WinMX isn't a great-looking program, but don't let that stop you from making the most of this fast and very capable file-sharing app. Its customization tools alone won us over. Is this still not enough to get your blood boiling for WinMX? Check this out: it doesn't contain any spyware! Sign us up. WinMX isn't a great-looking program, but don't let that stop you from making the most of this fast and very capable file-sharing app. Its customization tools alone won us over. Is this still not enough to get your blood boiling for WinMX? Check this out: it doesn't contain any spyware! Sign us up.
Powerful, purring engine
To begin using WinMX, you'll need to walk through a start-up wizard to specify your connection speed and the files that you want to share. When you finally launch the app, you might feel overwhelmed by the number of buttons on the screen--not to mention the gray, boxy interface, which looks more like internal corporate software than a way to discover new tunes and movies. But don't worry, because using WinMX's basic features is actually simple. Buttons along the top highlight the main areas: Network, Shared Files, Chat, Search, Hotlist, Transfers, and Bandwidth.
To look for files, head to the Search area and type in a request. A pop-up window lets you specify what type of file you want. You can even stipulate the sound quality that you're after; for example, you could search for an MP3 with a bit rate of at least 160Kbps. Each of your searches appears in a different box along the top of the main screen, so you can easily toggle among results. The boxes don't list the number of files in each search result though, as LimeWire's tabbed interface does. In most of our tests, WinMX quickly brought up plenty of results--a giant plus in our book.
Click the Network button to start or stop your connection to the Internet. You can also choose a primary connection for high-speed Internet or a secondary connection for dial-ups. Though we were connected to the network through a cable modem, WinMX couldn't work around our router, so we had to settle for a secondary connection to the slower WinMX Peer Network.
Chat worth talking about
A current trend in file-sharing apps is the inclusion of a chat tool, and while some P2P chat apps (Morpheus, we're talking to you) add mere frills, WinMX integrates its chat tool in a way that improves the quality of the program. The chat channels are largely focused on music and movies--and, naturally, on l'amour. When you're in a chat room, you see not only the other chatters but also their connection types and how many files they're sharing. Right-click a user to browse his or her collection, then download what you like--a great way to find stuff that you didn't even know you were looking for.
Some file-sharing tools, such as iMesh, record your mouse clicks and sell them to advertisers, so it's refreshing to find a powerful tool that contains no spyware. More importantly, there aren't even any blinking ads. If the people behind WinMX are making any money, we're not sure how. But whatever the case, we're glad that there's one app that people can feel secure using.
The real test for any file-sharing program is how many tunes it delivers to your desktop and how quickly it can do so. Here, WinMX comes up short. On average, we got 50 percent of the files that we requested the first time we searched. Download speeds were occasionally quite slow, but after we adjusted the bandwidth and file limitations, we received slightly better results. To make up for any problems that you might have when downloading, WinMX does tell you if there's a line to get files from a given user and what your place in that line is.
If you have tech questions when using WinMX, you're pretty much out of luck. No ads or spyware translates to zero tech support, even by e-mail. There's not even an FAQ page; you'll have to do with skimpy help documentation and a Usenet group.
WinMX isn't pretty, but it's powerful. It might not be the speediest program around, but it's a top competitor. Sadly, there isn't currently a Mac version of WinMX, so if you don't use a PC, stick with LimeWire.