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How to Measure Broadband Consumption on Your Windows PC

written by: Lamar Stonecypher•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 12/10/2009

Need a way to measure the Internet bandwidth consumed by your PC and monitor your download habits? Maybe because your ISP has set new limits on consumption? This brief article shows how to use the free application Bitmeter to measure and track your bandwidth.

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    On October 1, 2008 Comcast started enforcing a 250 GB limit (cap) on broadband consumption. This applies to the amount both downloaded and uploaded. Verizon Wireless earlier this year revealed a previously secret 5 GB usage cap for smart phones and wireless data cards. In June 2008 Time Warner Cable started testing metered Internet access in Beaumont, TX with a miserly 40GB primary limit.

    It’s more important than ever now that you monitor and track your broadband usage so you’ll know if you approach the limit. Fortunately the free and elegant Bitmeter II program for Windows can not only track usage by GB, but also can alert you on a per-gig or percentage of total cap basis.

    Bitmeter is in a special class of applications called thank-you-ware. The author asks nothing more than if you use the application and like it, you drop him an email saying thanks.

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    Here’s what Bitmeter looks like. In the image, we’ve enlarged it about four times bigger than we normally use it and have also enlarged the text area for clarity.

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    This is the main menu of Bitmeter, obtained by right-clicking in the application window. Here it is set to “Float" or remain on top of other windows.

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    This is the dialog obtained from selecting the main menu and then “Statistics."

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    And this is the network summary obtained by displaying Statistics, then clicking the grid icon to the left of “Last Few Months" and selecting the “Summary" tab. Alternately, Menu, then “Statistics Grid" is a fast way to reach this Summary dialog.

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    To set an alert to warn you when reaching a total bandwidth amount, select Menu, then “ISP Restrictions.“ In the image below, we selected 31 days. Bitmeter was smart enough to know that’s a month and this is the seventh, so it’s showing 24 days to go. “Total Traffic" tells it to track both upload and download throughput. “Alert me when I reach . . ." is the percentage of quota. We have it set below for 95% of 250 GB.

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    You can set Bitmeter to alert you when a certain amount of bandwidth has been used – sort of a “mile-marker" on the way to the cap. Here we’ve set it to alert, both visually and audibly, for each GB consumed.

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    Another interesting feature of Bitmeter is that you can run it as server and log in from another computer through a web browser to check the status and statistics of bandwidth usage of your home or other remote PC. (In the image, we’ve obscured our local IP address.)

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    If you have configured your PC to do Internet Connection Sharing in Windows, Bitmeter will show and measure the throughput of the main PC as well as any other PCs connecting wirelessly. However, if your connection sharing is done by a wireless or wired router before the main PC, you’ll need to install Bitmeter separately on each computer using the network.

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    Conclusion

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    I’ve been using Bitmeter for a couple of years now. It’s unobtrusive and doesn’t cause trouble. It sits in its corner near the system tray on my PC and just works without complaint. All software should work this well. I unreservedly recommend the use of Bitmeter if you need to track your bandwidth usage.

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