October 04, 2009, 9:16 PM — Everyone wants to know how fast their Internet connection is, and DownTester promises to tell you exactly that. This free utility is simple to use and tests speeds by contacting any Web site of your choice--but as with all tests of this kind, it's not at all clear whether the results are accurate.
To use it, you type in several URLs for the program to use as a way to test your Internet speed. Those URLs can't be for any old thing on a Web site; they have to go to something downloadable, such as a file or even a graphic on the page. Bigger files are better because the larger sample size will likely lead to more accurate results. The program then downloads what you've selected. If you prefer, you can have it only download part of the file, not the entire file. DownTester then calculates the download speed for each URL and displays.
The question is how valid the results are. In my tests, DownTester showed download speeds of only up to 2.26 MBps. When I used several Web sites that also perform download tests, they reported speeds of 6 MBps, 14 Mbps, and 29 Mbps. Which is right? Because of the vagaries of the Internet, including potential problems with the servers to which you're connecting, there's no real way to know. So while DownTester is simple to use, it may or may not tell you your true download speed. It's best used in conjunction with the Web services, not as a replacement for them.
Note: When you type in URLs, make sure to include the entire URL, including the http://, or ftp://. If you don't, the program won't add them to your list.