You might think, given that most ISPs no longer provide direct access to it and the majority of the free providers online have disappeared, that the venerable Usenet service has died a death. But that’s not entirely true; there are still many active discussion areas in the bigger groups.
But let’s be realistic: the real reason to lean towards Usenet in the current age is for file sharing – the groups below alt.binaries.* are very active, carrying many downloadable files of all kinds. But to gain access to the large amount of Usenet bandwidth you’ll need in order to collect these files, you’ll have to pay.
The key if you’re looking at binary newsgroups is, due to Usenet’s distributed server architecture, in finding a provider whose servers are fast, and who retains copies of binary files uploaded to Usenet for as long as possible. So with that – and many other – considerations in mind, here’s our breakdown of the best Usenet providers.
A top-notch fast and reliable service
Retention: 3357 days | Newsgroups: 100,000+ | Maximum connections: 60 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: Yes
If you want a strong all-rounder of a Usenet service, then look no further than this provider. Newshosting sports ample retention, and runs its own server farms in the US and Europe, offering more than a hundred thousand newsgroups.
You also get some high quality client software not just for Windows and Mac, but Linux as well. You can add Newshosting’s VPN offering to your package, for extra privacy and security online beyond the basic SSL encryption which you get by default.
In terms of performance, this Usenet provider impressed us with fast download speeds. It also passed our tests in retrieving old binaries with flying colors, as well. Are there any negatives at all here? There’s very little to complain about, save for the VPN client being a little basic, but that doesn’t actually reflect on the core Usenet service anyway.
Newshosting is competitively priced, particularly with the deal in place at the time of writing, and you can try it out for yourself before committing with a 14-day free trial.
Speedy performance and very impressive retention
Retention: 3356 days | Newsgroups: 125,000 | Maximum connections: 20 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: Yes
Eweka is an impressive operation indeed, running its own data centre in Amsterdam, and the firm has its own trans-Atlantic backbone, too (although no US servers as yet).
There’s a lengthy 3,356 days of retention offered here, which is among the strongest Usenet offerings in that respect, and while you only get up to 20 connections maximum, which is less than many rivals, we found performance to be very speedy in our tests. And really, that’s what counts.
There’s plenty more to like with Eweka besides, including the fact that the service performed well when it came to our retention testing (grabbing old files). There’s also an unrestricted seven-day trial to give the service a whirl, and this doesn’t require you to enter any payment details, either. Considering what you get here, the service is reasonably priced, too.
Keeping Usenet simple and slick…
Retention: 2357 days | Newsgroups: 110,000 | Maximum connections: 30 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: Yes
Supernews is a veteran Usenet provider having been in operation since the mid-90s, and it has servers across the US and Europe. You get 2,357 days of binary retention and 5,021 days of text retention, and access to over 110,000 newsgroups.
What’s more, Supernews keeps multiple copies of articles across its network, and the firm claims that this helps to ensure a 100% completion rate. And on the performance front, you get unlimited speed, with the provider guaranteeing that your connection won’t be throttled in any way, shape or form.
Supernews keeps things pleasingly simple when it comes to plan choices, as well, because there’s only one: a straightforward unlimited plan with a monthly fee. It’s not the cheapest subscription around, but this is a quality service, and you get a three-day trial to test it out first. Also note that with the TechRadar Pro offer in place at the time of writing, you get your first month at half price.
A real retention hog with a bundled VPN
Retention: 3370 days | Newsgroups: N/A | Maximum connections: 50 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: No
Newsgroupdirect offers an impressive retention level of 3,370 days, and maintains its own network. As with the previous provider, it makes a big promise on the completion rate front, guaranteeing users 100% completion. And furthermore, 100% uptime is also promised.
You get a plentiful 50 connections even with the most basic plan, along with SSL encryption, and access to the Ghost Path VPN service for extra security and privacy on top. Again, the VPN comes bundled with all plans, which is good to see. Customer support is another strong suit here, as well.
While there is no free trial, Newsgroupdirect does offer a seven-day money-back guarantee, so if you’re not satisfied in the first week, you don’t lose anything – although note that you must not have used more than 15GB of bandwidth.
Subscription plans are competitively priced, although it’s slightly disappointing that you don’t get much better value for signing up to the annual plan compared to the six-month option.
Direct Usenet access right from your web browser
Retention: Varies | Newsgroups: 100,000+ | Maximum connections: 60 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: Yes
Easynews is a slick operator that differentiates itself by offering the ability to access Usenet directly from within your web browser. That’s obviously a commendably hassle-free way to do things, and the web interface is well crafted, plus it also means you can access the service across all your devices (with no software installation necessary).
Retention rates vary, but with the top-end plan you get 2,950 days retention via the web interface (3,364 days retention via NNTP), although considerably less on some of the more basic plans. That Big Gig Plan also gives you a bundled VPN service (albeit with a rather basic client).
