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Usenet Tutorial

This tutorial will explain in detail how you can download files from Usenet. You can find hundreds of terabytes of content on Usenet. Downloading is easy and can be very fast.

Advantages

One major advantage of Usenet compared to P2P download methods such as torrents, is that it is not required do upload any content. Another advantage is enhanced privacy. You only download from a single location, which makes it impossible for others to monitor your downloads. Some Usenet providers even offer SSL to encrypt your connection. And last but not least, you can get download speeds as high as your Internet connection allows.

What is usenet?

Usenet exists since the beginning of the Internet and consists of a large number of newsgroups. A newsgroup is like a bulletin board where people can exchange messages on a specific subject. Currently hundreds of thousands of different newsgroups exist for practically every subject you can think of.

To gain access to newsgroups you need to have an account with a newsgroup server. With a newsgroup reader program you can then download the messages that have been submitted to a newsgroup, and you can submit messages (e-mails) to a newsgroup. Thousands of newsgroup servers exists around the world. These servers all have their own local copies of the newsgroups that they host, and they periodically exchange the content that have been submitted to those newsgroups. That way all servers get the submitted messages.

Some newsgroups allow attachments in the messages that are send to them. These are called binary newsgroups, since the attached data is in binary form instead of plain text.

Does all of the above sound difficult to you? Don't worry, you don't need to understand any of it in order to download things from Usenet. Just continue reading and you will be downloading stuff very soon!

STEP 1: Getting access to usenet

To get access to usenet you need to get an account with a Usenet provider. There are many companies on the Internet that offer cheap access to usenet.

When subscribing to a Usenet provider you should pay attention to the following things:

  • It should host binary newsgroups. Free ISP servers usually don't have them, so it is recommended to get a so-called payserver, like the ones mentioned below.
  • It should have high retention. Retention is the maximum age of the messages that the server hosts. A retention of 100 days means the server stores messages up to 100 days old. Good providers have a retention of 300 or more days.
  • Also important is speed. Some providers offer plans with different speeds, usually measured in mbits/s. Recommended is to get a speed that matches the speed of your Internet connection. That way you can download at maximum speed.
  • Data transfer limits. A good provides allows unlimited data transfers.

Some excellent Usenet providers are:

STEP 2: Searching for files

Searching for content on Usenet is easy. There are many special search engines for it. Here is a list of some popular ones:

If your search query yields results, then simply select the items that you want to download. Then press the button called Create NZB and save the generated file on your computer. You can open this file with your newsgroup download tool, as we will explain in a moment.

A NZB file is an XML based file format that contains a list of message identifiers for messages that have been posted in a newsgroup. Newsgroup download tools can use this information to download those messages and reconstruct the attached files.

File types explained

When something is uploaded to a newsgroup, it usually consists of a group of related files called a collection. Below we will explain the use of each type of file that you may encounter.

.nzb
This contains a list of newsgroup message identifiers. Information that is used by download tools when downloading content from Usenet.

.rar .r01 .r02 etcetera
These files together are a multi-file RAR archive. When uploading files to Usenet it is common practice to put those files into a RAR archive. How you can extract files out of such an archive is explained later on in this tutorial.

.par2
These are parity files. There are used to verify data integrity and to repair damaged files. How you should use these files is explained later.

.nfo
This is a text document that contains information about the file(s) it came bundled with. You can open it with any text editor, but since they often contain ascii art it is recommended to use a special viewer such as Damn NFO Viewer.

.sfv
This is a file that contains file checksums for a RAR archive. It can be used for checking file integrity. You can just ignore these kind of files, since it is preferred to use the .par2 files instead.

.srr
This file can be used to recreate a multi-file RAR archive that is identical to the one this file came bundled with. You don't need to do this so you can just ignore these kind of files.

STEP 3: Downloading files

To download files from Usenet you simply open a NZB file with your favorite newsgroup download tool.

Some popular download tools are:

We recommend using UnzBin because it works very well and it is very easy to use. It can automatically verify, repair and extract the downloaded files.

Configuring UnzBin

If you decide to use UnzBin as your download tool, then here are some tips for configuring it.

Settings -> Server: Here you can fill in the server name and login information of your Usenet provider. See step 1 of the tutorial.

Settings -> Directories: Here you can change the directories where UnzBin stores the downloaded files. The downloads will be placed in the Save Location. The NZB Import Folder is a location that UnzBin monitors when it is running. When you put a NZB file in that folder Unzin will automatically add it to the download queue.

Settings -> Processing: Here you can find options for the automatic repair and extract functionality. You can leave those settings as is, unless you prefer doing things manually. If you have a fast computer, then you should uncheck Skip CRC Validation. That helps to detect damaged files.

STEP 4: Verify and repair the downloaded files

Files download from Usenet may end up getting damaged due to transmission errors and due to missing parts. But don't worry, you can easily detect and fix such damaged files.

This is where the .par2 files come into play. These so-called parity files are used to detect errors and also to repair them. You can open a .par2 file with a tool called QuickPar. This tool analyzes the downloaded files and allows you to repair them if needed.

Each file or set of files has a main .par2 file and files ending with .volXX+XX.par2. The first should be opened with QuickPar. The other files contain blocks of data that is used for repairing. The number of repair blocks should be larger than or at least equal to the number of damaged/missing blocks in the downloaded files. Then the files can be repaired. If there are too few repair blocks, then the files can not be repaired.

If you use a good Usenet provider then there are usually very little damaged blocks.

Tip: some download tools can automatically verify and repair your downloaded files. UnzBin is an example of such a tool.

STEP 5: Extract files

After downloading you will often end up with a bunch of files called .rar .r01 .r02 .r03 and so on. Together these files form a RAR archive. You can extract the contents of such an archive with one of these tools: WinRAR or 7-Zip (free). Simply right-click on the .rar file and choose "Extract Here" or "Extract to ...".

Once the files have been extracted from the RAR archive, you can delete all the rar files.

Tip: some download tools can automatically extract files. UnzBin is an example of such a tool.

Safety tips

Some lame people upload fake files and password protected stuff to Usenet. If you ever encounter a RAR or CAB archive that needs a password to extract, then just delete the files and download a different version. Never click on any links that say "click here for password". Also never click on any downloaded .exe files. You may end up getting infected with a virus or other malware. Genuine files are never password protected and never include any .exe files.

If you get multiple results for the same file, then the oldest one is usually the genuine one.

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Disclaimer: Codec Guide does not support or condone any illegal activity. Please check your local laws to see what kind of content you are legally allowed to obtain from Usenet.