Usenet is a wonderful alternative to Bit Torrent for people looking for ways to access content for free. However, it is extremely different from Bit Torrent, and it adds some wonderful benefits at the drawback of paying for the service. In the past, Usenet was much less-known than Bit Torrent, and for that reason a lot of networks didn’t make any efforts to block access to the Usenet servers. It was actually a little secretive, and because it wasn’t as popular as other file sharing servers and resources such as The Pirate Bay, the RIAA and other organizations that look closely at copyright infringement didn’t have Usenet on their radar. But that has all changed in recent years, and Usenet is now visible to the general public. In fact, they have become so visible that some of their servers were shut down by organizations that seek to protect copyrighted material. For example, a British Usenet website, called Newzbin, was shut down a few years ago and other Usenet sites around the world have been censored.
If you access your media through Bit Torrent exclusively, you likely don’t know what Usenet is, it’s history, or how it works. At its core, Usenet started back in the late 70’s and early 80’s as a sort of instant messaging service that allowed connected hosts to propagate text chats throughout a network of servers that were decentralized. This was before the Internet and the World Wide Web had become mainstream, and it also offered a way for computers to share files in a binary format with other hosts on the Usenet network. Today Usenet has evolved into a file sharing platform that is similar to Bit Torrent, but the file downloads aren’t hosted by your peers. Instead, they are hosted by Usenet servers.
And these servers are decentralized, meaning that there is no central repository of information that houses all of the files available on Usenet. Because there are so many servers that host the files, it is nigh on impossible for organizations to issue a take-down notice for copyright reasons. Believe it or not, Usenet regularly receives “legal threats” that are mostly ignored (not unlike The Pirate Bay) because it is so difficult to pin down where these files are hosted.
But it can be a little difficult to understand how the files are indexed and structured if you are new to Usenet. In the past, you had to comb through masses of files and directories in order to find the content that you were looking for. Today, however, there are indexing websites that play the same role that Google plays to websites. Websites like Newzbin serve as a sort of “telephone book” directory that will help you locate the content you want. The process works in a similar manner to Bit Torrent trackers, and after you download the NZB file it will point you to the server where the file is hosted.
Differences between Usenet and Bit Torrent
There is a lot of debate between users regarding which file sharing service is superior. To be completely honest, there is no easy answer to this question. The fact of the matter is that there are clear advantages and disadvantages to both services, and you need to choose the one that’s right for you.
The Benefits of Usenet
The first benefit of Usenet is its speed. When you choose to download a file from Usenet, you are downloading it directly from a server as opposed to a P2P cloud like you use with Bit Torrent. Because it is a direct download, the speeds are generally higher and more reliable.
The second main benefit of Usenet is that downloads are a lot more secure than Bit Torrent alternatives. Because you are downloading directly from a server, you can use security protocols such as SSL, and most of the Usenet services don’t log any data – so you can truly download files anonymously.
The Drawbacks of Usenet
On the other hand, there are a few disadvantages to Usenet as well. First off, understand that the Usenet servers have a finite storage capacity. As such, you will find that there is a sort of “churn rate,” whereby older files may not be available as fresher content pushes them off the servers. Most providers will give you a data retention metric that is measured in days, and after that time period the data is deleted.
Another disadvantage is that Usenet is not a free service like Bit Torrent is. Instead, you have to pay a subscription fee to a Usenet provider to get access to the content. While this may sound undesirable at first, understand that the costs are justified by higher quality downloads that are faster and more secure. Typically you can expect to pay anywhere between $10 and $50 a month.
The next disadvantage is the amount of data you can download. Because it is a paid service, they offer different monthly data limits for different levels of subscription. Many providers offer an unlimited plan as their premium service, but it is common for lesser subscriptions to have 5 GB or 50 GB data caps.
The Benefits of Bit Torrent
Bit Torrent, on the other hand, doesn’t cap how much data you can download in any given month. The only things that limit your downloads are your Internet speed and the amount of people seeding the files you want to download. In addition, it is absolutely free of charge. Although you will undoubtedly need a VPN service (which costs between $3 and $10 per month) to combat the rampant security problems with Bit Torrent. And lastly, it is slightly easier to download files with Bit Torrent because you don’t have to first sign up for a service.
The Drawbacks of Bit Torrent
But Bit Torrent is far from perfect. One of the drawbacks is the file download speed. Because Bit Torrent is a P2P file sharing medium, you have to rely on peers and seeders to host your files. If the seeder to leecher ration is disproportionate (as it frequently is), your download may only crawl by at 56Kbps. However, the largest drawback to Bit Torrent is its security problems. The RIAA and other organizations know how to see who is downloading which types of files, and you never know what peer you are connecting to. It is extremely easy for other people to track your IP address, which is one reason why you need to mask it with a VPN service.
