HOWTO: Measure Your Internet Speed

Category: Networking

'How fast is my internet speed?' is a common question. There are quite a few definitions of internet speed and several free ways to test it. Here's the scoop on Internet speed tests, and why you definitely should check your speed every once in a while...

What is My Internet Speed?

By "internet speed" most people mean, "how fast I can download things" like web pages, music and movie files, software, etc. Internet service providers tune their connections so that most of their available bandwidth is devoted to downloading and far less to uploading (sending) things. ISPs do this because a) they know fast downloads are of greater importance to most consumers, and b) they want to discourage people from running high-traffic business Web sites from their consumer priced accounts.

When uploading or downloading, the Internet can be "bursty" at times. That means your file transfer will go very fast one instant and very slowly the next. "Net speed" is generally measured as an average, dividing the time it takes to transfer a file of a given size into the file size. If it takes 1 second to transfer a file of 1 MB, your Net speed is 1 MB/s at that particular time, and between the two particular points.

Internet Speed Test

If you have a DSL connection, your max download speed will be 1.5 - 3 Mb/s. Most cable internet connections will be in the 5-10 Mb/s range, and a fiber optic connection will typically get you between 10 and 50 Mb/s. The higher speeds in each range usually correspond to a higher price point.

Internet speed is not something you can measure and take for granted forever thereafter. Internet traffic may be heavier between different points and between the same points at different times. Local outages on the Internet may force traffic to take detours, lengthening their trips and slowing Net speed temporarily. It's just like a real road system.

Here's another good reason to occasionally run an internet speed test. Your ISP may throttle your internet speed without telling you. At my home, I have Verizon FIOS for Internet service, and I'm supposed to get a blazing 50Mb/s download speed. But twice in the last few years, I ran a speed test and found that it was mysteriously maxing out at 10Mb/s. When I contacted Verizon, they made some lame excuses, and set me back to the higher speed. So run a speed test every once in a while, and make sure you're getting the level of service you're paying for.

Note that when discussing Internet speeds, you'll see both "MB" and "Mb". The distinction is important, because most downloads are measured in megabytes (MB), while Internet service providers offer plans with the speed listed in megabits (Mb) per second. A megabyte is equal to 8 megabits, so if you're cruising the Net at 30 Mb/s, that's about 3.75 MB/sec. Why do ISPs list their speeds in megaBITS and not megabytes? It's just a marketing gimmick - bigger numbers look better.

How To Test Your Internet Speed

Now that you understand that there is no cut-and-dried, final "knowing" of your Net speed, let's look at a few ways to measure it.

Speakeasy and Speedtest.net are two of the most popular Net speed testing sites online. Both have been around for over a decade, and have evolved with changing technology. But using either is simple. At Speakeasy, you'll have a choice of testing the connection speed between your location and eight cities scattered across the USA. I live close to New York City, and my download speed for that test is consistently at 50 Mb/sec. But as I look westward, it slows down. Downloading from Chicago shows 25 Mb/sec, Dallas 17Mb/sec, and Seattle 12Mb/sec.

SpeedTest gives you a choice of several servers to test locally, with the option to select from servers all over the world. Just click "Begin Test" and watch the odometers spin up. SpeedTest is a nice tool, but just be careful that you don't accidentally click one of the ads instead of running the speed test. Wait for the "BEGIN TEST" to appear inside what looks like an open laptop screen. Then click that link, or slide the cross-hairs to another location on the map to select a different test server. Speedtest will give you several measurements to ponder.

"Download speed" is the rate at which a file of known size was transferred from the test site to your computer. It depends on the location of the test site selected; the amount of traffic on the route between you and the test site; the traffic load on the test site at the time of your test; and so on. But it's a number.

"Upload speed" is the same as download speed, in reverse. A file of known size is generated temporarily on your computer and transferred to the test site. The same caveats apply.

"Ping" is a significant number that most users don't understand. It's more accurately described as "latency," or the delay between sending a request for data to a remote computer and receiving a reply. The Ping speed reported by Speedtest.net is the sum of the latencies between all of the computers that relay your requests and data between you and the test site. To see how many intermediate "hops" there are and their individual latencies, do a traceroute report:

Pingtest.NET will evaluate and grade your internet line quality by measuring ping, jitter and packet loss. You'll need to enable Java in your browser to use this site. (I generally advise people to avoid Java, but in this case, it's safe to temporarily enable it for these tests. See Is Java Safe and Do I Need It? for details.)

Jitter is the average time difference between successive ping tests, and is an indication of how stable (or flaky) your connection is at a given time. As in golf, a lower jitter value (hopefully close to zero) is better.

