so you can get the finished product, whether a movie, video or collection of images or audio files.

        More About NZB Files – NZB files are to Usenet what torrent files are to peer-to-peer p2p file-sharing. More than 10 years ago, the Usenet website Newzbin started to index Usenet downloads and created the NZB file format. Like a torrent file, a NZB file acts merely as a pointer to where certain downloads are available on Usenet. NZB files save you from a lot of manual hassle such as combining the different parts of multipart files and dealing with PAR files and other annoyances.

        Some NZB indexer websites are free and open to all, such as Binsearch, NzbPlanet or NZBIndex, while others may limit the number of free searches you can perform, such as OZnzb, or operate on an invitation-only basis (for current open invitations see this subreddit). 

        Do your searches and when you find content you want to check out, you can (depending on the index you use): i) download the NZB file and open it in your newsreader or ii) copy and paste the text of the NZB address into your Usenet newsreader. Either way, your newsreader app should dutifully fetch the content indexed by the NZB file.

        Screenshot of sample search results from popular NZB indexer NZBSearch.

        Once you get the hang of NZB files you'll be amazed how easy and fast they are for downloading your favorite content from Usenet.


        Step 8: Solve any “Incomplete” or Missing Items with a Usenet Block Account

        As you start to raise your game in Usenet and download more content, you may start coming across items where some of the pieces are missing. These are called “incomplete items” in Usenet-speak.

        Sometimes incomplete items can be a nuisance on Usenet. Items may be incomplete for a number of reasons. For example, pieces could be missing due to technical glitches. Because Usenet has a single file size limit of about 20 MB, larger files are broken up into multiple posts, which can lead to missing pieces.

        This means that large Usenet binaries, such as movies and videos, must be split up over many, sometimes dozens of, Usenet posts. If the Usenet server you are using is missing even one of those posts, the file will be incomplete. When this happens, you may not be able to properly open the file or the media may skip at the best part. 

        Items may be incomplete for a number of reasons. For example, pieces could be missing due to technical glitches. Because Usenet has a single file size limit of about 20 MB, larger files are broken up into multiple posts, which can lead to missing pieces.

        Pieces could also be missing due to “takedown” notices issued under the DMCA (short for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a United States copyright law). For example, one firm alone has issued over 10 million DMCA notices.

        Either way, this means that parts of an item may be available on some Usenet "backbone" servers and not on others. That doesn't necessarily mean your provider is not good as their backbone will just as surely have pieces that are missing on other backbone servers.

        If incomplete Usenet binaries start to become a challenge for you, your first strategy is to try using the NZB indexes mentioned in Step 7 above. The NZB format tries to fill in these gaps by locating all the different possible locations of these sometimes elusive posts. 

        If NZB indexes don’t always solve your incomplete item issues, don’t worry as solving this is relatively straightforward: sign up for a second Usenet provider that uses a different Usenet backbone in order to diversify your Usenet sources and cover all your bases.

        Now we know what you're thinking, “Two Usenet providers? What am I, rich?!

        That's where block accounts come in. It's like a “pay as you go” arrangement for Usenet access. So, in addition to your “go-to” Usenet provider, you purchase a limited amount (a block) of Usenet gigabyte downloads from a second provider. You only use this block balance when needed. The unused balance carries forward indefinitely month-to-month until you use it up. If you do use it up, simply by another “block” of Usenet gigabyte downloads.

        The absolute key is to buy a block of gigabytes from a Usenet provider that uses a different Usenet backbone than your go-to (primary) Usenet provider.

        Two Usenet providers? What am I, rich?!

        The best, most trusted and up-to-date information about which Usenet providers on which backbones can be found in the wiki of the Usenet subreddit or our pages.

        Your starting point for buying a block account is first to determine what backbone your current go-to primary Usenet provider is on. Then, make sure the block account you purchase is from a provider using a different Usenet backbone.

        You may be tentative at first and that's okay. Start with a small block account and gain some confidence. Later you can buy larger block accounts. This is smart because the price drops significantly per gigabyte the larger the block you buy.

