Do you run a WordPress site that lets people download files such as music, video, or written content? If so, do you find it challenging to track and manage those digital file downloads? Please continue reading if your answer to both questions was “yes,” because today, I will be looking at WordPress download manager plugins and what they can do for you.
What Is a Download Manager?
In simple terms, a download manager does what the name suggests – it manages file transfers from your website to your users.
If you are offering just one download on your site – for example, a free eBook – then you could upload it to your host server and simply link to it from your website. However, that’s not ideal, as you cannot control or monitor downloads.
However, if you offer many different downloads, you’ll likely need something with more advanced features to help you manage them. That is where WordPress download manager plugins step into the limelight.
Why Would You Use a WordPress Download Manager? What Benefits Does It Provide?
If you are offering multiple files for users to download, you need some means of controlling them. For example, you may want to restrict access to them to registered users or paying customers only. You also may need to limit the number of downloads to conserve bandwidth.
Using a WordPress download manager brings several advantages to the table:
- You can monitor how often your files are downloaded and get other useful statistical data.
- Access to the downloads can be controlled, e.g., to logged-in users, paying customers, people who have been given an access code, etc.
- Many plugins can resume interrupted file transfers if a download suffers a disruption due to a network connection failure or the user pausing it.
- Avoid network congestion by scheduling the downloads to off-peak times.
- Place limits on the number of concurrent downloads to conserve bandwidth.
- Some plugins can improve transfer times by initiating multiple connections to the same server but at different points in the file and then combining them all.
My Suggested WordPress Download Manager Plugins
Here are my top picks of WordPress download manager plugins for 2022. There are free, freemium, and premium ones to choose from, so you should be able to find one that suits your needs and budget.
Please note that prices were correct when I wrote this article, and the developers of each plugin had recently updated them.
Easy Digital Downloads
If you are looking to set up an eCommerce site to sell digital downloads, Easy Digital Downloads is a free plugin to help you achieve that. It contains plenty of tools to manage, monitor, and sell your digital products.
Furthermore, extending the plugin’s functionality is possible via a wide range of free and premium extensions. These allow you to add software licensing, reviews, recurring payments for subscriptions, etc.
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- Sell any type of digital product
- Extensions mean you can pick and choose the features you want
- Well supported (global full-time support team, IRC chatroom, and forums)
- Plenty of documentation
- Open source and developer-friendly
- A premium extension ($49) is required to offer free downloads
- Adding multiple premium extensions can be expensive, potentially making this free plugin expensive compared to the competition. However, extension passes are available, which can reduce the cost significantly
- Easy Digital Downloads is free, although many of the useful extensions are not. Extension passes (bundles) are available and currently are on offer for between $99.50 and $499.50.
LearnDash is not strictly a download manager plugin – it is, in fact, a learning management system for WordPress. That means it will help you create and manage online courses, which naturally include many downloadable files.
The plugin includes robust features for managing courses and, therefore, the content within them. That includes controlling who has access to files and when. For example, it could be a prerequisite that students successfully complete one component of a course before being given access to the materials for the next.
- Allows you to closely control files, including who can access them and when
- Can handle virtually any media type, including images, audio, video, HTML5, SCORM, etc.
- Detailed statistical reports
- 15-day moneyback guarantee
- Only suitable for online courses
- LearnDash is a premium plugin costing $159 per year for a single site license, rising to $329 for up to twenty-five domains.
WP File Download
WP File Download is a powerful WordPress download manager plugin that is super-easy to use thanks to a clean user interface integrated into the WordPress dashboard.
The plugin makes handling files straightforward thanks to drag-and-drop file management functionality. Furthermore, it allows you to upload and categorize files for easy access.
- Extremely easy to set up and use
- The plugin is updated regularly and well supported by the developer
- Excellent file management features, e.g., file import via FTP, file tags, drag-and-drop, date search, version history, etc.
- Excellent download management features, e.g., statistics, email alerts, front-end download buttons, etc.
- The cheapest plan (Start) works only for six months. Over a year works out much more expensive than the next plan up (Pro)
- Cloud and WooCommerce integrations are only available with the most expensive plan (Pro + Addons)
- No moneyback guarantee or free trial offered
- No lifetime subscriptions are available
- WP File Download is available as Start ($29 for six months), Pro ($39 per year), and Pro + Addons ($69 per year.) All plans include unlimited site installs.
WordPress Download Manager
WordPress Download Manager is a popular freemium plugin for tracking and controlling file downloads from your website.
The plugin allows you to restrict file access to specific user roles, plus files can be password protected if required. What’s more, it is also possible to limit access until users accept your terms and conditions.
Unfortunately, the free version only provides access control and password protection of files. However, the premium plans add many more features, including front-end file manager, bandwidth control, stats, multi-file downloads, pay-as-you-want (discretional) pricing, and more.
- Plenty of options to restrict access to downloads
- Create custom update access periods for subscriptions, e.g., for software downloads, you can provide one year of free updates, with subsequent years subject to a regular subscription fee
- You need to purchase additional premium extensions to sell digital downloads
- The free version is too basic and has limited support
The core plugin of WordPress Downloads Manager is free. Premium plans cost between $99 and $499, depending on how many domains you have.
