Whether you do your downloading via BitTorrent, FTP, or plain old HTTP, efficiently sucking files down from the cloud onto your hard drive takes the right tools. Whether you’re a web video addict, constant software downloader, MP3 freak, or BitTorrent junkie, we’ve got some power downloading tools for you. Step inside for our picks of the best free download managers that get you the files you want fast and easy.
See video, music, or images on a web page that you want right away? The UnPlug Firefox extension adds a little smiling fish to your web pages that “unplugs” embedded objects for your downloading pleasure. Click the fish (or go to Tools -> UnPlug), to suck down media files available on that web page.
(Podcatcher, BitTorrent downloader and more)
The video player formerly known as Democracy, Miro can subscribe to and automatically fetch video podcasts, grab clips from YouTube channel feeds or BitTorrent (in addition to letting you watch streaming video). Here’s how to create your television season pass with Miro’s BitTorrent capabilities, which works similar to Ted (also mentioned on this list) but without the need for a separate BT client.
(Web video to iPod downloaders and converters)
Easily download video clips from the popular sites (YouTube, Google Video, Metacafe, et al.) and convert them for use on your iPod with Ares Tube (Windows) and TubeTV (Mac). For more video converters, see our top 10 free video rippers, encoders, and converters.
(Command line download manager)
Command line lovers who want to cron their downloads want Wget, a highly hackable command line program that can perform all sorts of difficult downloading tasks, like mirror an entire web site, automatically download music or movies from a set of favorite weblogs, or transfer huge files painlessly on a slow or intermittent network connection. Here’s a primer on mastering Wget. (Along the same lines, we also love cURL.)
(Cross-platform FTP client)
Whether you’re running your own FTP server or you log into your web host’s or someone else’s, you’d do well using the open source, cross-platform FileZilla client. In fact, if you did want to download files from your home computer via FTP, you can also set that up using the FileZilla server. When it comes to FTP clients, we also like SmartFTP (Windows, free), FireFTP (Firefox extension), Transmit (Mac, $30), and WinSCP (Windows only, free, handles SCP as well as SFTP.)
5. InstallPad / AppSnap
(Software update downloaders, Windows only)
So you’re setting up yet another PC, and you’re sick of manually clicking around the interwebs to download and install all your essential software—but that’s not necessary any more. Desktop utilities InstallPad and AppSnap automate the software download process, by letting you set up a list of downloads in one interface (which comes pre-loaded with great, free suggestions you already love) and grabbing the latest versions for you. InstallPad is a little easier to use than AppSnap. Here’s how to automatically download and install your favorite software with InstallPad.
(Mac BitTorrent client)
Our pick for best BitTorrent client on the Mac, Transmission offers features like selective file downloading from inside a torrent, per-file priorities, and seeding limits. Like uTorrent, you can also remote control your Transmission downloads from a web interface with Clutch.
(Windows BitTorrent client)
Windows app uTorrent is our pick for best BitTorrent client on Windows. If you’re new to BitTorrent, check out our beginner’s and intermediate guide to getting your download on with BitTorrent. Once you get good using uTorrent, you can also remote control your torrents with uTorrent’s WebUI. Honorable mention: Azureus (cross-platform, Java-based).
(Television episode BitTorrent downloader)
Stop manually searching for the new episode of your favorite television show and automatically download the next episode when it becomes available via BitTorrent using Ted (cross-platform) or TVShows (Mac only). Here’s more on how to automatically download new episodes of your favorite TV shows with Ted.
Powerful download manager DownThemAll! (dTa) can queue, batch, pause, resume, and automatically detect and download a certain filetype linked on any web page. Once you’ve used dTa, you’ll never go back to Firefox’s default Downloads dialog. Here’s more on how to supercharge your Firefox downloads with DownThemAll.
What’s your go-to download utility? Give it up in the comments.