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The Complete Guide for Setting Up

SABnzbd+, Sick Beard, CouchPotato, and Headphones

 (updated March 1, 2014)

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How it Works

Usenet: The First Piece of the Puzzle

Usenet Introduction

Usenet Block Account

Usenet Frequently Asked Questions

NZB Search Engines


What is SABnzbd+

Installing SABnzbd+

Sick Beard

What is Sick Beard?

Installing Sick Beard

Couch Potato

What is Couch Potato

Installing Couch Potato


What is Headphones?

Installing Headphones



The objective of this guide is to teach you how to use SABnzbd; along with Sick Beard, Couchpotato, and Headphones to create a fully automated system for downloading all your favorite Shows, Movies, and Music. This setup guide can be used on Windows, Mac OSX, and most flavors of Linux. 

Getting started with Usenet

Below you’ll find a diagram of how all the systems integrate to form a totally awesome DVR that will get all your content for you. It all starts with “Usenet Provider”. This is your starting point; in order for this system to work you need to have signed up with a Usenet Provider. In the next section we’ll go into detail on what you should look for when selecting one.

Next, you’ll see back and forth arrows in between Usenet Provider and SABnzbd, your newsgroup reader. This back and forth action represents the communication between these two components. The communication is triggered when a NZB file is loaded into SABnzbd.

NZB files are located by the applications below the SAB icon; Sick Bead, Couchpotato, and Headphones. Each application is unique to a specific type of content (Show, Movie, and Music respectively). These NZB files are found on a NZB Search Engine, in our case, NZBmatrix

Once found, the NZB file is automatically downloaded and fed into SABnzbd. You see the SABnzbd logo in the middle with Sick Beard,Couch Potato, and Headphones on the outside with arrows pointing in. The arrows represent the NZB files sent into SABnzbd. SAB will take that file and bring you the content that you requested from the apps.

Usenet Trinity

Usenet: The First Piece of the Puzzle

Usenet Introduction

If you haven’t heard of Usenet it’s best that you read through the next few pages to get a good understand of how it works. We’ll go over two components that need to be hammered out before any setup of applications begins.

-Select a quality Usenet Provider

-Get access to a NZB Search Engine

First, take a look at the image below and notice the NZB File (on the left) feeding into SABnzbd. Once SAB is loaded with the NZB File, it starts to communicate with your Usenet Provider on obtaining the requested content. Let’s say your Usenet Provider caps your download speeds, it will take longer to get content. Or, they might not provide the securest connection. So take the time and effort to find a reputable provider.

Usenet Trifecta Pro Recommendation

Usenet Server offers one of the best Usenet packages on the net. For $10/month or $95.40/year you can get an account with unlimited access, uncapped speed, SSL, 2025 days of retention, and 20 connections. Do your own research, but it will be hard to find a better deal.

Usenet Block Account (added March 1, 2014)

What does it mean when something is out of my server’s retention? This means that the post or a piece of the post you’re trying to download is not available on your usenet provider’s server. This might be because the post is older than your server’s retention capacity (retention is the amount of time posts are held by a usenet provider. UsenetServer has an industry leading 2025 day retention policy), or a specific piece of the post has been removed by the server’s administrator.

Download Failed - Out of your server's retention?

To combat server retention errors, we highly recommend buying a “Block” account. If you have a block account and one of these errors occurs, SABnzbd will dip into your block to try to find the full post or missing piece. The best thing about these accounts is that you pay for a fixed amount of data, and not a month-to-month subscription. recommends – a Dutch based usenet provider. For starters, grab the 50 GB or 100 GB Block Subscription. After a couple months, if you notice that you’re heavily relying on your block account, then bump it up to the 250 GB or 500 GB subscription.

·         Why should I buy both? I’ll just use TweakNews instead.

This is not recommended. Since TweakNews is located in the Netherlands, you won’t be getting the fastest possible download speeds. Also, TweakNews only has 1100 days of retention vs. the 2025 days offered by UsenetServer

Usenet Frequently Asked Questions

·         What is Usenet?

Usenet intimidates many people, if they have even heard of it.  It has always been known the first rule of Usenet is you don’t talk about Usenet, but the cats out of the bag now and it’s time to get involved. Usenet is an online service that is in a sense a massive message board system.  There are thousands of different message boards discussing a vast array of topics on Usenet and also boards that supports binary (file) posts.  This means there are EXABYTES of data available on Usenet, with the content base growing by Terabytes A DAY!  Even with all this Usenet has never really garnered mainstream attention the way that other file sharing services have, and that is in a way a good thing; but I’m going to make you want into the club!

