Usenet vs Torrents – Strengths & Weaknesses Compared

James Bruce 07-04-2012

usenet reviewsWith increasingly scary letters being sent to people accused of downloading copyrighted works via torrents, many are considering switching their filesharing habits to Usenet. Is this a wise choice though? What are the pros and cons of each? What factors should be considered first?


It goes without saying that MakeUseOf does not condone downloading copyrighted material in any way – but we know a lot of readers are going to do it anyway; and if you are going to, then I’d really like you be safe and informed about your decision (is it just me, or is this starting to sound like the talk?)


No discussion would be complete without mentioning cost. For the most part, torrents are free – completely. You can learn about torrents and the legality of them in the MUO Torrent guide The Torrent Guide for Everyone This beginner's guide is a great introduction to peer-to-peer file sharing with BitTorrent. Get started with torrent downloading in a safe and responsible way with our tips here. Read More . Though I would personally recommend spending up to $10/month on a good quality torrent-friendly VPN What A VPN Tunnel Is & How To Set One Up Read More , that is a discussion for another day.

Usenet is not free. Unlike torrents, which are files downloaded from fellow Internet users (peer based) and therefore no centralised server is needed to actually host the files, Usenet relies upon physical servers somewhere. A Usenet “service provider” is therefore needed, and those cost money. How much exactly depends upon:

  • Bandwidth limits – everything from 5GB/month to unlimited downloads.
  • Retention, which means how long a file is kept until it is deleted from the servers. Obviously, a longer retention is better because there’ll be a larger selection of files to choose from. This can range from a month, which is virtually useless, to 5 years.
  • Extras and features – such as secure, encrypted connections; a free VPN you can use; a good quality own-brand client, and a free indexing service.

You may also want to use a binary indexing service like NewzBin. They have a team of real humans who find and verify files available to download, and provide you with a one-click download link that your Usenet client can use to locate those files (a bit like a magnet link for torrents, just a pointer to the real thing). The service also costs money, and I should note that the first incarnation of the site was shut down by the MPA.

usenet reviews



Usenet is much faster than torrents, since you’re downloading directly from a server that’s optimized for it, rather than a collection of random peers all over the world. It does depend upon your provider and service plan though of course – unlimited download plans will often be throttled or capped at a certain speed, while a fixed bandwidth download plan will usually let you have that at full speed. Speeds up to 10 times faster than a well-seeded torrent are not unusual.


Usenet isn’t what it used to be, and as the filesharing trend toward torrents shifted, so did the uploaders and the selection available. In particular, anything obscure or even trying to find something specific is handled far better in torrents – Usenet just doesn’t have that much to download anymore.


Serious users of Usenet for filesharing means you really do need a good client. Essential features to look for should include at the very least:

  • Automatic combination of separate file parts.
  • Seamless RAR file extraction and PAR regeneration.
  • Search.
  • Previews or inline .nfo file display, used to tell the download about the contents of the set.

Though your provider may give you some basic Usenet client software, there are some very popular commercial clients also worth considering, but again these come at a premium price. Panic’s Unison for OSX is $29, for example, but widely regarded as the best OSX client out there (pictured below).


Finding a client is quite a personal choice though that depends on your usage. If you’re going to use an indexing service that provides NZB links for example, then any client that can autocombine parts should be sufficient. If not, your client should have an extensive search and directory facility.

free usenet

What Is PAR?

PAR – or “parity” files are additional data files that can be used to regenerate corrupted or missing parts of the original set – any single par file can used to regenerate any single corrupted rar section, basically. They work by using parity bits, so instead of literally being a copy of the missing file, they’re a calculated set of bits thats says what should be there.

It’s like a simple mathemetical problem of two variables, A and B, the sum of which is 10, so if we know either A, B and the sum, we can calculate the missing one – the same being true of data.



Many Usenet providers will encrypt transmissions with 256-bit SSL, but combine with a VPN for the ultimate in security. Giganews Platninum plan ($24.99 a month) comes complete with VyprVPN for instance – which you can use for all traffic, and not just Usenet. I believe I’m right in saying no one has ever been caught directly by downloading something illegal via Usenet, but do correct me if you can point to something that says otherwise.

usenet reviews

Having said that, torrents can also be made relatively secure, again through the use of a premium VPN and PeerBlock PeerBlock - Block IP Addresses Of Government Spies Or Evil Hacker Friends [Windows] When people want to protect their computer from outside threats, the first thing they usually think of is installing antivirus or anto-malware software. Those applications do an excellent job at blocking known viruses and malware... Read More software.


