Is Windows 10 wasting your internet bandwidth? Here’s how to check, and what you can do to stop it.
Windows 10 brought about some big changes when it launched in 2015, many of which related to its focus on connectivity and interoperability. This is an operating system designed for the internet age — and that requires bandwidth.
Whether you know about it or not, Windows 10 may well be wasting your bandwidth. This could leave you without internet access, or responsible for extra charges for the data, so be aware of the methods employed by the operating system (OS) and the steps you can take to combat them.
Here’s an explanation of how Windows 10 could be squandering your bandwidth, and some strategies on how to cut down the waste.
1. Peer-to-peer Downloads
Microsoft made no secret of its intention to distribute Windows 10 to as many devices as possible, and the company is making full use of the legion of systems that already have the OS installed. To distribute the downloads (and possibly save costs on Microsoft’s end), your PC might grab files from other users, rather than downloading them from a central Microsoft server. This is known as a peer-to-peer (P2P) download, the same technique that facilitates torrenting.
P2P can be a real boon, if central servers are at capacity during peak download times — but anyone with limited bandwidth might find that they run through their allocation very quickly, if they’re the one distributing updates to other users. Here’s how to turn this option off.
First, type Windows Update Settings into the search bar and open the corresponding result. Click Advanced Options, then Choose how updates are delivered. Turn the toggle switch to Off, and you can rest safe in the knowledge that you’re bandwidth isn’t being used to help others make the upgrade.
However, if you have several computers that need to be kept up-to-date on the same local network, you might consider setting the toggle switch to On and making sure that the radio toggle is set to PCs on my local network. This means that you would only have to download the install files from the internet once, transferring it between your systems afterward without using up more bandwidth.
2. Allocated Space on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1
Thanks to Microsoft’s zealous approach to building the user base of Windows 10, the latest version of the OS might be using up your bandwidth, even if you’re using an earlier version of Windows. If your computer is set to download updates automatically, it might download around 3 GB of installation files without asking permission.
To change these settings, search for Windows Update and select the corresponding result. You might even catch your PC in the act of downloading Windows 10, so make sure to click Stop Download if that is the case.
Next, click Change settings and head to the Recommended updates section. The check box labelled Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates should be unticked — click OK to confirm your changes, if necessary.
Now head back to the Windows Update landing page and select Check for updates to see whether or not your system has already downloaded the installation package. Assuming it hasn’t, click Show all available updates and click on the Optional category.
Find the entry titled Upgrade to Windows 10… and uncheck the box to its left. Next, right-click it and select Hide update — you will likely need administrator privileges to do so. This will ensure that the Windows 10 package isn’t downloaded while you’re installing optional updates.
3. OneDrive Transfers
OneDrive was among the features that Microsoft was really eager to push with Windows 10, and as such it’s a very prominent element of the OS — albeit one that you can disable and replace if necessary. Many users rely on the service to access important files when they’re not on their primary computer, but it can be something of a bandwidth hog if left unchecked.
Files in specified folders are automatically uploaded to the OneDrive service, and files stored online can be downloaded automatically in much the same way. This can amount to several gigabytes worth of transfers very quickly, but there’s an option to put some limits in place — so long as you’re a member of the Insider Preview program. This functionality is expected to be available to all users as of the Anniversary Update.
First, right-click the OneDrive icon in your system tray and select Settings. Then head to the Network tab.
Switch each toggle to Limit to: and specify a maximum rate. The exact figure will depend on the bandwidth available to you, and it might take a little bit of trial-and-error to find what works for you.
4. Other App Processes
While OneDrive at least offers some control over how much data it uploads and downloads, other apps don’t offer similar settings. You can use a third-party app like NetBalancer to monitor and manage the bandwidth used by individual programs, but you can also cut out the middle man by delving into PowerShell.
Type PowerShell into the search bar (Windows key + Q), right-click the result labelled Windows PowerShell and select Run as Administrator. We will create a Quality of Service rule that throttles how much bandwidth is available to a particular piece of software, but first you’ll need to find out the name of the .exe that you’re looking to limit — for this example I’m going to pick Cortana, which Windows refers to as SearchUI.exe.
Enter the following string into the PowerShell window, changing the ‘-Name’ and ‘-AppPathNameMatchCondition’ values as suitable:
New-NetQosPolicy -Name CortanaBandwidth -AppPathNameMatchCondition SearchUI.exe -IPProtocolMatchCondition Both -NetworkProfile All -ThrottleRateActionBitsPerSecond 5000000.
You can also change the ‘-ThrottleRateActionBitsPerSecond’ value to something higher or lower, depending on the program being throttled. The above string will result in a limit of 5 Mbps.
To review this policy, open up Powershell and input:
Get-NetQosPolicy -Name CortanaBandwidth
To delete the policy, use the command:
Remove-NetQosPolicy -Name CortanaBandwidth
Reclaim Your Bandwidth
Whether it’s a Twitter timeline peppered with GIFs or a playlist of the latest YouTube videos, the content we consume on the internet carries larger file sizes than ever before — and that makes bandwidth limits all the more important.
That’s why it’s a smart idea to make sure Windows 10 isn’t hogging more of your allowance than it should be. Just a few minutes tweaking some settings is enough to confirm that Microsoft isn’t siphoning off your bandwidth, so consider making these changes before you reach your limit.
Do you have any tips on how to prevent Windows 10 from wasting bandwidth? Why not head into our comments section to see if you can help other issues remedy their issues?