·         What does a massive message board have to do with a media center?

That’s the golden question!  The great thing about Usenet is that for each post on these message boards, you can attach files.  And as you guessed it, people post all kinds of files on these message boards, including movies, music, pictures, books, and pretty much any other kind of file you are looking for.

·         How can I get into this content party?

Funny you asked, there are a few ways you can get access to Usenet.  The first way is to check and see if your current Internet service provider offers you with a free Usenet account.  I would stay away from these, however, as they almost all have restrictions on what boards you can access, how many connections you can have, and the amount of bandwidth that is usable.  The best way to access Usenet is through a 3rd party Usenet provider.  I am going to provide you with a short list of a few that I thoroughly recommend as I have tested and used these myself.

·         What things should I care about when evaluating Usenet providers?

1.   Retention:  This is basically how long your provider stores the files on their server.  This is one of the most important factors because you want a lot of retention to be able to snag older, maybe less popular content.

2.   Connections:  Connections basically means how many files you can download at a given moment.  One connection equals one file, so if you have twenty connections, you can grab twenty files at the same time. 

3.   Monthly limits:  You don’t want a limit in most cases.  If you are only planning on grabbing a few items here and there, a cheaper limited package may be for you, but if you are a media junky, you want to go unlimited.

4.   Security:  Most of the major Usenet providers offer SSL security, and I would definitely pick one that does, just in case. 

5.   Support:  In most cases, there will be little to no reason to contact support, but it’s always good to know it’s available to you.

·      It sounds like a hassle to look through board posts for files that I want, what else can I do?

That’s where this site comes in.  I am going to provide you with a setup that is 100% foolproof once in place.  I can almost guarantee that you will be amazed at how easy it is once all the pieces are in place.

·      Why do we have to pay to be able to obtain this content?

Let me answer that in short SPEED, SECURITY, and EASE OF USE… Now let me elaborate a little. Usenet does unfortunately cost a few dollars per month to have access to it, but with this system, you can nearly cut cable with the exception of Sports lovers and other live broadcast items.  Not to mention, Usenet is FAST!  Unlike Bittorent which relies on other users to share their upload bandwidth with you, Usenet relies on server farms to house the data, which is what you are paying for.  You can max out your Internet Service Providers bandwidth with ANY file you download from Usenet, not just the most recent movie that has 1,000,000 other users sharing.  Couple this with the ease of using applications such as Sickbeard and CouchPotato, add to this the speed and the fact that Usenet is also VERY secure…   

·      Am I safe downloading from Usenet?

Unlike Bittorent, which has garnered itself negative attention over the last few years with many lawsuits out against its users with P2P allegations.  Usenet doesn’t have these problems!  The way Usenet is setup; there is no peer-to-peer file activity so you are never liable for sharing a file with another human being, it’s all downloaded from Usenet servers, which is why you pay the provider.  Also, most Usenet providers are also SSL secure, adding an extra layer of protection onto your transfers for those who are still worried.

·      Ok I have my provider now what?

There is a multitude of ways that you can now access your Usenet account and start exploring.  The way that I will be discussing the most is a nearly hands off approach, meaning that you wont ever need to manually search for a file on a board and waste countless amounts of time browsing through all the “scene” mumbo jumbo.  This will be the simplistic approach to Usenet.  For reference I will include information in another post about access Usenet manually on a Windows and Mac client.

NZB File IconNZB Search Engines

Now that we have our Usenet Provider, we’ll need a place to find content. For that we will have to use a NZB Search Engine also known as a Usenet Search Engine. We used to recommend NZBMatrix, but that was voluntarily shut down in December 2012

There are a number of new options available, but we’ll need to find a search engine that is built on newznab(at this point, don't worry too much about what newznab actually is). Finding one isn’t too difficult, the problem is that some are private, a few cost money, and public sites can be hit or miss.

Here’s a list of some of the best NZB sites.



Website Type



Elite Private NZB Site. Highly sought after.


Elite Private NZB Site. Highly sought after.



Elite Private NZB Site. Highly sought after.