Also handy is a 14-day free trial which lets you experience the service before you pay for a subscription (note that there is a 10GB bandwidth limit). However, this provider isn’t cheap, particularly if you want unlimited data, and in that case things get pretty expensive.
A compelling provider with retention in spades
Retention: 3370 days | Newsgroups: 107,000 | Maximum connections: 50 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: Yes
Resellers are quite common in the Usenet world, and for good reason: by purchasing a large amount of bandwidth from a major service provider, they can negotiate better terms and sell on that access to you for a vastly discounted rate. One of the biggest providers to resellers is HighWinds, which counts nearly 30 clients operating from its vast server backbone.
HighWinds reseller NewsDemon is our pick of the bunch, offering 50 simultaneous connections and unlimited SSL-secured transfers from European and US servers for a more-than-reasonable £3.60 ($4.70) per month – or perhaps less, we’ve seen different prices listed during different visits. There are also block accounts available.
There’s the bonus of a VPN connection if you’re willing to spend a bit more, or transfer-capped block accounts for a little less. If you’re employed in education, charitable work, or certain media outlets NewsDemon will even offer you free access – though in the interests of disclosure we should be clear that we’ve not taken advantage of this offer.
A comprehensive Usenet solution
Retention: 2,367 days | Newsgroups: 110,000 | Maximum connections: 50 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: Yes
GigaNews is amongst the most expensive Usenet providers, but its price reflects the sum of its parts. Alongside access to newsgroups – naturally – a $24.99 (£19) per month Diamond subscription gets you the use of GigaNews’ own Mimo Usenet browser and search engine, SSL access to its servers, and the pro version of Golden Frog’s multi-faceted VyprVPN service.
Whatever you’re using it for – and even if you’re doing something else online entirely – the extra layer of privacy offered by a quality VPN has to be reassuring.
GigaNews’ server availability is another plus, with multiple redundancy on US and EU servers owned and run by the company itself. The real question, however, is whether you plan to use all of the features GigaNews offers. If you’re looking to Usenet access for the conversations this is absolutely overkill, and for binary downloads it’s still rather expensive, but if quality is your top priority, then it’s a good choice.
Two servers for the price of one…
Retention: 3,000+ days | Newsgroups: 90,000 | Maximum connections: 20 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: No
Astraweb is another of Usenet’s big mainstays, having run since 1998. Sign up and you’re actually gaining access to two distinct services – its download servers in the US and the Netherlands are run as separate companies, and one server may contain files that the other does not. Essentially Astraweb gives you a main server and a backup server for the price of one.
Users have reported that its quality has declined over the years. Whether or not you believe this is up to you, but Astraweb’s longevity in the market does earn it some brownie points, and it does not resell its services meaning you should see a consistent download rate from its servers.
Retention is one of the highest we’ve seen at over 3,000 days, with a claimed 99% availability. Seeing as the 1% that’s missing could be the one critical part of a binary you need, Astraweb – even with its dual servers – is probably best used with a block account on hand.
A flexible and affordable Usenet provider
Retention: 2500 days | Newsgroups: N/A | Maximum connections: 40 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: Yes
This is a European Usenet provider which offers solid core features, and it’s a fairly priced service to boot. One interesting point to note is that there is a VPN bundled here, although it only comes with the most expensive plan.
We found performance to be impressive with Tweaknews with fast download speeds, and it was also good to see that the included VPN (which is Highwinds-based) managed a commendable turn of speed. In fact, it was comparable to a good specialist VPN provider.
On the downside here, retention isn’t great, and when we encountered an issue with the service, we found that tech support was on the sluggish side.
In terms of cost, there’s plenty of flexibility, and if you sign up for annual billing, there are some good value deals to be had – and you can benefit from block subscriptions, too, if that’s the route you prefer to take. There’s also a free trial which gives you 10GB of data to play with (but it has a limit of eight connections).
A no-frills provider for experienced users
Retention: 3363 days | Newsgroups: 100,000+ | Maximum connections: 20 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: Yes
If you want a dependable Usenet offering with a good core service, then look no further than this affordable provider – although be warned, it isn’t for newsgroup novices.
UsenetServer gives you plenty of retention at 3,363 days, a promised 99% completion rate, and no restrictions such as data limits or throttling of your download speeds. A slight weak point is that you can only have a maximum of 20 connections, which is less than many services, but that said, in testing we found UsenetServer to offer good performance levels anyway, so this likely won’t matter.
What may matter for beginners is that UsenetServer is rather shaky when it comes to help and tech support, and while it does offer a bundled VPN for extra security, the Windows client for the latter is a poor piece of work. But if you’re an experienced user who knows what they’re doing, all this is likely moot, because you’ll find your own way around the service just fine anyway.
The other strength here is that this is a relatively wallet-friendly provider, particularly when you consider that with the annual plan, the VPN service is bundled in. There’s also a free 14-day trial (with a 10GB data transfer limit).