Internet Download Manager: Review of the shareware tool

Internet Download Manager

The Internet is a treasure trove of useful and entertaining stuff: programs and games, Linux distributions, photos, music as well as videos and a lot more is waiting for you to discover it. If you want to use such content or use it without an existing web connection, you download it. Strictly speaking, downloads already occur while surfing the net (downstream, downlink), but as a rule we only speak of them when it comes to you getting a visible, usable file within your file system and accessing it later by double-clicking on it. In this article we will talk about Internet Download Manager.

How long it takes to download a file depends on its size. Multiple downloads at the same time take longer. Other factors are the speed at which the download servers tapped are connected to the Internet and the downlink speed provided by your ISP (Internet Service Provider). In addition, there are software-related throttles such as Windows programs/(-)PCs that access the network in parallel, an outdated network adapter driver or unfavorable structural conditions that attenuate the WLAN signal and consequently reduce the transfer rate to the basement; you tend to surf and download files faster via a LAN cable than via the more interference-prone shared medium WLAN.

There are tuning tools for just about everything that you install on Windows. Some of the utilities delete data garbage that accumulates while surfing and that has the reputation of slowing down web browsing in large quantities. However, you will not speed up file downloads with them.
In addition, there are TCP/IP optimizers – mainly Placebo – and download managers: The latter are far more efficient and usually download files in several parts in parallel from different (so-called mirror) servers, which works with widely distributed files; the puzzle pieces are reassembled by the managers at the end. This results in a measurable increase in data transfer throughput: If you compare the fluctuating real-time speed information for a download of one and the same file on the one hand within your browser-internal download manager, on the other hand in a dedicated download manager, you will see higher values in the latter application. So more data flows in the same time and you finish sucking sooner.

In the following we describe the tool “Internet Download Manager” (IDM), which is shareware and interesting in some respects. Shareware means as much as paid; free trial versions of such programs are available, limited in time and/or functionality. The free use of IDM is intended for 30 days. The “clean up” function for removing all terminated downloads from the files list in the user interface falls by the wayside. If you want to use the application over a longer period of time to improve your download speed, you will have to pay for a license. This costs 10.95 euros for a 1-year version. Those who want to use the application more extensively will save in the long run with a lifetime license for 22.95 euros. The prices refer to the use on one PC; those who want to equip two or more devices with the tool will also receive suitable offers for this number of devices.

Internet Download Manager: Review – System-Support

Many download managers do not exist (anymore) on the download market. The once popular paid application “GetRight” has been discontinued. In our print magazine, the helper received positive reviews at the time. Orbit Downloader has fallen into disrepute due to DDoS attacks. It is possible to install GetRight under Windows 11, but it is not as much fun to use as update-maintained and, above all, modern software. In particular, GetRight is limited in the trial version in that it does not support HTTPS downloads. This disqualifies the solution for serious use in the modern era. The GetRight makers only state compatibility with “Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000, NT, ME, 98 & 95” on their homepage. The fact that official support for Windows 8 and higher is missing seems anachronistic. The Internet Download Manager also doesn’t necessarily look as fresh as it used to – in terms of the GUI (Graphical User Interface) – but with support for current operating systems and various browsers behind it, it cuts a better figure.

According to the official claim, it is compatible with the following operating systems: “Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10, Windows 11”.
The IDM provider promises more speed in file saving operations, the application “also repairs interrupted downloads and resumes them in case of disconnection, network problems, computer shutdowns or unexpected power outages” (translated into German). A powerful download engine with algorithms is used to receive Internet data in the fastest possible way. The engineers of the tool have a lot of experience in download acceleration, they have been working on it constantly since 1999.

Browser integration and support is assured for Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera, Safari, Internet Explorer (IE), AOL, MSN and Maxthon. The Internet Explorer-based surf clients “AOL Browser” and “MSN Explorer” (the latter was in Windows XP) have been discontinued, as has IE itself; support for these products is currently irrelevant.
For Firefox, Chrome and Edge, there are contemporary add-ons for the clients to work with the IDM. The extensions are used to pass on a download initiated in the surf client to the third-party download manager for the purpose of accelerating the transfer process. This is done during normal downloading via left-click or via context menu (right-click on hyperlinks).

Internet Download Manager: Application purposes

The interface of the Internet Download Manager was once not the most modern by default, this is true with regard to the “3D Style” look. It used to be preset (version 6.40). Since version 6.41, the “Neon” theme has been used by default, and this looks contemporary. The free “Free Download Manager” is comparably positively positioned. You can find a review and more information about the competitor in the article “Free Download Manager: Instructions and changelog for the download accelerator”.
If we look at the IDM, we notice that its appearance in 3D style mode is similarly old-fashioned as that of the file sharingf client “eMule” or one of the themes of the file copying tool “Ultracopier” (we refer to our Ultracopier guide). At the top of the application, right-click to activate the desired theme. The technical quality is 1A: In the test, we managed to increase the download speed by a multiple factor when downloading a Windows XP ISO file from, among other things.

