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The three things you need to start using Newsgroups

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Newsgroup Provider
Client
Indexer


Newsgroup Provider:
Essentially a massive collection of servers that automagically download everything uploaded to usenet, and then allow you to download it from them. Three things to look for:
Retention: How long the files are kept the servers.
Connections: How many threads you can download from simultaneously. Usually 10 is good enough to max a home connection.
SSL: Whether they allow you to DL from a SSL port or not.

 

Some examples:
Giganews, Supernews, etc. (Check almost any of the ads on the site for providers)

Client:
Simply a program that provides a GUI and connects to the server so you can download your desired file from it. When you DL a file, it will come in RAR and PAR archives. RAR archives contain the files you want, and if they are incomplete (servers store 100(1000?)s of terabytes every day, somtimes they screw up), the PAR archives are used to repair them. The great thing about these programs is that they will automatically repair the files if need be, automatically extract them for you, and then delete the archives. Pretty neat, huh?

Most of the settings for different clients, so for the sake of brevity I'll let you play around with them. Some things to pay attention to would be the maximum download speed, and where you wish to have the files extracted to.

Finally, the most important thing is setting up your client to connect to a server (namely your provider). You will need to obtain the server address and the username and password that your newsgroup provider gives you. You will also want to specify a different port number if you wish to DL from SSL. Finally, you can specify the number of connections you want to use.

Some examples of clients:

Grabit, Alt.binz, Newsbin, SABnzbd

I personally recommend Newsleecher, it comes with supersearch (an auto indexer, see below) too!

Indexer:
This is just where NZB files are indexed. You can think of it this way: The provider is akin to Rapidshare, and the indexer is similar to Warez-bb. The indexer just helps you find files, and technically you don't really need one, but to not use one is far more complicated and technical. There are two main types of indexers:

Auto Indexed
Sites such as NZBindex, Binsearch, and Supersearch are auto indexers. This means it automatically indexes everything posted on usenet, including the spam. Similar to public torrent sites, while the selection is far more extensive, there are always the spam, fake and dupe posts that you must watch out for.

User Indexed
Sites such as FST, Merlin's portal, NZBSRUS, NZBs.org, and NZBMatrix are user indexed. That means that actual users hand pick the NZB files that are verfied and legit, and index them on the site. Similar to private torrent sites, you can be assured the validity of the files. However, indexers are human and won't index everything, so you can't be assured the breadth and variety you would see on auto indexer.

NZB files
These are handy little files that have made it far easier to download from usenet. I'm not exactly sure of the technical aspects, but rest assured they have made usenet a far more user friendly experience. When you download from an indexing site, it'll create a .nzb file that will direct the client to the correct files, similar to a .torrent file. Just download the file, open it in you client, and viola! Your set and your client will begin downloading, easy as pie.

And now you're good to go! You know everything you need to know to start using usenet.