6 must-have free downloads for your network

Forget network woes. These six great freebies will turn you into a network master.

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If you've got a small or medium-sized network and you need to manage it yourself, you're not alone. I've rounded up six great free network tools that make it much easier to handle and troubleshoot your network.

Spiceworks IT Desktop

This freebie turns you into an instant IT staff. It inventories your network and provides information about each device, including including free and used disk space, antivirus software being used, problems on the device (such as server connection errors), and more. It can even help you set up your own IT help desk. For a free program, this is exceptionally powerful.

NetLimiter Network Monitor

Is your network bedeviled by bandwidth hoggers --- devices or applications that suck up too much bandwidth? Here's the solution. This application shows every application communicating over your network, and shows information, including the bandwith they're using. That way you can identify the bandwith hoggers and shut them down or limit their use.

There are three versions of the software, a free one, and two paid ones. The paid ones are more powerful than the free version. The Lite version lets you set limits on bandwidth apps can use, and the Pro version adds even more features.

DNS Jumper

Changing your PCs' DNS settings from the default can be a good idea, both to speed up the speed with which they access Web sites, and for security reasons. But actually making those changes in Windows can be frustrating and confounding. That's where this tool comes it. Install it on any PC whose DNS you want to change, run the software, and choose from a list of DNS alternatives. Then click and you're done. The program also backs up your original settings if you want to revert to them.

Advanced Net Tools (ANT)

This excellent all-in-one network suite offers just what its name says -- a series of advanced network tools that will do many tasks, including conducting ports scans, DNS lookups and pings, and scanning for network shares, and checking on routing tables. It's all presented in a compact application. You'll need some network knowledge to use it, of course, but otherwise it's quite straightforward.

NetBrute Scanner

Here's a free way to put your network through a basic security check. It's made up of three tools that look for potentially insecurities such as shared resources and open ports. You can also test the security of any Web servers on your network. It also examines the Web servers on your network and tried to break into them using a "dictionary attack" by trying combinations of usernames and passwords.

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