Usenet may be incredibly fast compared to torrents, but my own experience shows the selection of files available just isn’t there, and it just isn’t worth the cost. Just browse over to the latest TV releases at Newzbin if you don’t believe me. If you do still want to have a go at Usenet, then take the time to read through our free complete guide to Usenet A New User's Guide To Usenet Heard a lot about Usenet and its file sharing capabilities, but don't have a clue where to get starting using it? This user's guide explains how to use Usenet. Read More first.


My advice if you can’t decide: get onto the waiting list for a private torrent site The Best 3 Private Torrent Trackers That You Should Be Invited To Just like the good old Napster days though, public torrent sites and trackers are riddled with trojans and other garbage. The best way to enjoy your filesharing experience is getting an invite to one of... Read More – these are far less monitored than public sites. Use a premium VPN service such as BTGuard to completely hide your downloading identity. With ISPs in the US about to start policing their users, I’ll be posting a full tutorial on how to do this soon, so stay tuned.

Related topics: BitTorrent, Usenet.

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  1. Edmar Diego
    September 14, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    i made a bet about this and i won

  2. vito corleone
    September 9, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    While many ISP's no longer offer Usenet access, using the bittorrent protocol seems to be a more accessible option. In fact, a great new private torrent tracker has come on the scene and they currently have open sign-ups. Check out Torrentzilla. You won't regret it.

    Then, after having had a chance to see first hand how a great private tracker works, You can make an informed decision.

    Torrentzilla has it all. Check them out.

  3. ~m0th~
    August 31, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    Been using Usnet for years - pre NZB and afterwards, did the Napster thing and also used torrents, although not for a while now. BT is good, anyone can use it and anyone should. Usenet generally requires someone a bit more patient and dare I say it with a higher IQ (OK, check the 4-6 word posts from the Bit Torrent fans!). First rule of Usenet - don't talk about usenet.

  4. Biloxi Fishing Charter Boat
    August 9, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    come back demonoid!

  5. Charlie Player
    July 25, 2012 at 9:19 pm the whole article says usenet is better than is it free??

    • James Bruce
      July 27, 2012 at 8:53 am

      You didnt actually read the article did you? The very first heading says COST.

      • george
        July 29, 2012 at 5:30 am

        Im confussed what is safe? the july 12 checks. Are newsgroups safe if so how?

        • James Bruce
          July 29, 2012 at 7:30 am

          I'm confused - what is your question? What does July 12 have to do with anything?

  6. sabir
    July 4, 2012 at 1:24 am

    using torrent vpn keeps you anonymous while you are using internet. here is the list of torrent VPN provider..i must suggest you to use vpn while downloading any torrents.

  7. Diaz
    June 19, 2012 at 12:21 am

    Usenet always was and still is the best way to get what you want. Period. Its faster, scene releases go to usenet first, no stupid seeds or peers, more secure and the amount of stuff goes back 4yrs and is increasing daily. Ever seen a torrent that is working from 1400 days ago? Fully working with nothing corrupted? Torrents may have a slight edge in variety but that can't beat Usenet. If you can't find something you're not looking hard enough. Only the uneducated and cheap use torrents. $8 a month will get you unlimited Usenet access.

    • James Bruce
      June 19, 2012 at 8:14 am

      Fair enough if it works for you, but ive had the complete opposite experience and I stand by my opinions too.

      • Chris
        October 3, 2012 at 6:06 am

        I know I'm late but honestly it seems like you tried Usenet for half a day, couldn't find anything due to user error, and then deemed it shit.

        Safely torrenting with a VPN or Seedbox is pretty much the exact same cost as buying a SSL encrypted Usenet connection. Both are roughly $10/month except with Usenet you can buy a block plan which saves you some money granted you aren't downloading several things every single day. Both torrenting and Usenet have things that can only be found on one or the other, giving an edge to torrenting because you couldn't find a specific movie is completely ridiculous because there are tons of movies you can only find on Usenet.

