How to Download From Newsgroups

How to Download From Newsgroups

An easy-to-use reference guide for those looking to get started with Usenet newsgroups.

Usenet is one of the oldest computer network communications still in use, having been first conceived way back in 1979 by a pair of Duke University graduate students to basically post messages as a sort of public bulletin board system.

As I’m sure you’re aware it’s evolved greatly since then, a way having been devised to encode data into the same ASCII character set used to previously post simple text messages.

See in the diagram below how the process works, moving from the original content file, be it a .ISO, .AVI, .XVID, file etc. to the final, encoded pieces ready for upload to a newsgroup server. A newsgroup describes the hierarchies that messages are posted in, of which there are 8 major hierarchies referred to as the “Big Eight” (comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, sci, soc, and talk).

Now to access newsgroup servers and to “read” or download messages or content we first need to do a few things. It’s pretty straightforward, and may actually cause some of you to switch over from BitTorrent considering the security issues associated with the oftentimes open nature of a BitTorrent swarm.

1. Usenet Newsgroup Service Provider

Some ISPs offer very basic access for free. However, many ISPs in the U.S., such as Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, and AT&T, have stopped offering any sort of newsgroup or usenet access.

Prices range from $3 to $30 p/mo, each service having a variety of pros and cons to take into consideration. Some have data caps others offer transport layer security (TLS) encryption. Data retention, the number of days articles are stored on a news server before being deleted must also be considered.

The one preferred by most is Giganews, myself included, for it has more data, or “binary retention” (2367+), available than any other Usenet provider. It even boasts that Usenet members upload more than 5TB of new discussions and content on a daily basis.

Others include:

For a review of different sites, pricing, etc. visit Anchordudes and Newsgroup Reviews.

2. Newsreader

A newsreader is an application that allows you to “read” newsgroup articles on Usenet. There are several types, of which the text type, like Outlook Express or Mozilla’s Thunderbird, is only usable for reading/posting text, and others like the binary grabber type, such as Grabit or Newsbin, which are for downloading binary content.

Alt.binz (free) is the one I’m currently using, but there are a number to choose from. Some are free and some require purchase, the pay ones offering advanced features, upgrades, etc..

3. Usenet Indexing Sites

Now we need to be able to find content in the newsgroups to download. The easiest way is to use Usenet indexing sites which do just that, indexing newsgroup posts so that you can browse or search by keyword for a particular piece of content.

Some, like Newzbin for example, are private and require an invite, and some require basic registration.

(There’s also a program called NZBLeecher which allows you to search multiple indexing sites simultaneously)

What now?

So you’ve done all three steps, have begun browsing for content, and now want to know what to do. All you have to do is configure the newsreader to connect to whatever newsgroup service provider you’ve chosen, presumably a subscription one, with the login information they send you after registration. The last thing to do is to simply open the a .NZB file associated with the content you’re trying to download.

I’ll go over this process with more detail in my next guide, and will show you step-by-step how to configure a newsreader and download content.