If you’re here, the chances are you already know or remember what Usenet is.
For everyone else - Usenet is the original social network that predates web forums, blogs, Twitter, and even web in some cases. It could be described as a cross between a discussion forum and a file-sharing platform, but that wouldn’t be exactly precise. Most ISPs don’t provide direct access to the Usenet service anymore but that doesn’t mean it’s gone. The discussion is still very much alive in some bigger groups.
However, the main reason why Usenet is still alive in this day and age is file sharing. The groups below alt.binaries.* have many various files available for downloading. That said, if you want to access the large Usenet bandwidth and collect those files, you’ll need to pay.
The most important thing you need to pay attention to when looking at binary newsgroups is finding a provider with fast servers who keeps copies of binary files uploaded to Usenet for as long as possible (retention period).
Having said that, let’s look at our list of best Usenet providers.
Top-tier Usenet provider
Retention: 3686 days | Newsgroups: 100,000+ | Maximum connections: 60 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: Yes
Newshosting is considered to be one of the top Usenet providers online today, thanks in part to its extremely long retention period, one of the longest in the industry.
The provider operates its own multi-gigabit server farms in Europe and North America, which guarantees the impressive speeds of access available from any Usenet server. Not only that, Newshosting offers access to over 100,000 uncensored newsgroups.
The free newsreader browser is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and even includes search options.
In addition, Newshosting provides custom and user-friendly VPN software which guarantees it will never retain information about your online activities. The VPN software is free-of-charge if you sign up for the most comprehensive (and most expensive) XL Powerpack plan.
It’s important to mention that all subscription plans come with a 30GB or 14 days free trial period, allowing you to test the service out before deciding whether you want to commit.
The baseline Lite plan provides 50GB data transfer with rollover option, unlimited speeds, and 30 connections. The best-value Unlimited plan comes with unlimited data transfer.
Should you choose the top-of-the-line package XL Powerpack, you’ll not only get the Newshosting VPN software, but also a free 10GB Easynews account and 60 connections.
Having said that, Newshosting might be a bit behind the times in that it doesn’t accept bitcoin as a form of payment for its services.
High speeds and impressive retention
Retention: 3,682 days | Newsgroups: 125,000 | Maximum connections: 20 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: Yes
Eweka is a Netherlands-based Usenet provider with a data centre in Amsterdam, operating its own server farm in the EU. It owns a self-built and managed network with POP locations in Amsterdam, London, Frankfurt, and more, guaranteeing solid and stable connections with high speeds. Unfortunately, so far they don’t have servers in the US.
Despite the fact that Eweka offers one of the longest retention periods in the industry, it’s nevertheless limited by the number of connections. Namely, you can only get up to 20 connections, which is a lot less than what some of its competitors offer.
Even so, Eweka performs magnificently when it comes to retrieving old files, and if you sign up with this service, you’ll get free access to the premium Newslazer newsreader that comes with a solid search tool.
The service is fairly priced, but if you want to test it out first, it’s possible with its unlimited seven-day free trial.
Simple and straightforward
Retention: 2,357 days | Newsgroups: 110,000 | Maximum connections: 30 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: Yes
Supernews is one of the services that’s been out there for a very long time, reaching back to the mid-90s. The service prides itself with servers in Europe and the US, and access to over 110,000 newsgroups.
The company prides itself with retaining multiple copies of articles on its network, asserting this helps to ensure a 100% completion rate.
That said, the retention is rather short. You only get 2,357 days of binary retention, although you do get 5,021 days of text retention.
Supernews provides unlimited speeds. Choosing a subscription plan is a pretty straightforward process, as the company only has one. You may find it a tad expensive, but it is a quality and unlimited service you can have for $11.99 (£9.10) a month. The first month is only $5.99 (£4.55). If you’re not sure you want it or you don’t trust the reviews, there’s a three-day trial period to see for yourself. Your credit card will not be charged during that period.
Maximum retention + VPN
Retention: 3,370 days | Newsgroups: N/A | Maximum connections: 50 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: No
With an impressively long retention period of 3,370 days, it’s no wonder Newsgroupdirect is believed to be one of the best Usenet providers in the world. It operates its own network and guarantees a 100% completion rate as well as 100% uptime.
The baseline plan will afford you as many as 50 connections, SSL encryption, and the Ghost Path VPN software.
Although the company doesn’t offer a free trial per se, there’s still a seven-day money-back guarantee you can take advantage of to test the service. If you’re less than satisfied with what it offers, you can ask for a refund before this period ends. One condition is that you haven’t used up more than 15GB of bandwidth.
The pricing is reasonable, but the yearly subscription option doesn’t offer as much savings as one would expect in comparison to the six-month package.
