Living in the age of the Internet, we are daily exposed to all kinds of threads and intrusions. It is crucial, therefore, to protect ourselves the best way we can. Besides Antivirus and Anti-Malware programs, having a quality network monitoring software to track our network by the minute is very important if we are serious about knowing what data our computer receives and sends. In this review, I will give you the best free network monitoring software that is easy to use and understand, comes with a free version and will not break your bank should you decide to choose an upgrade package. Stay with me if your online protection is vital to you.
Why do I need a monitoring software in the first place?
What if I told you that you have already a built-in monitoring software and firewall protection if you are running Windows 10? By hitting CTRL+SHIFT+ESC on your keyboard, you open up the Task Manager. It will give you a basic overview of what processes, services, and programs are currently running on your system. It also shows how much RAM you are using, what percentage of your CPU is being utilized, and if your network is actively downloading something in the background. You can also choose to disable start-up programs to reduce your Windows load times.
It is a fundamental tool that allows you to have an understanding of what your PC is currently doing. However, it does not give you real-time information of what is going on in your system and does not give you the option to research in detail what programs are connecting to your PC and if something suspicious is going on. Windows Defender, on the flipside, is a built-in firewall in Windows 10 that does a basic job on identifying common threads and malicious software and blocking them.
Detecting suspicious programs, though, and blocking them immediately is something neither the Task Manager nor Windows Defender can do effectively. For that purpose, you need a good antivirus program, an anti-malware program, and a great network monitoring software.
The main reason GlassWire is the best monitoring software
Monitoring software is usually aimed at big corporations and IT businesses. While specific monitoring software like SolarWinds and PRTG Network Monitor are excellent programs and come with a free version, they are designed to appeal to larger corporations that require advanced infrastructure management. That is why GlassWire is worth mentioning as it has been designed with every-day users in mind wanting a software to monitor their computer and smartphone.
GlassWire offers an understandable and great looking UI that you can tweak to your liking. Additionally, the Firewall displays all programs that have connected to your network, and you can block them with a click of a button. The main reason, though, that convinced me to use GlassWire every day is its snappy UI. It just looks great, is easy to follow and has all the settings you need in one place. Let me get through the details of what GlassWire is offering and why it is a great product.
Once you open up GlassWire, you are welcomed with a graph that actively monitors your network in real-time. On the top, you have five buttons:
The “Graph” tab gives you an overview of what programs are connected to your computer, what your PC is currently doing and what programs it may have connected to in the past. On the top-right corner, you get to choose the time intervals you want GlassWire to track your network. It ranges from 5 minutes to either 6 months, 12 months or unlimited depending on what package you have chosen, but more to that later. At the bottom, you see the actual graph that tracks your network in real-time and keeps track on what your network and PC has been doing for whatever time interval you have chosen. Note that you can change the time intervals whenever you want, by clicking on the one you prefer. Displayed time intervals are (from left to right):
- 6 months/12 months/unlimited
- 24 Hours
- 3 Hours
- 5 Minutes
Personally, I set it to 5 minutes most of the time as I want to be able to see what is happening in real-time. If I want to know what network activity I had three months, I can easily do that by choosing a different time setting. On the top-left corner, you have the option to choose between 3 tabs:
- All, displaying the graph in its entirety
- Apps, showing you which apps use up the most network resources
- Traffic, displaying the traffic from the apps
The “Usage” tab works just like the Task Manager but in much more detail. It displays the total amount of incoming and outgoing traffic and which traffic is external or local. Each program is being displayed individually along with how much network resources it has used. Again, you can choose between the three tabs: All, Apps and Traffic. Moreover, you can choose what kind of traffic is shown, for example, you can choose only to show incoming or outgoing, or only external or internal (local). Once more, the software gives you great flexibility so you never have to worry about missing out on what programs are accessing your PC and network or to what sources your PC is sending information to.
At the bottom, you get the graph again and a slider allowing you to go back in time and show what programs were being used at that period. On the top, you get to choose the date and on the top-right, you can decide between being shown traffic on a monthly, weekly or daily basis. Pretty convenient, easy to use and understandable. All the options are there just in front of you.
The “Things” tab gives you a detailed overview of what IP or Host are accessing your network. A Scan button lets you scan for any additional IP’s or hosts interfering with your network. On the top-right corner, choose between IP or Host to display the information you want.
The “Firewall” tab gives you access to the best Firewall experience I have ever had. The GlassWire firewall shows you all apps that have connected to your network and their hosts. Next to each host tab, you can click on the more tab to get specific details from what IP the host comes from and trackback suspicious IPs. If an app is trying to access the network and you find it suspicious, simply block it for now and click on the host tab to track it back to its source.
The simplicity and functionality of the firewall are astounding. Initially, the Firewall is turned Off, and you have to click on the off button to activate it. GlassWire will automatically detect if another Firewall is active and ask you to deactivate that first before using the GlassWire firewall. Underneath, you can choose between three options:
- Click To Block
- Ask To Connect
- Block All
Any app can be removed from the firewall list, and the next time it connects to your network, the firewall will not add it to the list of apps again. Choose the apps that you want to either block, let connect to the network or just block all if that is what you want to do. On the right side, next to the Hosts, you can click on the graph to show you the network statistics of each app and host. You can also set up different firewall profiles for different networks or use cases, for example for home or work. Just put in the profile name, and you are good to go. To create a new one click on your profile and choose “Create New Profile.”