If you’re curious about Usenet and want to try it out, you need to understand the basics. It can be challenging starting out because there are several different ways that you can access content hosted on a Usenet server, but we will start out with the simplest method.
The first thing you are going to need, as you might expect, is a Usenet client. It works in a similar manner to Bit Torrent clients such as uTorrent, and it will help your computer sew together a fragmented file that could be spread out across multiple servers. Some good clients include SABnzb, Unison, and URD.
In addition to the client, you are also going to actually need to sign up for a service. There are multitudes of competing services available, so I would recommend that you Google a few of them to compare their features, data limits, and costs.
The last thing you are going to need is a website that indexes the Usenet files. One such service is NZB, and it will allow you to search for content in a way that is very similar to The Pirate Bay. Once you find your content, all you will need to do is transfer the URL of your content into your Usenet client and off you go.
Should I Still Use a VPN with Usenet?
You might be thinking that if you opt for a service that doesn’t keep any logs of your activity and they secure your connection with SSL that you don’t have any need for a VPN service. But VPNs still undeniably add value to your downloading experience and tighten a few loose bolts with regards to your Internet security. You should know that even if your connection is secured with SSL, your ISP or network administrator will still have the capacity to see that you are making connections to a Usenet server. In general, all P2P data transfers are safer behind a VPN.
In fact, because so many Usenet services recommend that you use a VPN with their service, many of them provide a VPN as part of their package. And the advantages of a VPN exceed only Usenet access. A VPN will secure all of your Internet browsing data and prevent hackers, thieves, and governmental agencies from intercepting and reading your data. Furthermore, a VPN will help you circumvent any file downloading throttling that network admins and ISPs may implement. A VPN will also help you unblock any Usenet servers that have been blocked on your network or in your current geographical area, and it will help you make downloads completely anonymously. With that said, let’s go ahead and take a look at the top VPNs for Usenet.
Best VPNs for Usenet
ExpressVPN – Complete Review
ExpressVPN tops the list of the best VPNs for Usenet because they have a proven history of spectacular network performance and phenomenal 24/7 customer support. Though some Usenet providers bundle VPNs services with their Usenet subscription, you are better off using a VPN service from an organization that focuses on VPN connectivity. ExpressVPN has a very mature and developed VPN network with servers in 78 countries, and they will allow you to connect a PC as well as a mobile device with the same account. Furthermore, they have a 30-day money back guarantee that will let you test their VPN service with your Usenet downloads. Though they are a little more expensive than other VPN companies, the quality of their service easily justifies a cost of $8.32 per month.
Private Internet Access – Complete Review
PIA is a fantastic alternative for people only looking to use a VPN with Usenet. Although you should ideally use a VPN every time you use the Internet, PIA is great for Usenet exclusively because they are so inexpensive. Most people probably want the cheapest service they can find to minimize costs added on top of their Usenet subscription, and PIA doesn’t fail to disappoint. You can get their service for as little as $3.33 per month, and they an amazing network of servers. Though they only have servers in 24 countries, they currently have about 3,096 servers in total.
PureVPN – Complete Review
PureVPN is another great VPN provider that works very well with Usenet. Right now they have 500+ servers in 140 countries and 181 different locations, and that alone gives you a lot of flexibility when trying to find a VPN server that is geographically near your Usenet server. But they will allow you to connect up to 5 devices to your VPN connection – so they are better suited for people who need functionality in addition to Usenet downloads. By using their service, you will be able to secure all of your devices for about $4.16 per month.
TorGuard – Complete Review
TorGuard VPN has something that a bundled Usenet VPN service likely isn’t going to have: immense server capacity. TorGuard currently boasts over 1200 server in 42 countries, and they also allow you to connect up to 5 devices to your VPN tunnel. Again, this is a huge advantage to people who have multiple devices such as tablets, smartphones, and multiple PCs. They have a reputation of having an extremely fast network and they don’t throttle your VPN connection, so you can rest assured that it won’t hinder your Usenet downloads. And they are very reasonably priced. With a full-year subscription, you can get their service for only $5.00 a month.
VyprVPN – Complete Review
To complete our list, you should be aware of VyprVPN. Though they don’t have as many servers as other VPN providers such as PIA, they do have 700+ servers in over 50 countries. You can rest assured that you won’t run into capacity issues – especially if you are downloading files from Usenet servers based in the US or the UK. The best part is you can use a free trial of their service to test it with Usenet, but it isn’t practical for long term use because of the monthly data limit. But all in all, they provide a fantastic service that only costs $6.25 a month for the Pro version.