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3344 posts

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# 139555 12-Feb-2014 17:37
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If you're having sudden high data usage, here are some things to check.

Step 1: Uploads or Downloads?  How much vs normal usage?

First a good thing, if you can tell from your ISPs traffic page (or by asking), is to determine if most of the traffic is being uploaded or downloaded. 

Under most normal Internet usage, your downloads will be much higher than your uploads (by a factor of 10 or more), so it's worth noting the ratio.

Also take note of when the usage jumped up, and what your average usage was like before it suddenly increased.

Step 2: Narrow down the device responsible

Try turning off one device at a time (eg. a Computer, a Laptop, an iPhone) for a day, and check if Internet usage drops accordingly.  If so, you've found your likely culprit, so start there.  If not, try turning them all off for a day, see what happens (leave your router on).

It's important to note that with some devices, screen off doesn't mean device off. Make sure you completely power down the device - on portable devices, usually this involves unlocking the device and holding down the power button until a menu or slider appears to power off the device.

Step 3: What has changed?

Have your habits changed?  Have you started using a streaming service such as Netflix, Hulu Plus?  Have you installed new software?  All of these can have an impact on usage.  Think about what has changed recently and you may find the culprit.

Have you increased your connection speed?  A lot of services, especially video streaming and p2p services, use adaptive bitrates - so the faster your connection, the more data will be used.

It's a Device on my network!

If turning off one of your devices stopped the excessive data, have a closer look at the device, here are some likely suspects.

Uploads are high:

* Torrent software - for example uTorrent, Transmission

Torrents can produce a lot of traffic, as while you download an item, you also upload it (sometimes several times over).  Go into the software and confirm that you're not seeding something ad infinitum.  Or exit/remove the software completely.

* Spotify

Unbeknownst to many, the Spotify client includes a P2P component which streams your library to other users.  This can generate a lot of traffic.  If uninstalling isn't an option, these instructions may help you to disable it, or you can become a premium subscriber and run in offline mode.

* Apple iCloud / Dropbox / Mega / Skydrive / Google Drive

Some applications sync a lot of data to, and from, the "cloud" - these can be a candidate for high data usage and may be working quietly in the background without your knowledge.  Check settings on your devices to see if they are syncing a lot of photos, videos, or files to the cloud and decide if this is something you want.


* Windows 10


Windows 10, by default, allows P2P sharing of Windows updates to other Windows 10 PCs on the Internet, which Microsoft calls "Windows update Delivery Optimization".  


More information is available at the below link, including instructions to disable:

Downloads are high but Uploads seem normal:

* Software updates

Many devices and applications automatically download updates, for example, Macs, iOS devices, Android handsets, Windows Update, Steam to name a few. Check on each one and disable automatic updates, see if this helps with usage.  It's possible that an update is failing to download, and keeps being retried.  Check the status of any updates in progress.

It continues even if all my devices are switched off!

But nothing's switched on except for the router, what could be using my bandwidth?  Well, typically you are billed for anything that comes across your connection.  Keep in mind your Internet router is also a computer, so it can be responsible.  Here are the most likely suspects in this case:

* Firewall / UDP Amplification

The firewall setting on your router - is it turned off for any reason?  Turn it back on, preferably set it to the default setting, and see if data usage drops.

Sometimes with it switched off, the router will listen on its public IP address for certain types of requests, and can be used as part of certain types of attack known as UDP Amplification attacks.  These are increasingly common, and can generate a great deal of traffic on your connection - even if you have no other devices switched on. 
* Unauthorized Access via WiFi

Could someone have guessed your wifi password or obtained it by other means?  Make sure you're using WPA security, and set a strong password.
If your router has a feature called "WPS" then switch this off as well.

* Another modem with your user details

Did you sell a modem that might have had your configuration details on it?  With some ISPs (for example Vodafone) this can lead to their usage also being billed to your account.  If you suspect this, be sure to contact your ISP and have it sorted out.


This is obviously not a complete list yet, so I invite feedback so it can be improved :) The goal being making it a sticky and/or a PeterReader response for high usage.

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541 posts

Ultimate Geek


  # 985323 12-Feb-2014 17:51
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A few more to add.

Make sure that a device is fully off. e.g. pressing the sleep wake button on your iPad will not turn it off you have to hold it down until you have the option to turn it off.
Cannot tell you the number of times you tell people to shut down a device and all they do is turn off the screen.

Unauthorized Access via WiFi
Make sure WPS is turned off.

Geoff E

5532 posts

Uber Geek

  # 985387 12-Feb-2014 18:56
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Apple iCloud syncing your photos etc.

Could happen on any iOS device or OS X device.


1167 posts

Uber Geek


  # 986365 12-Feb-2014 20:22
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should add something about moving to VDSL or UFB can often result in vastly higher upload usage in shorter time periods (especially if syncing iCloud or something)

They are also more likely to display ABR (adaptive bitrate) video in HD or super HD, which uses way more data than SD

UFB and VDSL will also amplify the effect of torrent seeding too if you don't rate limit your seeds.

i.e. you could seed a popular torrent on ADSL for 3 hours and not see very much upload data at all, but seeding it for 3 hours on 100/50Mbps UFB without a limite is a very different story!

the other question to ask for anyone who gets to the final stage where the usage is deifnitely not going through their own modem:

"Did you have a vodafone issued modem that you have sold on to somebody else?"

If they did, anybody using that router on a different VF connection will still have all their usage billed to that original users.
(I believe this only applies with VF, as everyone else uses port authentication - could be wrong though)

BDFL - Memuneh
64257 posts

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  # 986380 12-Feb-2014 20:36
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It happened twice around here: people complaining about increased utilisation after installing some new software - in one case the user had installed a TOR exit on his PC without really realising what was involved in that...

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