Here's How to Measure Your Internet Speed

Category: Networking

You might be wondering 'How fast is my internet speed?' or 'Why is my internet slow?' These are common questions, and 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. Read on...

What is My Internet Speed?

By "internet speed" most people mean, "how fast I can download things" like web pages, music, videos, 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 may go very fast one instant and very slowly the next. "Download 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.

If you have a DSL connection, your max download speed will be somewhere between 1.5 - 30 Mb/s. Most cable internet connections will be in the 20-100 Mb/s range, and a fiber optic connection will typically get you between 200 and 400 Mb/s. Higher speeds may be available in each type of service, and will usually correspond to a higher price point.

Internet Speed Test

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 previous home, I had Verizon FIOS for Internet service, and I was supposed to get a 50Mb/s download speed. But twice, 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 internet 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 several cities scattered across the USA. I live close to New York City, and my download speed for that test is consistently at 220 Mb/sec. But as I look westward, it slows down. Downloading from Dallas shows 178Mb/sec, and Seattle 142 Mb/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 the "GO" button 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.

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 (see below).

See these related articles about measuring and speeding up various types of internet connections. Try These Tips to Boost Your WiFi Signal and How Fast is Satellite Internet Service?

Some Other Speed Testing Sites

Fast.com is another speed test that's super easy, and fast. All you have to do is visit this website and your download speed appears in just a few seconds. Fast.com is offered by Netflix to provide a simple, quick, ad-free way to estimate the Internet speed that your ISP is providing. After your download speed appears, you can click the "Show more info" button to see your connection's latency and upload speed.

I noticed that when I searched Google for "speed test" the first result was a blue button labelled "RUN SPEED TEST." The text says "you'll be connected to Measurement Lab (M-Lab)" to run the speed test. I found this option unreliable, as it consistently reported my download speed at about 110 Mb/sec, which is far from the 220 Mb/sec measured at Speakeasy, Speedtest and Fast.com.

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 reasons why your Internet connection may be bogging down, see my article Here's Why Your Internet is Slow Sometimes to find how to diagnose your connection problem, and tips for speeding it up.

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

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

Posted by:

j
14 Oct 2019

also try: speedof.me


Posted by:

Stephe
14 Oct 2019

For UK readers, or American readers wishing to test their speed to a European site, I recommend https://www.thinkbroadband.com/speedtest which allows testing without creation of an account, but will store your historic tests for comparison with one.


Posted by:

Ernest Wilcox
14 Oct 2019

I use Windows 10 here, and I downloaded a FREE app from the Windows Store named (of course) "Network Speed Test" (no quotes). It reports my Internet Speed in Mega-bits per second (as opposed to Mega-Bytes per second). Note that there are eight Mega-bits in one Mega-Byte. This is important because the file sizes on your computer are reported in Mega-Bytes, and many people can be confused by the differences in nomenclature. To download a 1 Mega-Byte file in one second, your download speed must average eight Mega-bits per second while downloading that file.

My2Cents,
Ernie


Posted by:

David H
14 Oct 2019

You mentioned DSL----did you mean ADSL? In my experience many people overlook the capabilities or otherwise of their own hardware and also how they re connected to their Routers. Big differences on speed tests may be seen using the same service. For example some phones (obviously connected by WiFi) can achieve triple the speed of others located in the same spot. Desktop PC's can also throw up wide variations in speed tests depending on the hardware in specific PC's. This is why some ISP's are now offering speeds TO THE ROUTER in an effort to stop clients calling with invalid complaints


Posted by:

Unitary
14 Oct 2019

>>>>> If you have a DSL connection, your max download speed will be somewhere between 1.5 - 30 Mb/s.

This is an outdated limit. My DSL connection reaches 100 Mb/s in the downlink.


Posted by:

Richard
14 Oct 2019

You may be able to join a "monitoring service". These send you a small box that sits on your home LAN and periodically checks you speed and some other service parameters. The data is sent to the ISP and you can check your results online with nice graphs and averaging. Some may have multiple boxes to test wired and wireless, the latter is more use if you are using the ISP supplied router.


Posted by:

Bill
14 Oct 2019

Your DSL speeds are out of date. 100 mb/s is not uncommon. My home internet connection right now is being monitored with a black box supplied by Sam Knows a company contracted by the CRTC (Canadian FCC equivalent)to determine what speed I and others who have the boxes installed are actually getting as opposed to what is advertised. www.samknows.com


Posted by:

Captain Bob
14 Oct 2019

Thanks Bob. This is great info. I suspect my ISP is slowing me down during prime streaming times whereas, I cut the cable but still receive internet from them. This will be an interesting test.


Posted by:

Harryt
14 Oct 2019

My DSL connection (Centurylink)
60.45 Mbs with speedtest
60.1 with fast.com but only
38.8 with speakeasy


Posted by:

Charley
14 Oct 2019

As Bob notes, speeds can vary depending on time of day, etc. And what you are really trying to find out is what your ISP is providing you. Speed tests can also be affected by the speed of the computer you are using to test it and what is running, whether you are using Wi-Fi (and what type) or Ethernet to your router, how fast your router is, your cable modem, what browser you are using, etc.

