First steps in Usenet

To start Usenet you need a newsreader and a Usenet provider. Try different providers for free, some also offer you a free news reader or a free client. For the first steps I recommend a newsreader tht is as simple as possible, one of the simplest and most popular is also free.

The Usenet provider you have chosen, or with whom you have booked a free trial access, will send you an e-mail with the access data to its news server. You enter the access data into the corresponding fields of your newsreader. Then you can get started. Many times a cloud server is used (visit DigitalNibbles for more info).

How do I find something on Usenet?

You can use a Usenet search engine or choose the classic way. Both complement each other very well, which is why I will describe the classic way here. Download the list of available newsgroups from your provider’s news server. Then go to the selection of newsgroups that interest you most. If you want to download files from the Usenet, concentrate on the newsgroups whose names begin with alt.binaries. Every newsreader has a search function for newsgroups. There are about 5000 newsgroups in alt.binaries.

You don’t have to choose all the newsgroups that might be interesting for you, it’s quite enough if you choose 5 to 10 newsgroups to start on Usenet. Then download the current file lists (headers) of the newsgroups you have selected from the server. This will show you the current content of the newsgroups. In the case of very large newsgroups with many millions of files, limit yourself to a maximum of one million subject lines (headers) or use the browse function of a Usenet search engine to find out about the current content of these newsgroups. Firstly, only a few Usenet providers offer a free download of headers, and secondly, the download of more than 100 million headers from a newsgroup such as alt.binaries.boneless takes several hours, depending on their Internet speed.

Preparing the first download

Even while the newsreader is loading the file list from a newsgroup, you can start selecting your first downloads. Double-click a file to move it to the newsreader’s download cache. For each newsreader, you can also delete download orders from the cache or move them up or down.

Files that consist of several parts

In Usenet, many files are split into several parts. Smaller files like MP3 or pictures are of course not split. But a large software like Ubuntu or a video is packed into a multi-part RAR archive by the user who uploads the file to Usenet before it is uploaded. In addition, you will also find repair files (PAR2 files) for a larger download, with which you can recover damaged or incomplete files. The newsreaders for beginners automatically check the PAR2 files you have downloaded for completeness and repair them if necessary. These newsreaders also have an UnRAR feature that automatically unpacks RAR archives after download.

You need all parts of a multi-part posting to unpack it afterwards. Mark all parts that start with the same subject and download them. If you use a Usenet search engine instead, it has already automatically packed all related parts of a file into the download instruction for the newsreader, the NZB. In this case, you don’t need to worry about which parts the download consists of.

  1. If you are using a newsreader that does not have a built-in repair and unpack feature, please read the Usenet download and multipart archive instructions in the Usenet Guide.
  2. With a news reader suitable for beginners, such as Grabit or the News File Grabber, you don’t need to burden yourself with knowledge that would only complicate your first downloads.

The special case

I would just like to refer to a special case of Usenet that you will find especially in erotic newsgroups. The videos that are posted in these newsgroups are often not packed as multi-part archives, but split into dozens of small parts using HjSplit or Mastersplitter, and you also need one of these two freeware programs to reassemble these parts. A very good manual for the program HjSplit can be found in the Usenet Guide, the manual for the Mastersplitter can be found here. If there are repair files (PAR2 files), check and repair them first.

The repair manual for damaged downloads.

The instructions in Usenet easy are deliberately kept simple and clear in order to facilitate your first steps with suitable newsreaders. The better you get along with the Usenet, the more likely the instructions in the Usenet Guide will be to help you.

Unusual file formats

The Usenet does not know any limitation in the total file size. This is why file formats that you will rarely find in file-sharing exchanges are also common on Usenet. On Usenet, you can find and quickly download high-resolution video files with more than 30 GB, as well as the .flac file format in many newsgroups for music, which allows lossless compression of audio CDs and, of course, has a much better quality than an MP3. So also read file formats on Usenet if you come across a file extension you don’t know.