Here's How to Speed Up Your Internet Connection

Category: Networking

An AskBob reader asked me for tips to speed up his Internet connection. Unless you enjoy watching paint dry, a slow internet connection can be very frustrating, especially when you're trying to stream a movie, play an online game, or just browse the web. Sometimes the slowdown is beyond your control; the Internet is subject to traffic jams and congestion, just like any other highway. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to speed up your internet connection. Here's a bucket of tips and tools that can help you go faster on the information highway...

How to Get a Faster Internet Connection

Let's start with the wire that connects your computer to the Internet. If you still have a dialup connection, you're traveling the information superhighway in a horse and buggy. If DSL service is available from your phone company, upgrading will make the Internet seem like a different place. If possible, consider moving to cable or a fiber optic connection, which can be 10-100X faster still.

Satellite internet and mobile broadband connections tend to be slower than traditional broadband but for those in very rural areas, satellite or mobile broadband may be good (or the only) alternatives. My article How Fast is Satellite Internet Service? goes into more detail on some of those connection options.

If you've already got some type of "high-speed" internet connection, sometimes a problem with the wiring, cabling or fiber optic lines between the utility pole and your computer can cause a degradation in speed. Loose cable connections can slow down the Internet. If your computer is hardwired to your router, unplug the cable connections at both ends and reseat them firmly. Also reseat the cable that brings the Internet into your router or modem.

Speed Up Internet Connetion

It's not unheard of for Internet service providers to throttle your connection speed without telling you. That's happened to me more than once. You can ask your ISP to test your connection and certify that you are getting all the bandwidth for which you are paying. Or do it yourself! See my article Here's How to Measure Your Internet Speed to find out how.

Slow Internet -- Hardware Factors

I once had a problem once with a slow cable internet connection, which turned out to be caused by the incoming wire rubbing against a tree limb in my yard. Squirrels and mice have also been known to chew on these cables. Lightning can damage utility cables and weather may cause rusty or loose cable connections. If you think the problem lies between your router and the pole, contact your service provider to have the wires and any splitters checked.

If you have a router that was installed by your Internet provider, and your Internet speed seems to bog down often, try rebooting the router to clear out the cosmic gunk. I recommend that you shut off the router, wait a minute, then restart it and wait for it to reconnect to the Internet. If that makes a big difference, your router may be overheating, and should be replaced. It's also possible that your router or modem is not capable of handling the speed you're paying for.

A fews years ago, I upgraded my Verizon FIOS connection from 20Mbps to 50MBps, only to discover that my actual download speeds hadn't changed a bit. A free router upgrade solved the problem, but I might never have realized the need if I hadn't tested the speed myself. Updating your router's firmware can help fix bugs and improve performancealso, but that's something that requires a bit of tech savvy.

Wireless networks can have flaky connections, too. If you are not getting a five-bar signal from your wireless router, reposition the router and/or your computer's WiFi adapter until reception is as good as you can get. Routers typically have a range of about 150 feet, so if your router is located in a far corner of your house, you may experience slow speeds in other areas. You might consider a USB high-gain WiFi adapter, a high-gain antenna, or a range extender. If you're using a wifi connection on your desktop or laptop, try connecting your device directly to your router using an ethernet cable. This can greatly improve your connection speed, especially if you're using an older router. My article Try These Tips to Boost Your WiFi Signal has some other tips you can try.

And although it has nothing really to do with networking, there is one hardware upgrade that can make a significant difference in your Internet speeds. Insufficient RAM memory can really bog down your computer, and make even a fast Internet connection frustratingly slow. (Think about what would happen to water flow if you connected a 6-inch pipe to a garden hose.) My article Does Your Computer Need More Memory? goes into detail on how much memory you should have, as well as how to purchase and install it.

Another thing to consider is competition. In neighborhoods where cable internet is common, you may notice slowdowns at certain times of the day, such as when kids get home from school, or just after dinner time. You may also have a bandwidth hog in your home. If someone is playing a graphics intensive online game, other users may suffer. Upgrading your Internet service with your ISP should help there.

Slow Internet -- Software Factors

Software upgrades are key to getting the best Internet speed possible. Check with your ISP or the router manufacturer to see if there are any available updates for the router's firmware. Be sure to keep your operating system, your software and security tools up to date. A computer that's infested with viruses or spyware can come to a crawl when accessing the Internet. My articles Here's Why You Must Keep Your Software Updated (and how to do it for free) and PC Matic 4.0 – My Review will point you in the right direction if you need help with these software and security issues.

You can also try an alternative DNS service provider, which may speed up the lookup of Web sites. I covered OpenDNS, Google Public DNS, and others in my article Faster and Safer Internet? Here's How....