        Good newsreader apps will let you enter more than one Usenet server in its setup. This means you can enter both your primary and block account in your newsreader app’s settings. If done properly, your Usenet newsreader app will only call upon your block account provider when it encounters a missing piece while using your primary Usenet account.


        Step 9: Embrace Full Usenet Automation

        Eventually as you get more comfortable using Usenet you might become a full-fledged Usenet convert and favor it – as many already do – over P2P torrent file-sharing. Or you may wish to use both in parallel, as we do. After all, each has its own particular strengths and weaknesses. Plus, everyone's situation is different.

        There are tools you can use to fully automate the Usenet downloading process. They work like this:

        the content you like is “released” (posted) to Usenet

        you receive an automatic notification (via RSS) for this content and your newsreader app is instantly made aware that it's available

        your newsreader app dutifully downloads the content and it's there waiting for you on your computer or device

        Screenshot of CouchPotato's website homepage.

        Learn more at CouchPotato's website. 

        Using NZB indexers in combination with software such as NZBGetSABnzbd, CouchPotato or Sick Beard let you do this, but are best left to advanced users.

        The software can receive automated RSS feeds of new content released in NZB files. These NZB files are then automatically added to your download queue and saved to your computer or device, even with standardized filenames. How nice is that?

        In fact, you have to be somewhat careful with fully automated methods because you can easily download hundreds of gigabytes of content from Usenet in no time at all!


        Pro Privacy Tips [Optional]

        Follow these optional, advanced steps if you want to make sure your Usenet downloads are safe from discovery on your computer. 

        Top Tip – if you really want to protect your privacy as much as possible, consider signing up with a one-time email account and paying for Usenet with Bitcoin, cash-bought gift cards or other “anonymous” payment method.

        Run your Newsreader or Usenet Downloader Software from an Encrypted Drive

        For Usenet activities, consider installing and running your Usenet newsreader app to an encrypted drive according to our general advice. Saving your Usenet downloads to an encrypted location on your computer or devices will keep them safe from prying eyes.

        One advantage of classic standalone newsreader apps (such as GrabIt) is that you can install and run it from an encrypted drive. You can’t easily do that with NZBGet or SABnzbd because they use a web interface (you run it from inside your web browser).

        Top Tip – For best results on your desktop computer, mount (decrypt) the container using the same drive letter every time. Using X: is easy to remember and thus helps ensure everything works properly from session to session.

        If using this technique, remember never to leave an unencrypted volume open on your computer when unattended. This is the mistake made by Silk Road mastermind. Adversaries were able to access his unencrypted data and apps while he was sipping a latte down the street oblivious to the raid being conducted at his home. A more down to earth example is an activist posting controversial messages to Usenet newsgroups that could get them in trouble with the local authorities. 
         

        Use a Privacy Cleaning Tool after Enjoying your Usenet Downloads

        As always, consider tidying up after downloading by using a privacy cleaning app to clear any trace data history left behind on your computer or devices.

        For example, opening images, videos and movies in your media player leaves a history, including in your operating system’s most recently used items log. A cleaning app will get rid of these traces. 


        Final Advice about How to Use Usenet

        Take our advice: go step-by-step. If you try jumping right to full automation at Step #9 you may end up frustrated. Start at the beginning steps of this Usenet tutorial and grow with Usenet as your knowledge does. After all, there is no hurry.

        Remember, Usenet has been around since 1980 and is here to stay. So you have plenty of time to learn how to use Usenet.

        RANK

        USENET

        FEATURES

        BEST PRICE

        MORE INFO

        1

        Newshosting best overall usenet provider

        • overall best Usenet provider
        • excellent value for money
        • free newsreader & VPN

        $8.33/mo
        $19.95/mo

        save 58%

        2

        • high retention & completions
        • 125,000 newsgroups
        • free newsreader with search

        €7.00/mo
        €9.60/mo

        save 27%

        Try risk-free for 7 days

        3

        UsenetServer fastest usenet provider

        • fastest Usenet downloads
        • 3764 days retention
        • best for experienced users

        $7.95/mo
        $19.95/mo

        save 60%

        Try risk-free for 14 days

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