Review: Track your network bandwidth use with ShaPlus Bandwidth Meter

Monitor your bandwidth use with this specialized freeware.

If you really need to watch your Internet bandwidth, you need ShaPlus Bandwidth Meter. Unlike online bandwidth meters, ShaPlus monitors your Internet bandwidth instead of testing your connection speed. ShaPlus is designed to stay open in the Windows system tray, with a more detailed (but still compact) display for the notification area or anywhere on the desktop you care to drag and pin it. This free tool keeps track of your bandwidth use for the current session, the day, and the month. You can set it to track your billing period and even to stop tracking between specified times. Recent updates include the ability to display bandwidth in gigabytes, a counter reset option on the tray menu, and better stability in Windows 7 and 8.

ShaPlus Bandwidth Meter's installer offered the option to stay open in the system tray. If, like us, you choose this option, we recommend clicking Customize and making the icon permanent in the tray. Hovering over the tray icon shows current bandwidth use; clicking the icon opens a menu with options such as transparency and whether to display bandwidth in KB, MB, or GB. A Settings sheet offers more options, including a list of all our system's network interfaces to choose which ones to monitor and basic program options such as Start with Windows and Always on Top. We could also set the monthly start date and enter Do Not Track times for a 24-hour cycle. The three-part meter display will probably be the program's most useful feature to the majority of users. It showed our bandwidth use for Now, or the current session; Today; and This Month. A neat little feature let us change the meter's transparency right from the interface.

ShaPlus Bandwidth Meter is the perfect tool for those users who must keep track of every byte of network bandwidth, whether it's Internet use or any of your system's connections. It won't test your Internet connection speed, but there's no lack of free Web-based bandwidth meters that can do that job. For its rather more specialized function, ShaPlus is the best tool we've tried so far.

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