In the past, service packs for Windows were downloaded with the help of download managers during times of slow dial-up, ISDN and ADSL Internet access. These have not been available for more than ten years (starting with Windows 8, release: 2012). The major release system updates for Windows 10 and Windows 11, which have been released (semi-)annually since Windows 10, are more or less the successors and the epitome of Microsoft’s more agile development speed for Windows 10 and higher and delivering innovations to its users more quickly; this is similar to the new browser versions that were offered more quickly than before.

The said OS major releases come via the Windows update and can therefore not be accelerated with the help of a download manager. However, you can get the corresponding ISO files, which can also be used to upgrade to the latest OS release, with the help of a download manager: The tools come into play where a suction URL can be accessed. The saving procedure is much faster than the normal download routine of a browser. This is also true for loading other large ISO images, for example Linux distributions.

By the way, Firefox, Google Chrome & Co. provide acceptable download management functions: Thus, they display transfer rates and consequently serve as a rudimentary DSL benchmark; pausing, resuming and stopping transfers is possible.

Light in terms of comfort, but also shadow

Adding download jobs works according to a rigid scheme in IDM: At the top left, you select “New URL”. A memory address previously copied to the clipboard in the browser is already inserted in the IDM dialog that pops up, and a click starts the download. A disadvantage compared to the Free Download Manager is that the key combination Ctrl-V does not work. The application automatically sorts files from the net into GUI folders depending on their file type; this increases the overview. The directories find their counterpart in the Windows file system in the Downloads folder of the user directory (%userprofile%\Downloads). Somewhat annoyingly, different downloaded programs may end up in different folders: ZIP files with packed installer into an archive folder – and installers loaded in pure form into a “programs” directory; less clutter would be fine here. The IDM interface also includes a queue area where you can store “Get file from network” jobs to process them at a later time.

After right-clicking in the program area above, a menu command takes you to a window where you can customize the toolbar at the top. The icons there come with labels. They are reminiscent of the Windows XP Explorer. With IDM, you add or remove icons in the said customization dialog very similar to the XP Explorer of the toolbar; since Windows Vista, this is no longer possible in the on-board file manager. IDM’s configuration scope does not look fountain of youth here.

New themes can be downloaded: All it takes is a click on a context menu command at the top. A web page with “Toolbar Customization” download options pops up in the web browser. After loading the ZIP file with the desired decoration (saving may even be done via the IDM, if you have included it in the Mozilla browser via Firefox plug-in, for example), unpack the compressed files into the IDM Program Files (x86) “Toolbar” directory. This requires elevated privileges and a confirming mouse click.

Be careful when changing clothes: The process requires a program restart so that themes inserted by files copy & paste are available for selection in the context menu of the IDM GUI part above. Closing the application window is not enough; to exit the shareware completely, “kick” it out of RAM by right-clicking on the corresponding notification area/tray icon next to the Windows clock (right in the taskbar).

Internet Download Manager in test: conclusion and alternatives

The IDM looks good and is easy to use. Getting used to it is necessary, you might find the concept a bit overhead-heavy compared to a web browser at first. The usability leaf turns after a few days of getting used to it: Even those who use less than half of the shareware usage time will warm up to the handling (if you don’t mess it up by changing the default theme) and may like the application because of its reliability – especially if it pushes the download speed in combination with the comfort-enhancing browser extensions.

Program tip-of-the-day windows pop up, telling you things like how to download files from the web browser to the IDM GUI via download URL drag-and-drop. These messages soon become annoying, fortunately they can be turned off.

In itself, the application is not a bad choice, but why spend money when there is at least an equivalent alternative for free with the Free Download Manager? Unlike the competitor, FDM even supports torrent downloads and does not only download torrent files via such URLs, but also the files behind them. Another replacement tool is the Internet Download Accelerator. The freeware is similar to the IDM with its folder tree on the left side.

And the DSL driver “cFosSpeed” is thrown into the room, tending to be even more something for professionals and power users than a dedicated download manager. The commercial application accelerates programs that access the Internet in parallel and therefore compete for bandwidth. cFosSpeed makes use of QoS (Quality of Service) mechanisms and is individually adjustable to prioritize critical applications and thus ensure optimal web performance and bandwidth utilization. The Windows attachment drives browser downloads, for example, by prioritizing ACK data packets: PCs send such acknowledgments to a download server so that downloads can proceed. If the ACK dispatch is delayed, the server involved throttles the download; if the ACK packets are missing for too long, the transfer aborts. Delays in PC-to-server ACK transmission are possible if your own computer is currently sending a lot of data to the Internet and this clogs the upload channel (upstream). By giving priority to ACK packets, cFos Speed mitigates this performance problem.

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