        It's also funny how you say that people have to pay premium price for a good client when pretty much everyone that uses Usenet uses SABnzbd/Sickbeard (which are both free). You basically didn't do your homework at all, but hey the less people that know about Usenet the better I suppose.

        • Muo TechGuy
          October 3, 2012 at 11:10 am

          I've used Usenet for about 5 years prior. So no. It does not contain the same amount of content, not in the slightest. It may have many movies; but it will not have a specific movie, if that's what you're looking for. Usenet is probably more comparable to Netflix - you get what you're given and that's it.

  8. Luda Yoda
    June 13, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Usenet block plans are the way to go imo. Can last a long time if you aren't a heavy downloader.

  9. Simon
    May 27, 2012 at 2:41 am

    I appreciate this is a honest attempt at a comparison.

    Your should re-do this review using NZBMatrix a Usenet indexer, you will see a HUGE difference in what you easily find on Usenet. Have to be honest its at least equal to the top private torrent sites.

    [Broken URL Removed]

    Dont agree on speed, on decent private torrent sites its very easy to max out your connection within minutes and I have seen 100mbps maxed np.

    If you can "only" use garbage risky public torrent trackers you should go Usenet. If you are on decent private tracker, torrents are a great free equivalent option but you need to maintain a ratio.

    • muotechguy
      June 12, 2012 at 8:51 pm

      There does seem to be more there, but I'm done with binaries for the time being, do hopefully other readers will take your suggestion on board.

      I don't agree on speed though; in all my days of using some of the best private servers (torrent leech is my main go to), I've never maxed out my connection - 5mb at best on anything. Agree on avoid public trackers though, it just isn't worth the risk.

  10. Gerald Kieffer
    May 17, 2012 at 3:23 am

    PS - IDEA..... Start a fileshare site that will change all uploads into asci-text form and afer downloaded the decoder [which can be downloaded seperatly] will re-enable the binary...

  11. Gerald Kieffer
    May 17, 2012 at 3:19 am

    When the creator of the first DVD CRACKER software came on the scene the person
    who was responsible for sending it out to the fileshare sites got arrested & put in jail for doing an illegal thing...

    I put the entire piece of software on-line and even advertized it for download & I never got stopped by any one because of the trick I used...
    XXENCODE & XXDECODE are what usenet uses to encode all binary into text to be transmitted...

    AND the funny thing here is the judge said the source code which is all in asci-text was 100% legal to be distributed everywheres...
    And I got it all on-line [binary & readme] & advertized it and no one ever got my butt for doing it because of my usage of XXENCODE & XXDECODE & I also sent all the decoders for all platform computers in another message & advertized those as as well.

  12. maronjelk
    April 24, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    The files I've gotten off of turn out to have a password that you can only get by completing like 5 of these stupid offers on lead generation websites. Disappointing.

    • muotechguy
      May 17, 2012 at 7:41 am

      Yep. Scam.

  13. anon
    April 13, 2012 at 12:03 am

    how about buying things?

  14. Drew
    April 11, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Slow torrents for free are fair

  15. compgeeks1
    April 11, 2012 at 4:01 am

    I think torrents are well better than usenet

  16. ZiggyBoomBox
    April 9, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    Just thought I'd share my experiences. With a $14.99/mo plan I get SSL encryption and downloads at the full speed of my internet connection (52 Mbps). A good indexing site is necessary, but only 3 times in the lst year have I needed to resort to torrents to find something not available on usenet (usually very old & obscure music or TV). The newsreader prog was a one time $30 payment w/ free lifetime upgrades (have had it for 7 years so fa) which handles all the par-ing and un-raring automatically.

  17. wyrwolf
    April 8, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    You forgot to mention what I regard as one of the best reasons for using USENET - less malware, or at least easier to identify and therefore save yourself wasting time on a big download.
    There are other reasons which I won't go into as to why I always search on USENET before searching Torrents (including, as you mentioned, greater anonymity).
    I use XNews for my reader, Yenc-PP-B&G as my bulkuploader, and Binsearch as my main search tool, with AltBinz for downloading NZBs [all the programs are freeware]. I have an Unlimited Plan from AstraWeb for $10US and highly recommend them.

