Fast, secure downloads
Older internet users will remember the pain of early downloads: you'd spend a few days trying to download a GIF of a cat chasing a laser pointer, only for the connection to drop when someone else picked up the phone. Download managers were essential, because they enabled you to resume broken downloads and make the darn things download faster too.
Dedicated managers and accelerators are still relevant today, especially if you're prone to downloading enormous operating system ISOs or trying to get your videos via unreliable Wi-Fi. These are our favorite apps for taming traffic, boosting BitTorrent and managing media downloads.
1. Ninja Download Manager
A superb free download manager for saving and converting media files
Ninja Download Manger is a relative newcomer to the downloading party, and it looks considerably more contemporary than its, er, contemporaries.
The interface is simple and modern, and the download accelerator is capable of grabbing files 10 times faster. It does this by splitting each file into chunks, then downloading each one using a different server connection, making downloads not only faster, but also more reliable.
If you're into music and movies you'll be delighted by its sequential setting, which lets you begin playing a file while it's still downloading. There's also a built-in video downloader with support for YouTube and Vimeo, and a video converter that changes the file format automatically once it's finished downloading.
2. Free Download Manager
An open source download manager that's packed with bonus media tools
Free Download Manager aims to be all things to all people. It's a download accelerator, a BitTorrent client, an audio and video previewer and a traffic management tool, and because it's open source, it's completely free and receives regular updates from its community of developers.
There's a portable version that you can run directly from a USB stick, plus powerful scheduling features and a very handy remote control that means you can leave your downloads running and check on their progress from any internet-connected device.
It can spider sites to download specific kinds of files, and you can choose to download only the bits of a ZIP file you actually want. It's an exceptional program, and it was tough to choose between this and Ninja Internet Download Manager for the top spot.
3. Download Accelerator Plus
A stripped-down version of a premium manager that's superb in its own right
The free version of Download Accelerator Plus is a pared-back version of DAP Premium, but it's much more than just a demo and contains all the essential features you need for quick, reliable downloads.
The free version lacks the DAP Premium's privacy protection, but it does include a link checker, video previewing, file conversion, safe downloading and multiple connections to boost the speed of your downloads.
Download Accelerator Plus is clearly designed for media fans, and can help you avoid irritations such as slow servers and internet congestion.
4. JDownloader 2
An advanced download manager that's optimized for power users
JDownloader 2 is a free, open source download manager with a massive developer community, and it's available for Windows, Linux and Mac. It's really one for power users, with support for over 300 decryption plug-ins, automatic RAR extraction, password list searching and OCR to automatically complete some of the CAPTCHA 'I'm not a robot' checks you encounter on download sites.
You'll need the Java Runtime Environment to run it, and you'll need to be careful when installing it: the installer contains adware, which will be bundled in with the download manager if you don't specifically deselect it.
5. Free YouTube Downloader
Grab multiple videos in moments and save them in resolutions up to 8K
Its installer is a little too keen on adding bundled software, but deselect the extras you don't want and you'll discover that Free YouTube Downloader is an excellent download manager. Unlike some of the more powerful options it's designed as a downloader first and foremost, so you get a good multi-stream download manager for grabbing several clips simultaneously, but few file conversion options.
Free YouTube Downloader can download files of up to 8K resolution (in MKV) and convert to AVI and MP4 format for playback in your media player of choice. Remember that you should only download videos from YouTube if you have the copyright owner's permission.
A free Firefox add-on that grabs all the links and media from a page at once
If Firefox is your preferred browser, try DownThemAll - a well-crafted extension that lets you download all the links or images in a webpage at once. Downloads can be paused and resumed, and the integrated accelerator lets you grab files files four times faster through cunning use of multiple server connections.
It's a superb addition to an already excellent browser, and unlike some free download managers there are no catches - there's no unwanted advertising and all its features are yours to enjoy completely free of charge.
Find and grab the files you need, whether you're using a Mac or PC
Most download managers are for Windows, but iGetter also comes in a Mac OS X version. You can schedule downloads for specific times - handy if the servers you want to use get hammered during peak hours - and find server mirrors. As with most download managers worth their salt, you can resume broken downloads and benefit from accelerated downloading.
8. Website Ripper Copier
Going offline? Download an entire website to view when you're disconnected
Sometimes you don't just want to download a few files; you want to download the entire website. And to do that you need two things: permission from the copyright owner, and a website ripper such as Website Ripper Copier.
There's a free trial you can use to check it out before spending US$39 (about £30, AU$50) on the full version, and you can set very complex criteria to ensure that the app only downloads the content that you actually want. There's also a clever retrieval history, so the app won't try to re-download an online resource it already has.
9. Internet Download Manager
Ignore its ugly interface and you'll find a very capable download manager
Internet Download Manager promises to be the fastest download manager around, which hopefully makes up for the unappealing user interface. The free version is a trial, but the paid-for version is hardly pricey at US$11.95 (about £9, AU$16) for a year of speedy, hassle-free downloading or US$24.95 (about £19, AU$32) for a lifetime license.
Internet Download Manager integrates with almost every browser imaginable, grabs videos, automatically checks downloads for viruses, accelerates download speeds, resumes interrupted downloads and supports download scheduling. You can also set it to grab all files of a particular type from websites.
A classic tool that's kept up with the needs of today's downloaders
We have fond memories of GetRight: it's been kicking around for 14 years, helping people fight the curse of ancient enemies like dial-up internet and more modern horrors such as flaky Wi-Fi. The free edition is a trial and the full version is US$19.95 (about £15, AU$26).
The download manager integrates with Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera, and supports torrents as well as the more common http/https and ftp/ftps formats. It accelerates downloads by creating multiple simultaneous connections, and resumes broken downloads where they left off. In short, it's an excellent little download manager and there's a reason over 12 million people have installed it.
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