Best Free Download-Upload Meter

 
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Introduction
The products in this category are required to provide a graphical representation of the network traffic going in and out of you PC. When I was reviewing possible contenders in this category I noticed two things. Firstly, it seems that each tool has a slightly different understanding of how to compute the bandwidth used (in and out). Secondly, most of them had problems to detect network devices under Windows Vista. Quality wise there were only two outstanding products that coincidently both worked under Vista as well. I decided not to bother with the others I found since they were either behind the two here anyways or they failed to provide requirement number one, the graphical representation of the bandwidth.
Discussion

NetWorx NetWorx - After revisiting this software area again I finally decided to make NetWorx my Gizmo's Best pick. The main reason is that Networx was very actively developed and improved over the last years while NetMeter's development did not exceed a Beta release dated August 2009. Even though I still don't like the fact in NetWorx that you can't switch off the "All traffic" value in the graph, I am very fond of the system tray icon hat you configure to display a graph of your network traffic in real tme. The full blown graph displays Net-In and Net-Out but also (and always) the total traffic (called Data both). The latter is usually overlaying the Net-Out. Other than that NetWorx has so many useful features besides the graph that is more than just a network metering tool. There is the Speed Graph that shows the current network in/out speed, devided by Average, Maximum and Total. The usage statistics adds valuable information about your network usage (daily, weekly, monthly, custom). The Trace Route and Ping dialog add two more very helpful tools. A pity that you can't resize those windows. Then there is the Netstat window. A great display of all TCP/IP connections you have currently open, whether active or listening or in wait. Of course you can filter or even resolve the names to addresses. The Settings dialog offers the most important settings for the graph and display and also provides the possibility to get notified when certain thrshholds are reached. A great tool, worth a try!

 

Netmeter NetMeter - finally dethroned and second now behind the always close contender NetWorx. NetMeter's development seems to have stagnated sometime in August 2009. NetMeter is a simple beauty, graphically as well as in regards to quality and usability. When NetMeter starts it stays on top of other windows awaiting your right mouse click in its window area. The first stop you want to make is the Option menu. You will notice that you have quite a load of features to choose from to make NetMeter measure what you want and present it to you as you want. Besides of the window properties (stay on top, show caption, snap to edges, transparency, etc.) you can also influence background, colors fonts and grid to fit your taste. Besides of the colored graph (shonwing upload, download and total as overlay bars) you can also display current and total DL/UL values as text. The second stop you want to make is the Totals submenu. The traffic that has been measured so far is presented to you broken down to daily, weekly and monthly statistics. This is a very nice feature if you want to double-check against you Internet provider's bill. Nicely done is NetMeters projection of your estimated future usage based on the traffic you caused so far. NetMeter deteced all 22 physical and logical network devices in my PC. This is amazingly good compared to a whole bunch of other tools not even detecting one. If you like you can only select your Bluetooth device and just measure how much traffic you use for sending ring tones to your mobile phone. The only odd thing I noticed was that the maximum value (can be optionally displayed as text) was always shown as 1.19 MiB/s. That is obviously wrong and also differs from 1.99 MiB/s which is the peak value in the Totals and Report display. I took it easy on the little guy and voted it first anyways.

 

iTraffic Monitor iTraffic Monitor - A new contender has entered the group of great and free network monitoring tools. iTraffic Monitor hits the spot in combining the most important features of all the tools here and put them in a fast, easy and attractive piece of software. After installation it only took me a few clicks to make it look just the way I like it. iTraffic Monitor comes with WinPcap (your choice to install during setup) enabling you to filter out your local LAN traffic (or any IP address or network mask for that matter) if you're only interested in your Internet speed. Five predefined skins address your optical preferences. However, you can create your own themes too by setting all individual colors separately and save your design. You can set the display units, max value, update interval and other options for the graph. Typical options like "Start with Windows", "Start minimized" and such are in the boat as well. Weird though that the "Disable Splash Screen" options is displayed but disabled. Even tough optically attractive when open, I find the tray icon a bit disappointing. What I was also missing is a long term history and summaries of your traffic used. iTraffic Monitor only keeps track of traffic when running and does not save previous sessions. A great tool though for network monitoring when you need real time measuring.

