Is there a way to monitor what programs are accessing the internet on my wireless network?
October 11, 2007 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Is there a way to monitor what programs are accessing the internet on my wireless network?

My internet speed suddenly grinds to a halt every night when my roommates are using their computers. Usually all they are doing is typing papers and doing other offline tasks. After looking at their computers, it doesn't appear that they have any file-sharing programs sapping the bandwidth. Are there any (free) network monitoring tools that will help me figure out if, among the three of us, someone has a program running in the background that is accessing the internet and killing our bandwidth? I briefly looked on google, but most programs seem overly complex for what I am looking for, so any suggestions would be appreciated!

Here's a bit more information about the problem for anyone interested:

The problem occurs when I'm trying to play Halo 3 on Xbox Live. I can play just find during the day and my connection speed is always a full green bar while playing. At night however, my connection drops to a single red bar, which makes the game unplayable. The Xbox is connected by an ethernet cable to our Linksys wireless router, and our wireless network is password protected.
posted by Paul KC to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
This question has been asked a few times before and there's no easy centrlaized way to do this.

You can install DU meter on all the computers to see what they are doing. You can change your wireless password. I would recommend switching to WPA instead of WEP. Someone could have easily cracked your WEP password.

Do you roommates have a working antivirus?
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:20 AM on October 11, 2007

The easy way is to ask your roommates if its okay to disable the wireless when you play halo. In your routers setup page it should have a disable wireless option.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:21 AM on October 11, 2007

TCPView may help you find out if a hidden process on someone's computer is sucking up bandwidth.

TCPView is a Windows program that will show you detailed listings of all TCP and UDP endpoints on your system, including the local and remote addresses and state of TCP connections.
posted by doomtop at 9:25 AM on October 11, 2007

What kind of Linksys is it? If it's the right type and generation, you could install a 3rd party firmware that would give you that kind of info without compromising any access.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 9:26 AM on October 11, 2007

Are you on a cable modem? That's a shared bandwidth resource. The other people on your branch of the cable system may be using more bandwidth at night, killing your ability to play halo. Try disabling the wireless, and if the problem persists, I'd complain to the cable company.
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:27 AM on October 11, 2007

cosmicbandito, I am on cable and I did consider that. I didn't want to inconvenience my roommates to test it out, but maybe I will bite the bullet and try that tonight.

Thanks for the suggestions so far, everyone.
posted by Paul KC at 9:42 AM on October 11, 2007

Also its worth pointing out that even mild internet usage when you are gaming can drasticly affect the game. The bars you are seeing in your xbox are latency (time to the server and back) not bandwidth. So it other words you might have lots of bandwidth but the response is slow.

If that happens after youve disabled wireless you should reboot your router and your cable modem. If it continues you might want to contact your cable company.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:51 AM on October 11, 2007

It might also be a server problem. If more people play Halo at night, then their servers might be laggy. I know my son's World of Warcraft latency varies markedly between the evenings and the afternoons. It's not a bandwidth issue, because it doesn't seem to be affected by what anybody else is doing. Of course, we do have a Linux system with an apache web server and exim mail server, so those might be using a lot of the bandwidth, but I'm dubious about that.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 10:05 AM on October 11, 2007

damn dirty ape
Thanks for the clarification; I will be the first to admit I'm not an expert on this stuff. Assuming I understand the concepts correctly, lack of bandwidth does affect latency though, right? If the outgoing data is bottlenecked on my end due to lack of bandwidth, it seems like it would take longer for the data to make it to the server and back.

From my experiences with bittorrent clients, my cable service's upload speed seems to be capped at 50 kb/s. Because online gaming depends on upload as much as download, it would seem to me that my online experience is extremely sensitive to other programs using our bandwidth to upload data. Again, maybe I'm confusing bandwidth with latency though.

Please keep the comments and suggestions coming!
posted by Paul KC at 10:06 AM on October 11, 2007

I think Halo works on a slightly different principle. Each game is hosted on one of the player's Xboxes, so for each match, the "server" is just another Xbox. Because of this, I don't think that the amount of people playing at any one time affects this. Plus, I am the only player in 8 and 16-player games with anything less than "perfect" latency.
posted by Paul KC at 10:09 AM on October 11, 2007

If the Linksys firmware supports QOS, you can try to prioritize assign your gaming packets a higher priority.
posted by mphuie at 10:27 AM on October 11, 2007

Yes, a lack of bandwidth can easily increase your lat.

Does the halting occur at night when your roommates are not there? Cable modem stability can also affected by your neighbors. Unlike DSL, you technically share a feed with other people, too.

TCPview is a decent way to go on their computers to see all connections, though it can be awkward to read & understand. I haven't used the program in years, but ZoneAlarm's free version of their firewall would notify you of any incoming/outgoing Internet traffic.

Make sure that nobody's leeching your connection. If you log into your router, I'm sure there's a way to who is connected. Make sure the connection is password protected to help prevent this from happening.
posted by jmd82 at 10:32 AM on October 11, 2007

50 kb/s is really slow, are you sure that it's not 50kB/s? That's about where my cable connection is.

If your linksys router is the ever popular WRT54GL, then I recommend installing the tomato firmware. You can setup its QoS to recognize and prioritize whatever p2p and gaming applications you want, or you can just set a rule that puts the XBox on the highest priority. (FYI, QoS is only for the upload side.)

That said, I'm sure that it's probably a combination of your neighbors (on your same cable feed) and your fellow gamers (all playing at the same time) that is slowing down your gaming.
posted by philomathoholic at 11:35 AM on October 11, 2007

Oh, and the stock firmware (for the WRT54GL, other routers are probably similar) has basic QoS, so you don't actually need to install a third-party firmware. Here's the user's guide, QoS is on page 17.
posted by philomathoholic at 11:41 AM on October 11, 2007

If your computers are running Mac OS X, you can type "sudo fs_usage -f network" to see what applications are using the network.
posted by nicwolff at 3:25 PM on October 11, 2007

netstat -a is the windows equivalant, but its text-based. TCPview linked above is easier to use.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:37 PM on October 11, 2007

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