A packet sniffer, also known as a network analyzer or a protocol analyzer, is a program that can intercept and log traffic that passes over a digital network. Packet sniffers are diagnostic tools that allow network technicians to analyze the network and diagnose network problems.
In order to work, the packet sniffer needs to have access to the wireless or wired network interface on its host computer. The tool can analyze traffic from the entire network or only a small part of it. Then the sniffer converts the analysis into a readable format, helping the network technicians to pinpoint network faults.
Here are the best packet sniffers for Windows 10
PRTG Network Monitor is an advanced, professional tool for analyzing and monitoring local networks. The tool captures the data passing through your network, analyzes it and then presents it in a readable format. It has a special Packet Sniffing Sensor that will let you know if any of the network packets are suspicious. Be careful as such a sensor could use many of your PC’s resources and you will need to manage your processes carefully when you will want to scan for dangerous data packets.
PRTG Network Monitor detects all network data activity, as well as application usage of the system’s ports. The tool offers a flexible system of configurable filters and reports that users can use to capture specific traffic patterns and network data. Also, it supports many selections of events, methods, and properties.
PRTG Network Monitor comes in two variants: a completely free, basic edition and a paid version with full features. You can test the tool for free for 30 days and continue on a free basis with limited features or buy the full version with user support.
Wireshark is one of the most popular packet sniffers in the world, allowing you to see what’s happening on your network at a microscopic level. This free tool is used by industries and educational institutions.
Wireshark has powerful display filters that can read and write a huge number of capture file formats, such as: tcpdump (libpcap), Pcap NG, Catapult DCT2000, Cisco Secure IDS iplog, Microsoft Network Monitor, Network General Sniffer (compressed and uncompressed), Sniffer Pro, and NetXray, Network Instruments Observer, NetScreen snoop, Novell LANalyzer, RADCOM WAN/LAN Analyzer, Shomiti/Finisar Surveyor, Tektronix K12xx, and more.
Other features include:
- Deep inspection of hundreds of protocols, with more being added all the time
- Live capture and offline analysis
- Standard three-pane packet browser
- Captured network data can be browsed via a GUI, or via the TTY-mode TShark utility
- Rich VoIP analysis
- Live data can be read from Ethernet, IEEE 802.11, PPP/HDLC, ATM, Bluetooth, USB, Token Ring, Frame Relay, FDDI, and others
- Decryption support for many protocols, including IPsec, ISAKMP, Kerberos, SNMPv3, SSL/TLS, WEP, and WPA/WPA2
- Coloring rules can be applied to the packet list for quick, intuitive analysis
- Output can be exported to XML, PostScript®, CSV, or plain text/
You can download Wireshark for free from the tool’s official page.
Free Network Analyzer
Free Network Analyzer is another excellent free network monitoring software that can analyze wired or wireless connections of your computer. The tool can capture, filter and display all traffic data and decode the network packet raw data. Packets are then parsed, extracted and presented in a readable form, offering you a throughout analysis of the data transferred via your PC network interfaces.
Key features include:
- Real-time protocol analysis and effective dataflow processing even under high traffic load on high data rate communications
- Data filtered by specific protocol
- Search for data patterns with RegEx (Regular Expressions) support
- Importing log files from third party protocol analyzers
- More than 70 different data encodings supported.
You can download Free Network Analyzer for free from the tool’s official page.
Capsa Free Network Analyzer
This tool is the right choice for regular users, such as students, teachers, or computer geeks. Capsa Free allows you to monitor network traffic, troubleshoot network issues and analyze packets. It supports over 300 network protocols, MSN and Yahoo Messenger filters, email monitor and auto-save, as well as customizable reports and dashboards.
The main advantage of this tool is that it allows you to learn how to monitor network activities, pinpoint network problems, and improve network security. In other words, if you’ve never used a packet sniffer before, you should then download Capsa Free and once you’ve gained more experience, you can install a more complex packet sniffer.
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Editor’s Note: This article has been written in October 2016. It has been regularly revamped and updated for accuracy and freshness.