Fantastic site. Current users earn invites by donating.



 Solid up and coming private site. Check daily to see if registration opens.



Good site that is open to public. Unlimited access for one year costs 35 EUR (48 USD).



Great free site that is open to public. Upgraded accounts cost 12 USD for one year.



Fantastic site. Supported by the makers of Headphones app. One time donation required.


Ultimately, you want to get on a Private site, but since that might take some time, we recommend NZBNDX or NZBFinder.

What is an NZB file?

A NZB file is a xml-file that points to a specific post on usenet. The NZB protocol was developed by the team over at N
Newzbin. These files are similiar to torrents, they point to the location of a particular file. For example, if I added a binary file onto usenet, it would upload in a number of different pieces. The bigger the file, the more parts or articles upload. So if NZB files didn't exists, you would have to locate and download all the parts. A huge headache. Imagine all the time wasted if you missed one piece.. But we don't have to worry about that due since we have NZB files. They point to all the parts and instruct your newsreaders on where to find them. It automates the process and eliminates any human error.

SABnzbd+ Logo 

What is SABnzbd?

SABnzbd is multi-platform open source news reader that retrieves Usenet binary posts. The application is highly automated and is managed and accessed through a web browser, making it user friendly and accessible to any computer on your local network. NZB files, obtained from indexing sites, are loaded into the client. SABnzbd will then download and extract the data for you. The application offers a ton of automation so there’s less work for you to do. Prefect for the objective at hand!

Installing SABnzbd+

On a Mac:

On a PC:

On Ubuntu:

After installing on your favorite platform, it will launch a browser window and ask you to select your language. After doing so, you will see the following:

SABnzbd Step One

First we need to enter our Usenet Server details, here are the settings for  Newshosting:

Click the test button to verify server settings are successful, if it fails, double check your details! If that still fails, try port 8080. Once successful, click Next. Now you will get this screen:

SABnzbd Step Two

 Access Setup Screen:


SABnzbd Step Three & Setup & Setup Screen

This scren is no longer relevant as & have closed down. Just click Next

Next, SABnzbd will restart and then bring you to the SAB interface!

That is all it takes to install SABnzbd, and now it will be accessible via your favorite browser. If accessing it locally or via another computer on your network by pointing it at the appropriate IP address of the computer SAB is installed on (ex.

You will be asked to run through some settings to set up SAB. I used smpl-white theme, configured on the general tab of the configuration for the screenshots, aside from that all the data is the same!

Configuration Tab

SABnzbd Step Four

The rest of the values on this page can remain default for our purposes. On to Folder configuration. 


SABnzbd Step Five

The folder configuration page can pretty much be left alone unless you have an external storage drive that you want to point SAB to. I suggest storing all files on a local volume (USB, Firewire, E-Sata, etc) rather than a network volume because it will be doing double duty to transport from the internet to your SAB to the storage.

Pro tip for the storage tab : If you are going to use an external drive as the target for your storage, set the completed download folder value to /Volumes/Volumename where Volumename is the name of the drive.  You can also drive down to sub folders, just make sure to type the path EXACTLY how it is or it won’t save.

Switches Tab

No changes required. This tab can be left as default, unless you want to change how the files are handled after they are completely downloaded. By default they will be joined and unrared so you will be left with the actual file rather than 100 zip files.

Servers Tab

SABnzbd Step Six

This is probably the most important of them all, because it contains your NewsHosting server information. Plug it in accordingly and make sure to activate SSL if that is a feature that your usenet provider offers. Please ignore this screen if you set it up during the installation.

Also, if you purchased a block account from Tweaknews, add that as well.

Scheduling, RSS, and E-mail Tabs

These are all pretty self explanatory, if you want to schedule your SAB to only download at certain times, obviously do that. If you want your SAB to monitor RSS feeds (more advanced setup) go ahead and do that.  And if you want it to email you for whatever reason, errors or completed files, go ahead and do that as well.

Index Sites Tab

SABnzbd Step Seven

This screen is no longer relevant as & have closed down.

Categories and sorting tabs

These can be left alone for now, as CouchPotato and Sickbeard will be handling the functions of these two tabs. You should now test your SAB setup by searching for an NZB file on whichever search site you subscribe or a free provider, just to make sure everything is working properly. If you signed up for Newzbin, you can try to bookmark something on the site, and then click the button to retrieve bookmarks on the left hand side of your SAB to see if that function is working too. This is a really useful function for downloading files manually especially when away from home and you want something to be available for you when you get home.

