Ask LH: How Can My Housemate Use So Much Internet?

Ask LH: How Can My Housemate Use So Much Internet?

Hey Lifehacker, I have a friend renting my spare room, and he’s hooked up to my internet connection via Wi-Fi. I’m on a 60GB a month plan. Before he moved in, I never used up the allowance, but this month 101GB has been consumed. Two questions: what kind of activity could cause that kind of download volume, and can I be sure that he’s responsible? Thanks, Bandwidth Blues

Laptop picture from Shutterstock

Dear BB,

The first question has an obvious answer: incessant torrenting of TV shows and movies. I know plenty of people who would argue that 60GB a month wasn’t enough to feed their download habit.

It’s possible that your internet connection is being leeched by a neighbour, but your new housemate does seem the most likely culprit. The simplest thing to do is ask. You don’t mention whether you get slugged with excess charges for going over your limit or have your connection shaped. If the former, you absolutely need to have the discussion.

There’s an easy way to make that happen: change the Wi-Fi password. When you tell your housemate the new password, you can use that as the trigger for a discussion of how you don’t have unlimited downloads. And if it turns out someone else has been grabbing your bandwidth, the switched password will cut them off.

Cheers Lifehacker Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our [contact text=”contact form”].


  • Even simpler…. How much of the 60GB did you use yourself?
    If it was 50.5GB on your own, its not unreasonable for the usage to double to 101GB since there are now TWO people using it instead of ONE.

    Or do I need to get you a calculator or maybe we need to do a powerpoint slideshow?

  • I had a housemate that would hammer my internet 24/7. I ended up limiting the speed via his MAC address and locking him out at certain hours. Kind of had to as the limit would be gone within 2 days then shaped for the rest of the month.

  • Since the article didn’t mention any legitimate use cases, it could also be high quality music/video streaming, if they do any digital art from home they could blow through a couple of gigs per day downloading uncompressed files, even video chat if they Skype a lot could have a big difference.

    Also worth noting that some ISPs count both uploads and downloads towards total bandwidth usage exacerbating the problem.

    • Majority of ISPs count downloads and uploads these days — only counting downloads is the exception rather than the rule now.

  • Could just be normal use, through youtube watching / steam updates and general browsing the GF and I pull 20-40gb per month on average between us. That’s with no downloading of shows/movies/music etc.

    I also have a ‘malfunctioning’ samsung tablet that has decided to use 7-10gb of ‘background data’ on it’s own accords. (which isn’t any apps caching etc, it’s completely unrelated to apps, even after a factory reset)

    So most months we got close to using our 60gb plan.

  • (Starts humming “The internet is for pr0n” song.)

    Honestly, and without pussy footing around the legalities of it. Likely torrents.

    • Steaming porn makes sense. Or YouTube, but my…. ‘understanding’ (COUGH COUGH) is that pr0n is prone to browser-tab-explosion. And if the roomie were queueing up forty different tabs of a couple hundred meg, each ‘session’, you’re looking at easily a couple gig a day.

      Also, surprised no-one’s mentioned full Steam game downloads, not just updates. That’s the bulk of my download use. If I buy a couple games a month, I’m pretty much expecting them to be 10-25GB each.

  • I don’t torrent – but working from home a lot would make me a “heavy” net user, as I get all my emails, files, OS updates etc over my home net connection. But what REALLY made it spike was Netflix – since we have had that (on top of the usual high def iTunes movies that the kids rent), we get close to our 200GB limit every month… Damn high def streaming! A few months back I had to ban netflix for the last 5 days of the month to keep us under the limit. May have had a lot to do with House of Cards Season 2 though – (which was AWESOME now you ask!)

  • My [Thai] wife catches up with all her favorite TV shows and the latest soap-dramas, courtesy of Youtube. We haven’t broken our 120GB / month limit yet – but we’ve been close.
    Given a faster connection [and some torrents], I’m sure I’d have to move to a more expensive plan.

  • Depending in your Wifi router, you could set up multiple accounts for it, and limit the amount of downloads your house mate gets each month.

  • Eh, I manage 200gb a month by myself, between, Website management (uploading etc), Dropbox, Steam, obtaining TV shows in HD & HQ YouTube.. It’s not hard in this data hungry world.

  • I seriously don’t understand why people don’t choose unlimited plans when it is so easy and cheap to do. (Obviously doesn’t apply to people who live in areas with little/no choice). If I moved somewhere with a 60gb limit I would pay just to have the limit upped. (And I rarely pirate per se, I’d say 85%+ of my heavy traffic is netflix)

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