Find Out Who’s Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips

Click….wait. Click….wait. Click….ARG! Sound familiar? That’s the sound of someone running out of Internet bandwidth.

A lot of things can drain away the capacity of that pipe that connects your computer to the Internet. It could be other people or devices on your network, or it could even be malicious applications or services running on the PC itself. The problem can get so bad that some people will toss out their computer and buy a new one.

It doesn’t have to be that way. While the problem could be coming from anywhere, it isn’t impossible to troubleshoot if you know where to look, what tools to use, and what to do when you find the culprit. In this article, I’m going to give you a hand and walk you through the process of tracking down that bandwidth hog and shutting him down.

Track Down The Bandwidth Bandit Via Your Router

You could start just about anywhere when it comes to isolating the bandwidth hog on your network or inside your computer, but in order to grab at the low-hanging fruit, it’s best to start with your network. A few of the solutions below can focus in on a culprit quickly and resolve your problems immediately. So why waste time troubleshooting your own computer before canceling out the external issues as a possibility?

The first and quickest way to check what’s connected to your Internet through your router is the DHCP Client table. Each router is a little different, so you may need to search for which menu the table comes under. For Linksys, it’s typically under the “Status” Tab, and then the “Local Network” menu item.

stolen bandwidth1   Find Out Whos Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips

Next, just click the “DHCP Client Table” button, and that’ll take you to a list of all clients that are currently logged into your network. Are there any there that you don’t recognize? If so, there could potentially be a neighbor that’s drawing out much of your bandwidth.

stolen bandwidth2   Find Out Whos Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips

All you have to do to put an end to it is click on the “Delete” button to the right of that client. Just be careful not to inadvertently delete one of your own clients, because to reconnect to the network with that device, you may need to re-enter your security password again. Not a big deal, just a hassle.

Use Third Party Utilities To Unravel Bandwidth Problems

Another option is to turn to software tools that can reach out and monitor devices on your network. One of those utilities is a free app called Capsa, which Matt actually mentioned in his Guide to Home Networking.

Capsa is really impressive, and it’s hard to believe that it’s free software. Running Capsa, you can see traffic on your network and associated data transfer rates to and from the various hosts, which you can find under the “Protocol” tab once you press “Start” on the main welcome screen.

stolen bandwidth3   Find Out Whos Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips

This is even better organized on the IP Endpoint tab, which lines up all of the hosts in one area and then in the lower pane, shows you all of the remote IP connections of the host you selected in the top pane. By the way, this is a great way to check out what your kids are up to on your network without actually installing monitoring software on their computer.

stolen bandwidth4   Find Out Whos Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips

Capsa is by far my favorite. This is similar to using another bandwidth monitoring app I covered recently called NetworkMiner, except that Capsa is less about network hacking and packet sniffing, and more about monitoring your network for activities and different traffic protocols. Either application would serve you well, though.

Find Malware Or Software That Is Dogging Down Your Internet

The other possibility is that it isn’t anything on your network at all that’s causing the bandwidth crunch, but instead something running right inside of your PC itself. Old computers are notorious for getting infected with little applications called “bots” that quietly run in the background, connect to some remote server, and silently send out spam emails to hundreds or thousands of email addresses a day. That’s just one example. Malicious software can consume your bandwidth in many different ways.

The way to identify those issues is by reviewing all of your network connections and identifying any that look unusual. You can do this by clicking Start -> Run and typing “CMD” and pressing Enter. When you get the command window up, type “netstat -o”.

stolen bandwidth5   Find Out Whos Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips

This shows all open network connections on your computer. Depending on what you have open, this list can take a while to finish, and could scroll off the screen, so you might even append a “>>network.log” to the end of the command to log it to a text file.

Keep an eye on any strange http or IP addresses in the third column, and note the PID for those from the list. To identify that application, open up Task Manager (start->run->”TaskMgr”) and go to the services tab.

stolen bandwidth6   Find Out Whos Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips

Locate the PID on the list to find the problem child. If you see any PID value that has lots of open network connections and it’s related to a service you don’t recognize or that you didn’t realize was running on your computer, stop the service and see what happens to your Internet performance. This is a good way to stumble upon a bandwidth hog with just a little bit of work.

By the way, if you didn’t know, you can also see the PID values of each process running on your computer by going into the Processes tab, clicking the “View” menu item, select columns, and check off the box for PID.

stolen bandwidth7   Find Out Whos Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips

You’re bound to find the culprit between services and processes that have open network connections!

Hone In On The Culprit With The Windows Resource Monitor

In fact, while you’re in the Task Manager, to get to another bandwidth troubleshooting tool, click on the “Performance” tab, and then click on the “Resource Monitor” button at the bottom.

stolen bandwidth8   Find Out Whos Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips

The resource monitor is one of the most powerful tools available in your network troubleshooting arsenal, in my opinion.

stolen bandwidth9   Find Out Whos Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips

Just one quick glance at the send/receive bandwidth values under the Network panel shows me that Kaspersky is really the biggest bandwidth consumer at the moment, followed closely by Chrome. This could indicate that the antivirus software is performing a database update. What you shouldn’t see at the top of the list is some executable file that you’ve never heard of.