Sick Beard Logo 

What is Sick Beard?

Sick Beard is described as an “Internet PVR”.  Basically what that means is you tell it what shows you want to see, and it goes ahead and downloads new episodes of that show for you as they are released, and typically that is immensely fast! It will even go ahead and pull old episodes, if you want to download the whole back catalog of all your favorite classics. As long as they are on Usenet, Sick Beard will find them.  Sick Beard automatically searches for the requested content in the form of NZB files from Usenet indexing sites. Once found, Sick Beard will forward to the file into SABnzbd for processing.

Installing Sick Beard

On Mac:

This way is a bit a pain, but it will enable you to have Sick Beard run at login without any manual commands and it will also allow you to update directly from within Sick Beard, so no more terminal commands.

On a PC:

Configuring SAB for Sick Beard

In your newly downloaded Sick Beard folder (/Applications/Sickbeard) you will find a folder called AutoProcessTV.  Drag the contents of this folder into the scripts directory where your SABnzbd is installed (OSX – /Applications/SABnzbd : Windows C:\Program Files\SABnzbd or whichever folder you installed to)  Then log in to your SABnzbd and go to the Config / Categories tab and look for TV.  Next to TV look for the dropdown for post processing script and select the appropriate SABtoSickbeard(.exe for Windows or .py for OSX).  Also make sure that TV sorting is disabled on the Config / Sorting tab as Sick Beard will be handling that.

Configuring Sick Beard

Connect to Sick Beard in a new browser via http://localhost:8081 if on the local machine Sick Beard is running on, or substitute localhost for the proper IP address. Browse over to the Config tab.

General Tab

Sick Beard Step One

The only settings I would change on this are the top two settings to make sure it doesn’t launch a browser on start and make sure it checks for updates.  You can have it open a browser on launch if you want, but if you’re trying to make this as seamless as possible, you don’t want a browser to open up in front of your Media center application if using one machine as a Total HTPC.

Search Settings Tab

Sick Beard Step Two

Episode Search

NZB Search

Torrent Search

We are going to stay away from Torrent search, as it is really unreliable and this setup is not meant for Torrents anyhow.


Sick Beard Step Three


Configure Custom Newznab Providers – CONFIGURE THIS FIRST

Site Api/Rss Key

Provider Priorities – You should now see your provider in the Provider Priorities list. Check it off, drag it to top followed by Sick Beard Index, and leave the rest unchecked. If you subscribe to multiple, check the ones you are subscribed to and designate them in whichever priority feels right, obviously you can change this later.

Configure Built in Providers – This is where you are going to select the provider(s) that you subscribed to.  It will ask you for information such as your username and password and API key.  All of this can be obtained from your providers site.

Post Processing Tab

The options on this tab are pretty self explanatory for the user, you can configure if you want Sick Beard to rename the shows to match your current structure or to establish a new one.

Notifications Tab

This tab is where you will configure Sick Beard to automatically update your desired MediaCenter application.  If you are using Plex (my suggested media center application) you would check the box next to Plex and point Sick Beard at your Plex install.  If this is your all in one media center, point Plex Media Center and Plex Client at  Again, more on this later.

Next, we’ll go over installing Couch Potato.

CouchPotato Logo

What is Couch Potato?

Couch Potato is the equivalent of Sick Beard, except for movies. You put movies in your “Wanted List” and Couchpotato checks for releases in your desired quality. Once found, it will send the data over to SABnzbd for download. If not found, the movie sits in your “Wanted List” until it fills your request.

Installing Couch Potato

On a Mac:

·         1. Download the current version here.

·         2. Extract the folder if not done so automatically (gotta love Apple, auto-extracting without being directed to do so)

·         3. Drag Couch Potato folder to your Applications folder.

·         4. Start Couch Potato app

·         5. You might want to take this time to go to your System preferences & Accounts pane and drag CouchPotato into

your startup items and hide it.

·         6. Now that we have the App installed, go ahead and launch your browser (if Couch Potato didn’t do it automatically)

and go to

·         7. You will be greeted with your new Couch Potato interface.

·         8. We are going to go to the settings tab, which is the little Cog at the top.

On a PC:

·         1. Download the current version here.