Packet Loss is an indication of whether you're having trouble transmitting or receiving data with your Internet connection. Any number greater than zero indicates a potential problem, and can result in slower web page loading, longer download times, lagging in online games, and poor quality with streaming media or VoIP calls.

A Bit of Geekery...

You may find it interesting to trace the route from your computer to another site on the Internet. On Windows, click Start, and enter "cmd" to open a command-line window. Type "tracert yahoo.com" and hit Enter. On a Mac, open Applications, then Utilities and click on Terminal. Enter "traceroute" instead of "tracert" on Mac or Linux terminal screens. You can use any domain name you like, instead of yahoo.com. Something like this will slowly appear:

Tracing route to yahoo.com [98.137.149.56] over a maximum of 30 hops:

1 <1 ms <1 ms <1 ms Wireless_Broadband_Router.home [192.168.1.1]

2 5 ms 4 ms 4 ms L100.NYCMNY-VFTTP-179.verizon-gni.net [173.52.217.1]

3 6 ms 7 ms 7 ms G1-0-3-1379.NYCMNY-LCR-13.verizon-gni.net [130.81.140.244]

4 23 ms 9 ms 9 ms so-6-3-0-0.BB-RTR1.SEA01.verizon-gni.net [130.81.28.52]

5 13 ms 14 ms 14 ms so-10-0-0-0.LCC1-RES-BB-RTR1-RE1.verizon-gni.net [130.81.19.111]

6 16 ms 17 ms 17 ms so-6-0-0-0.ASH-PEER-RTR1-re1.verizon-gni.net [130.81.10.90]

7 16 ms 17 ms 17 ms 130.81.15.174

8 13 ms 17 ms 17 ms ae-6.pat2.dce.yahoo.com [216.115.102.176]

9 64 ms 64 ms 72 ms as-0.pat2.dax.yahoo.com [216.115.96.21]

10 106 ms 112 ms 164 ms as-1.pat2.pao.yahoo.com [216.115.101.130]

11 108 ms 107 ms 107 ms ae-0-d151.msr2.sp1.yahoo.com [216.115.107.75]

12 106 ms 107 ms 107 ms te-8-1.bas1-1-prd.sp2.yahoo.com [67.195.128.247]

13 105 ms 107 ms 107 ms ir1.fp.vip.sp2.yahoo.com [98.137.149.56]

If you're looking for ways to speed up your Internet connection, there are several things you can do. See my article Speed Up Your Internet Connection! to find out what works and what doesn't.

Do you have something to say about testing your Internet speed? Post your comment or question below...

 
Ask Your Computer or Internet Question

  (Enter your question in the box above.)

It's Guaranteed to Make You Smarter...

AskBob Updates: Boost your Internet IQ & solve computer problems.
Get your FREE Subscription!


Email:

Check out other articles in this category:



Link to this article from your site or blog. Just copy and paste from this box:

This article was posted by on 21 Jul 2014


For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.

Prev Article:
7 Free Online Photo Editors

The Top Twenty
Next Article:
Is Someone Stealing Your WiFi?

Most recent comments on "HOWTO: Measure Your Internet Speed"

Posted by:

JP
21 Jul 2014

Another good speed test site is http://speedof.me/ - It does not require either Flash of Java, but instead uses HTML5. According to the site, "It works well on iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows 8 and other mobile devices, as well as desktop computers."

SpeedOf.Me hosts its sample files on CDN. It benefits from 44 (and counting) super servers called PoP. Each PoP may utilize several servers. They are located in various places around the world near primary Internet exchange points. These super servers have a massive computing and caching power and are directly connected to all the major backbone networks.
When the test is started, the quickest and most reliable server, not necessarily the nearest, would be chosen. There are many factors involved in selecting the best test server for you. However, it is done automatically using CDN technology to ensure the best testing quality. Here are SpeedOf.Me PoP locations:

- North America:
Ashburn(2), Atlanta(2), Chicago(2), Dallas(2), Los Angeles(3), Miami(2), New York(2), San Jose(2) and Seattle
- Europe:
Amsterdam, Frankfurt(2), London(2), Madrid, Paris(2), Vienna, Copenhagen, Stockholm(2), Helsinki, Milan and Warsaw
- Asia:
Hong Kong, Singapore, Batam, Osaka, Tokyo(2), Jakarta and Kaohsiung
- Australia:
Sydney, Melbourne
- South America:
Sao Paulo


Posted by:

Joe Farkas
21 Jul 2014

This described phenomenon for dynamic Internet service is well known and widely practiced by virtually all ISPs. The most recent subscriber is very likely to get the highest advertised speed for several days or weeks and then gradually the speed gets throttled in preparation to give the fast speed to the next subscriber and so on and on. If you complain, your speed most likely will be restored as for a new subscriber and then the cycle starts again. None of the ISPs have the infrastructure to sustain the highest advertised speed for all subscribers. The squeaky wheel is the one which gets lubricated!


