Usenet vs Bittorrent

I switched from Bittorrent to Usenet about 2 years ago, and honestly it is hands-down the best way to get your movies / music / apps etc. Usenet has essentially all the same stuff as can be found on torrent sites (from what I understand, most content appears first on Usenet before it’s uploaded as torrents) but instead of downloading from ‘peers’, you download everything off a central server, so you are not relying on:

a) Popularity of the file

b) Your ‘peers’ having their computers switched on with bittorrent client running

c) Your ‘peers’ having good upload bandwidth

All major usenet providers support SSL so your connection to their servers is secure, and you will download at the maximum speed of your connection, so you will know exactly when you will have your files. Furthermore, you don’t upload anything (on Usenet, you are actually encouraged to leech), so if your ISP counts uploads, that’s a big saving. In fact, that was one of the primary reasons I switched. One night I accidently left my bittorrent client running and by morning my 15Gb quota for the month was blown and I had only downloaded a 700Mb file >:(

So, security, constant download speed, no uploads, and no punching holes in your firewall to allow incoming connections.  Sounds like a winner?  Read on to get started.

NZB Files

To download from Usenet, you use NZB files (kind of the equivalent of .torrent files). These tiny files contain information on ‘reports’ that make up a set of files (usually a collection of .rar files) that have been posted to a newsgroup. There are lots of sites where you can get NZB files, but I pretty much only use BinSearch, which is fast, free and secure. Some tips for beginners are:

  • After searching, you need to tick/check the items you want and then click the ‘Create NZB’ button.
  • Focus on collections (the ones with green text) and pay attention to the file size.
  • Use the Advanced search to search only for collections containing NFO files and that are between a specific file size range (very useful for narrowing down searches that return lots of results).

An alternative to searching is just browsing (like PB’s Top 100), probably the best site for this is NewzBin however you have to be invited to join. This site categorizes everything on usenet just like you were browsing the shelves of your local Video store. It’s free to browse, however you have to pay to download NZB files (or view NFO files), so I just switch back to BinSearch after i find something interesting.

News Readers

Once you have your NZB file(s) you need a news reader application (equivalent to a bittorrent client) to actually download the files. I used to use the free GrabIt but this crashes almost every time on shutdown on Windows 7 (no data is lost, it’s just friggen annoying), so I’m currently investigating the other free options out there, in particular, SABnzbd, which is an open-source browser-based client with a smick (and very powerful) user interface. There are stax of readers, including many you can pay for (e.g. NewsLeecher).

News Servers

Your news reader app must connect to a news server which hosts essentially a mirror of all newsgroups, for which you must pay. I use and recommend AstraWeb $25 for 180Gb, never expires, SSL, 541 days retention. Giganews has a 14-day free trial, and Binverse has a 30-day free trial with a whopping 329Gb of downloads if you want to try out Usenet before spending any ca$h.

Par Files

Occassionally you may find that one or two of the files in a set of 50 .rar files are missing, and several may be damaged / corrupted.  Luckily, collections come with .par files which enable repair or recovery of damaged or missing files without having to download anything further.  Simply open the .par2 file with QuickPar and watch it work its magic.

Summary

Although it may seem from the above that using Usenet is complicated, it’s really only the fact that there are a few things you need to do at the start (getting the apps, signing up to a news server). Once you have those in place, Usenet is a breeze and provides numerous benefits over torrenting. Go try it!!