How to Get Started with Usenet

Welcome to the latest post in our media library series. We started with a guide to help you digitize your music, movies, and photos. Now we’re going to introduce you to some of the best ways to add new content to your media library. While you may already be familiar with P2P / file sharing, few are as familiar with Usenet. Usenet is a super-fast and secure way to build your media library and we’re going to help you get started. You may not realize the advantages of Usenet over torrenting so we’ll start with a short comparison.

 UsenetTorrents
SpeedHigh speedVariable
PrivacyNo logsIP tracked
SecuritySSL includedVPN required
ReliabilityCentralizedBased on seeders
Cost14 days free$10 (cost of VPN)

Brief History of Usenet

Before we get started I want to share a very brief history of Usenet. You will hear the terms like Usenet, newsgroups, and NNTP. For the purposes of this guide you can think of all three words as one and the same. Usenet stands for “users network” and was created in 1980 as a decentralized way for users to share information in articles (also known as posts) that are categorized into newsgroups.

Skip forward over 35 years and you will find that Usenet has grown into a huge source of content with over 8 years of binary files across 100,000+ newsgroups. If any of this seems confusing, that’s ok. We’re not going to try and turn you into a Usenet expert because there’s no need. By the time you finish with our guide you will be securely downloading from Usenet at high speed without any additional tools.

Beginner’s Guide to Usenet

Step 1 – Sign up for a 14 Day Free Trial of Newshosting

Let’s jump right in and get going. You can research Usenet providers or simply follow our guide to get a quick start. We’re going to use Newshosting since they offer a complete package with everything you need. Enjoy unlimited Usenet along with custom software and Usenet search engine. They even offer VPN access but it isn’t necessary for Usenet. If you download torrents from time to time then the VPN is highly recommended.

Free Usenet trial from Newshosting

Within a few minutes of signing up you will receive an email with all the information you need to get started. For the purpose of our guide you will simply need the username and password from the email to set up the service.

Step 2 – Download the free Newshosting Usenet app

As a Newshosting member, you have access to everything you need to get rolling. Visit the Newshosting website and click on the “Login” item in the top menu. Now enter your username and password. After logging in go ahead and scroll down to the bottom of the customer page and click on the “Download the Newshosting Newsgroup Reader” link. This will take you to a page where you can download the latest Newshosting browser release for Windows, Mac, or Linux.

Newshosting Usenet client

We will be using the Newshosting client on Windows 10 in our guide but Mac users can expect the same user interface and experience.

Step 3 – Personalize the Newhosting client

Once you download and install the software, go ahead and launch the client. The first time the app loads you will need to enter the username and password that Newshosting provided in the welcome email. This is the same information you used to log into their website.

Newshosting client settings

Before you begin downloading from Usenet, we suggest you take a moment to personalize the Newshosting client. Start be clicking on Options in the top menu and then Settings.

  • General settings

Newshosting privacy settings

The “General” settings page will let you set whether or not you want to “Delete private data on application exit“. You can customize the app to delete or retain your search history, favorites, download history, automatic searches, and bookmarks. Note that we’re only talking about data on your local system. Newshosting does not keep any logs of your download activity when connected to their Usenet servers.

  • Connection settings

Newshosting connection

The “Connections” settings page is completely optional. You can limit the connection speed if you only want Usenet to saturate a certain portion of your Internet connection. By default the Newshosting client is set to use SSL. It’s arguable whether or not SSL is necessary when connecting to Usenet since it’s a private network. Even so we recommend leaving the settings as-is for SSL. The other option we want to mention is the port number. This should only be changed by users who experience ISP issues. If you ever suspect your ISP is slowing your Usenet connection by throttling the traffic then go ahead and set the SSL port to 443. That’s the same port used for secure communications on the web so it won’t be throttled.

  • Downloads settings

Download settings

The “Download” settings page is pretty straight forward. This is where you can set the path for your download folder. We like to set up a custom path. You can also have the client create subfolders for each date and/or newsgroup. You can come back and edit this information anytime. You will very likely want to leave the rest of the settings alone. They let the Newshosting client do all the work of downloading and using PAR2 files to repair any damaged RAR files. It will also extract the RAR files so that you’re left with the finished product. This can save you a lot of effort and headaches over other Usenet solutions.

