Usenet groups were the social media of the early internet, where users could come together in groups specialized by topic, and discuss news, events, and general issues (and arguments!) relating to that topic. However, it was not so easy to navigate between them or to keep up with the latest posts.
Usenet clients simplified the process of navigation and updates, making it easier to find the information you wanted.
While social media has since evolved through forums into dedicated chat sites like Facebook and Twitter, Usenet groups are still very much alive and running, and have adapted to the modern internet - as have Usenet readers.
Even better, the spam problems that had begun to plague Usenet groups have been very much reduced, and NZB managers often provide easy and effective ways to locate content.
Here we'll look at the best in Usenet clients and NZB downloaders, to keep the process of surfing for content in Usenet groups as accessible as possible.
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Fast, feature-packed news reading from the Usenet veteran
Newsbin Pro is a full-featured commercial Usenet client for Windows.
After more than 20 years of development, it's probably no surprise that the program is absolutely crammed with high-end functionality. But despite that, it manages to be straightforward and user-friendly. The installer prompts you to enter your Usenet server details, then you can search for the files you need and download them right away.
Newsbin Pro uses multiple techniques to boost its performance. XFeatures header compression support can download headers up to 10 times faster. You're able to set up multiple servers for simultaneous use, and the program can block RARs which are password-protected or contain executable files, hopefully reducing the time you'll waste downloading spam and malware.
Heavy-duty Usenet users might still find their downloads take a while, but Newsbin Pro can help there, too. You're able to limit the program's bandwidth use, allowing it to run in the background without hogging your connection, or you can use the scheduler to download files while you sleep.
All this runs smoothly, with full support for all the standards you would expect. Newsbin Pro can handle SSL encryption, and supports per-server SOCKS 4, SOCKS 5, and HTTPS proxies. Smart NZB handling can automatically download the files you need, and the AutoPAR feature repairs or replaces missing or corrupted RARs, then expands the contents.
Newsbin Pro is available with a standard search subscription for one year at $30 (£25), but you can buy Newsbin Pro without the search function for $20 (£18). A free trial is available.
Usenet searching with the emphasis on speed
Newsleecher is a popular Windows Usenet reader with many timesaving technologies and extras.
The program's SuperSearch is a speedy Usenet search tool with handy wildcard support. The SuperLeech service can be set up to regularly check Usenet for the files you need, downloading copies almost as soon as they've been uploaded. And if you're tired of wasting time on spam files, there’s more good news: NewsLeecher can detect and avoid password protected files, RAR-in-RAR files, and anything containing an executable (EXE or SCR).
NewsLeecher was the first Usenet client to support NZB files, and its latest version provides many ways to work with the file type. You can create NZBs directly from articles or search results, import them manually or set the program to monitor folders, import anything new and automatically download the specified files.
All this is presented in a handy tabbed interface. You can manage servers in one tab, browse articles in another, and there are tabs to run searches, check the transfer queue, even access downloaded files via an embedded Explorer window. It's a great way to keep track of all your ongoing tasks with minimal on-screen clutter or hassle.
Newsleecher providers unlimited Usenet access for $9.49 (£8.50) per month, and there's a free 14-day trial available.
Expert-level, fast and free NZB processing
NZBGet is a lightweight open source NZB downloader which runs almost anywhere: desktops (Windows, Linux, Mac), routers, NAS devices, media players and more.
The package works this magic by running as a background process which is largely accessed from a browser-based interface. This allows NZBGet to be used from mobiles and tablets, as well as its host hardware, and ensures you get a consistent interface everywhere.
Operations are mostly very easy. Add one or more NZB files from the interface, copy them to NZBGet's incoming folder or just point the program at a URL and it'll download the files you need. NZBGet is highly optimized for speed, even on low-end devices (the developer says you can run it with less than 32MB of RAM).
The focus on performance continues elsewhere with intelligent PAR file verification, smarter retries and a multi-core repair process ensuring damaged files are recovered as fast as possible.
Neat bonus touches include speedy and accurate deobfuscation of file names, effortlessly restoring cryptic nonsense – like, for example: cf8ae6185547f6ca0ad263439f2279fa.01 – to its original version.
While NZBGet could be used by newsgroup novices without too much difficulty, the real value here is for more expert users. Automation features include support for powerful RSS filters, plus there are a huge number of low-level options and settings, and every aspect of the program can be controlled via an RPC API and your own scripts.
A powerful NZB manager for Android
Nzb360 is a comprehensive NZB manager for Android. The app works with a host of popular services: SABnzbd, NZBGet, Deluge, Transmission, µTorrent, qBittorrent, Sick Beard, Sonarr, Radarr, CouchPotato, Headphones and unlimited Newznab Indexers.
Set up a service on your PC, for instance, tell Nzb360 about it, and you're able to monitor and control what's going on. The app queues up content for your services, ensuring it works even if the remote computer is turned off (although built-in Wake-On-LAN support means you may also be able to start your system remotely).
There's support for managing a wide range of connection types, including local/remote addresses, SSL/TLS, HTTP authentication, URL rewrites, reverse proxies, and more.
Nzb360 isn't an app for beginners, and there's something of a learning curve as you figure out how to get the software working as you would like.
Still, an attractive and well-designed interface points you in the right direction, and experienced users should have few problems (the exceptional 4.8 average review score on Google Play suggests the developer is doing something right). But if you do have any issues, the built-in feedback mechanism and a web support forum are on hand to help you out.
If you're interested, a free build gives you a basic idea of Nzb360's abilities, and the full-featured Pro version is available at the bargain price of $7.49 (£6.50) for a lifetime licence.
The news client of choice for some big Usenet providers
Usenet Wire is a polished, professional and easy-to-use Usenet client for Windows, Linux and Mac.
The package is more about simplicity than high-end NZB-handling power, but there's still plenty to enjoy here. The well-designed interface looks great, and works just as you would expect. A quality search system helps you find the files you need. Previews for images and videos confirm that the files really do contain what the uploader has promised, and whatever you download is automatically validated, repaired if necessary, and decompressed, ready for use.
Usenet Wire can't match the expert-level automation options of a utility like NZBGet, but there are some handy tools here. Searches can be automated to look out for specific results and automatically download them, for instance.
While this sounds great, there's a problem: you can't buy Usenet Wire as a standalone product. Instead it comes bundled as a free Usenet client with some Usenet providers.
At the time of writing, downloads from the Usenet Wire website will prompt you to set up an account with TweakNews. When we reviewed TweakNews, we found it had a limited 2,500 days binary retention and slow tech support, but if you can live with that, downloads are fast and the prices are very low.
Newshosting also bundled a version of Usenet Wire when we last reviewed the service, and that could be a smarter choice. Retention is above 3,300 days, downloads are fast, a generous 750GB trial allows in-depth testing and there are some big sign-up discounts.