by MikeB-FI

What is eating my data? The statistics tell me how much not WHAT is using it

I have read some other threads and tried the 'solution' of accessing the router via but that only told me how much data I used not what was using it.


We live at the wrong end of 5 miles of copper phone line with little prospect of superfast via landline.  Recent speeds from BT have been as low as 500 kb/s and I have a screenshot of a download in progress measured in bytes per second!


Last week I discovered we could get home broadband via 4G and have 11 days left to ‘cool off’ after entering an 18 month contract 50 GB cap.  We could change to 100 GB (£45 pcm) or 200 GB (£60 pcm) but that is the maximum available package.  EE appear to be the best available in terms of package and coverage/speed here


The router arrived on Wednesday and I was delighted to get 34.49 Mb/s down and 9.86 MB/s upload. There is considerable variation but all much, much faster than previous.  The problem is data usage, based on a day’s work yesterday I could use 350 GB a month which is much more than the max and could cost £300 (yup three hundred squid)  in excess data per month. I did not watch Youtube, download any films, or stream music; in fact nothing different from a normal day's work with snailband. Some days (but not yesterday) I need to upload several GB of photos. I left one computer running overnight with browser and email closed and all ‘normal’ apps closed.  I think my password manager was running in the background. This used 0.6GB between 21:05 and 08:30 (52 MB per hour), basically doing nothing 


I contacted EE chat and they weren’t much help, other than saying their meters are audited by the regulator and that it might be Dropbox syncing. I have one work and one personal Dropbox and nothing else cloud based (that I have consciously set up). Work Dropbox is 20.6 GB and Home 3.6 GB). I haven't changed any large files on dropbox for over a week.  I usually turn on my iMAC and PC after breakfast and leave on until bedtime.  No kids in the household, my wife is a light and occasional user.  I know I am responsible but not why!!


We are fairly isolated:  one house opposite and next nearest neighbours 80 metres or more away either side. I can ‘see’ three other wireless networks: BTwifi with FON (open) and two other secure BT networks.  I guess it is theoretically possible that someone else is piggy backing on our connection but I think that is unlikely because 1) it is very new so they have had little time to find it, 2) it is secure (albeit with default unit password), 3) There are very few people within range anyway.  I have disconnected the BT hub which has a couple of months left on the contract.


I would really appreciate some advice because £360 per month for internet connection is clearly not an option!!  I have put the text of my questions to EE (in italic) below which has more detail about what was in use.




Can you help me understand what is eating my data? I got 4GEE router home broadband 3 days ago. I have been monitoring usage with a spreadsheet and data from

Previously I have had 1 to 1.5 Mb/s on fixed landline with unlimited usage. Recently it has averaged 0.7 Mb/s so absolutely delighted to get 29 Mb/s via 4GEE.

I work from home and yesterday I did nothing that I didn’t previously on my 0.7 Mb/s connection but used 15.6 GB!!!  I did not download any films, stream music or watch youtube.  My wife was online for about an hour [checking email and browsing, no downloads, no Dropbox].

I have two dropbox accounts but yesterday all I did was work on three spreadsheets (all less than 1 MB) and one PDF document (90 kb).  I did some accounting, booked three nights in hotels and looked at images of receipts in Quick Books.  I did some route planning on Google maps, checked my online calendar and emails (work and personal). I was working on an iMAC and PC.

I have left the computers running overnight twice. Last night I stopped using the computers at 21:05 I turned the PC off and left the iMAC running but shut down Mail and Safari and closed everything except finder. A password manager may have been working in the background.  I checked the data again at 08:30 this morning and it had used 0.6 GB. That is 52.55 MB per hour. Extrapolating from that baseline is 460 GB per year or 38 GB per month (76% of my 50 GB allowance)… basically doing nothing!!

On Thursday night I stopped using the computers at 20:40 and closed my email programmes (Mail and Outlook), I closed the browser on the PC and left Safari running in iMAC. This had used 0.4 GB by the time I looked again at 07:00.  That is 38.71 MB per hour (339 GB per year, 28 GB per month).


EE Community Support Team

Re: What is eating my data? The statistics tell me how much not WHAT is using it

Hello there @MikeB-FI


Thanks for posting on the community.


I am sorry we have no account access on the account to look into this for you and answer your questions.


I would suggest getting back in touch with our technical support team who can look into this further.


Thanks, Leanne.



by OldTrout

Re: What is eating my data? The statistics tell me how much not WHAT is using it

Our issue was also unexpectedly high data use, although this was only noticed after a couple of weeks into a month when it was found we had used almost all of our monthly data. This happened in around the third month of having it set up, not right of the gate within the cooling off period.

Since we don't stream games or tv (just the odd video on youtube etc.) it was a surprise.

I found that even without actively using anything on the macbook except just the browser open to see realtime usage on the router, something was using data in the background. I could only think it was the email pushing data as that was also open. It was a slow but steady data useage that would equate to the extra 6GB we had used in those 2 weeks by leaving it on overnight. 


