1. News Servers. If you don't already have access to news servers, you'll need to sign up and pay. Which one to choose is a whole separate topic of conversation, depends on how you think you'll use it.
- There are monthly subscriptions, either unlimited or for a fixed amount of download. Giganews - longest retention, fast, most reliable, but not the cheapest. There are other unlimited monthly download plans at other servers, maybe people can recommend something. Some servers are faster than others, so unlimited might in reality be somewhat limited by the download speed.
- Or get a block at astraweb - $10 for 25GB if you want to just try it out for starters, or $25 for 90GB, and you can take as long to use it as you want.
Even if you have a fixed allocation, most decent pay servers do not charge you for downloading the list of files (or "headers"). It's worth knowing whether yours does if you use many newsgroups and check which files are on them. It doesn't matter much if you just use ABMS.
Keep in mind that you can easily change - you can use multiple servers; or try out something for a month, etc. Every now and then I sign up for a month of Giganews unlimited to catch up on stuff I've missed, then end the subscription before the month is up.
Many US ISPs provide some access to news servers. Verizon has especially good news servers; most of the rest are either fairly limited, or not very reliable, from what I recall.
The news server you use will determine how well ABMS works for you, because some news servers do a better job at getting complete sets of files and keeping them on the servers. But all the pay services people recommend here should work pretty well - it's the ISP news servers, that have lots of missing parts of files, that drive people crazy. (Or crazier, for this bunch.)
2. Software. Then you need software. Two ways to go there, too.
- Easy to use. Most new users who are using just one news server try Grabit (see the tutorials); it's free. Or for using multiple servers, such as your ISP and a backup server, NewsReactor (50 free uses).
- Full featured. NewsLeecher. Or NewsBin. Not free, after the trial period.
It's not hard to switch software, so people who like to get results quickly might want to start with GrabIt. You can easily change later on.
You need to tell the software the URL of the server (news.astraweb.com, or similar), your user ID, and password. GrabIt has a configuration wizard, so do some of the others.
Set your software to use multiple download "threads" - say 4-6, if your server allows it - that will max out the speed. (Similar idea to being connected to more peers on BitTorrent.)
3. Newsgroup(s). Then you need to tell the software to add alt.binaries.music.springsteen - with that exact spelling - to the list of newsgroups you are interested in. Some programs let you enter that directly; others make you download a list of all the newsgroups on the server, and choose from that. The tutorials forum at GrabIt has some discussion and examples.
4. Files in the newsgroup on that server. Next, do a full update of the list of files for ABMS on the news server. That will tell you what's available to download.
Two things to keep in mind:
- the oldest files are steadily getting deleted to make room for new files; stuff doesn't stay on the servers forever. Get it while you can.
- different servers have more or less storage space for files, so files stay on longer or shorter times. Giganews might be around 60 days; Astraweb 10-14 days; a bad ISP server might be 24 hours. What you see on one server won't be the same as what you'd see on another server.
5. Download. Once you have a news server and software, and a list of files, try to download something. Try a small txt file for starters, then an mp3, an image, or some other small file just to get the idea.
Once you can get one file, you're on your way to being able to download using news servers!
Once that's worked for you, try a larger file or a set of files. At some point you might want to learn about using nzb files, which will automatically add a full set of files to your download queue.
6. Test and repair. Sometimes parts of the files get lost on the way to the news server. So for sets of files, you'll usually see some par2 files, too. People use par2 to test whether the files are complete, and repair them if they are not. (BitTorrent does something similar for each piece of a file it downloads, but it's done automatically, so most people don't know it's happening.)
For Windows, you need to install QuickPar (see the tutorials).
7. Play or decode and burn. Once you have downloaded and checked (or repaired) a complete set of files - playing them and decoding them is just like bittorrent. There's info on flac and shn at the bittorrent link in the FAQ, and elsewhere around here.
Getting started can be easier or harder than this description might make it seem, depending on the user. But once it's set up, it's an easy and fast way to get excellent copies (thanks to careful posters) of an incredible number of shows.
Here's a really old version of the ABMS thread, it has a little more description and detail than what's above.