Reclaim Your Bandwidth By Removing Malware

Stopping benign software from clogging up your bandwidth is one thing, but removing malware from your computer is a whole different story. That’s why we dedicated an entire guide to malware removal and published a detailed article on the steps to take after discovering malware. Once you managed to rid yourself of  the nasty hijackers, you might struggle with the malware leftovers, like changed Internet or browser settings. All this can be fixed, but if you don’t ever want to go through this experience again, read up on our common sense tips to avoid catching malware in the first place.

2 Kinds of Malware   Find Out Whos Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips

Take Your Bandwith Into Your Own Hands

As you can see, there are plenty of tools and tricks to track down the offender and recover that precious bandwidth. You don’t need to suffer silently. You can fight back.

Have you ever used any of the tips or tools above to identify a bandwidth thief on your network or computer? Share your own experiences and advice in the comments section below!

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

26 Comments -

0 votes

Ahmed K

Can capsa be used to track 3G bundle usage in MB ??

0 votes

righteous indignation

Capsa is not free. $995 or $695 is for the two versions that are not crippled and limited to the point of being worthless.

Also their stupid privacy statement says they require no personal information then go on to ask you for your personal information.

Why is makeuseof shilling for pretend to be free software?

1 votes

Ryan Dube

I don’t see any prices like that on their freeware page, which is the version I installed and tested (and am still using today). http://www.colasoft.com/products/freeware.php

I’m interested in what surprise I have in store though – are they going to make the software stop working after 30 days? Are features going to turn off on me? Please do fill me in…because from what I can see it’s pretty cool freeware, available for “non-commercial uses”.

0 votes
0 votes

Amir M

great article, i used this method at the beginning but then, i decided to add MAC filtering to the router, its a bit of added work every time friends or family asks for wifi connectivity but the problem with neighbors is solved.

0 votes

Ruben Hiciano

Free app? Did you even mind to check?

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Yes of course – there’s an entire page devoted to the free version, which I installed and ran (as you can see in this article). http://www.colasoft.com/capsa-free/

Worked great for me, although I understand there may be limitations that some people aren’t willing to accept.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Did you see Guy’s comment?

0 votes

Esaure

I prefer to use Netlimiter, monitor is free but it ells what and where an executable is connecting to with its download and download speeds

0 votes

Merlin

Good article.
You should have mentioned though that for all of these actions, you need administrator rights.
Now that’s where the real problem lies when you are working on a company PC where you only have user rights.
If there are issues with the drive itself of course, you’ll need other tools to recover the partitions or data on the drive.

I have used Capsa both in the free version and the full version.
Of course there are limitations in the free version. Why would anyone want to buy the full version if everything was in the free version?
It is a good program and can be helpfull in many cases.

0 votes

Merlin

Sorry, I seem to have put two comments to twoo fdifferent articles together here.
My brain must have had a short circuit. ;)
The first part of my comment above should be ignored.

0 votes

amy

For neighbours that steal bandwidth:
http://www.ex-parrot.com/pete/upside-down-ternet.html

0 votes

Guy M

I just read the EULA on Capsa Freeware –

Free Edition

If the SOFTWARE PRODUCT is marked as a free edition for the final user (FREE), it (is) provided (to) you without charge.You may not use the SOFTWARE PRODUCT in your workplace or for commercial purpose.

There is no mention on the Capsa Free page of time limits.

0 votes

raoul_leon@yahoo.com

“Hone In On The Culprit With The Windows Resource Monitor” WTF!! Do you mean “home in”? I think you do. Flunk high school?

3 votes

Ryan Dube

College graduate – engineering. Which is probably why I prefer the hone-in usage. Reference here: http://grammarist.com/eggcorns/home-in-hone-in/

BTW, I would accept the education of a high schooler over the manners of a 3-year old any day.

0 votes

Marvin D

Any apps, both free and paid, for MAC users? All I see are Windows apps, unless they are all good for both Mac and Win. Great article, by the way, I’ve been wondering about this for so long. Thanks!

0 votes

Paul V

Great article, exactly what I needed

0 votes

Walt

Ditto.
I would like know if you have recommendations for Linux.
Thanks for the good article.

0 votes

Patrick

Yeah Ryan! Good response to that person(?). Bad manners are always a reflection on those who practice such. Great article!

0 votes

Fred

Mac OS X equilateral, please

0 votes

tinkicker

Clickety-clickety-click….there! Saved this to Evernote for future reference!

0 votes

Ajarn D

Woh! This is some very useful information. Thank you very much.

0 votes

DavidB

My Cisco menu did not have anything like your example. The Capsa did not make sense to me. Even trying to type in the run command “netstat-o” just resulted in a message that it was not recognized as a command.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Hi David,

As the article mentioned, each router will have a different menu setup, but you should be able to locate that particular monitoring display if you search as described in the article. Also, the command is: “netstat -o”. You need a space before the “-o”

-Ryan

0 votes

aefre

Tantalizing suggestions that don’t apply to my Mac and wireless router. Any help for us Mac users?

0 votes

JAMES

From what I have seen, MacIntosh and Linux (most implementations) have utilities that perform similar tasks. The idea is to view the traffic details and become familiar with what is normal so you may recognize that which is not normal. A simple web search should bring up operating system specific instructions on what to use and how to use it.