5 Best VPNs for Usenet

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

May 30, 2013

The first rule of Usenet used to be that “you don’t talk about Usenet”, for fear that doing so would bring unwanted attention to this lesser known, but older, spiritual sibling of BitTorrent. Unfortunately the cat is well and truly out of the bag, and organizations such as the RIAA and MPAA monitor Usenet providers and indexing websites carefully, with their most notable success being the shutting down of the high profile British Usenet indexing website Newzbin, who decided to throw in the towel following legal action from UK and Hollywood studios which led to the site being blocked by Sky and BT in the UK (although other issues such lack of revenue also contributed to this decision).

What is Usenet?

Usenet started as a bulletin board system in the late 1970s, and was designed to allow text discussion over a series of decentralized servers. Although largely replaced by the World Wide Web, it developed as a medium for exchanging binary files (to the extent that most ISPs who support Usenet ban all alt.binaries content), and has developed into a system that serves a similar function to BitTorrents.

The binary content (i.e. files) is stored and exchanged across a huge number of servers, making it almost impossible to implement a DMCA (or similar) take-down notice, as files are always available on many other servers , many of whose owners routinely ignore such legal demands anyway.

Finding files on Usenet used to be a bit a pain, requiring you to trawl through the relevant alt.binaries subgroups until you found what you were after. However, this changed when the Usenet indexing website Newzbin developed the NZB file format, which effectively works in a similar way to a BitTorrent tracker, and points to files available on Usenet. NZB files now make it as easy to find content on Usenet, as torrent files do BitTorrent content.

Usenet vs. BitTorrent

Perhaps because it is less well known, supporters of Usenet are sometime a little over-keen in praising its advantages over BitTorrent. In reality both platforms have their pros and cons.

Usenet advantages

  • Speed – Usenet files are stored on servers, allowing you to download them directly, generally much faster than torrent files, and typically at the maximum speed allowed by your internet connection
  • Security – It is common practice to connect to Usenet servers using SSL, meaning that the only the Usenet server provider can see who downloads files. Many providers have a ‘no logs’ policy, making very difficult to trace file downloads to individuals.

Usenet disadvantages

  • Limits on data retention – as files are stored on Usenet servers, with massive amount to data being added each day, they cannot be kept forever. Therefore every Usenet provider has a data retention limit (expressed in days), after which data is deleted. Recent developments in cheap mass storage however mean this is less of a problem than it once was, and a retention period of 1,749 days (almost 5 years) is now fairly standard
  • Monthly transfer limit – although ‘unlimited’ deals are common they can be expensive, and many providers offer cheaper packages with monthly data caps of between 5Gb and 50Gb
    Price – It costs money to sign up to a Usenet provider. While prices typically start at around $10 per month, unlimited services can be as high as $50 per month.

BitTorrent Advantages

  • No data retention limits – although in practice a lack of seeders can make obtaining older files time consuming or impossible
  • Unlimited transfer limit (no cost)
  • Price – actually downloading using BitTorrent is completely free, but we strongly recommend only doing with a VPN service, which typically costs less than $10 per month (making it generally cheaper than Usenet)
  • Slightly easier to do – but using Usenet these days is not hard (see below).

BitTorrent Disadvantages

  • Speed – this is a major con with BitTorrent, as sharing files with other users is a lot slower than downloading them direct from a Usenet server (even when seeder/leecher ratios are excellent). That said, a popular Blu-Ray movie can be downloaded 3-4 hours over a 10 Mb connection using BitTorrent , so this is not the end of the world
  • Security – on its own, BitTorrent is not secure as everyone else sharing files with you can see your IP, making tracking downloads ridiculously easy. This is why it is vital to use a VPN service when P2P downloading.

Generally speaking then, Usenet is faster but more expensive than BitTorrent + VPN. Remember however, that VPN also brings many other advantages (see below).

How to use Usenet

We won’t go into detail here (excellent guides are available here and here), but we will provide some basics to get you started. One thing to note is that it’s complicated evolution means there are a number of number of approaches to downloading files using Usenet, so what we present below is only one, but (at least in our view), the simplest and most elegant method.

To use Usenet you will need three things:

  • A Usenet client – this is the software needed to download and piece together the RAR files (Usenet has a file size limit of about 20Mb, so larger files are broken up into multiple RAR files, which stitched together by your client). We recommend the fully featured and free open-source SABnzb client, which also allows you to read newsgroup messages (Unison is a good paid-for OSX alternative, while URD is fine if all you want is to download files)
  • A Usenet service – you need an account with Usenet provider. There are hundreds of them out there, with Giganews being the largest and most well-known (but loads more are listed on review websites such as this one)
  • An NZB indexing website – much like torrent sites like The Pirate Bay, these websites keep databases of NZB index files that point to binaries on Usenet. A good free NZB indexing website is

To download a file, simply go to the NZB indexing website of your choice, enter your search terms, and copy and paste the resulting URL of the file you want into your Usenet client, which will do the rest.Alternatively you can download the NZB file, and double-click on it to open it in your client.

Do I need to use a VPN with Usenet?

If you connect to a Usenet provider over a secure SSL connection, and the Usenet provider does not keep logs (they are generally not required to do so by law), then it will be very difficult for anyone to trace the fact that you have downloaded any specific content. Your ISP will be able to see that you are connected to a Usenet provider, and how much data is downloaded, but a similar situation exists with respect to VPNs. Strictly speaking then, if downloading files is your only concern, then no, you don’t need VPN.

