Bandwidth prioritization is generally thought of as something that happens on the router via QoS (Quality of Service). With QoS rules, people with access to their router’s settings can prioritize which devices in their household get to use more bandwidth than others. QoS can be a good start for PC users experience slower than expected speeds, but there are other options.
Bandwidth can be controlled at the machine level itself thanks to the help of bandwidth prioritization software. This software can help specific programs access the internet more quickly at the expense of other programs based on custom rules that users set. The monitoring features that most bandwidth prioritization software comes with is very important in determining what sort of rules to set up.
1. NetLimiter 4
The best software currently available to help users prioritize bandwidth usage is NetLimiter 4. This bandwidth prioritization software has a ton of features and a modern, easy-to-use interface. It even has a remote web interface that lets you log in from a different computer.
NetLimiter 4 Pro has a fully free trial period that is available to anyone. This trial period gives users access to extra features such as traffic monitoring, remote administration, and even traffic blocking, along with a slew of other features. Also, anyone with a license to the pro version of the previous iteration will get full access forever.A license for the pro version will run you $29.95.
A license for the pro version will run you $29.95. There is also a “lite” version for $10 less, which does come with less features, but will still help you monitor and prioritize the bandwidth on your Windows machine.
It is also still a work in progress, with more features on the way. Packet loss and latency simulation, as well as advanced traffic monitoring that actively scans for threats, are both features that are still in development for NetLimiter 4. There is also a working, but yet to be documented API hanging off the program, giving tech-savvy users more options to extend the program to their liking.
2. NetLimiter 3
While NetLimiter 4 has many features, it doesn’t have everything implemented yet. That is where it’s predecessor, NetLimiter 3 comes in. If you are still running Windows 7 or earlier, the legacy version can come in handy. The UI is not near as modern looking, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t as functional.
This older piece of bandwidth prioritization software comes in three different versions:
- A freeware version with just the network monitoring feature and traffic stats. These two features alone won’t help you prioritize any bandwidth being used by applications, but it will let you know which ones need to be limited.
- A “lite” version that adds on bandwidth prioritization.
- A pro version that comes complete with advanced rule capabilities, scheduling and more.
For users who do not know if they need bandwidth prioritization or not, the free version with the monitoring can come in handy. The “lite” version is also a nice option for users that simply just want to perform bandwidth prioritization without any of the other fancy features that the pro version ships with. It also comes in at $19.95 instead of the $29.95 for the pro version.
- Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in other bandwidth optimization software, check out our wide collection of guides.
NetBalancer has recently been spruced up with a more modern UI. Still, it does look a bit dated. This helped keep it lower on the list since it feels less intuitive to use when compared to the more modern NetLimiter 4. For the amount of features in the program, though, it is still more usable than the next item on our list, TMeter.
The features that NetBalancer ships with, however, make it more than worth a look. On top of all of the usual features one might expect from the typical piece of bandwidth prioritization software, NetBalancer does come with a couple of surprises.
The first interesting feature is cloud synchronization, which lets allows users to see web traffic and events on one computer from another.
The second is two different quick views into web traffic. NetBalancer comes with a widget to show current web usage (both in and out) as well as a system tray icon. The system tray icon and the widgets both look just as dated as the rest of the UI however.
These two features don’t necessarily help with bandwidth prioritization, but they do help people figure out if they might need to use the prioritization features that NetBalancer has, or simply provide a quick view for those who love statistics.
The extra features also help justify the cost of $49.95 that comes with the program but is still much more than a pro version of NetLimiter.
TMeter is a free application that comes with a seemingly unlimited amount of features. Of course, it has the basics such as traffic monitoring and bandwidth prioritization. But is also comes with many advanced features like built-in NAT and DHCP, along with a built-in firewall.
All of these advanced features and statistics that they help provide do come at a cost. It is not a monetary cost, as the application is fully free, but rather a usability cost. The UI is dated and can be confusing. The program itself is also overkill if you are simply focusing on bandwidth prioritization of a home computer. However, if you are a power-user, the amount of information that can be seen from any of the traffic flowing through the program can be very enlightening.The statistics can help you set up more advanced rules.
The statistics combined with advanced features can help you set up more advanced rules. As you can see in the screenshot, rules can even be set up on a per user basis across the network. So, you could technically limit your spouse’s bandwidth while you game.
The one missing feature, though, is a remote web interface. Unfortunately, that does not look like it’s on the roadmap for this program.
Bandwidth prioritization can be very important to people on Internet connections with bandwidth limits or those seeking to simply ensure that the applications they care about can access the internet as fast as they want. This can be especially helpful for PC gamers to help avoid any possible lag caused by other applications hijacking the computers available bandwidth.
Any of the four pieces of bandwidth prioritization software discussed above will help you get the job done, it all just depends on the number of extra features and customization you might want. NetLimiter 4 is definitely the easiest to use, but TMeter might be more up your alley if you are a power user. Of course, if you are on Windows XP, NetLimiter 3 would be a good option.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2017 and has been since updated for freshness, and accuracy.