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