4-Download from Usenet

Step 4 has the following sections:

See Figure 1 which is referred to throughout this tutorial.

Introduction to Download from Usenet Top

So, after viewing the material available in a newsgroup, you are now ready to download and decode it to your computer.

If you are thinking of downloading files you'll want to make sure you can get the entire post and use it afterwards. If there are missing or damaged files read the NFO or use the SFV files (see Step 5 for more details on these files) that comes with most posts. It will give you information about how to get reposts or recover missing and damaged files.

You can search for specific files in a newsgroup by using filtering and sorting using the features of your software.  In XNews it is as simple as clicking on the column heading.

Once you decide what you want to download, you can simply queue up the files you want and start the download and leave your computer to download while you watch TV or go for dinner.

You might be asking "what's this decoding business?" For most purposes and uses, it really isn't necessary to get into the nitty-gritty details but it might help if you understand the basic concepts.

With a newsreader designed for the Usenet (see Step 3 - Viewing Newsgroups for list of newsreaders), downloading and decoding occurs as if simulataneous but in reality each ascii text message "segment" (which are the encoded files) must be downloaded to your computer first and then decoded back into format ready to be viewed, played or used. For specific instructions on using your newsreader I will refer you to the software's Help or the company's website. You can also ask questions in the newsgroups for assistance.

NZB Files and Usenet Indexing Sites Top

NZB files are an attempt to make finding and downloading Usenet file easier and more efficient. Essentially, NZB files play the same role as .torrent files in p2p file sharing.  An NZB file used in a newsreader that can read them, enables one to instantly locate and download the actual files from whichever newsgroup they are in. 

There were once many free Usenet indexes but most have since become paid services.  A quick Google search for "usenet search engine" will bring these to top of search results.  NZB files were first created by Newzbin, one of the first Usenet indexing sites. However, NZB files are now used by many Usenet index sites, and by many Usenet clients.  Newzbin described their service as follows:

"Newzbin is a service that is dedicated to indexing the ever-changing contents of Usenet, also known as Newsgroups. The reason why we do this is to remove the hassle of crawling through the thousands of newsgroups and millions of headers to find what you're looking for, whether that be obscure music, shows, games or movies. Think of it as a TV guide, but we're a guide that applies to Usenet."

However, those who know where to find what they want on Usenet might not really find NZB files and indexes worth paying for.  If you have a premium Newsgroup Service Provider (eg complete files and long period of retention) and you are familiar with the content in each newsgroup (eg certain types of content are almost always in certain newsgroups) then you shouldn't need to use NZB files or Usenet index sites.

Damaged and Missing Segments Top

When you are ready to download a set of files, your newsreader will indicate if the file is complete or not. If your news server has really butchered the files, you need to decide whether it is worth downloading an incomplete set of files, because you may have to wait days for reposts or recovery files.

Often, if you wait patiently, a previously incomplete file will magically be complete. This is probably due to the fact that the missing segments just arrived onto your news server and made the file whole. 

The best thing to do is look at the NFO file that usually accompanies each post. This file contains information about the type of file, size, instructions on how to use it, repost requests and recovery files, etc. Then you can decide whether to download the post or not.

If you decide to go ahead with downloading an incomplete set of files, you can either get replacements or recover the missing parts.

There are three ways to get replacements for missing or damaged messages:

There are two ways of recovering missing or damaged messages are discussed in Step 5 :

Missing or damaged segments are the result of segments that were not transferred properly from the poster's news server to your news server or any intermediary news servers. The Usenet is just a massive peer-to-peer network of news servers around the world which propagates the posted segments until, theoretically at some point, they all have the same messages.

However, as you can imagine, some computers work fast, some work slow and others can crash losing your file segments. Some computers have lots of storage space and others just a little bit. Connections between computers may fail or be of poor quality. If your news server is in the loser category, you will be missing lots of segments and you will have lots of incomplete binaries on your news server.   

It is important to note that other people, using other news servers, will almost always have different content because as described above there is never 100% operational consistency in the Usenet infrastructure. That is why you will some people reporting that they got all the files without any problems while other people are grumbling, complaining and asking for reposts.

Asking For Reposts Top

Quite often you may want to post a message to the newsgroup asking for someone to repost the parts you are missing.

There is usually a protocol for requesting reposts outlined in the NFO file which you should follow for best results. Also, just watch how other people get results from repost requests but you should generally be polite, don't demand and be very clear. Remember this is all entirely volunteer effort!

Indicate your repost request, as the poster has stipulated in their NFO file (see Step 5 for more details on this file type), clearly in the subject and keep it under 80 characters in length otherwise it will go outside the normal viewing area of most newsreaders.

If you don't see your posting immediately, don't assume it failed and try to repost it at once. As discussed earlier, all news servers are not created equally and it may take time to get all messages or segments propagated to your news server from the poster's news server and any intermediary servers.

Sorting and Filtering Top

In order to find exactly what you want to download, sometimes you will need to search for it within a particular newsgroup. The jargon in newsreaders for searching is sorting and filtering.

Sorting just means grouping the messages in a newsgroup by subject, date, size, name of poster, etc.

Filtering is basically searching although what you do when you filter is hide those messages which do not have the search string (word(s), phrase, number, etc) you are looking for.

Each newsreader has a different way of performing both of these features. You can fiddle around with your newsreader software and learn on your own with assistance from the help or online documentation of the newsreader. You can also ask questions in newsgroups.

The critical thing to take home from this section is that you will often need to search for a missing part of a RAR set and using sort and filter will help you find it. So get familiar with the sort and filter features of your newsreader because trust me, they are indispensable.

Queuing Files Top

This is a feature common to most newsreaders. Basically queuing is marking messages and putting them in a "queue" to be downloaded and decoding at a later time.

It is a great feature because you can queue up large sets of files from several different newsgroups and then let it run while you sleep or go to work.

File Management

If you are a long time computer user you know you can't just start putting files anywhere on your hard drive. After a while it gets pretty messy.

Just keep that in mind when you start downloading movies especially because they have 60 parts. If you have three movies, five TV programs and a bunch of images in one directory needless to say you'll be confused .. so make temporary directories for each particular download!

Also remember that downloading all of this material to the hard drive and then decompressing it to produce the movie or TV program, can really "fragment" your hard drive. To keep things running smoothly, use Defrag or Norton Speed Disk often. You'll find that even less 25% fragmentation can slow your computer significantly.