Mostly free tools to give your Internet connection a speed boost

These days, we practically live our lives online. If you’re looking for a way to boost your Internet experience, check out these downloads.

1. MySpeed PC Lite Edition

It’s tough to know whether your Internet connection needs a speed boost.

That’s where this useful program comes in: It measures your upload and download speeds, and then shows you where your results lie on a continuum of access methods, from a slow modem to a superfast connection.

It will also graph your speed over time.

Just as useful, though, is its analysis, which provides more details and helps you understand what the speed figures mean.

For example, if it measures your upload speed at 5.66 megabits per second, it will say that your speed is good for service rated at 6 mbps and reasonable for service advertised as 7 mbps, but poor if you’re paying for 8 mbps or above.

It will also measure your quality of service, which determines whether you can sustain your maximum transfer speed.

For best results, use this application’s information to determine whether you need a performance boost, run another program such as SG TCP Optimizer (see below) to enhance your speed, and then run this utility again to see whether the tweaks helped.

Download MySpeed PC Lite Edition| Price: Free

2. Bandwidth Monitor 2

This nifty little free application won’t actually boost your bandwidth speed, and it isn’t as comprehensive as MySpeed PC Lite, but it will help you know whether any network-related speed tweaks you’ve made have helped performance.

It tells you your current upload and download speeds, and provides a graph of the speeds over time. In addition, it provides a log of your activities, including the total amount of data uploaded and downloaded in a day.

Download Bandwidth Monitor 2 | Price: Free

3. SG TCP Optimizer

No matter how swift your broadband connection is, it’s not fast enough.

You can’t get your ISP to juice up the bandwidth, but you can make the most out of what you have. This free program will tweak various connection settings to help you obtain a faster, smoother connection.

At first glance the program is daunting, because it seems to require you to know certain technical details, such as latency and largest MTU.

Your best bet is to click the Optimal settings button at the bottom of the screen and then click Apply changes; that way, the program makes decisions on its own.

Unless you’re very experienced, you probably don’t want to muck around with the settings yourself.

Keep in mind that the proper connection settings can vary significantly from PC to PC, so you could possibly change your settings and end up slowing your system down. Mostly, though, if you follow the app’s advice you’ll find yourself with a better connection.

Download SG TCP Optimizer| Price: Free

4. cFosSpeed

This program promises to speed up your DSL or cable modem connection through what it calls “traffic shaping”–the prioritizing of certain data packets.

You won’t have to know anything about data packets or TCP/IP to use this utility, because it learns as you use the Internet, silently determining the best way to “shape” your traffic to boost performance.

It then makes adjustments accordingly, and as a result you should see faster page loads and download times.

Note that the program can’t improve your actual total bandwidth (that’s something only your ISP can do); instead, it makes the most efficient use of your bandwidth so that you get an effective speed boost. The program also has some nice extras, such as a real-time bandwidth monitor.

Download cFosSpeed | Free trial for 15 days – price: $36

5. uTorrent

Dedicated fans of file and media downloads face one frustration above all: slow download speeds.

Though you can’t increase your total bandwidth without switching to a faster ISP you can download files more quickly by using the BitTorrent protocol, which is far faster than traditional methods.

When you use the BitTorrent protocol, you retrieve pieces of a file simultaneously from multiple locations, significantly speeding up downloads.

There’s one problem with the BitTorrent client, though: It’s not a particularly good piece of software.

The solution is to use uTorrent, a superior client. You can easily search for files from directly within the program, track and manage your downloads, and create your own files to distribute via the BitTorrent protocol.

Among other good features in the program are a configurable bandwidth scheduler and global and per-torrent speed limiting.

Download uTorrent | Price: Free

Application Boosters

Sometimes only an application needs speeding up. The next two downloads will help with Microsoft Excel and with Adobe Acrobat Reader, respectively.

6. Worksheet Booster

Excel jockeys know that building and using spreadsheets can be a long, tough slog at times. If you’re looking to cut down on the time needed to perform repetitive (and not-so-repetitive) tasks, give Worksheet Booster a try.

It provides nearly two dozen new commands that speed up various tasks, such as creating a new worksheet from existing data. Instead of taking several steps to complete an action yourself, just choose a command from Worksheet Booster’s drop-down list, and it does the rest. It works with Excel 2000, Excel XP, Excel 2003, and Excel 2007.

Download Worksheet Booster| Price: $14 (shareware)

7. PDF SpeedUp

Few programs on the planet are more annoying than the Adobe Acrobat Reader. It’s slow, it’s buggy, and it seems to drag down entire systems whenever it’s loaded.

This freebie eliminates most of the program’s annoyances, disabling the splash screen, killing the piped-in ads in the upper-right corner of the toolbar, turning off the invisible updates feature that sucks up RAM and system resources, and preventing plug-ins from loading, among other things.

Using the program is as simple as can be: Just click the Optimize button, and it does its work. To bring back your original settings, click Restore. You can also customize exactly which features it optimizes.

The program works with versions 3 through 7 of Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Download PDF SpeedUp | Price: Free

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