Finding files and content on Usenet can sometimes feel like trying to find a needle in a hay stack. Learn how to use 3 different kinds of Usenet search engines.
Usenet can look like a real mess if you don’t know how to search for what you are looking for.
Luckily, there are several different ways to search on Usenet. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. Plus, sometimes the different ways are often confused and mixed up with the classic example being Usenet search and NZB sites being referred to interchangeably.
Let’s look at all 3 ways to search for files and content on Usenet.
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1) Newsreader Search
Your newsreader software may already have a built-in search feature.
This is especially true of any newsreader that came bundled free with your Usenet access. One popular example is Newshosting’s free newsreader with built-in search.
Many standalone newsreader software clients also have search functionality, but not all of them. For example, the popular free newsreader SABnzbd doesn’t have search.
In either case, simply enter the search term(s) you are looking for and see what results are returned. Sometimes this method is referred to as a manual Usenet search.
The advantage of this method is that it is both easy and free.
Plus, as you are doing the search in your newsreader, the results it finds should all be accessible to you. In other words, the search is only returning results that it finds on the same news server you actually use. This means you can download the files the search finds. That’s not always the case with other Usenet search methods.
2) Usenet Search Engines
This method should not be confused (though it often is) with NZB Search which is discussed next.
Using a Usenet search engine refers to accessing a site much like Google but that indexes Usenet newsgroups. These search engines download Usenet headers and index the results which you can search. The search results are presented as posts containing the term(s) you searched for.
You can then check to see whether those posts are available for download in your newsreader. The Usenet search engine doesn’t host any Usenet content, so you still need your newsreader and Usenet access to grab the actual files the search turned up.
To download, the leading search engines will let you save the search results as an NZB file (create NZB) which you can download and open in your newsreader to download the posts. With some (mostly older) Usenet search engines, you can click on the search results and your newsreader will open and try to download the posts.
Like a newsreader search, a Usenet search engine is also free and easy to use, but Usenet search engines are the least effective of the 3 options.
That’s because the big disadvantage of using a Usenet search engine is that there is no guarantee you will be able to download the results because the search engine may be indexing Usenet content that you cannot access.
For example, the search engine may have indexed content contained in newsgroups which your Usenet provider doesn’t carry. Or it may have indexed content in posts that are older (called retention periods) than your Usenet provider carries. Lastly, it may have indexed content that has been taken down and is simply no longer available.
Nonetheless, Usenet search engines remain a good option, especially for beginners.
Popular Usenet Search Engines
These are the most popular Usenet search engines:
NZBStars – brutal interface but powerful, search or browse with image/video preview thumbnails
UsenetHub – very cool and easy to use, search or browse, image/video preview, tag cloud & more, adult subsite available (NSFW)
3) Search NZB Sites
NZB search sites are similar to but different from Usenet search engines.
Like Usenet search engines, NZB sites do not host any actual content. Instead, they index (catalog) NZB files which point to Usenet content you can download with your newsreader. NZB files are like torrent files but for Usenet.
NZB sites are referred to by many names such as "NZB indexers" or "NZB search" or "NZB indexing sites" or even "NZB search indexes". Geez. No wonder people get confused. 🙂
NZB sites have already done the searching for you and have pre-packaged quality search results in NZB files for you to save, open in your newsreader and download the files and content they point to. In other words, you don’t need to use Usenet search engines if you use an NZB site.
The advantage of NZB files is that they collect and combine all the references to the various newsgroup posts that a file or content you are looking for may be strewn across.
This saves you from having to track down all the bits and pieces, especially of larger files that may be fragmented in different posts and which may even have different parts in different newsgroups.
Some NZB sites are free, while others charge a fee for access. In addition, some NZB sites are open, while others are invitation only meaning you must be invited by an existing member. Sometimes an NZB site is open for a short time to accept new members and then closes again. To catch an invitation, monitor the subreddits Usenet Invites (quite active) and NZB Invites (not so active).
NZB Sites and Usenet Automation
NZB sites become essential once you start to explore Usenet automation. That’s because the NZB sites (mostly the paid ones) can be configured to detect when content you are interested in is posted in newsgroups, to automatically send NZB files to newsreader and to download the content. For example, this is a great way to grab new releases on Usenet before any takedown notices kick in.
Popular Open and Free NZB Sites
Here are the most popular open and free NZB sites:
GingaDADDY – 30,000 members and 786,000+ NZB titles
NZB Tortuga - 5,000 members with 54,000 NZB titles available [update: sadly, now closed]
NZBHangout – 5,000 members with 50,000 NZB titles available
Popular Paid NZB Sites
The most popular paid NZB sites open to members are as follows:
NZB.Is - $10 lifetime membership
altHUB - $5 annual membership or $10 lifetime
We also maintain a comprehensive data table of dozens of NZB search sites so you can compare them side-by-side.
Usenet Search Wrap Up
Usenet really starts to get interesting once you figure out how to properly search for the files and content you are interested in.
The 3 ways to search on Usenet – newsreader search, Usenet search engines and NZB index sites – let you do just that.
So what are you waiting for, get downloading!
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