 

NET Traffic Meter NET Traffic Meter - seems to be NetMeter itself in a different skin at first sight. But there are differences, not that much but enough to let it come in second here. First I have to remark that I found two versions of this tool (not on the original homepage thought which seems to have been replaced by an advertisement site). The older version, 1.6 from 2004 turned out to be better and more capable than the newer version 2.1. The newer version wasn't able to detect any network devices in Vista anymore. 1.6 felt fine in the Vista environment and presented a beautiful bar graph of my upload and download traffic.Unfortunately no totlas are shown. Also using the right mouse button brings you to many configuration options, equally spread over design and measurement settings. A nice feature I found was the volume bar at the right that will show you how much of your allowed bandwidth you have used already. Of course you can set the allowed maximum (usually defined by your provider) yourself. NET Traffic Meter also offers statics about your usage and, just as NetMeter provides these values based on a daily, weekly and monthly period. The volume used so far can also be viewed in a diagram. Several text information can be overlaid on top of the main graph, like current DL/UL speed, network adapter monitored and totals. Also NET Traffic Meter had problems displaying the totals information. While first I had some (incorrect) values shown they turned into question marks later. Anyways, give it a try if you're not happy enough already with NetMeter.

 

FreeMeter FreeMeter by Sourceforge is another very slick contender. The only 130KB large EXE file (no installation necessary) contains a lot of power and features.Upon start, FreeMeter reads the currently active network adapter and displays a small meter on your desktop. By grabbing the lower right corner of the window you can resize it - unfortunately only to a maximum size of about 600*450 pixel. This limitation is a big drawback to me I must say. However, in regards to metering and configuration FreeMeter has a lot to offer. Colors and opacity can be changed by either entering values or by a convenient slider. Even a "Cycle Color" feature is there. The graph itself can be adjusted in scale, units and textual information. But besides that, FreeMeter has a few more tools in stock. Opening in a separate window there are Ping, Tracert and UPnP NAT uttility. Email notifications can be configured as well. Unfortunately again, these little windows cannto be resized at all. FreeMeter is a great tool, but size matters and I would really like to see the resize limitations go away in the next release.

 

BitMeterBitMeter Web BitMeter - leaves me a little undecided how to classify it. What it brings to the table in regards to features it lacks in regards to its graphical representation. The desktop meter is fixed in design and restricted in size (max. size is 1000*700 pixel) and its appearance is hardly configurable. I find that a big drawback for a metering software. On the other hand, besides of the usual traffic statistics, it comes with some nice features like the built in web server that you can launch so you can view your bandwidth usage in your browser at localhost (see screenshot). Another great idea from the people at Codebox is the stop watch. You can start and stop a timer that enables you to view your usage during a certain period of time. If you want to be alarmed by BitMeter when you reach certain thresholds of your bandwidth usage, that can also be set up. This might be handy when you need to have an eye on that based on your internet provider contract. I am a visual person and very receptive for graphical design, which I find specifically important for metering tools. Thus, even though BitMeter offers some very useful features it cannot compete against NetMeter in my eyes.

Other Related Links and Products

The following products were brought to my attention but I didn't have the time to review them yet. From a first glimpse they seem to be interesting competitors in this category.

NetLimiter
NetLimiter is an internet traffic control and monitoring tool designed for Windows. You can use NetLimiter to set download/upload transfer rate limits for applications or even single connection and monitor their internet traffic.

LanSpeed2
The main purpose of this program is to monitor any traffic that is using a LAN adapter (this is your Ethernet or Token ring network card). It will not monitor dial-up or modem connections!

 

Quick Selection Guide

NetWorx
4.5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Great configurability, lots of addl. features
Total traffic graph can't be disabled, Trace Route and Ping dialog can't be resized
5.1.7
854 KB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Win98 - Win 7
NetMeter
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Attractive graphics, usability, configurability. Detects most networks.
Not always correct in network speed computation.
1.1.3
616 KB
32 bit only
Unrestricted freeware
All 32 bit Windows
iTraffic Monitor
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Attractive, fast and easy to use. Customizable graphs.
No long term traffic history. Poor tray icon.
1.0
1.09 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
All 32 bit Windows
FreeMeter
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
small EXE, lots of features and configuration
graph window and utility dialogs cannot be resized freely
1.5.2873
49 KB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
All 32 bit Windows
NET Traffic Meter
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Many configuration options, volume bar showing "used of allowed bandwidth"
Not all networks detected, no totals shown
1.6
1.8 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
All 32 bit Windows

Download says 1.4, the setup program says 1.5, the About screen says 1.6 :-)

BitMeter
2
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Many features. Stop watch, bandwidth threshold alarm
Graphical representation could be better. Window is fixed in design and restricted in size.
3.5.10
1.0 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
All 32 bit Windows

.NET 1.1 Framework required

 
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