Our internet connections have become faster over the years, but with that our need for speed increased too. And sadly, having a fast internet connection does not mean the server you’re downloading from gives you the speed you pay for. That’s where download managers come in. One of their more interesting features involves speeding up your downloads. So how exactly do they do it?
Getting the software
Before showing you the tricks, let’s have a look at some good download managers. If you’re a Windows user, I’d recommend Free Download Manager (freeware) or GetRight (shareware that never expires). Another big name in the download manager business is Download Accelerator Plus, but I advise you to stay away from that one because it is ad-supported and tends to slow down your system.
Trick 1: chop the download in pieces
How long does it take to transport 20 people from point A to point B with one taxi? A lot longer than when you have multiple cabs at your disposal. It’s just like that with the internet: in most cases one connection is doing all the work, even though your pipe can handle more than one. When you let a download manager chop your download in segments, simultaneous connections with the server are established that enable you to download different parts of your file at the same time. Often referred to as segmented downloading, this technique can greatly increase your download speed.
I put this to the test by downloading Internet Explorer 8 (16.1MB) using Firefox and Free Download Manager. It took my browser around 47 seconds at an estimated average of 343 KB/s to download the entire file. FDM did it in a whopping 21 seconds, which accounts roughly for an average speed of 767 KB/s. These calculations are not fully accurate, but the difference is clear. Keep in mind however that your mileage may vary depending on your connection and the server you’re downloading from.
Trick 2: using download mirrors
A second trick to speed up your downloads is using mirrors. The idea behind this is that you download a file from multiple sources at once, combining the speed from these servers to get faster downloads. Both FDM and GetRight have a feature for automatic mirror search, but from my experience they don’t find any as soon as you download something that’s not on the list of the top 15 best-known programs.
You can however choose to enter mirrors manually. Whenever your download is bigger than 500MB and the site you’re downloading from offers alternate download links, it doesn’t hurt to enter them. A good example of when you’d want to use this is when you’re downloading Ubuntu‘s install CD.