Enables direct Usenet access from any web browser
Retention: 3,687 | Newsgroups: 100,000+ | Maximum connections: 60 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: Yes
Easynews is different from most of its competitors in the way it provides Usenet access. Namely, you can have direct Usenet access from any web browser, eliminating the need for a specialized Usenet browser. Furthermore, you can also access Usenet via a mobile device.
The service offers various retention rates, so the top-end plan will get you 3,273 retention days via the web interface and 3,687 days via NNTP. The period is considerably shorter on some of the more basic plans. The Big Gig Plan also comes with a simple no-logs VPN software.
The pricing is a tad expensive if you want the unlimited data plan. Nevertheless, you can test the service out with a 14-day free trial and see if you like it. You just need to know that there is a 10GB bandwidth limit.
Another thing that we didn’t like was the fact that the service comes only with the English-language support, which might inconvenience or even deter the customers that don’t speak English.
Affordable and easy-to-use
Retention: Up to 3,687 | Newsgroups: 107,000 | Maximum connections: 50 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: Yes
The Usenet world sometimes makes use of resellers who purchase a large amount of bandwidth from a major service provider. This allows them to negotiate better terms and sell that access to a customer for a cheaper rate.
One such large provider is Omicron Media, whose reseller NewsDemon offers as many as 50 connections and unlimited SSL-secured transfers. All this is available due to their European and US servers.
And that’s not all, as if you pay a bit extra, there’s a bonus VPN connection. And not only that, if you work in education, charities, or some media outlets, NewsDemon can give you free access.
All-inclusive Usenet provider
Retention: 2,367 days | Newsgroups: 110,000 | Maximum connections: 50 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: Yes
GigaNews is among the most expensive Usenet providers, but it’s not without reason. The provider offers quite a lot for the price. Some of the perks you get with GigaNews include their own Mimo Usenet browser and search engine if you sign up for the $24.99 Diamond subscription. You also get SSL access to their servers and the premium version of Golden Frog’s VyprVPN service.
That said, the huge number of features that GigaNews has to offer might be overwhelming for some users who do not plan on using all that. For instance, if you’re only planning to use the service for the conversations or binary downloads. However, if you want quality and more choice, then GigaNews is right for you. Don’t believe us? You can test the service out with a free 14-day trial.
Pay for one server, get two
Retention: 3,000+ days | Newsgroups: 90,000 | Maximum connections: 20 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: No
Active since 1998, Astraweb is one of the Usenet veterans that has its own server farms in the US and the Netherlands, run by two different companies. Access to two servers makes the service all the better because you can access files that aren’t necessarily found on one server. This way you get the main server, plus a backup server included for the price of one.
The retention levels are among the highest in the industry, with over 3,000 days and 99% completion rate.
That said, we were less than satisfied with the outdated website interface and limited customer support contact options, which might turn away a lot of the detail-oriented customers out there.
If you want to get the most out of the service, we recommend Astraweb’s block accounts.
Reliable service with special lifetime discount
Retention: 2500 days | Newsgroups: N/A | Maximum connections: 40 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: Yes
TweakNews is a decent Usenet provider with solid core features that offers quite impressive download speeds. A great little addition is its bundled Omicron Media-based VPN software that accompanies the most expensive subscription plan. That, and the promised 99.99% completion rate, make for a rather sweet deal.
Nonetheless, we had a bone to pick with TweakNews - its retention levels are high, yet considerably lower than its competitors’.
Moreover, the tech support isn’t the greatest out there and the only way to reach them is through a contact form on the website which you fill in, leave the email address, and wait for someone to reach you.
The pricing? Very fair and flexible. There are several plans available to choose from in accordance with your budget. If you choose the annual billing option, there are some great savings to be achieved, as well as in the block subscription options. There’s also a 10-day free trial during which you can test the service out with a standard rate of 20 Mbps until you reach 10GB of data.
A simple provider meant for experienced users
Retention: 3,687 days | Newsgroups: 100,000+ | Maximum connections: 20 | SSL: Yes | Free trial: Yes
UsenetServer is a provider for experts. However, it is rather inexpensive and will get you high retention levels and a promised 99% completion rate. Add a lack of restrictive data limits and you get some very high download speeds, reaching over 150 Mbps.
One thing we found a bit restrictive for heavy users though was the number of maximum connections - 20, which is less than what many UsenetServer’s competitors have to offer.
Beginners might find themselves on their own when it comes to good tech support. In addition to this, the VPN software that comes with the annual subscription option is far from being the best out there.
Having said that, the UsenetServer’s services are quite affordable and you can test the waters with a free 14-day trial (with a 10GB data transfer limit).
Image source: Shutterstock/Toria