Usenet is an information sharing network that has been operating for over 40 years. The network is made up of thousands of “newsgroups”, forums around specific themes. Originally, Usenet newsgroups were used for two main purposes – discussing topics and sharing files – and the best Usenet providers give you access to the entire network, while Usenet newsgroup readers provide access to discussion groups.

The discussion aspect of Usenet has largely been replaced by modern forum software and social media like Reddit and Facebook groups. Today Usenet newsgroups are mainly used for uploading, downloading and sharing files. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll explore how to download from Usenet and find the content you need.

Step One: Understand the two things you need to download from Usenet

To access Usenet and download files from newsgroups, you will need two separate technologies: a Usenet newsgroup reader and a Usenet service provider.

A Usenet Newsgroup Reader is a software application that you will use to find and search newsgroups, locate the content you want, and download files. It’s like a newsgroup version of an email client or web browser.

Usenet files are not available on the web, so you will also need a Usenet access provider. This is a subscription service that you will pay to access the newsgroups and content you want.

Step Two: Choose the Right Newsgroup Reader to Download Files

You have a few options for choosing the perfect newsgroup reader for file sharing. Important features for file upload include:

  • Newsgroup search capabilities: Look for readers that make it easy to find, sort, filter, and access specific Usenet files
  • Binary File Formats: focus on drives that provide access to binary files, especially the “NZB” format, as this will give you access to the widest range of downloadable files
  • File download management features: explore player options for scheduling, consolidating, pausing, and otherwise managing file downloads
  • Price: Choose newsgroup readers that are free or provided as part of the cost of subscribing to a Usenet service provider

Our guide to the best Usenet newsgroup readers is a great place to start. If you are looking for a free player, both SABnzbd and NZBGet are open source newsgroup raiders specifically designed for downloading files. If you use either, you will need to pay for Usenet access separately.

If you want a bundled newsgroup reader, then Newshosting and Easynews are two great options for low cost access and a long free trial period of Usenet access.

Step Three: Pay a Usenet Service Provider to Download Files

Screenshot of the Newshosting site

Newshosting is just one of the best Usenet access providers available. (Image credit: Newshosting)

Now that you have a newsgroup reader, it’s time to find the right ISP. Each provider offers different speeds, limits, and other factors for downloading files. Areas you will want to study include:

  • Binary file retention time: how long the provider offers access to files
  • Binary download limits: the total bandwidth you can use to download files
  • Binary download speeds: if the provider limits access to files
  • Simultaneous connections: the number of simultaneous connections you can use to access and download files; the more connections, the faster your download speeds
  • vpn to access: if the provider offers access via a virtual private network
  • encryption: if your Usenet access and downloads are encrypted

Our guide to the best Usenet providers covers all of these factors. Newshosting and Easynews are two great options, although they have bandwidth limits on their basic plans. Several providers offer unlimited bandwidth for file downloads, including Newsleecher, Ninja Discussion Groupand GigaNews.

Here’s a quick breakdown of retention, download, connections, and other factors for basic plans with the most popular ISPs:

  • News Hosting: 4,946 binary file retention days; 50 GB download limit per month with month-to-month rolling; unlimited download speeds; 30 simultaneous connections; encryption; and VPN access for an additional fee
  • easy news: 4,946 binary file retention days; 20 GB download limit per month; unlimited download speeds; 60 simultaneous connections; encryption; and VPN access for an additional fee
  • Eweka: 4,943 binary file retention days; unlimited downloads; download speeds of up to 300 Mbps; 50 simultaneous connections; and encryption
  • UsenetServer: 4,946 binary file retention days; unlimited downloads; unlimited download speeds; 60 simultaneous connections; encryption; and VPN access
  • giganews: Unlimited downloads; unlimited download speeds; 100 simultaneous connections; encryption; and VPN access
  • Newsleecher: 5,050 binary file retention days; unlimited downloads; unlimited download speeds of up to 500 Mbps; and encryption
  • Ninja Discussion Group: 4,946 binary file retention days; unlimited downloads; unlimited download speeds; 50 simultaneous connections; and encryption

You may also have heard of Google Groups, but unfortunately this platform does not provide access to binary newsgroups.

Step 4: Understand newsgroup hierarchies to find the newsgroups and files you want

screenshot of Usenet newsgroups reader in use

Usenet newsgroups are organized into categories via a topic hierarchy (Image credit: FlippyFlink/Wikipedia)

Usenet newsgroups are organized in a “hierarchical” framework – with top-level categories that become more niche as you go down the structure and into the sub-categories. Our guide to Usenet newsgroup hierarchies describes how categorization works, as well as newsgroup naming conventions.

In particular, you’ll want to focus on newsgroups that contain “binaries” in their names. These groups are for file sharing only and are a great starting point for finding the files you need.

Step 5: Browse and search newsgroups and files

Now that you have a newsgroup reader, a Usenet provider, and an understanding of how newsgroups are organized, it’s time to start searching for files. If you have a clear idea of ​​the files you want, it’s as easy as a search, sort and filter. If you don’t have a clear goal in mind, browsing binary newsgroups under certain categories and names will give you plenty of choices.

The website allows users to see how many files are uploaded to alt.binaries.* newsgroups—a popular subset of newsgroups dedicated to downloadable files. That equates to over 40 petabytes of data and over 1.1 billion files over the past two years.

Step Six: Download Files from Usenet

You have found the files you want, all you have to do is download them. Usenet provides access to a wide range of files, including pictures, music, movies, games, videos, and many types of media and other content. Here are some things to keep in mind when downloading, installing, or accessing files.

Beware of pirated files and malware

Usenet newsgroups lack the security policies you’d expect from other download destinations like Google Play, the App Store, iTunes, Steam, and similar marketplaces. This means that criminals and other malicious actors can embed viruses, Trojans and other malware and upload these files to Usenet newsgroups.

Always scan and check downloaded files for malware with the best anti-virus software before installation, to make sure they can’t harm your computer, steal your data, or otherwise compromise your security.

Be aware of copyrights and potential infringements

Some files available on Usenet may have been hacked. Always check the legitimacy of downloaded files to make sure you don’t violate any laws, policies, copyrights, EULAs, or similar restrictions. In particular, avoid newsgroups with “warez” in the name.

How to download from Usenet: putting it all together

Let’s recap how to download from Usenet:

  1. Understand that you will need both a newsgroup reader and a Usenet service provider to access the files for download
  2. Choose a newsgroup reader, SABnzbd, NZBGet, Newshosting and Easynews being good choices
  3. Choose a Usenet access provider; our guide provides a good starting point
  4. Review and understand newsgroup naming conventions and hierarchies, and focus on “binary” groups
  5. Browse and search for the files you want
  6. Upload files, taking note of potential malware, copyright or other restrictions

We hope you find the perfect combination of Usenet reader and provider, so you can download the files you need.

Further reading on Usenet

Discover the best Usenet readers and providers, learn how newsgroups are named, and find out how to access Usenet for free. For an in-depth look at specific Usenet providers, read our reviews on Eweka, SuperNews, UsenetServer, and TweakNews.