NIH Blueprint: The Human Connectome Project

Installing the Aspera Plugin

NOTICE: If you are using Chrome and are having issues with the Aspera download plugin, please navigate to chrome://flags/#enable-npapi and enable use of NPAPI plugins. An anticipated Aspera update should resolve this situation.

One of the major logistical problems that we have to address at the Human Connectome Project, even for our own internal analysis, is how to move huge quantities of data from site to site. Our solution uses a file transfer protocol powered by Aspera that is capable of highly-accelerated data transfers across high-speed networks. It works (to oversimplify) by taking advantage of unused bandwidth in network fiber and rapidly pushing large chunks of data through.

We have an Aspera server on our end that manages downloads. To connect to it, you must install the Aspera browser plugin on your local machine. This plugin works in all major browsers in Mac OS, Windows and Linux (CentOS6 or later).

Before you get started:

  • Installation may require a browser restart, so we recommend installing the plugin right away rather than waiting until you have a dataset queued for download.
  • Please note that this will not be effective if you have a slow connection on your end. So don't try this while using the free wireless at your local coffeeshop.

Step by Step Installation:

  1. Click the link to download Aspera Connect. (Or download Aspera Connect 3.1 from their website.
  2. An installer file will download to your computer. (If you are using Chrome, this appears in the bottom left corner of the browser window). Also, a rather unfriendly-sounding notification dialog will appear. Click OK in this dialog.
  3. Aspera Connect install was dismissed...

  4. Open the Aspera Connect installer -- for Chrome, you can click the file label in the bottom left corner of the browser window.
  5. Click through any dialogs that appear, including the end-user license agreement, as necessary to install the software. Choose the Typical installation.

    Note: When prompted for a language selection, please use "US English." Other language options do not appear to be fully supported by Aspera. This is an issue we have raised with their developers and this item may be updated at a future time.

    Installation type

    The Aspera installer will automatically install across all browsers on your computer. A browser restart may be necessary to use it.

Before you download: Set your download folder.

The default Aspera Connect download location is your Desktop, which is likely not where you want your HCP data to go! To set your Aspera Connect preferences:

  • Search your computer for Aspera Connect using the Spotlight or Search functions in your operating system. Click on “Aspera Connect” to open the application.
  • Open the Aspera Connect: Transfers window:
    • On Mac, in the Menu bar click on Window > Transfers, or use the shortcut ^T (control + T)
    • On PC, in the Notification area at the very bottom right of your Desktop, click the button, then click the Aspera Connect icon.
    • On Linux, extract the .gzip Aspera Connect plugin file you downloaded. Run the extracted script in a terminal window to launch Aspera Connect. The Aspera Connect icon should appear in your program notification area (often at the top or bottom right of your desktop), click on this icon and choose Transfers in the drop down.
  • Click the gear icon at the bottom left of the Aspera Connect — Transfers window to launch the Aspera preferences window. 
  • Click on the “Transfers” tab to setup where in your hard drive or network you would like your HCP data to download.


Now, each time you download HCP data it will go to the directory you selected (unless you change the preference again).

Downloading with Aspera:

  1. Return to the browser window and log back into ConnectomeDB
  2. A "Confirm - Aspera Connect" dialog will appear, asking you to permit connections to Allow this.
  3. Confirm - Aspera Connect

  4. A "Transfers - Aspera Connect" window will appear, displaying the download progress. Also, to the right of the progress bar, there will be three small, round, blue icons. The leftmost of these opens a graph of download rate over time. This view is very useful for monitoring your connection speed over the course of the download.

Aspera Download Queue