The “Alerts” tab pops us everytime a new app tries to access the network. You can see the pop up with a red color. You can categorize the apps by date or type, and the GlassWire will categorize all your apps automatically.
GlassWire settings give you a plethora of customizable choices. Let me go through each parameter and explain what it does. You can access the settings by clicking on “GlassWire” on the top-left corner:
- Hide GlassWire: Minimizes the software to your system tray.
- Show Mini Viewer: Displays a mini version of GlassWire which you can put wherever you want.
- Activate/Deactivate GlassWire: Activate or deactivate your purchased GlassWire subscription.
- Language: Choose from a plethora of languages. Change of language requires GlassWire to restart.
- Skins: Choose between a light or dark skin and a combination of colors applied to your dark or light skin.
- Settings: Gives you access to the advanced settings tab. It is recommended to turn on all “Security” options and the “Virus Total” scanner to check all apps and services upon entering your network. In the settings, you can also set up a fixed data plan to limit your bandwidth. The remote access tab lets you set up a remote server and configure it. Again, the number of remote connections you can configure at the same time depends on your subscription package, but more to that in a moment.
- Snooze: Deactivates all notifications for 24 hours
- Incognito: The GlassWire software is not visible to you in the system tray, and it operates without you noticing.
- Mobile: Directs you to the Google Play Store to install GlassWire on your Android smartphone.
- Forum/Help: If you need help, the forum tab will redirect you to the GlassWire customer support.
- About: View your subscription details, extend your subscription and check whether you have the latest version of GlassWire installed.
- Exit: Exit GlassWire. Of course, you can do that by clicking on the X on the top-right corner at any time.
GlassWire is extremely Android friendly but no iOS support
GlassWire was designed from the ground up to be compatible with all Android devices. You get a nice and tidy overview of what apps access your network and the ability to block them. The graph shows you which apps consume the most data and you can choose to track your network activity by the minute. It is, undeniably, well-designed and does its job splendidly. The Alert tab and all the other functions are also included in the subscription.
The biggest downside is that GlassWire is not compatible with iOS, although there have been reports that their team is working on it. The problem is that iOS does not allow for individual app tracking, so even when eventually set up on iOS, GlassWire will not have the same features as on Android due to restrictions from Apple. Should you be an iOS fan, GlassWire is, unfortunately, not for you, which is a shame. GlassWire has reported that they are also working on a MAC version of their software. In general, support for Apple software is still in the works.
The Android version is subscription based and costs $6 annually. If you consider what they are offering with their mobile version and how easy it is to use, the $6 are justifiable.
Subscriptions & Pricing
GlassWire offers three different subscription packages: Basic, Pro, and Elite. Every package provides all the pre-mentioned features, and the main difference between the three are the number of PCs the software can be used on simultaneously, the tracking history and the number of simultaneous remote connections.
1. The Basic Subscription offers the usage of the GlassWire software on 1 PC simultaneously, 6-month tracking history, and 3 remote connections and costs $39 yearly.
2. The Pro Subscription offers the usage of the GlassWire software on 3 PCs simultaneously, 12-month tracking history, and 10 remote connections and costs $69 yearly.
3. The Elite Subscription offers the usage of the GlassWire software on 10 PCs simultaneously, unlimited tracking history, and 10 remote connections and costs $99 yearly.
You can pay for the subscription packages via PayPal or Credit Card. A big downside is the fact that you can not upgrade your subscription package by paying the price difference. For instance, when you are on the Basic package, you can not upgrade to Pro by paying the price difference of $30, but you have to purchase a new Pro subscription of $69. On the other hand, you can take advantage of aGlassWire discount code by checking out the offers at this link.
GlassWire Free Version
GlassWire gives all its users a 7-day free trial for all their subscription models. After the trial period, the software reverts back to its free version which includes all the features except the firewall and security features. You can still set data limits, scan files and apps with VirusTotal and track your network activity. The free version is an excellent choice if you combine it with a premium Antivirus software like Bitdefender, for example. GlassWire’s security features are not that prominent anyway. Thus, the software alone will not protect you from all threads like viruses and malware. But the free version is worth it is and one of the best, if not the best free network monitoring software.
GlassWire is an easy to use software that helps you track all incoming and outgoing network activities. GlassWire combines great aesthetics with functionality and rich features that are simple to tweak and display the information you want at any time with the click of a button. I have yet to see a software that is so lightweight, aesthetically pleasing, easy to use, and feature-rich as GlassWire.
The downsides are non-compatibility with iOS and MAC and the fact that you can not pay the price difference to upgrade your subscription package and have to buy a whole new subscription. With many coupon sites, however, offering great discounts for the pro and elite packages, finding the appropriate package for your needs at a reasonable price should not be much of a challenge.
GlassWire Pros & Cons
- Looks Great
- Rich Features
- Not Expensive
- Easy To Understand
- Individually Customizable
- Easy-To-Use Firewall
- 7-Day Free Version is Great
- Android Ready
- Delivers What It Promises
- Not Compatible With iOS
- Not Compatible With MAC
- Difficulty in Upgrading Subscription
I hope you liked my GlassWire review. Should you have any questions regarding the software, do not hesitate to leave a comment down below or send me a message on my Social Media. I would appreciate it if you could leave a rating or a comment so that I can hear your opinions and connect with you. Btw, have you ever used a monitoring software before? Would you consider using one?