Now we just turn wifi off on the macbook whenever not in use and that either brought our data useage back to expected levels or something else changed that sorted it. I didn't even bother contacting EE as after a bit of minimal research I was pretty sure I'd never get a satisfactory answer. Hence, the only option was to turn off the macbook (or at least wifi) and of course any other wifi enabled devices in the house when not in use. Not ideal but it worked and there are no astronomical excess data charges.


FYI we are very rural and have no alternative to a 4G option other than virtually no broadband/dial up speeds.


In addition, all wifi was off on our phones anyway so as to ensure they use up their data on their own sims rather than that of the home router. So it wasn't them. Ensure your phones' wifi is turned off when at home or at least they don't have access to it.


I seriously doubt anyone else was using up your data, but you can monitor all connected devices in the router if you like.


I'm not sure of how much use this is, but I hope you get sorted somehow.

by MikeB-FI

Re: What is eating my data? The statistics tell me how much not WHAT is using it

I thought I would give an update and hope that it helps others.  For info I work from home using an iMAC and keep my PC for personal stuff.  The wonderful Ruth uses a laptop.  Because we are home all day the 'interweb thingy' is on for 10 to 12 hours a day on at least three devices.  During this trail I have disconnected/shut down Sky box, phones and tablet from WiFi.   Previously we had painfully slow (0.5 MBs) fixed line connection.  We are at the end of 5 miles of copper telephone wire and unlikely to see fibre any time soon.  Having said that it was unlimited so we had liitle idea of how much data we would need.


Our problem was complex, one big thing, and several little things that combined to eat away at data.  I have not downloaded any films, videos or music streaming but used 34 GB in just four days


Firstly the BIG (and I mean mahoosive) Data Goblin ... Apple's Mail App/Program. I get a lot of email which I need to keep.  The problem was that the MAIL App kept refreshing my old email by downloading several thousand old messages time and time again. Sixteen GigaBytes in one day, six Gigabytes the next then four Gigabytes.  I typed the numbers in full in case you thought it was a typo!! Since accessing my email via a browser I have been getting through less than One GB per day.  To be honest I don't like the interface on the browser for email but I expect I'll get used to it.


I found that the app 'Activity Monitor' was great fro finding out what was using the data.  You can find it by searching in the 'Launchpad' ... which probably means little to anyone who doesn't use a Mac.


The several ' little things' that added up ...

  1. Unkown to me Spotify was running in the background using up several hundred MB data a day but not actually playing any music
  2. Skype is data hungry but I don't mind paying for something that I actually use.  I have a weekly Skype call for work that takes up to an hour.  Incidentally, unlike other apps, Skype seems to vanish from the Activity Monitor records when you disconnect. At least it doesn't gobble data when finished but I found it VERY useful to arrange the desktop so I could see my Skype colleagues and keep an eye on data usage at the same time.
  3. Checking the speed. Yup, I'm getting old but I refuse to grow up!!  I was so excited to get speeds of 30 MBs download and 20 MBs upload (previously I had recorded download speeds of ZERO!!) that I did loads of speed tests.  There was considerable variation but all impressive. This used quite a bit of my allowance.
  4. I have been a volunteer with SamKnows for years.  If you don't know, this is an Ofcom thing that gathers data on interent performance It consists of a separate whitebox connected to your router and gives you (and them) monthly performance statistics.  I found I was using about 400MB overnight with all my computers, phones, tablets etc shut down. I guess a similar amount was being used during the day but masked by my own use.  I spoke to SamKnows help desk and they advised disconnecting the box while on a metered connection.  Problem solved: zero usage overnight.
  5. I also checked the data usage on my PC and Ruth's Laptop (settings/Network/Data Usage).  This gives dtat used by each prgramme in the last 30 days or since last time you reest the data usage meter.)  Current usage can be found on the Task Manager (Ctrl Alt DElete then select Task manager).  I found nothing scary here in terms of apps eating my data.

Of course, your set up may be different, but my advice (such as it is!)  is to look at Apple's Mail app (or maybe other email programme) as a first port of call.


Like the 'Old Trout' (great name!!) I also live in a rural area.  I firmly believe we are being discriminated against. People in cities get unlimited, superfast for £20 a month ... this is our only option at £45 for 100 GB.  Great speeds but REALLY expensive. Have a look at this People in rural areas pay the same rate of tax as everyone else in the cities and have contributed to the schemes that gave them fibre, it must be our turn!


by OldTrout

Re: What is eating my data? The statistics tell me how much not WHAT is using it

Thanks for the update, I'm glad you got it sorted.


So, it sounds like it was the macbook mail app that was causing both of our issues. In our case less so maybe because we have less old messages. However, it is a little bit weird that it (massive data useage within a particular month) didn't happen straight away in our case but after a few months of useage. Regardless, as I said previously switching off the macbook wifi when not in use appears to have resolved the issue.


Glad you like the user name, it's what my wife refers to me as. Oh, and props for the use of the word mahoosive.

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