Posted by:

bosco
21 Jul 2014

I have been dealing with a perplexing problem where mu uverse account appears to be throttling Netflix but nothing else. My speedtest is consistent at 3.8 megabits night and day but my Netflix speed is under 1 megabit at 9PM but 3 megabits at 3am consistently. Netflix denies categorically that it is slowing down at the busy hours and the problem is solely with my Uverse provider. Hbogo streaming does not have this problem. Any comments?

EDITOR'S NOTE: See http://blog.level3.com/global-connectivity/verizons-accidental-mea-culpa/ for a related discussion. Bottom line, it's most likely the ISP's fault.


Posted by:

Excelsior
21 Jul 2014

Well Bob, you did us a service again. I checked my speed with both speed test sites you recommended and found my upload speed was averaging 2.88 Mb/s. I called my internet carrier Frontier and requested to know what speed I was paying for and after a dizzying conversation it was stated that I was paying for 6 Mb/s. They claimed they were turning me up and the closest they could get to 6 was possibly 5, how ever the associate stated words to the effect that such a breakneck speed might cause a breakdown in my modem. I checked after the conversation and both speed test' had me in the range of 5.04 Mb/s. My upload speed remained in the range of 0.67 Mb/s. I didn't think to ask regarding that and am not certain if they are linked or that's a separate adjustment that I should have requested. Thanks for the tip, as Mr Farkas stated, they may tune me down again, so I'll check periodically if I remember. You're the best!!


Posted by:

bosco
21 Jul 2014

Thanks for the reference to the Verizon discussion on level3. This probably explains what is going on. What puzzles me is that they are apparently choking only Netflix and not HBO et al. Maybe they see Netflix as the greater threat or maybe HBO is actually paying a premium for more bandwidth. Possibly Netflix is a competitor to Uverse while HBO is a business partner.

What surprised me, though, in my discussion with the Netflix supervisor is that there is apparently no complaint from other Netflix customers about their Uverse performance with Netflix.


Posted by:

RandiO
21 Jul 2014

Off-Topic >> This topic is beginning to gravitate toward the ongoing fight at the Federal level about "Net Neutrality". It is being fought between many players that include ISPs, FCC, EFF (for Consumers), NetFlix (w/entertainment providers). The current issue is a "2-tier" preferential network/highway proposal. My bet is that consumers are going to be stuck on the slow lane, if the populace continues to remain clooless and does not band together!

On-Topic >> "Measuring Your Internet Speed" is a good benchmark for your ISP. Unfortunately, it does not tell you the actual speeds to be achieved, which becomes dependent on the specific site that you plan on downloading data from (or uploading to). In other words YMMV!
There are a variety of utilities that will show you (graphical and/or tabular) the speed that you are currently achieving when you are actually Down/Up loading payloads (aka data). A very good FREEware utility for such use is NetMeterEvo (http://www.metal-machine.de/readerror/index.php). An excellent PAYware program is DUMeter (http://www.hageltech.com/dumeter/about). There are also other such 'live -network-monitor' software that are TRIALware and FOISTware. I boot DUMeter with my system and it provies me continuous network activity on a 2” x 1” graph, at the lower right-hand corner of my desktop!


Posted by:

Daniel
21 Jul 2014

I've had people in the 'computer technician' field who tell me of a different kind of throttling. If the ISP recognizes that you are running a speed test (because of the ip addresses involved or it recognizes pinging), they will accelerate that test to artificially make your speed look better.


Posted by:

RandiO
22 Jul 2014

@Daniel:
Those "people in the 'computer technician' field who tell" you such things are probably also "conspiracy theorists", as well! I'd worry about having these people "technicize" my computers. Surely, ISPs got to have other things to spend their profits on >> donchoo think????


Posted by:

j
22 Jul 2014

Add'l net speed test links:
http://testmy.net/

http://www.measurementlab.net/

http://www.8x8.com/Resources/Tools/VoIPTest.aspx

Hope you find useful.


Posted by:

Steven Bulger
22 Jul 2014

HAGEL Technologies has DU Meter which constantly shows your download speed and upload speed. www.dumeter.com.


