Talking about clean/spyware infected download managers...
In addition, just starting it opens half a dozen connections to ad servers, including Cydoor. Couldn't deal with the downloads on the site I used for this tests, as it always tried to download the download page, blocking the load of it inside the browser. On other pages, it worked ok. Still, even if you neglect the ads and possible spying, there are other download managers that are easier to use.
Download Express (1.4 build 233 SR 1, spyware-clean, free for non-commercial use)
Download Express is freeware for personal use, and quite fast in downloading as it splits every download and downloads it with 10 connections (like nearly all download managers in this list do). Its IE integration is working nicely, its download dialog is informative (though its quite flickering - a small thing the developers should fix). The German localization I tested is not complete, but at least there are a lot of localizations.
FlashGet (1.40, spyware-infected or paid mode)
FlashGet can be installed in two modes - one ad-sponsored, one ad-free shareware mode that needs registering. I tried the ad-sponsored version, and indeed it did install Cydoor.
The interface by the way reminds me strong of one of the other tools I tested (screenshots will be added later to this article). With only 5 simultanous download connections, it was only half as fast as Download Express, but it can be set to use up to ten.
My opinion about this one is that you can get better download managers for free.
FreshDownload (6.50, spyware-clean, free for personal use)
The IE integration of FreshDownload had problems during my tests and tried to download HTML pages as files, but once downloaded identified them as such and re-opened them in the browser. It doesn't have a lot of features, but it has the necessary ones and comes along with an easy to use interface. Too bad it doesn't uninstall completely.
GetIt (1.04, spyware-clean, freeware)
Not very easy to use. In fact, the browser integration and the save dialogs need a lot of work. Until that work is done, I wouldn't recommend using it.
GetRight (5.02, spyware-clean, free trial)
GetRight has been one the first download managers around; in the early days spyware infected, but clean today. GetRight is not free, and doesn't have too many features compared to some other download managers in this test, but it's reliable and its IE integration works better than that of many others. If you already use it and don't miss any features, there are not many reasons to switch.
Go!Zilla (1.44.39, spyware-infected, 30-day trial)
Only a trial, and then also infected with eZula and Radiate. Does also installs a Smart Explorer, a browser that did phone home when starting it and will keep in memory. The browser integration wasn't working either, and crashing IE instead. With so many good and clean alternatives, keep your fingers from this one.
Internet Download Manager (3.1.8, spyware-clean, 60-day trial)
IDMs advantage is an easy to use user interface and integration into many browsers.
LeechGet 2003 (1.0 RC3 build 1500, spyware-clean, free for personal use)
LeechGet has the biggest graphical overload, but it's nicely designed and very informative. LeechGet is free for personal use, but you have to pay for commercial use and/or for for removing some limits. It doesn't install any adware or spyware, and has more features than most managers I tested. It has also been recommended by c't as the best freeware solution. It works with IE as well as Opera, Netscape or Mozilla (even Firebird).
Lightning Download (1.2.1, spyware-free, free 30-day trial)
From the same makers as GetRight (HeadLight Software, Inc.) comes Lightning Download. My first suspicion was that they created it because some people may mistrust GetRight because of its infected past, but its clean as well, and working like it should, and it's easy to use (I specially like that it shows URLs that are in clipboard inside the tray icon menu to quickly start downloading them).
NetAnts (1.25, spyware-infected)
Not only that the NetAnts interface looks more complicated to use than most other tested download managers, it is infected with Cydoor.
Net Transport (spyware-clean, free for non-commercial)
Net Transport also behaved quite well, is spyware free, available at no cost and in many languages.
ReGet (Deluxe 3.3, spyware-clean, 30-day trial)
Actually not a bad one, having different modes for newbies up to pros, a usable interface, and a good browser integration. 16 streams at the same time is the highest default I found so far, but as I would recommend 10 to 20 with DSL for larger downloads anyway, that's not bad at all.
Star Downloader (1.42, spyware-clean, freeware).
The link on their website downloaded an older version (1.42), and right upon the first start Star Downloader told me there was a newer one available (1.50). Sniffing the network traffic though it became clear that all that this update lookup is a clean anonymous thing. Star Downloader is free and spyware-clean. It supports the major browsers, and after changing some options, it worked quite well.
WGET (1.6.x to 1.8.x, spyware-clean, GNU freeware)
WGET is my all-time favorite. It offers more options than any of the other tools I tested (except splitting the download - at least I haven't found that option yet ), but the downside is that it is a command line utitility. You should have some command line knowledge to use it, or take a look at some of the GUIs (graphical user interfaces, I'll try to add some links to those later) for WGET that are out there. While the other tested download managers are all for Windows, WGET is available for Linux, MacOS and some other Operating Systems.
Still to be tested: NetLeech, Sun Download Manager, Download Mage
Conclusion: And the winner is ... LeechGet, followed by Download Express. Both are easy to very easy to use, have a nice looking (but not too crowded) user interface, are spyware-clean and free for personal use.
Credit goes to : Patrick Kolla