However, it is becoming increasing common for Usenet providers to recommend using VPN with their service, and market leaders such as Giganews have started bundle VPN with its higher tier subscriptions. There are number of reasons for this:

However, it is becoming increasing common for Usenet providers to recommend using VPN with their service, and market leaders such as Giganews have started bundle VPN with its higher tier subscriptions. There are number of reasons for this:

  • VPN protects your entire internet connection – and therefore all your online activity, not just file downloading. As we move towards becoming a blanket surveillance society, protecting our on-line privacy becomes ever more important
  • VPN protects you when using public WiFi hotspots – these are notorious places for hackers to hang out and use packet-snoopers to intercept unencrypted data that is transmitted over the hotspot
  • VPN can avoid bandwidth throttling – the high levels of data downloaded when using Usenet can lead ISP to throttle your bandwidth. Because VPN is a mainstay of the business world, used by banks, governments and other data-sensitive organizations, VPN traffic is usually ignored by ISPs
  • VPN can bypass ISP censorship of Usenet services – anti-piracy groups have been actively pushing for ISPs to block access to websites and services that may facilitate copyright infringement. Although the block of Newsbin by UK ISPs is their most notable success so far, such action is likely to happen more in the future
  • VPN provides an extra layer of protection – any attempt by copyright enforcers to identify you would require legal action against both your Usenet and VPN providers (who should not be keeping any logs anyway), making the likelihood of getting into hot water very remote.





  • PROS
  • Built for streaming
  • Fast speeds
  • Excellent design and usability
  • CONS
  • Slightly higher priced

Buffered is a brand new VPN company who have been growing fast. They have servers in 15 different countries, all the major ones where you would want to connect to. We really like the look and feel of the company, they are a true startup with good customer service.

Since they are based in Hungary security wise they are independent of big snooping governments like the US and UK, and they have shared IPs, which is really secure. They also allow 3 simultaneous connections so you can watch on plenty of devices.

Their software is really easy to use. While their pricing is a bit higher than normal, it’s worth it for the extra service.

Try Out the Best VPN for Sweden Today!

Visit Buffered »

30 day moneyback guarantee

2nd place




  • PROS
  • Easy-to-use software
  • Excellent speeds
  • Good customer service
  • CONS
  • Bit pricey, but worth it for the features

With apps across all platforms and a mobile clients that blows the competition away, ExpressVPN secures our vote as the Best VPN for Usenet. The download speeds are impressive and the software is straightforward to use. We really love some of the features like automatic protocol selection and server location recommendations.

ExpressVPN boasts round-the-clock customer support and an ultra reliable VPN network spanning 78 countries and hundreds of servers. They are also adding new locations all the time. These guys have done a pretty awesome job in building what we believe to be the best VPN service out there.

The pricing is not the cheapest, but you do get what you pay for. ExpressVPN also offers unlimited bandwidth and supports your mobile device (Android/iOS) for no extra charge.

Visit ExpressVPN »

3rd place



  • PROS
  • No logs
  • Speedy
  • Great free service
  • Groovy VPN client
  • P2P: yes
  • CONS
  • VPN client is Windows only (although OpenVPN setup guides are provided for other platforms)
  • Does not accept Bitcoin

CyberGhost is a no logs service that, although it doesn’t accept payment in Bitcoin, does offer a 30 day free trial, which we think is very generous and is likely to useful to more users (and makes thinking of reasons not to at least try the service very difficult!). Its Windows VPN client is also rather good, and features VPN disconnection protection. In addition to this, CyberGhost runs a highly useable free service.

4th place



  • PROS
  • No logs
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • Good speeds
  • Cheap
  • Client features internet kill switch and DNS leak protection
  • P2P: yes
  • CONS
  • A number of things didn’t work.

Scoring this tiny Swedish VPN provider is a little tricky, because although it oozes potential, and we absolutely love its attitude to privacy, some things just don’t work (such as only being able to connect to servers in Germany, or links to the OpenVPN configuration files being broken). Still, the fact that, in addition to keeping no logs and accepting Bitcoin payments, Mullvad will accept cash sent in the post gives a warm fluffy feeling, as does the multi-OS (Windows, OSX, Linux) desktop client which features port forwarding, DNS leak protection, an internet kill switch, and server load information. Mullvad is definitely one to watch, and if you don’t mind a few rough edges, and want to support a small, innovative company who clearly care about privacy, a great choice.

» Visit Mullvad

5th place



  • PROS
  • No logs
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • 256-bit AES encryption
  • P2P: yes
  • CONS
  • Very ‘no frills’

BTGuard is a very solid VPN provider that has absolutely nothing majorly wrong with it – it keeps no logs, uses 256-bit AES encryption, and accepts Bitcoin payments. It’s just that it lacks in the ‘wow’ factor as, apart for the mega-secure encryption, it is very light on features, and uses just the basic open source OpenVPN client . Speed-wise it didn’t blow us away either. It does however have all the important bits in place (which is more than many VPN providers seem to manage), and so make a perfectly sound choice of provider.

» Visit BTGuard


Usenet is a great alternative to BitTorrent, although which you prefer comes down to personal taste. Although not strictly needed to protect your identity when downloading with Usenet, VPN does offer some advantages, and more importantly remains vital to maintaining your privacy online when performing other activities. All of the above VPN providers are fast, and all of them will keep you anonymous when using the internet.

And here’s the summary once more:


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