One reader told me that her Internet speed seemed to depend on what web browser she was using. When she experienced slow Internet speeds with Microsoft Edge, closing that browser and opening FireFox or Chrome suddenly made it better. When that browser slowed down, she would switch browsers again. I've experienced a similar thing, but switching browsers isn't actually the cure here. In my experience, the longer you keep your browser open (especially if you open and close lots of tabs) the slower your web pages will load. Simply closing down the browser and re-opening it solves this problem for me. You may also find it helpful to reset your browser. See my related piece Is It Time to Reset Your Web Browser?

Internet Speed Up - What (Probably) Doesn't Work

Turning off unnecessary network adapter properties supposedly boosts Internet speeds. But in my experience, tweaking these properties does not increase speed and it can limit other functionality. For example, turning off the "QoS Packet Scheduler" is rumored to reclaim up to 20 per cent of your bandwidth that is allegedly reserved for things like Windows Update. But that simply isn't true. Turning off QoS can, however, interfere with VoIP and other applications. Disabling file and printer sharing is a good idea if you don't need to share, but it has negligible effect on Internet speed.

There are some downloads on the Web that claim to "optimize" your Internet connection. Tweaking esoteric settings hidden deep in the Windows registry, e.g., MTU and RWIN, is an old-school way to boost Internet speed. The problem is that the optimal values for these settings vary depending on network conditions. In older versions of Windows (Windows 95/98/XP) these tweaks might have been somewhat useful. But Windows 7, 8, 10 and 11 have incorporated an auto-tuning function that does this sort of tweaking on the fly. It really is not necessary or advisable to fiddle with the registry when trying to boost your Internet speed.

Lastly, consider upgrading your Internet speed by paying a little extra for more bandwidth. Some folks aren't even aware that their ISP offers such an option, and there may be other ISPs servicing your area who can provide a faster connection. A little research may even net you a faster connection at a lower monthly price! It can't hurt to ask if there are any promotions that may reduce your price.

In conclusion, a slow internet connection can be a source of frustration, but by understanding the reasons behind slow speeds and implementing some of these tips, you can rev up your connection and enjoy a faster internet experience. Whether you're streaming movies, gaming, video conferencing, or checking your email, a fast internet connection is essential in today's world. Do you have any internet speedup tips? Post your comment or question below…

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Most recent comments on "Here's How to Speed Up Your Internet Connection"

Posted by:

09 Feb 2023

Informative article. However, I have just one comment: What? A five-bar signal? Do some people really get those? Really? Right now, I have three computers going. None are showing five bars. The one I'm on says 44%. The one next to it says 73%. The third doesn't show percentages, but is at, very roughly judging from the bars, 60-70%.

Posted by:

09 Feb 2023

I find the best way to have a reliable ethernet connection is to have a wired connection to my router.There is less chance of interfering signals from other wi-fi routers or malicious users.

I am fortunate to have service from a terrestrial wireless ISP.I do not get my service from the cable TV provider as I don't want TV at the house.The arrangement I have is fine with me as I live in a rural area

Posted by:

Windel Dal Ballew
09 Feb 2023

Every once in a while, my Internet speed slows down to a crawl... I reboot the modem and router, then like magic, I'm back to speed.

Posted by:

Renaud Olgiati
09 Feb 2023

One way to accelerate Internet browsing is to prevent add from loading.
This can be done simply and reasonably cheaply by getting a Raspberry-Pi micro-computer, installing on it the PiHole Linux distribution, and connecting it to a RJ45 socket on your router.
You will also need to tell your apparatuses (apparati ?) to use the Raspberry as primary DNS server, and the Mozilla Firefox (if you use it) not to use "DNS over HTTPS", a setting craftily hidden deeply at the bottom of the "Network settings" in the "General Settings" page.

Posted by:

James Tracy
10 Feb 2023

I have a much different message. I have an ISP that I am so grateful for. I was paying for 200mbs, I called them up and ordered another 200. Well, for some reason we could ascertain, the 400mbs would not work on my machine. Not long after that, my ISP jacked it p to 300mbs and away I went. I am so thrilled with my ISP because of a 33% speed increase. Oh, one more thing, the extra speed is FREE.

Posted by:

14 Mar 2023

I switched over to T-Mobile as my service provider 2 years ago, so my internet connects through a nearby T-Mobile tower. My 'gateway' device operated well for a year but then speeds began to slow dramatically (T-Mobile 'oversold' the service?). As an experiment, I moved my gateway device from inside the house to outside the house. Miracle = my speed increased 10-fold! Now I leave the device outside all of the time among the potted plants, bringing it in only when it (very) occasionally rains.

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