    • James Bruce
      April 9, 2012 at 8:35 am

      I dont think there is *less* malware to be honest, but if you use human-verified NZB filesets and dont just browse randomly, then sure, its probably safer.

      Then again, I've never got malware through torrents either, since I only use private torrent scenes or verified uploaders, not random public ones.

  18. Top Usenet
    April 8, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    These days usenet providers are coming up with block plans, which are quite cost effective if you are not a heavy downloader.

    • James Bruce
      April 9, 2012 at 8:34 am

      Apologies, I disabled URL linking so your SEO-spam name wont work.

      • Top Usenet
        April 9, 2012 at 3:32 pm

        I didn't put any URL :) So no need to apologize

  19. Matt Foley
    April 8, 2012 at 4:16 am

    I have been using usenet since 1996 or so. Napster came and went, then bearshare and limewire, then morpheus, edonkey, I don't know what else and finally torrents came along. I kept coming back to usenet even though, before nzb's and before parfiles, they were an unbelivable p.i.t.a. Scouring through so many posts took hours. Then sporge attacks came and even with a regex filter proxy app it was a loathsome task. I have to hand it to torrents though they're the best but alas the suits are working day and night to poison the well. I have no idea why usenet has never been targeted like the others but I wish people would stop posting 'how to' articles about it. You're collectively drawing the attention of predators to what might be a fragile beast.
    That said I recommend binsearch.nfo for ur nzb's, it's simple and free.
    If you ever want to punish yourself try using a newsreader program to 'download headers' for one of the popular groups. Then scroll down through tens of thousands of spam and fake posts searching for something of interest.

    • James Bruce
      April 8, 2012 at 8:07 am

      Yeah sorry Matt, promise not to write anymore on Usenet!

      Spam was my biggest problem with Usenet, impossible to actually browse any groups nowadays. NZBs the only way to go.

  20. Simon Slangen
    April 7, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    I did some research on Usenet recently as well. Here are some cost-effective alternatives.

    Take a look at NZBMatrix as an alternative for Newzbin. That's a £7 (roughly $10) donation for a ten year subscription. Much cheaper than NZBMatrix (if you use it for more than half a year) and roughly the same service.

    Cheapnews doesn't include a VPN, but costs only €99 / $130 per year (and now temporarily €39 / $51 !).

    • muotechguy
      April 7, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      Good find Simon, thanks!

  21. Rinzler
    April 7, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    I think @Hypocrisy was unfair. Most posts on any tech site can be simply divided into fact and opinion. When the opinion is that of the author, at least on MUO, they have always said so. When it is fact, it is merely a presentation of details that are beneficial for the reader in making an informed decision. It is purely up to us readers what we do with this. You have the choice @hypocrisy don't act like you don't.

    That said, what I really wanted to mention was Astraweb ( who have been my providers for over an year. Their 180gb plan is perfect for NZB's. I usually get mine from NZBMatrix ([Broken URL Removed]) or Merlins Portal

    Now, almost 95% of my downloads are NZB's and the 5% I do download as torrents are often old material, which a) if I find on the server, may not by compete (missing PAR's) b) are really old. Further to that, occasionally I try and download something new via torrents, just so that I can improve my share ratio on Demonoid.

    I think NZB's will soon have a lot more traffic. I also think before MPA begin their war on Usenet users, their ISP will start the first battle. We shall see who wins then, because they would have backed us into a corner by then. With no other options at hand.

    • muotechguy
      April 7, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      Thanks for the input Rinzler, good links!

  22. Mobe
    April 7, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Usenet is free to use if you use the newsgroups, but sure the servers hog disk space and bandwidth so you get more groups (and binary groups) and longer retention by subscribing a paid service.
    This file transfer version of Usenet mostly seems to be a separate (pay to use) network just using same protocol as traditional newsgroups.

    • muotechguy
      April 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      No, binary newsgroups are an integral part of usenet. Free providers just dont give access to them for cost reasons as you say, but binary newsgroups certainly dont exist on a separate network.

