Take a look at the screen shot below. It is taken from the information pages at a well known ISP in the UK (Plusnet) and it is not unusual by any means. Notice that the bandwidth is limited for certain activities at certain times of the day. Other ISPs might have similar restrictions or even more severe ones. For example, some internet accounts have a monthly bandwidth allowance and they can only download so much, such as 10GB a month. Fortunately, some of these more limited accounts have unlimited times, such as midnight to 6am where downloads and browsing don’t count against the bandwidth allowance.
If you have an internet connection that has restrictions like these, a download manager is often the solution. This is a utility that enables you to create a list of downloads – a queue – and then schedule them to occur at a specific time of the day, such as after midnight.
The idea is that you build the download queue in the evening, set it going when you go to bed and then just leave your computer switched on. The monitor can be turned off though. A download manager can automatically turn off the computer when all the downloads are complete, or put them into sleep or hibernation modes.
Downloader managers aren’t as common as they used to be when internet connections were slow, but there are still several to choose from. Try Orbit Downloader, Download Accelerator Manager, and EagleGet. If you are downloading BitTorrents, such as big Linux distros, use uTorrent.
Download managers often integrate with the browser, especially Internet Explorer, so that when you click a link to download a file and select Save, the download manager pops up and asks if you want to download it now or schedule it for later. Choose the option the schedule it. You can also right click a download link and select the Copy Link option on the menu, then use the Add button in the download manager to paste in the download link.
After adding all the downloads, go to the scheduler facility in the download manager and set the time to download everything, not forgetting to set the option to switch off the computer when everything is done.
These utilities are all free, but be sure to opt out of any extras such as toolbars, if you are offered them. Similarly, decline any offers to change the web browser’s home page or search engine.