·         2. Run the executable and start with the installation.

CouchPotato Windows Step One

Windows Installation Only: If you want CouchPotato to load at startup, check offRun CouchPotato at startup”.


Welcome Section

CouchPotato Step Two

Time to get started! Scroll down.  


CouchPotato Step Three

·         Username/Password: if you want to secure Couch Potato (for snoops on internal network, or if you are going to use

·         CouchPotato when away from home)

·         Port : 5000 (default, tweak if need be)

·         Launch Browser: Uncheck (I uncheck this because its annoying to have to close when my media center starts up)

Newreader Configuration

CouchPotato Step Four

·         Host: localhost:8080 (I had some problems with for whatever reason.. Either should work)

·         API Key: Can grab this from your SABnzbd web UI, should be on the general tab.

·         Category: movies (You may have to go back over to your SAB install and create this category, no post processing script

·         necessary!)

NZB Search Engine Setup

CouchPotato Step Five

This page is pretty self explanatory, requires your usernames and passwords (and API keys) to interface with your provider(s). Again, if you aren’t subscribed to one yet… WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!!! 

Site Rss/Api Key

You also might want to consider checking off Binsearch and Nzbindex. These are free providers that require no registration. Not the best option, but it doesn't hurt to have.


CouchPotato Step Six

We'll take a look at this in the Advanced Settings.

Finishing Up

 CouchPotato Step Seven

Hit the green button. We still have a few more steps.

Advanced Settings

CouchPotato Step Eight

Once in CouchPotato, hit the gear button circled in red followed by Settings 

CouchPotato Step Nine

If you're interested in the system displaying advanced settings, check off the "Show advanced settings" checkbox found underneath the settings gear button. 

Searcher Tab

CouchPotato Step Ten

Renamer Section

These two tabs are really up to you. They will provide you with the options to rename your files once they are downloaded (keeping file names clean, none of that VIZION-the most awesome movie ever[divxhd 51259P]) as well as provide you with the option to grab subtitles if you need them, but make note that Plex and most media center applications will be able to grab the subs for you automatically when you are watching.  

Notifications Section

This tab will come in really handy if you are a Plex or XBMC user. For the sake of this site, I’m going to assume you are a Plex user, so you would setup Plex to point at and set it to update your library. This will automagically add the file to your Plex library and give you all your necessary metadata, like a boss. It also includes a really neat function to test if its working right below the Plex options. 

Headphones Logo

What is Headphones?

Headphones is completely based on Python, much the same as CouchPotato and will run in similar fashion. Your music library is scanned so Headphones knows what artists you enjoy listening to. Headphones will keep a look out for any new related album releases. Once it spots one, the application will go ahead and grab it for you and send it over to SABnzbd in the form of a NZB file.

Installing Headphones

On a Mac:

Mac Users (OSX 10.6 already have Python, if on 10.5 must download and install Python. If you are on 10.7 check out this post on upgrading HTPC to lion):

do shell script “python /Location-of-Headphones/ -d”

(Pro tip – If you have been following our guides, you can add this extra line into the Sickbeard startup script to start both at the same time)

On a PC:


Headphones Step One

Click on the Gears as highlighted in red to access the settings.

Web Interface

Headphones Step Two


·         HTTP Host: localhost or

·         HTTP Port: 8181 is fine unless you already have something running on this port

·         HTTP Username/Password: These can be left blank unless you need to secure your Web UI

 Download Settings

Headphones Step Three

·         SABnzbd Host: Assuming SAB is running on your current machine,

·         SABnzbd Username/Password: Enter your SAB username and password

·         SABnzbd API key: Get this from your SAB general tab

·         SABnzbd Category: music (unless you specified something totally different for your music category)

·         Music Download Directory : If you specify a music download directory in SABnzbd, plug that in here.

·         Usenet Retention: Enter your Usenet providers retention here.

Search Providers 

Headphones Step Four

Check off "Use Newznab" and fill in the following

Site Api/Rss Key

Torrents… HA. 

Quality and Post Processing 

Headphones Step Five

All of these settings are really all for you to decide for yourself, depending on what you want for your music collection, I suggest deleting leftover files and correcting metadata though, bad metadata is annoying, especially if you use iTunes to manage your music!

Advanced Settings Tab

No recommended settings to change, but once again, feel free to experiment.

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