  23. Robert Haulin
    April 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    The alternative to both is a server that downloads the torrent files first and then you grab them with a direct download. :)

    • muotechguy
      April 7, 2012 at 1:26 pm

      Interesting, but as a US company the TOS seems to imply they would simply hand over your activity logs if requested.

      • Elijah Swartz
        April 7, 2012 at 9:39 pm

        Do US companies have to log? Can't they go logless and even advertise that as a feature?

        • wyrwolf
          April 8, 2012 at 9:55 pm

          not any more, AFAIK

  24. gaurav
    April 7, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Usenet is Gay

    • Bill
      July 30, 2012 at 11:38 pm

      Well there's a groundless statement. Usenet is great

      • Dan
        September 4, 2012 at 5:20 pm

        Maybe he thinks being gay is great?

        • Anonymous
          September 27, 2012 at 6:52 am

          Maybe being gay IS great?

  25. Hypocrisy
    April 7, 2012 at 5:12 am

    I doubt this comment will stay published for long, if it is at all published.

    This coming from the same site that tried to explain to me that Adblock is unethical and I shouldn't be using it, and then proceeded to tell me that torrent users need to stop whining about the switch to mp4 instead of avi.

    Your site is now full of shit. It once was amazing, and useful, but then you started force feeding us editorials and giving us advice on how to more easily and safely grab TV shows and other content.

    Let's get something straight. I don't care that you're giving out advice on how to grab illegally pirated material. Most blogs are proud to do this. I myself grab TV shows and I make no excuse or justification for it.

    It's the hypocrisy I can't handle.

    Consider yourself unsubscribed off my RSS reader. If one day you go back to being the useful site you once were without the hypocritical articles and the uneducated editorials, I'll be back.

    • Chris Hoffman
      April 7, 2012 at 6:04 am

      I'd just like to note that we have a lot of writers here, and we all have different perspectives. What may seem to be "hypocrisy" is different people's opinions.

      This is also the website that's told you why the iPhone is the best smartphone platform, why Android is the best smartphone platform, and why Windows Phone is the best smartphone platform -- all different writers with different perspectives.

    • muotechguy
      April 7, 2012 at 8:59 am

      I'm insulted that you think we would delete your comment because we disagree with you. Our moderator might remove your foul language, but we certainly dont delete a comment because we dont like what you say.

      Regardless, what you call hypocrisy is what I call having different viewpoints, opinions, and multiple authors each writing about topics which interest them. I might even agree with you that some of the editorials have been somewhat lower quality than I would hope for, but you're free to express your opinions on those articles too and let the author or editors know - we do listen to feedback, and have in fact decided to reduce the number of editorials and put more stringent requirements in place for them as a result of other complaints.

      I'm sorry you chose to unsubscribe, but we can't please everyone and I believe we do our best.

  26. Richard Carpenter
    April 7, 2012 at 4:43 am

    illegal downloads aside... I like usenet, but it is really showing its age.

    Googles Kittens with Lasers are going to take over the world :)

    • brook
      August 13, 2012 at 10:52 am

      when you use VPN while using Torrent that will make you anonymous here is the list of torrent VPN provider..i must suggest you to use vpn while downloading any torrents.

  27. Olog-hai
    April 7, 2012 at 3:35 am

    "I believe I’m right in saying no one has ever been caught directly by downloading something illegal via Usenet, but do correct me if you can point to something that says otherwise."

    Yes, see here:

    It was a long time ago, years before the Tor Project came into being, but it happened.

    • muotechguy
      April 7, 2012 at 8:53 am

      Hmm, it doesnt say people were arrested for using that newsgroup though, only about the guys who created/ran/posted to the group? Interesting find though, thanks for the input.

      • Olog-hai
        April 23, 2012 at 12:47 am

        Yes, you are right, it was for posting, although if ISPs are cooperating with law enforcement agencies, it seems plausible that they could also target people who are downloading.

        Obviously, child pornography trafficking is and should be a high-priority problem, but given the strong lobbying arms of the RIAA and MPAA, it's easy to see these operations extending to copyright violations.

        Similar story from the UK:

        • no
          August 13, 2012 at 7:02 am

          Downloading isn't illegal. Providing the content (uploading) is. That's why people are hit so hard in torrenting lawsuits. By definition (the point of a torrent) is that they *are* uploading, when downloading.