Posted by:

Rochelle
22 Jul 2014

Installed Tweakmaster, checked my speed on Speakeasy before and after. Download went from 15.37 to 15.32. Not worth the bother.


Posted by:

Durbandon
22 Jul 2014

I have an ADSL connection in South Africa which is relatively slow. I found a program, FreeMeter, which gives a graphical real time picture of my download and upload speeds. I can see how it changes throughout the day.


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
22 Jul 2014

I have had a Broadband connect, since March 2000. For 14 years, I have been using DSL. Since, I moved back to the Metro Atlanta area a year ago, I am now using VDSL, which is a lot faster in downloads and uploads!

I have a separate line for my VDSL, since, I will not use a VoIP as my phone service. So, since my phone line is separate, from my VDSL line ... I don't have to "plug-in" any DSL filters, like I have had to, in the past.

What the VDSL has done for me, is I am now able to download movies, videos, music and other various stuff, easily and quickly. Right now, my speed is at 24Mbps. Does that mean, I get that speed? Mostly not, but, it does come close. Again, it all depends on the Internet traffic, as to what speed I will get.

I also, have the Genie, from DirecTV, and the higher speeds are necessary for On Demand movies or TV series or whatever it is you want to view on your TV. DirecTV does recommend that, using their Genie means that you need to have a "faster" download, to achieve good results. In all honesty, faster download times, lessen the buffering issues that comes with slower download times.

I love my VDSL!!! Not only do I get better movie results, but, it comes in really handy, when I am downloading a game, that is almost 1GB or over 1GB. The download time, is under 5 mins., again, depending on the Internet traffic, at the time. I don't need a Download Manager, when the download times are this fast. In fact, it has been years, since, I used a Download Manager program.

I remember, my very first DSL modem, back in March 2000. I was with BellSouth, at the time and DSL had just come to my area, in Metro Atlanta. I had been waiting for DSL, for over 2 years to come to the Metro Atlanta area. I knew DSL was a good thing. I asked for a Technician to put in the DSL card, it was an Internal DSL card for your Legacy PCI Slot. Well, he came out and told me, he didn't know how to install it. I said, give it to me and I'll do it. I READ the instructions and installed it. He was amazed and now know how to install the card, for other customers. I have never used dial-up modems, again!!!

I don't want any cable broadband connection, either. One of my daughters has Comcast and I just don't want it. Somethings can be hard to connect to Comcast. My grandson has a X-Box 360 and tried to connect to the Internet, at his house. He couldn't, so he came to my house, to see if, he could connect here. Well, at first he wasn't able to, then we tried manually ... Viola!!! ... Success!!! What he needed, were the numbers for the Primary and Secondary DNS. He doesn't know computers or anything about broadband connections. He thinks, I am awesome, since, I knew what to do. He will tell everyone that it was his 70 year old grandmother, MeeMaw, who solved the issue and got his X-Box 360 up and running.


Posted by:

james
22 Jul 2014

Bob, as usual a very informative article but you leave us hanging with the route tracing example.
Maybe you can briefly explain the meaning of the output.


Posted by:

KennyD
23 Jul 2014

That sppedofme website looks like a winner. Very accurate and fast.


Posted by:

BobD
07 Apr 2015

I find my 1 Mb handles YouTube videos satisfactorily, over 7 hops. True, I occasionally get the dreaded spinny while my machine waits for more bits to come in, but I think of the money I'm not spending on high speed. I'm one of the Americans who are dragging us down.


Posted by:

TechPimp
19 Apr 2015

http://speedof.me/ site say my internet speed is 34Mbps when http://testmy.net/ at 200MB download gives me 130Mbps and Speedtest.net gives me always my real 150Mbps that i have on my plan so i think speedof.me/ is not good for faster networks being that the largest file is 16MBs so not enough time to test the network out well. Also TestMy is i think the most accurate at 200 since it can go down back up but the avg will tell the truth.


Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions

*     *     (* = Required field)

    (Your email address will not be published)
(you may use HTML tags for style)

YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important! And please limit your remarks to 3-4 paragraphs. If you want to see your comment posted, pay attention to these items.

All comments are previewed, and may be edited before posting.

NOTE: Please, post comments on this article ONLY.
If you want to ask a question click here.

Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
RSS   Add to My Yahoo!   Feedburner Feed
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy -- See my profile on Google.


Article information: AskBobRankin -- HOWTO: Measure Your Internet Speed (Posted: 21 Jul 2014)
Source: http://askbobrankin.com/howto_measure_your_internet_speed.html
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved