The amount of software on the average computer that wants to access the internet for updates or because it requires internet access to function is growing all the time. Unless you have a super fast internet connection, when you have something that requires a lot of bandwidth, it will often slow other things down that are also using the internet. For instance, downloading files through a web browser and playing an online game at the same time could limit the game’s performance and make it nearly unplayable with high pings because the browser is hogging the bandwidth leaving very little for the game.
The best way to get round this problem is to limit the internet download speed for the web browser process so that it doesn’t hog the connection. Certain types of applications such as download managers or bit-torrent clients often have some form of maximum upload or download rate setting so as not to flood the connection and let things like web browsers or Skype work OK without too much problem. Most other types of program that access the internet do not have a similar function though.
A solution to this problem is to limit the Internet bandwidth by using traffic shaping software so you can prioritize which applications can access as much of the connection as they like, while others will have to wait until it’s available. Software such as NetLimiter, cFosSpeed, Net-Peeker and SoftPerfect Bandwidth Manager are good for this task but sadly they’re shareware. There are some free tools around that can help, here’s a few for you to look at.
NetBalancer is an internet traffic tool that’s been designed to give full control over the priorities of the applications and processes running on your computer. You can use NetBalancer to set a download or upload transfer rate priority for any application and also monitor its internet traffic.
There are a couple of ways in which you can limit the traffic that each application uses. One is to do what most download managers and torrent clients do which is set a specific number for the download or upload rates. While this method works, it isn’t dynamic because if you set the download rate on your browser to 100 KB/s while gaming, when you finish gaming more bandwidth will be free but the download will still be 100 KB/s unless you manually change it. NetBalancer has another more efficient way of limiting the traffic by setting priorities for your applications. This means that programs with the highest priority have first option on the bandwidth, but if they don’t need it, those with a lower priority can use it when available.
After setting your required priorities and limits, you can see what is going on with the help of several useful features. NetBalancer can show all system processes with their in and out traffic speed, total downloaded and uploaded traffic for any process, a live traffic chart and information on all process active connections. Rules can also be created where you can configure the limits for specific times or date ranges and there’s also a separate live traffic window/tray icon.
The free version of NetBalancer is limited to 3 process priorities/limits at a time and 3 different rules can be configured which should be adequate for average use. If you want to go over that limit, you will need to register the full version at a price of $29.95. It works on Window 2000 to 8.
2. Traffic Shaper XP
As the name suggests, Traffic Shaper XP is another traffic shaping application but has some quite advanced options compared to NetBalancer, but this also puts it at a disadvantage because setting up rules that limit the traffic are more difficult and less user friendly to configure.
Traffic Shaper XP doesn’t list running processes so you can’t just click on a program and set the limit or priority. Instead you need to know in advance the port being used by the program and manually run the Add Rule Wizard, or monitor the live traffic in the lower half of the program’s window and right click on it to create a matching rule.
When going through the wizard you can select which network adapter, direction (upload or download), Upload/download speed to limit, port, IP address and the priority of the rule. A useful function of Traffic Shaper XP is after you’ve created a rule, you can close the program and it will still continue to shape your internet bandwidth. It will continue to control your internet traffic in background.
Traffic Shaper XP does have a couple of issues, one of which is it doesn’t officially support Windows Vista, 7 or 8 although it did seem to function OK when tested in Windows 7 32-bit. Another problem is the limitations placed on this free version such as a maximum of 5 rules, support for the TCP protocol only and the fact it can shape up to 3,687 kb/s and no more.
3. Shunra Nimbus
This is a very simple tool to use with only really one option to configure, but be aware that Shunra Nimbus is NOT compatible with any operating system above Windows XP and will likely cause a crash Vista or 7.
It works slightly different to the tools above because Nimbus will restrict the bandwidth system wide so is perhaps more useful if you want to restrict one system while gaming or downloading on another which uses the same internet connection. The one available option is to select the bandwidth speed that you want to limit and then you click Play. It has settings from 14.4 to 256. These numbers are calculated at kilobits per second and not Kilobytes so you divide the number by 8. Therefore 256 means you’re capping the Internet at 32 KB/s which is obviously very slow by today’s standards. Exiting the program will return traffic to normal. Shunra Nimbus is no longer available or listed at the official website.