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Monday, January 10, 2011

How To Monitor Your Bandwidth Usage on PC and Mac

Not everyone has the luxury of an uncapped connection these days — especially those of you in the mobile world. There's not much we can do to make things better, but at the very least, there are ways to keep you from incurring those pesky overage charges.

Today, we've compiled a few handy applications for keeping your internet usage under control, and tracking where potential troublemaking applications might lie.

SurplusMeter (Mac)

Unfortunately, OS X has few options for tracking your overall bandwidth — and as far as we can tell, none that actually do so on a per-application basis. Nevertheless, SurplusMeter will still do a decent job at tracking your usage based on a preset cap, and alert you when you're coming close. And compared to Snow Leopard's built-in Activity Monitor, used bandwidth measured by SurplusMeter is persistent, and won't reset on shutdown.

The only caveat is that SurplusMeter is unable to distinguish between network and internet traffic. If you're the type that likes to send large Time Machine backups over the network, you'll be hard pressed to get a decent reading.

Networx (Windows)

Similar to iSurplus, but for the Windows crowd, Networx is a simple-but-powerful tool for measuring traffic and bandwidth usage. Incoming and outgoing traffic is logged, and can be viewed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, useful for identifying peak times and trends. More importantly, numerous alerts and caps can be set, ensuring you stay within your limit — and Networx can even sync usage data with other machines on your network for an overall picture.

But best of all, Networx is smart enough to ignore network traffic, ensuring only internet-bound data is measured and logged.

NetLimiter (Windows)

One of the better bandwidth monitoring solutions around, NetLimiter does everything our previous choices can — but on a per-application basis. Instead of logging overall bandwidth activity, NetLimiter will tell you exactly how much traffic Chrome or uTorrent is using up, allowing you to identify traffic hogs and problem applications more quickly and accurately. The free version will only monitor individual programs — not actually limit them, as the name implies. For that, you'll want to check out NetBalancer, a similar alternative that can actually shape or limit the traffic of up to five applications.

DD-WRT (Router)

This popular router firmware might seem like a strange addition to our list, but it does something none of our other tools can — track overall bandwidth for all the computers on your network. By tracking usage from the source — where all traffic ultimately flows — you can get a better idea of global bandwidth usage, as well as sort that data on a per-computer basis. Using static IPs or MAC address filtering is key, however, as there's no way to keep track of unique devices otherwise.
But be warned — reset your router, and the day's statistics might go with it.

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