Launch your PC and very soon there will be a host of processes making use of your internet connection. Your antivirus program might download new definitions; other programs will check for updates; your email client may scan for new messages, and of course there’s also your browser, download manager and anything else you’ve directly launched for some specific task.
If you have unlimited internet access and a speedy broadband connection, none of this will matter very much. But if you have limited bandwidth, a slow connection, or you’d just like to track your system’s network use, then installing NetTraffic could be a great way to monitor exactly what’s happening.
The program is free, a compact download (414KB) which installs quickly, with no adware worries. On launch it displays a simple icon in your system tray which flashes to indicate network traffic. And if you need to know more, then hovering a mouse cursor over the icon displays a tooltip showing the current upload and download speeds.
Right-clicking the system tray icon and selecting “Show” then displays a tiny scrolling graph, allowing you to watch how bandwidth use changes over time. This stays on top of other windows for convenience, and is resizable if you’d like to see more detail.
If even this isn’t enough, though, right-click the graph, select “Statistics”, and you’re presented with tables showing your network traffic (total and average) for the past hour, day, month and year. The program will even try to predict how much bandwidth you’ll use in future. (This didn’t look too accurate in our initial tests, but perhaps the figures will improve as NetTraffic has more time to sample your usage.)
It’s even possible to zoom in on a particular period of time in your network history, and display charts of network use. So if there was an unusual spike in network traffic last December, say, you can drill down to try and find out when it happened.
And while by default these figures track all your network traffic, you can of course ask the program to monitor specific network interfaces only. Just right-click the system tray icon, select “Settings”, clear the “Use all interfaces” box and choose your preferred network cards.
If there’s a minor issue here it’s that the program uses a little more system resources than we’d like, maybe 20-40MB of RAM on our test PC.
That’s not enough to make the faintest difference to most users, though, and so if you need to track your network bandwidth then you should give NetTraffic a try: it’s easy to use, provides plenty of information, and offers useful configuration options and settings to ensure it’s working just as you’d like.