  • Scheduler settings

Newshosting scheduler

You can schedule the Newshosting newsreader to complete downloads, images, and previews during certain times of the day. You would want to start by enabling the download scheduler. Then you can set your preferences for each hour of the day. You may never set this level of customization but it’s great to know it’s there if you ever need it.

  • Video playback settings

Newshosting video playback

We recommend downloading VLC Player to use with Newshosting. VLC Player is free and only takes a few seconds to download. Take note of the install folder during the install and set it up in the “Video” settings tab of the Newshosting client.

There are other features you can customize in the Newshosting app. For example you can have it import NZB files from other sources. This goes beyond the scope of our guide since we’re focused on novice Usenet users. Just keep in mind that the app is highly customizable.

Step 4 – Search Usenet for video, audio, ISO images and more

Now that you have the Newshosting client set up just the way you want it, it’s time to search for some good content. We went ahead and did a search for the 1960 version of The Little Shop of Horrors. The film stars Jack Nicholson who is celebrating his 80th birthday.

Newshosting search

Since we we were looking for a movie we could have narrowed the search results to show only video. You can filter search results to show everything, video, audio, documents, ISO images, software, or images. You will notice that some of the results were posted back in 2012. That’s a big advantage of Usenet as posts are available for well over 8 years.

You will also notice a list of newsgroups to the left of the screen. By default the search feature will search across all the newsgroups. You can also browse inside any newsgroup. The groups have descriptive names like a.b.dvd, a.b.hdtv, a.b.erotica, and a.b.games. Simply search for topics of interest and mark files for download. You can also preview content. The app will take care of repairing and extracting files. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves though. Now that we found our film it’s time to preview and download the media.

Step 5 – Preview videos with Newshosting

The Newshosting client includes two options for previewing content before you download it.

Newshosting search - preview

The “Show Automatic Preview” option is specifically for videos. The feature can save you a lot of time and bandwidth. Before downloading the full 4 GB we wanted to preview the video to make sure the quality is good. Let’s take a quick look at the preview.

Automatic preview

The preview included the first two minutes of The Little Shop of Horrors. That was plenty of time to ensure the video quality. After previewing you can decide whether or not you want to download the content.

Step 6 – Downloading from Usenet

Assuming the preview looks good, go ahead and double click on the search result or right click and select “Download” from the dropdown list. This will start the download.

Newshosting download

The client is now downloading The Little Shop of Horrors. That’s all there is to it. You can simply go about your business elsewhere and the client will notify you when the download is completed. As you can see above, the video files are downloading at a speed of 5.10 MB/s which is 41 Mbps. Speeds can fluctuate but we’ve always found Newshosting to be quite fast.

There is one other screen you can view during the download if you want to see the progress.

Newshosting file transfer

The transfers page will provide you with a list of file transfers. We could queue up a number of downloads. As you can see the client is currently working through the list of RAR files associated with The Little Shop of Horrors film. You can see the exact file the app is on along with how many PAR files are available. The Newshosting client will only download the PAR files if they are necessary for file repairs. Otherwise it will save you the time and bandwidth.

Step 6 – Access your new media

Once the download is completed you will be presented with a “Download Finished” message.

Download finished

The message includes a link to open the download folder. This will take you directly into the subfolder for the download files. Below you can see an image of our “Usenet” folder which we set up earlier as the default location for downloads. You will also notice subfolders for the automatic preview and the full download. From there you can simply go into The Little Shop of Horrors folder and start watching a 24 year old Jack Nicholson at his finest.

Download folder

As you can see, Usenet is a great way to build up your media library. It is faster and more secure than file sharing alternatives. You do not need to seed anything or expose your IP address as you would when using a torrent client. Best of all, Usenet is a private network of servers located around the world. Try it out for yourself with a 14 day free trial. The Newshosting client will take care of everything from Usenet search, preview, download, file repair and extraction. Search over 8 years of binary content to help fill your media library.