6 of the best free networking utilities for Windows

Network diagnostic tools and utilities don't have to be expensive products, and in fact you can get some excellent free software which does a bang-up job on a number of networking fronts. We've highlighted six of these little beauties here, from more simple utilities which will allow you to measure your LAN speed, through to more complex affairs that enable network mapping and audits. Leave your wallet in your pocket, and dig in to these downloads...

Axence offers a full suite of tools, including network audits and scans, plus it monitors for connections to your computer, and more.

Connectify has one job: Turn your laptop into a Wi-Fi hotspot. Now everyone around you can share your Internet connection – however, do note that the free version has a 90 minute uptime limit. We thought it was still worth pointing this one out, despite that, though.

It's easy to test your Internet speed with SpeedTest.net, but how do you test your interior home network speed? LAN Speed Test will do it on both wired and wireless connections. A Mac version is in the pipeline, too.

If you travel a lot and use many different wireless networks, NetSetMan is your new best friend. Use it to create special settings for your home, work, or travel needs, and the software will ensure that you get connected without jumping through extra hoops.

Spiceworks costs you nothing (though you'll have to put up with some on-screen ads), and grants access to networking experts and the ability to audit, map, and manage all of your network devices, no matter what your skill level. It even creates a helpdesk for you.

Network pros who need a protocol analyser and packet sniffer should add Wireshark to their toolbox. It captures data that can tell you plenty about your network. This one is also available for the Mac, incidentally.

For more smart free software options (and how they stack up to commercial software), see our best free apps versus top paid-for apps article.