Hello and welcome to another Usenet tutorial from AddonHQ.  In this guide, we will be taking an in-depth look at Usenet newsgroups.

By the end of this tutorial you’ll know everything you need to know about how to search through newsgroups and download files from them.  You’ll also learn how to find and download “secret” Usenet files through the use of Usenet indexers.

What is a newsgroup?

Simply put, a newsgroup is a container for files (aka”binaries”) and messages on the Usenet.

Prerequisites

In order to follow this newsgroup tutorial, you’ll need two things:

  1. A Usenet account
  2. A newsreader application

You can use any Usenet service or newsreader you want, but I’ll be using the NewsHosting newsreader in the sections below.

No previous experience with Usenet is required.  Even if you’ve never logged on to the Usenet before, you should be able to follow along. For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll be using our preferred Usenet service called Newshosting (see below), but the process should be similar for other Usenet providers as well.

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Newshosting AddonHQ



Step 1: Enable SSL

When connected to the Usenet via SSL, your connection is entirely private.  So before you logon, it’s a good idea to tell your newsreader to connect to the Usenet via SSL.

This is what the NewsHosting newsreader’s settings page looks like.  As you can see, the “Prefer SSL connections” checkbox is enabled by default.

A screenshot of the NewsHosting newsreader settings screen.

Most Usenet servers use SSL by default, however there are some that do not.  If you want to make absolutely sure that your anonymity is safe while downloading files, you need an extra layer of protection.

Step 2: Turn on your VPN

This step is optional.  You don’t need a VPN to access Usenet, because SSL will already encrypt the connection you’re using to download files via the Usenet provider. However, if you’re generally looking for more privacy when browsing the web or doing anything outside of the Usenet client, then you’ll want to use a VPN.

If you open a Usenet account with NewsHosting, you can download and use NewsHosting’s VPN service for free, provided that you purchase their XL Powerpack plan.

Here is what NewsHosting’s VPN program looks like:

A screenshot of the VPN that comes with a Usenet subscription to NewsHosting.

Note: A VPN adds an extra layer of protection when you download files.  However, you may experienced slightly extended Usenet download times when connected to a VPN server.

If you don’t want to purchase the higher-tier plan from Newshosting, you can purchase a separate VPN service. Our personal recommendation is . They offer 256-bit AES encryption, apps for all of your devices, and fast servers.

Step 3: Login

If you’re not logged in to Usenet, you won’t be able to access newsgroups or any of the files they contain.

Here’s what the NewsHosting newsreader login screen looks like:

The NewsHosting newsreader login screen.

Because the NewsHosting reader is specifically designed to work with NewsHosting’s Usenet service, you don’t have to enter in anything other than your username and password to login to Usenet if you have a NewsHosting account.  But if you’re using a different Usenet service, you’ll need to enter in your Usenet provider’s IP address along with your username and password to login.

Step 4: Look for interesting newsgroups

After you’re logged into Usenet, you can browse Usenet newsgroups and look for files.

NewsHosting’s newsreader has a convenient newsgroup button that allows you to quickly bring up a list of every active Usenet newsgroup on the network.

Click newsgroups to bring up a list of Usenet newsgroups.

Filtering and sorting

By default, NewsHosting’s newsreader filters out newsgroups with less than 1000 messages.  If you uncheck the filter, small newsgroups will appear in your search results along with the large ones.

You can also sort newsgroups by the amount of messages they contain.  This feature is good for identifying the most popular and active newsgroups on Usenet.

Keyword search

Once you pull up the “master” newsgroups list, you can use various filters and a search terms to narrow down your search results.

For example, if you wanted to find some newsgroups about the free operating system known as Linux you could type “Linux” into the search bar.

Searching for Linux newsgroups on NewsHosting newsreader.

Step 4: Open a newsgroup

In NewsHosting’s newsreader, you have to add a newsgroup to your bookmarks before you can open it.  Your bookmarked newsgroups appear in the panel on the left.

To open a newsgroup, click on its bookmark.  To delete a bookmark, simply right click on the bookmark you want to get rid of and select delete.  You can also color code your bookmarks if you want.

Note: After you add a newsgroup to your bookmarks, all but the last word of the newsgroup’s name gets shortened down to one letter.  For example, the “alt.binary.linux.iso” newsgroup appears as “a.b.l.iso.”

Step 5: Download a file

Once you’ve added a newsgroup to your bookmarks, you can open it up and browse through its files.

To learn how this works, try opening up alt.binaries.linux.iso.  You’ll find several different flavors of Linux there.  Now, try downloading a few different files.  Just click on whichever one you want to get to initiate the download.

Downloading binary files from Usenet.

After initiating your download, hop over to the transfers screen and checkout your download speed.  Even with your VPN turned on, you’ll probably still be pretty amazed by the rate and which your file downloads.

