Why Is My Internet Connection Slow?

Category: Networking

I notice that my Internet connection seems to slow to a crawl at certain times, for no apparent reason. Is it likely that I have a virus, or are there other possible explanations for the slowdowns?

Diagnosing a Slow Internet Connection

Unfortunately, this is one of those problems that is very difficult to diagnose. Many different things can cause your Internet connection to slow down. Some of them are within your control, but many are not. Here are just a few of the common causes for slow Internet connections.

Too many users sharing one Internet connection can slow everyone to a crawl. If you are sharing a connection over a home network, you may experience slowdowns when others in the house are using Youtube or a graphics-intensive online game. If you have a cable modem, you are sharing a connection with other households in your neighborhood. If the slowdowns happen between 3pm and 4pm, around the time that kids are geting home from school, or weekday evenings between 9pm and 10pm, it's likely that your cable TV company has oversubscribed the equipment that serves your area. Note that a fiber-optic solution such as Verizon FIOS will not be susceptible to this type of problem.
Slow Internet Connection

An unknown program may be downloading or uploading data in the background without your knowledge. It might be something innocuous, like Windows Automatic Update, or it could be a virus, Trojan, or other type of malware program. If your computer is ensnared in a botnet, it could be pumping out volumes of spam without your knowledge. See What Is a Botnet? for more on that. Scan your system with anti-malware software to uncover such problems.

Outdated software can result in a slow Internet connection. Make sure your operating system is up to date with the latest bug fixes and security patches. Visit the Windows Update website and see my related article Secure Your Software to make sure everything is up to date.

Checking Under The Hood

A slow Internet connection may be part of an overall PC performance drop. Your computer may need a registry cleaner, a disk defragmentation, and some general maintenance. My tips on Computer Repair Software and Disk Defraggers will help you find software to use for those tasks.

A misconfigured router may slow down your connection. Reboot the router to see if that will clear up the problem. You can also try resetting the router to its factory defaults and configuring it all over again. Networking hardware is pretty durable but a router or network adapter can fail. Often hardware dies a slow death, with gradually slower connection speeds being one of the symptoms. Try a different router or network adapter to see if that helps. I had a cable modem that just seemed to get tired after running for a few days. Turning it off and then on again solved my sluggish Internet connection problem, and after I got a replacement from the cable company, the problem was gone for good.

There may be a problem in the wire connecting your home to your ISP, or in the configuration of your ISP's equipment. Ask your cable or telephone company to conduct a line test. This may require scheduling a visit from a technician.

Sometimes there are traffic jams on the Internet; there's not much you can do about those. If some Web sites load speedily while others are slow, it could be there is bottleneck between you and the slow-loading Web sites. You just have to wait for the problem to be fixed.

Slow Internet connections on mobile devices such as an iPad or smartphone are almost always caused by heavy network traffic or weak cellular signal. There's nothing you can do about network traffic except wait for it to subside. Moving outdoors and away from tall buildings can help you get a stronger signal.

Do you have other tips to help with slow internet connections? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Posted by on 18 Aug 2011


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Most recent comments on "Why Is My Internet Connection Slow?"

Posted by:

steven
19 Aug 2011

If you are on a wireless connection, check your security and for any cars parked in from of your house for people leaching your connection. The signal may reach 25 feet or more.


Posted by:

JP
19 Aug 2011

This doesn't address the gradual slowdown of your Internet speed, but it may help increase it with very little effort on your part. It's a free tool called TCP Optimizer and it can be obtained at:

http://www.speedguide.net/tcpoptimizer.php

There's documentation on that page, too.


Posted by:

Dave
19 Aug 2011

Sometimes the Internet connection can be slow because of MS Updates, and on older computers if too many anti-virus programs are loaded, or they are scanning and using up all the CPU cycles.
SO, make sure that your CPU is not overloaded & then run the speakeasy ISP speed test described
below:

The best way to determine your connection speed is: http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/

This site gives a pretty accurate assessment of your connection speed.


Posted by:

Frank Klett
19 Aug 2011

Whenever I think I have an internet slow down I Run Speedtest to see just what my speed is as compared to prior tests. Generally speaking it is the time of day as you pointed out in your article...and heals itself as time goes by.


Posted by:

Joe Hathaway
19 Aug 2011

Bob, please remind me of the link (if you have posted one) to a program to provide a truly effective "window" to see exactly what is doing what on my computer when I am not doing it.

Often, the disk is spinning away, CPU usage is high, and Task Manager is of no real use--it would be so very helpful if an overview of everything happening could be displayed--and explained!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Maybe http://X-RAYPC.COM?


Posted by:

abdula aziz
24 Sep 2011

Hi,

how to make internet faster through mobile modem.

Thanks,


Posted by:

Habib Gul
16 Aug 2012

Hi Sir;
Please send me some hard copy note about simple networking (home networking) means how we can connect computers with each other just practical steps
Thanks


Posted by:

Karen Poff
21 Jun 2013

My son is a college student. His internet connections at college and other places work fine, but when he is home the connection slows to almost non-existent. He has the best computer in the house, but the rest of us are getting a fine connection speed and he has to borrow our computers for internet tasks. His connection remains slow even when he reboots the machine regularly. This is not a problem with his computer or our internet connection. His computer works fine and has great connections elsewhere. Our internet works fine and has great connection speeds for everyone but him. He has his browser set to clear all history and cookies whenever he shuts down the machine. Do you have any suggestions for this problem?

EDITOR'S NOTE: It's hard to say without some specifics. Could be some weirdness between his wifi adapter and the internet router. How does it work when he uses a wired ethernet connection at home?


Posted by:

Karen Poff
21 Jun 2013

The connection is fine with a wired ethernet. Any other thoughts?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Almost certainly a glitch with the wifi adapter then. Maybe upgrading the device driver would help. Or you could disable the onboard adapter and try a USB wifi adapter.


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