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.


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!!

10 thoughts on “Usenet vs Bittorrent

  1. kev says:

    so what your saying is – subscribe to a usenet service i.e. gig for 5-20 a month, d.load some freeware and then have unlimted access to whatever content is available…. + all of the virus’s and rootkits that sit on the usenet d.loads/
    What has been your experience with usenet infections from nzb files versus bittorrents?

    • Pretty much the same for both. If you are trying to download warez / cracks etc. you will find plenty of viruses, which *should* be picked up by your antivirus program. However the major of the stuff (movies/music/games/books) posted on usenet in my experience is clean.

  2. Devon says:

    actually, there’s an amazing site, which is like the pirate bay or any other torrent trackier where you can search for NZB with specific critera. nzbmatrix’s categories are Movies, TV, Documentaries, Games, Apps, Music, Anime, and other which includes ebooks and audio books and you can go even deeper into that. For example, with movies, you have a choice between browse all, DVD which is an ISO file that you can burn right to a blank DVD, Divx/Xvid, BRRip aka blu-ray rip, HD x 264, HD image, WMV-HD, SVCD/VCD, and other. I don’t think you can go into movie genres but you can search for your movie or any file within any one of those file type categories. The best part is the fact it has a comment system where people say “A 8 V 10” or whatever to rate the file and/or say if there are any problems to inform others to avoid the file if the problem is significant or if it’s missing a piece or whatever. You can choose which part of the article to download so you don’t have to download the entire NZB if you just want three songs of the 10 song album you’re looking at. It also supports NFO viewing and a description box. The one flaw, which might actually be a positive, is it’s 7 or 8 GBP for lifetime access, so you’re paying about $11 or $12 for lifetime use of the entire site. That’s nothing compared to NewzBin since nzbmatrix is lifetime access for everything and you don’t need to renew or anything. That’s also a good thing to an extent because unless someone is willing to shell out $11 to use NZBmatrx, you aren’t going to get all of those people who upload a virus or trojan or whatever one time and then be gone afterwards. Also, I do think if someone were to upload numerous infected files that nzbmatrix will ban the person. I’ve never had an issue though I’ve never really downloaded cracks or warez or whatever but the comment section helps a LOT with those kinds of files. Point is you can get a significant portion of usenet files on nzbmatrix but you can also use free nzb sites like to get what you need. If I never knew about nzbmatrix, I wouldn’t be so tempted to keep a usenet account but NZB has everything in a nice site.

    Also, for a newsreader, I reccomend alt.binz. I am using windows 7 right now and I’ve had ZERO issues with alt.binz. Though the program is old and hasn’t been updated in a few years, it works like a charm and i haven’t had any issues at all using it. I’d recommend giving it a try along with!

    And yeah, Usenet > BitTorrent

  3. John L. Galt says:

    As a forum moderator for forums before Ilan decied to take them down in favor of a bug tracker system, I can tell you that I have been using GrabIt for a very very long time.

    In Windows 7 (Ultiamte x64) I occasionally have issues with Grabit – but it resolves to be an issue with threads, more specifically, closing them in a timely manner. If you close Grabit after threads have completed downlaod (i.e. nothing is actually downloading at the moment) then you’ll have less of a chance for crashes. After having tested (and reported the issue) numerous times, I can say that 95% of my crashes occur when I either 1) open GrabIt with a batch that is assigned to a live download server, and it attempts to start downlaoding before the program has fully loaded, or 2) I close GrabIt while it is currently downloading.

    Another thing I have done is to move my folders (both download as well as config folders) off of my C:\ drive and onto another (physical) drive for the sake of speed. Having all SATA HDs makes accessing the OS and program on one drive and saving content on another a lot easier. The optimal solution would be to have 3, or even 4, drives – 1 for OS and program, 1 for temp files, one for GrabIt settings and a 4th for actual final resting place for downloads.

    I recently purchased an SSD for my system (Intel X25-M – decided to splurge for a fast drive) and I will play around with it, seeing how it works when I start moving things around. I am in the process of reinstalling the OS now, and will play with my GrabIt setup in a variety of ways to see what works best.

    Now that that is all said, thanks for the article – I cannot beleive how many people think that torrents and other types of P2P / file sharing apps are the best way to go, especially in this day an age….

    • Yes, the Grabit crashes do appear to be threading related, and these are often some of the hardest types of problems to fix in code. I’ve been using SABnzbd for a few months now, and am truely impressed. The UI is perfectly straight-forward, and it provides some additional features over GrabIt (like the ability to pause for a specific number of minutes – makes scheduling for peak/off peak quotes easy). Repairing and extracting is fully automatic (something GrabIt doesn’t always get right) – I haven’t had to use QuickPar or WinRAR since. But the best thing it has over GrabIt is CPU usage. SABnzbd uses virtually zero CPU, whereas GrabIt is a CPU hog, often consuming the majority of the processor. Highly recommend you give it a go 🙂

  4. I have been on the usenet bandwagon for 10 or so years. I find it to be very reliable and the way to go. I have settled into the following combination:
    – Newsleecher with their supersearch service ($29.99/yr)
    – Giganews with their amazing retention and unmatched speed and uptime. (Diamond pakage with SSL $29.99/mo)

    Sure I pay for these but if you are serious about getting your “stuff” now, then it is a small price to pay. Up until 9 months ago I hardly ever found viruses in the downloads and there was not much crap out there. Now there is a little amount of crap and minor virus infection.

    With the Newleecher Supersearch service I just search for what I want and I can see if it is there in minutes. It really is the way to go.

    I hope this helps,


    • The difficult part in Usenet is to find the best provider, unlike torrents you have to pay for access to Newsgroup!

      To signup to a good usenet provider and have access to +100k of newsgroups, choice has to be made in the jungle of offers!
      Unlimited downloads, Speed, # of connections etc…
      I’ve used to compare and save money.
      Some provider offer free trial, it can helps to choose.

      Hope this helps too!

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