What sets Use-Your-Drive apart from most of the other plugins in this list is it links directly with Google Drive. That allows you to manage the files you store there and offer them on your site to external users for download, all from your WordPress dashboard.
Files can be uploaded and downloaded either via the plugin or directly into Google Drive. You can then embed button shortcodes or download links in your site’s pages and posts to give access to users. In addition, online previews of documents and images are available, with the latter being presented either in galleries or as thumbnails.
What’s more, the plugin also has a file browser with powerful filter and search features. That really helps to offer a great user experience.
- Integrates a file browser, photo gallery, and media player into your WordPress site, all linked to files in your Google Drive
- Suitable for a range of applications
- Well documented
- Excellent value for the features provided
- Only works with Google Drive
- Use-Your-Drive is sold through Code Canyon and costs $36. That includes future updates plus six months of support, upgradable to a year for an extra $11.63.
Simple Download Monitor
I love Simple Downloads Manager. Even though it is entirely free, this plugin includes many great features for managing, monitoring, and tracking your digital downloads. Many of its features aren’t even available on many expensive premium plugins.
A clean user interface makes adding, editing or removing downloads a doddle, plus you can assign categories and tags to them. Shortcodes allow you to embed customizable download buttons wherever you want them on your site, while detailed stats and tracking data help you monitor everything.
Other great features include adding terms and conditions that users must agree to before being allowed to download a file, access restrictions, and much more.
- Impressive feature-set for a freebie
- Can manage all common file types with no restrictions
- Robust tracking and reporting features
- Surprisingly well supported for a free plugin
- None found
- Simple Download Monitor is free, with no premium options available.
Download Monitor is a highly popular plugin that adds an interface to the WordPress dashboard for uploading and managing downloadable files. Then, you can sell those files by placing download links on your pages and posts.
For lovers of Gutenberg, you’ll be pleased to know that the plugin includes a block, so adding downloads to your site is easy. Alternatively, shortcodes are also available for embedding the download links wherever you need them.
While the core version of Download Monitor is free, it is a little bare. Therefore, investing in a premium subscription would be wise as it adds much more functionality. Expect to find things like email notifications when customers have downloaded their purchases, download duplicator, Captcha spam prevention, cloud integrations, and more in the premium plans.
- Premium plans add lots more functionality at a sensible price
- You can try the premium versions risk-free using the 14-day moneyback guarantee
- The free version has few features and limited support
- Priority support is only available with the most expensive plan
- The core plugin of Download Monitor is free, although I recommend upgrading to the Popular ($99 per year) or Complete ($159) plan as they contain the most useful features. Unfortunately, the cheapest premium option, Basic ($39), offers little over the free version.
WooCommerce is best known for being a massively popular eCommerce platform plugin for WordPress. However, you may be surprised to see that you can also use it for selling or giving away digital products online.
The WooCommerce plugin includes robust features for uploading and organizing your digital files and, of course, for offering them on your website.
Most major file types are supported, so you will be able to offer software, music, videos, eBooks, etc., for your customers to download once they have purchased. Downloads can be provided directly upon completion of a sale, or emails containing download links can be sent afterward.
- Organize downloads into collections
- Set user restrictions such as limits on the number of downloads per item
- Downloads can be made available for free or for purchase
- Well supported with plenty of tutorials and documentation available from the developer and other sources such as YouTube
- The core plugin is free, and a wide range of free and premium extensions are available from the developer and third-party vendors to enhance functionality
- WooCommerce is for eCommerce sites, so if you are just offering a few downloads for free, other plugins might be more suitable
- WooCommerce is a free plugin, but as I have already mentioned, tons of developer and third-party extensions are available to tailor it to your specific needs. Just be careful not to add too many as that could cause your site to ‘bloat,’ which can be detrimental to speed.
Easy Media Download
Ending my list is another excellent free plugin: Easy Media Download.
Despite its name, this lightweight plugin allows you to offer free downloads not only for media files but other types too, such as zip files, scripts, Microsoft Office documents, and many more.
Easy Media Download also includes monitoring and tracking features, while customizable buttons and shortcodes can be embedded wherever you want them to appear on your site.
- Handles a wide range of file types, with no size limitations
- Completely free
- Lightweight code
- Fewer features than Simple Download Monitor, which is also free
- Easy Media Download is completely free. However, premium support is available for $29.99 per year for a single site.
What’s Your Favorite WordPress Download Manager Plugin?
If you offer digital downloads to your users, a WordPress download manager plugin will bring you so many advantages. For example, you can keep a tighter grip on who has access to the files and when, plus you can track and monitor the downloads. Furthermore, you can control your bandwidth usage and generally offer your users an enhanced experience.
If you are looking for an entirely free download manager to add to your WordPress site, I’d say that Simple Download Monitor would be an excellent choice. However, if you have some budget available, WordPress Download Manager is worthy of consideration.
Do you offer digital downloads to your site users? If so, what kind are they, and are they free or paid. Are you using a particular plugin to help manage them, or is it something you have yet to do?