Actually, there’s a better way to find Usenet files

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations!  You’ve downloaded your first file from Usenet the old school way, by using newsgroups to find content.

But actually, there are better ways to download files from Usenet.

Use global search

Newsgroups are a pain to browse because they aren’t organized very well.  They can be useful if you have no idea what to download and just want to scroll through some random files. But if you know what you want, you don’t need to bother with newsgroups at all.

If your newsreader has a global search feature, you can search the entire Usenet by typing a few keywords into the global search bar.

For example, if you type “Linux” into NewsHosting’s newsreader your results will look something like this:

Using global search to download files with NewsHosting newsreader.

You can narrow down these results in different ways by using one of the 6 file type filters.

If you wanted to watch some Linux tutorials, for example, you could click the video filter to filter out everything except video files.

To preview a videos before downloading it, you can view its screen shots via right click →  show details → screenshots.

You can view screenshots of video files before initiating the download.

Usenet indexers

In addition to the fact that newsgroups aren’t organized very well, another problem with them is that they are full of unidentifiable files.

For example, the popular newsgroup alt.binaries.boneless is jam packed full of weird looking binaries.

Binary files with obfuscated filenames.

The reason why the names of the files you see in the screenshot above are garbled is that whoever uploaded them wants to prevent them from getting taken down.

In order to find out what these files are, you’ll need to use a Usenet indexer.

The best Usenet indexer

A Usenet indexer is a special kind of Usenet search engine that functions like a “secret decoder ring” for Usenet.

The binsearch.info is one of the most popular Usenet indexers out there, and it’s totally free.  Just open up binsearch type the name of whatever movie, music file, image or program you want to download into the search bar.  When you find file you want in the results page, click the check box and select create NZB.

After you have the NZB file of the Usenet file you want, you can open it with your newsreader program and download the file directly from Usenet.

Further information about newsgroups

Now that you know how to use a Usenet indexer, you’ll probably never have to look at or browse through a newsgroup ever again.  Whenever you want to download something, you can just hop over to binsearch, grab the NZB file and use your newsreader to initiate the download.

But just in case you’re curious about how newsgroups work, here is some more information on the topic.

“Binary” vs. “Text” newsgroups

So far we’ve only looked at one type of newsgroup: binary newsgroups.

Binary newsgroups contain binary files.  A binary is any type of file that isn’t a text file.  For example, programs, zip files and pictures are all binary files.

The other category of newsgroup that you might run across on Usenet is text.  You won’t find any files in text newsgroups, just messages.

Text newsgroups are obsolete

Text newsgroups used to be popular years ago, but that was before website forums made them obsolete.  Forums are much easier to use compared to Usenet newsgroups.

Another reason why text newsgroups went extinct was the inherently anonymous nature of Usenet.  Because it’s hard to know who anyone is on Usenet, newsgroups are very difficult to moderate.  That’s why almost all text newsgroups are filled to the brim with spam.

However, the benefit of Usenet’s anonymous nature is that it makes Usenet a great platform for file sharing.  If you torrent without the protection of a VPN, everyone who wants to know can see what you’re doing and find out exactly what you’re downloading.  But if you opt to download via Usenet, your privacy will be a whole lot more secure.

Today, newsgroups are only good for one thing: sharing and downloading files.  If you want to ask someone a question about a niche topic, you’ll have much better luck on Reddit or other social media platforms.

The way that Reddit is organized is actually very similar to the way newsgroups are organized on Usenet.  But because Reddit has much better content moderation and evaluation tools compared to Usenet, it’s a much better place to go for information about niche topics.

The 4 biggest binary newsgroups

Even though text newsgroups are pretty much useless today, binary newsgroups are still very much alive an kicking.  Here are 4 of the most important binary newsgroups out there right now.

alt.binaries.boneless

With more than 1,297,000 files accessible via NewsHosting, alt.binaries.boneless newsgroup is one of the biggest binary newsgroups on the Usenet.  Nobody seems to know the origins of its name, but one thing is clear– it contains a whole lot of content, and you’ll need to use a Usenet indexer to search most of it.

alt.binaries.mom

Like alt.binaries.boneless, alt.binaries.mom is a humongous newsgroup.  With NewsHosting, you can gain access to 1,041,200 files.  A high percentage of the files on this newsgroup are images, and most of them are obfuscated.

alt.binaries.drummers

Like alt.binaries.boneless, this newsgroup is another seemingly random grab bag of random content.  Most of the files you’ll find in this group are obfuscated, so you’ll need to use an indexer to get the most out of it.  It’s small compared to other newsgroups, but it has some good stuff.  The biggest category is videos, which contains 700 files.

alt.binaries.usenet2day

If you access this group with a NewsHosting you’ll find about 15,000 files.  Like the other two big binaries mentioned above, you’ll need an indexer if you want to figure out what the file names are.