Last updated on September 22, 2020 by Dan Nanni
If you often run multiple networking applications on your Linux desktop, or share bandwidth among multiple computers at home, you will want to have a better control over bandwidth usage. Otherwise, when you are downloading a big file with a downloader, your interactive SSH session may become sluggish to the point where it's unusable. Or when you sync a big folder over Dropbox, your roommate may complain that video streaming at her computer gets choppy.
In this tutorial, I am going to describe two different ways to rate limit network traffic on Linux.
One way to rate limit network traffic is to restrict the bandwidth consumed by a particular network application. This can be achieved via a command-line tool called
trickle command allows you to shape the traffic of a given program by pre-loading a rate-limited socket library at run-time. A nice thing about
trickle is that it runs purely in user-space, meaning you don't need root privilege to restrict the bandwidth usage of a program. To be compatible with
trickle, the program must use
socket interface with no statically linked library.
trickle can be handy when you want to rate limit a program which does not have a built-in bandwidth control functionality.
trickle on Ubuntu, Debian and their derivatives:
$ sudo apt-get install trickle
trickle on Fedora or CentOS/RHEL (with EPEL repository):
$ sudo yum install trickle
Basic usage of
trickle is as follows. Simply put, you prepend
trickle (with rate) in front of the command you are trying to run.
$ trickle -d <download-rate> -u <upload-rate> <command>
This will limit the download and upload rate of
<command> to specified values (in KBytes/s).
For example, set the maximum upload bandwidth of your
scp session to
$ trickle -u 100 scp backup.tgz alice@remote_host.com:
If you want, you can set the maximum download speed (e.g.,
300 KB/s) of your Firefox browser by creating a custom launcher with the following command.
trickle -d 300 firefox %u
trickle can run in a daemon mode, where it can restrict the aggregate bandwidth usage of all running programs launched via
trickle. To launch
trickle as a daemon (i.e.,
$ sudo trickled -d 1000
trickled daemon is running in the background, you can launch other programs via
trickle. If you launch one program with
trickle, its maximum download rate is
1000 KB/s. If you launch another program with
trickle, each of them will be rate limited to
500 KB/s, etc.
Another way to control your bandwidth resource is to enforce bandwidth limit on a per-interface basis. This is useful when you are sharing your upstream Internet connection with someone else. Like anything else, Linux has a tool for you. A command-line tool named
wondershaper exactly does that: rate-limit a network interface.
wondershaper is in fact a shell script which uses
tc to define traffic shaping and QoS for a specific network interface. Outgoing traffic is shaped by being placed in queues with different priorities, while incoming traffic is rate-limited by packet dropping.
In fact, the stated goal of
wondershaper is much more than just adding bandwidth cap to an interface.
wondershaper tries to maintain low latency for interactive sessions such as SSH while bulk download or upload is going on. Also, it makes sure that bulk upload (e.g., Dropbox sync) does not suffocate download, and vice versa.
wondershaper on Ubuntu, Debian and their derivatives:
$ sudo apt-get install wondershaper
wondershaper on Fedora or CentOS/RHEL (with EPEL repository):
$ sudo yum install wondershaper
Basic usage of
wondershaper is as follows.
$ sudo wondershaper <interface> <download-rate> <upload-rate>
For example, to set the maximum download/upload bandwidth for eth0 to
$ sudo wondershaper eth0 1000 500
You can remove the rate limit by running:
$ sudo wondershaper clear eth0
If you are interested in how
wondershaper works, you can read its shell script (located in
In this tutorial, I introduced two different ways to control your bandwidth usages on Linux desktop, on per-application or per-interface basis. Both tools are extremely user-friendly, offering you a quick and easy way to shape otherwise unconstrained traffic. For those of you who want to know more about rate control on Linux, refer to the Linux bible.
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