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Usenet Quick Start Guide

Are you in a hurry? No problem.
In 9½ minutes, you will be using Usenet for free.

Usenet is a vast, worldwide system of discussion groups, used for both discussions and file sharing.

If you are new to to Usenet, I have two free, comprehensive tutorials for you. One explains all about Usenet; the other explains how to Usenet for file sharing. The links are at the bottom of this page.

For now, however, I'd like to get you up and running, so you can see how powerful Usenet can be and, with the right software, how easy it is to use. So, follow along this quickstart page and, if all goes well, in no more than 9½ minutes you will be using Usenet — for free.

To start, we will:

1. Arrange for Usenet service
2. Install free Usenet software

At that point, you will be ready to use Usenet, and you and I will walk through the process of performing the common Usenet activity, file sharing.

Later, when you get more time, you can read the tutorials and explore the rest of Harley Hahn's Usenet Center.

Usenet Terminology:
Newsgroups, Newsreaders, News Servers

Before we start, I want to take a moment to explain some quick terminology.

For historical reasons, Usenet discussion groups are usually referred to as NEWSGROUPS. (It's just a name. Usenet is used for discussion and file sharing, not for news distribution.)

To access Usenet, you run a program on your computer to connect to a remote computer that contains the Usenet data. The program is called a NEWSREADER; the system to which you connect is called a NEWS SERVER.

Thus, our first goal is to arrange for you to have access to a Usenet news server. We will then install a newsreader program on your computer. At this point, you will be able to use Usenet.

Step 1
Arrange for Usenet service

Typically, Usenet service costs between $5 to $30 a month. To me, that's a bargain. There are many Usenet service providers, so you have a large choice. Here are some particularly good ones:


It happens that Newshosting, a well-known, reputable Usenet provider, will let you try their service for free for 14 days. Moreover, they furnish free software that is particularly easy to use, so let's go with them.

Click the link below, and register for their free offer. Then come back to this page to continue.

Note: In order to register for the 14-day free trial, you have to sign up for one of the service plans. However, if want to cancel, you can do so, and there will be no charges. (I tested this, so you don't have to.) If you are not sure which plan to use, choose the cheapest.

Register with Newshosting

Once you have registered with Newshosting, you will see a Web page that tells you that your account was created successfully.

You will then be emailed a confirmation message. Once this message arrives, which shouldn't take long, you are ready to install your Usenet software.

Step 2
Install Usenet Software

The next step is to download and install a Usenet program called a "newsreader". This is the program you will use to access Usenet.

There are a variety of newsreaders from which you can choose. Since evaluating them will take time, and since we don't want to spend any money, I suggest you go with the Newshosting newsreader. It's a powerful, high-quality program, and Newshosting offers it for free to their customers.

In order to download the software, you first need to log in to the Newshosting Web site. Click the link below to log in to the "Control Panel". Use the Username and Password you chose when you signed up. (If you forget, it will be in the confirmation message that was sent to you.)

Log in to the Newshosting Control Panel

Once you are logged in, you can download the software. Look for the link that says "Download the Newshosting Newsgroup Reader" or simply click on the link below. So go ahead: download, install, and start the program.

Note: As part of the installation, you will be asked to install a media player called VLC. Go ahead and do it. This is an free open source media player that will be used by the Newshosting program. If you like VLC, you may want to use it as your personal multimedia player.

Download the Newshosting program

The first time you start the Newshosting program, you will be prompted to enter your Username and Password. You only have to do this once, as the program will remember your information permanently.

You are now ready to use Usenet.

Example: File Sharing

Although Usenet itself is complicated, you will find that, with the Newshosting software, it is easy and straightforward to search for what you want and, if it is available, download it.

In this section, we will search Usenet for photos of abstract art depicting flowers. We will then download and display some photos.

I'll go over the instructions one step at a time and, if you want, you can follow along on your own computer. For reference, the numbers in the screenshots refer to the instructions below.

To begin, start the Newshosting program. You will see a window similar to the one below.

1. Click the Search icon in the top-left area of the window.

Notice there is a search box near the top left-hand part of the window, just below the Download Folder icon.

2. In the search box, type "abstract art flowers".

3. Click the Go button.

The search results will appear in the middle area of the window. All you have to is double click on one of the results that looks interesting to you, and the program will download it for you automatically. To follow along in our example:

4. Double-click on laba.ws_Art_Flowers_0040.

Your results may not look exactly the same. If so, simply click on anything that looks interesting.

In this example, the item we are choosing to download is actually a set of 40 images, pictures of flowers rendered as abstract art. To check which ones you want to download, the Newshosting program displays a window listing all the files in the set.

You can now choose the images you want to download. In our example, we want to download them all.

5. Select all the files (the default) and click the Download button.

The Newshosting program will now download the files automatically and save them to the Newshosting download folder. Once the download is complete, you will see a window like the one below. At this point, all the files that you requested have been downloaded (for free) to your computer.

6. Click the "Open Download Folder" link.

This will open a window showing you the contents of the download folder. In this case, it is a set of 40 files, each containing a picture. To open a file, simply double-click on it.

7. Double-click on one of the pictures.

In this case, I have double-clicked on picture #15, which causes Windows to display it. You can see the picture in the screenshot below.

So that's it. You have now successfully signed up for Usenet service, and downloaded and installed Usenet software. You then searched for some files, downloaded them to your computer, and finally, opened them.

In this case, the file we opened was a photo, so Windows displayed it. If it was an audio or video file, Windows would have played it for you. If it was an program, Windows would have run it.

Important Note: For safety, if you ever download a program, do not run it until you have checked it with an up-to-date antivirus program.

Now that we are finished, I would like to suggest that you take some time to read one or both of the following free tutorials. The first one will orient you to Usenet and explain the basic ideas. The second tutorial will explain how Usenet file sharing works.

Once you learn about Usenet and file sharing, you will probably want to learn more about using Newshosting's software. Here is a a short guide to get you started.


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