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What’s been using your internet connection? Net Guard reveals all

09 August 2012, Mike Williams

Whether you’re worried about security, hoping to optimise download speeds, or just trying to save money, keeping an eye on how your internet connection is being used can be very helpful. Windows doesn’t provide many tools to help in this area, unfortunately, but there are plenty of third-party alternatives available – and Net Guard is a great example.

The program opens with a tiny toolbar which just displays the upload and download speeds for any currently open connections. And so you’ll have an immediate indicator which lets you know that a process has gone online.

If you need to know more, a single click on the toolbar will display the processes which have uploaded or downloaded the most data recently, along with the total amount of data you’ve transferred today.

And if even that isn’t enough, double-clicking the toolbar launches the main Net Guard window, where you’ll be able to take several different views on your online activities.

You might start by viewing your currently open internet connections, for instance. Net Guard displays these along with their initiating process, protocol, local and remote IP address, ports and more.

Quickly discover how your internet usage is going this month

The Net Monitor tab is a little more organised, displaying all processes which have gone online (whether they’re currently running or not), along with the amount of traffic they’ve generated.

If you’re more interested in the big picture then clicking Net Usage will plot your internet usage over the current month. It’s able to project how much you’re likely to use over the month as a whole. And you can even have Net Guard display a warning if this figure gets close to a critical limit for your internet account.

The program also has a few issues, of course. The toolbar proved annoying. This is small, so we placed it on the toolbar, where it seemed to fit well. But if you click elsewhere on the taskbar then Net Guard’s toolbar disappears. It’s now under the taskbar, and you have to right-click the Net Guard system tray icon, choose Hide Floating window, then Show Floating Window to bring it back.

The program can also feel a little inconsistent in places. Net Guard does offer a right-click “Kill” option to forcibly close a process, for instance, but this is only visible in the Net Monitor tab: if you’re using the Connections view then right-clicking won’t offer any options at all.

And this isn’t the most lightweight of tools, either. The program opened using just under 20MB of RAM on our test PC, and consumption rose from there, peaking for us at about 115MB. That’s not a huge deal, unless you’re running it on a seriously underpowered system, but you might want to keep an eye on this, just to make sure it doesn’t become a problem.

After spending a while playing around with Net Guard, though, we still like the program overall: it’s capable, detailed, configurable and easy to use. Which isn’t bad at all, for a free tool, and if you’re looking to take more control over your internet connection then it’s definitely worth a closer look.

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