Say it quickly and it sounds like something Mr Miyagi might shout as he smashes a plank of wood in two with his bare hands, but in actual fact nfo is short for info, which in turn is short for information, obviously. An nfo file is nothing more complex than a plain text file where in place of the usual .txt extension you will find the letters n-f-o. Why not just use the extension .info? Well that would make things much clearer for newbies, but there’s a good reason for this arrangement and it dates back to a time when operating systems could only recognise file formats with three-character-maximum extensions.
You’re probably wondering at this stage what all this has to do with the wonderful world of warez. Trust me, I’ve not lost the plot completely; nfo files are fundamental to the whole warez releasing shebang. They are always included in each archive file of a set and are the first place to look if you are having problems getting a release to run. Why so? Well the reason for this is that they contain all the necessary installation instructions which may be unique to the specific releases they accompany. Many archives will contain several of these files, however, only one of them will be any use to you. The others contain brief messages, or calling cards if you like, from the various cracking or ripping groups who were involved in the particular release.
The nfo file you will need to refer to will share the same name as the group who released the game or application so look for something similar to class.nfo or myth.nfo and delete the rest. Just to make matters that little bit more confusing, you will find that the more obscure software titles are released by lesser known groups, and under these circumstances you might not recognise the name of that all important nfo file. Not to worry though, all you have to do is remember that the one you are looking for is always the one with the largest file size, so a quick way to pin down the elusive blighter is to right click somewhere in the directory where all your nfos are stored and select ‘arrange icons by size’; because Windows rearranges your files in ascending order, the one you want will be the last one in the series.
Other significant details contained within nfo files include game ratings, number of files in the set, version numbers, group news, help wanted ads and general inter-group bitching. Despite the fact that there are various ‘nfo viewers’ available on the net, they are not essential for opening these files. The most noteworthy benefit offered by programs designed specifically for viewing nfo files is that they correctly display any ASCII art present. While the difference can be striking I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it unless you’re a stickler for doing things by the book.
For those of you that aren’t too pernickety: the first time you double click on an nfo file, a dialogue box will appear to ask you which program you wish to use to open it. All you have to do is scroll down the list until you come to Notepad, select it and press ‘OK’. In future, providing you have ticked the “always use the selected program to open this kind of file” check box, whenever you double click on an nfo file Windows will remember that they are associated with Notepad and so will automatically open it for you without any further questions.
Not only are nfo files useful for finding out information about the releases you already have in your collection, they can also be helpful in finding out which games, applications, movies or fixes have just been released. Rather than downloading the first file of a release just so you can view the nfo file and see if it worth the effort of finding the remaining files, you can visit a release news site instead. Such news sites are often simply referred to as nfo sites. This is because all you will find on them are identical copies of the nfos contained within the zip files of the releases available for download on proper warez sites. Once constructed by the release groups, these nfo files are first circulated in IRC channels where they are picked up by the administrators of news sites often before the actual files can be found anywhere on the net. Therefore keeping an eye on your favourite nfo site is a good way of finding out which releases are “coming soon to a warez site near you.”
A common mistake made by newbies is thinking that the links to nfo files on news sites actually lead to the releases themselves which has the effect of making them very frustrated when they find out that this isn’t the case at all. The reason that you will very rarely find downloadable releases in the same places as the accompanying nfo file is fairly obvious. Nfo files are merely text files which contain no copyright protected material and are therefore perfectly legal, however, the releases themselves, as they constitute the theft of intellectual property, are very much illegal. Because web hosts can be held liable for the content they store on their servers they are obliged to remove any files which infringe copyright laws. Likewise, the content of news sites, to remain operational must not breach the terms of service agreement specified by the administrators of the server where the site resides. In effect, to stay within the boundaries of the law and hence ensure that their sites survive, webmasters of news sites choose to specialise in release information only. It is pointless trying to turn your site into an all-in-one, one stop warez shop if it means having it deleted on a regular basis. While this is inconvenient, let’s not forget that since being caught distributing warez can land you with a hefty jail sentence many people are understandably reluctant to take the risk of setting up their own download sites.
So you can see for yourself what I’ve been rambling about, take a peek at the sites listed in the ‘news and release info’ section of my links page. ISO News, being the most comprehensive and longest established news site, should always be your first port of call, but since it does have some stiff competition don’t dismiss the alternatives before sampling them. The competition has actually been known to be faster to post release details so if you’re the type of person who needs to know what’s happening the very second the story breaks then you may want to make your own comparisons and stick with the winner. Seriously though, we’re talking about game releases here, not the estimated time of some apocalyptic, destiny defining event so why worry if you’re a bit behind?
You will find that the information posted on news sites is categorised into the different sections to make navigation easier and enable you to distinguish between all the various release types, ISOs, rips, VCDs, patches and so on and so forth. If you click on the link to one of these sections you will be presented with an orderly list of the most recently released software arranged in ascending order according to the date they were released. Adjacent to the title of the releases you will find the name of the group who released the software, movie or whatever, along with the number of files which make up the set. It’s also likely that you will see various appendages to these titles such as ‘won race’, ‘lost race’, ‘dupe’ and so on. The definition of these terms can be found in the glossary for your convenience, so have a browse through that if you are curious. Click on the title of a release and you will be able to peruse the full contents of the nfo file. I say ‘full contents’, yet this isn’t strictly true in all cases – sensitive details such as serial numbers and CD keys are often removed for legal reasons, so if this is what you are searching for you’ll be out of luck regrettably. One very useful tidbit of information which does survive the director’s cut, however, is the filename of the archive set. If you copy this into your clipboard before you begin your search you can drastically cut down the time it takes to track down whatever your heart desires.