I have found the best speed test for Windows 10 is to download the native Windows 10 app Speedtest (from Speedtest.net). That way you avoid all the browser issues. Also check it with a couple different sites. I get substantially different results depending on which sites I tell it to test with. Since I am trying to find out what my ISP is doing, all you really care about is the fastest measurement you get. Anything slower than that is related to other Internet issues or how busy the site you are using is.


Posted by:

RandiO
14 Oct 2019

@Ernest Wilcox >> The intermixed usage of MB/s with Mb/s did not "baud" well with me either but still an excellent topic.

There are a variety of Windows utilities which can display/log real-time network activity: My go-to "DU Meter" has adorned a little corner of all my desktops for over 20 years. There are alternative FREEware versions that work equally well but not as flexible.


Posted by:

JimM
14 Oct 2019

Been using Testmynet for a couple years and found it very accurate when compared to the same test from my provider. It's a free site that allows you to test both upload and download from various locations. Usually the one closest to me is faster but not always. It does depend on the traffic.


Posted by:

casey
14 Oct 2019

NEED SERIOUS ADVICE!

I tested using my "naked" IP and again using VPN to Finland - both sit on Speakeasy under history of my tests.

Am I in trouble? Can my naked IP be connected to the proxy I used when downloading verboten items?

Best,
casey


Posted by:

Robert A.
14 Oct 2019

Comcast/Xfinity just notified me that for being a long time loyal customer they were upping my speed. So, for the hell of it, I just downloaded the speedtest.net test. WOW!!! DL speed is 356.97 mbps, UL speed is 23.95 mbps, and ping is 11. I'm elated!


Posted by:

Todd Keating
14 Oct 2019

Client tells me speed is slow - test speed using both Speedtest and Spectrum ( he is a Spectrum customer ). Tests are about 80MB short of the 100 he is supposed to have. Call tech @ Spectrum - they state a modem test verifies the 100 to the modem - for grins I detach the cable from notebook to wireless router and cable direct to modem - I cannot make connection! Something with Spectrum does not allow direct connect of PC to modem - must connect to router! - UUGGGHHH !!!


Posted by:

Don
15 Oct 2019

Testmy.net has been my first choice for years now. I think my ISP is biased and I won't use their test. Also, there is a lot of information about Testmy.net on the site and well worth reading.


Posted by:

Hill
16 Oct 2019

To Todd - you always need to restart your modem whenever you change the configuration, and the router too, if it's involved in the new configuration.


Posted by:

GregC
16 Oct 2019

First, as a possibility for Todd above, consider that in Engineering ( & like endeavours) ANYTHING that can go wrong will go wrong, Lately, this seems to be the story of my life.

Years ago I was troubleshooting a power cord issue. After much frustration I determined that when the device was upside down for access, the power cord twisted & made contact. When it was returned to right side up, the connection was lost. I have never forgot that GOTTCHA !

Now to an unsolved issue I have with my internet speed tests:
A couple of years ago I signed up for 300Mb speee service. My Win 10 laptop repeatedly tested over 350Mb. Towards the end of my two year contract, I retested with same setup (always hard wired of course)and my speeds had sunk to less than 200Mb repeatedly. Eventually I called Tech support and after much effort it was felt that the issue was possibly my modem as all test were good. I was upgrading to 500 Mb in a couple of weeks, so I let it go.

Fast forward to after modem and service upgrade to 500Mb, my computer that once got 350 from a 300 service, still only got 250 from new 500Mb service.
I called tech support and I felt I was given the run around because I was told, after a bit of testing that my "true" speed could only be determined using two simultaneous tests with each computer using gigabit ethernet ports.

Much later I tested 500 Mb service with new desktop ( Alienware Aurora) and got over 600 on the 500Mb service. Then I did the simultaneous download test with this desktop and my old laptop that used to get over 300Mb, by itself.

The Aurora slowed a bit, to just over 500Mb, and the laptop registered almost 200Mb. Thats 700 Mb on a 500 Mb service.

While this is fantastic I still do NOT Know why the laptop that used to get over 300 Mb on a 300 swrvice, can only get about 250 Mb from the new 500Mb service ( when tested alone.
Just to be sure, I used the original ethernet cable while testing the Aurora and a new cable for the Laptop, unless it was testing alone.

I always use multiple sites and times of day. Could a Windows update hosed my laptop? Any ideas? Thanks


Posted by:

Paul
19 Oct 2019

Also it's best to check your internet speed through a wired (to the router) connection rather than a wireless connection if you can for the most accurate result.


Posted by:

MMartin
22 Oct 2019

One of the best sites for testing connections and comparing ISPs: https://www.dslreports.com/speedtest

A bunch of useful tools: https://www.dslreports.com/tools


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