While streaming services have cut down on the amount of downloading most of us have to do nowadays, and built-in browser downloaders can do the job for the casual web surfer, if you’re transferring a serious amount of files on a regular basis then a dedicated download manager is worth a look.
A download manager can prove its worth in dealing with software packages, large image and video files you need to work on, or batches of files that you need to get on your machine. The more downloading you have to do, the better the benefits become—these dedicated tools can boost transfer speeds by splitting files up into chunks or requesting multiple transfers, depending on the source.
Even better, you can pause and resume downloads using these manager tools, schedule downloads for a certain time, or resume downloads that have been interrupted by a system restart or a power outage—very useful if you have a job (like video editing or product design) where big files need to be shifted around all the time.
Even if you only download the occasional file, you can use a download manager to automatically sort them into folders based on their file type, making it easier to get back to them again.
The most comprehensive options (with better browser integration and so on) are available on Windows and macOS, though a few decent Android options are available. There are no dedicated iOS download managers we’d recommend though—those advertised on the App Store tend to be outdated, basic browsers with limited download managers tacked on.
The best feature set: uGet (Windows, Android)
Open source, simple to use, and loaded with all the features you’re likely to need, uGet has a lot going for it—not least the way the interface colors can change to match the theme of Windows, which is a nice touch. Browser extensions are available to integrate the program with Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Vivaldi, for a seamless click-and-download process.
In terms of the features uGet gives you, there’s a clipboard monitor that asks if you want to download files whenever you copy file links, the ability to pause and resume downloads when needed, strong support for downloading batches of files at once, and the option to download files from several mirrors at once (where available) to speed up file transfers.
The most intuitive interface: Xtreme Download Manager (Windows, macOS)
Another free and open source option, Xtreme Download Manager works across both Windows and macOS (and Linux, if you’re using that). Its interface is a little on the stark side, but the program comes packed with features—as well as letting you pause, resume, and schedule downloads, it can also save streaming videos straight from the web.
Add-ons are available for just about every browser out there (including Chrome, Firefox, and Edge), or you can use the tool as a standalone program. Where multiple mirrors are available, Xtreme Download Manager takes advantage of them, and copied links pop up right in the program interface too. Comprehensive, powerful, and simple to use as well.
For more advanced features: Internet Download Manager (Windows)
As with just about every other type of software out there, sometimes it’s best to pay a few bucks and have peace of mind when it comes to spyware or malware (something download managers are notorious for). Enter Internet Download Manager, which costs £19 for a lifetime license for a single PC or £9.20 for a one-year license for a single PC—though a free trial is available.
The list of helpful features that Internet Download Manager offers is a long one: Enabling you to resume and schedule downloads, automatic error recovery when downloads fail, dynamic download accelerating (where multiple sources are available), support for FTP, and automatic virus scanning. It works with most modern Windows browsers as well.
The most Mac-like Mac option: Folx (macOS)
If you’re looking for a download manager that fits in with your macOS aesthetic and looks like it might have been developed by Apple itself, then give Folx a try: It can work with or without the browsers on your system, lets you resume downloads automatically when they get cut off, and can split downloads into multiple threads to optimise transfer speeds.
We also like the pricing of Folx, which starts off at free and then goes up to $20 (£15.34) if you want access to more features. Paying up gets you download scheduling, tight integration with iTunes, and the ability to manually limit the speed of your downloads (if your Netflix starts to stutter, for example). There’s built-in support for rapid torrent downloading here too.
The most lightweight: iDownloader (macOS)
Simple, smooth, and with enough free options to satisfy all but the most enthusiastic downloaders, iDownloader is one of the best download managers on the Mac (and available in the macOS App Store too). Its interface is refreshingly simple, and starting downloads is as easy as pasting a link to the clipboard and then clicking a button.
Behind the spartan interface are some very useful features: Scheduling downloads (for overnight downloads) rather than starting them straight away, plus an auto-categorisation feature that makes it easier to find the files you’ve transferred. It’s particularly good on intermittent connections and can run multi-threaded downloads for extra speed too.
The best features for mobile: Advanced Download Manager (Android)
This very capable app can transfer up to three files at once, uses multi-threading techniques to speed up your downloads, categorises your files for you as they’re saved, and wraps everything up in an interface that’s easy to manage and navigate around.
Pausing and resuming downloads is straightforward when needed, and the app copes well with 3G and 4G downloads when you’re away from wifi. You can also schedule downloads and set a host of other options for taking control of your file transfers. All of the features are available for free, but for a one-off payment of £2.50 you can remove the ads.
The easy-to-use mobile downloader: Download Booster (Android)
Download Booster might strike you as exceptionally simple, but it’s one of the cleanest and most reliable download managers we’ve found on Android—it does promise the ability to boost download speeds when pulling files from the web, and gives you the very useful option of being able to pause and resume your downloads when required.
The app doesn’t come with any options to speak of, but all your downloads are neatly organised and available in an interface that looks like it was designed in the last decade (as opposed to many Android download managers). You will see the occasional pop up ad appear inside the app, but it’s free to use, so we’re prepared to put up with them—just try not to click on any.
Featured image: Alex Cranz (Gizmodo)