Need to Speed Up Your Internet Connection?

Category: Networking

Looking for ways to speed up your Internet? A slow, crawling Internet connection is a source of great frustration. Sometimes the slowdown is beyond your control; the Internet is subject to traffic jams just like any other highway. But there are some things you can do to maximize whatever speed you are able to get. Here's a bucket of tips and tools that can help you go faster on the information highway...

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 you have DSL, consider moving to cable or a fiber optic connection, which can be 10-100X faster.

For those in very rural areas, satellite and mobile broadband may be good 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

Also, 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 wires rubbing against a tree in my yard. Squirrels 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. 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 defective, 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.

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. You might consider a USB high-gain WiFi adapter, a high-gain antenna, or a range extender. 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. 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.

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 (malware) can come to a crawl when accessing the Internet. My articles Keep Your Software Updated (or else...) and Free Anti-Virus Programs will point you in the right direction if you need help with these software ans 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 Speed Tip: Faster Web Surfing with Alternate DNS.

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 Internet Explorer, 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. No need to play the round-robin browser game.

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.

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/ME/XP) these tweaks might have been somewhat useful. But Windows 7, 8 and 10 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.

There are many utilities on the Web that claim to "optimize" your Internet connection. Some do, some don't. The best such utility that I have found is TweakMASTER by Rose City Software. It asks a couple of questions about the type of Internet connection you have. Then it creates a restore point so you can recover if you don't like the changes it makes. Finally, you try several different "strategies" - each a combination of tweaks - to see which gives you the best speed boost. If it doesn't help, you can roll back the changes.

Finally, 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! Do you have any internet speedup tips? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Need to Speed Up Your Internet Connection?"

Posted by:

Andrew S Mace
17 Jan 2020

"Squirrels have also been known to chew on these cables." This made me laugh, as it brought back memories of the "Internet Tourbus" and its long-running squirrels joke!

Thanks, Bob, for that memory and for a great article today!


Posted by:

Ken H
17 Jan 2020

How to get high(er) speed internet? In my case Paying hundreds of $s a month for sufficient downloads would do it. That or move to a city. America suck when it comes to internet connectivity. Even cities here are behind Europe and Asia. Heck I got better service in a Mexican fishing village.


Posted by:

Renaud Olgiati
17 Jan 2020

To reboot your rooter, it may be necessary not only to disconnect it from its power supply, but also from the coaxial cable that comes from the street.
And a WiFi repeater can significantly increase your bandwidth if you are working at the limit of range of your router.


Posted by:

JP
17 Jan 2020

It's also possible that the network adapter inside your (my) computer doesn't comply with the latest standards.


Posted by:

MartinW
17 Jan 2020

At one time years ago I had Suddenlink (a good company) for Internet and TV. Some may laugh, but squirrels did gnaw on and damage the lines to the house. Twice. Now my main problems (maybe - ??) are too much distance to the router and too many devices used at once. (That's four computers actually in use and eight phones doing their occasional checking for this or that right at this moment.) So I know slow.


Posted by:

Mike
17 Jan 2020

I was surprised USB network adapters weren't mentioned. Some are very good at what they do while others can slow down a connection.


Posted by:

William
17 Jan 2020

Recently my home EMF environment changed and my WiFi speed slowed drastically. I changed my radio connection to my router from 2.4 GHz to 5 GHz and vastly improved my WiFi speed.


Posted by:

Paul S
17 Jan 2020

Squirrels are indeed a problem. I too had to have the drop line to the house replaced. Water had actually made its way through the cable to the house connections. At the same time the cable company replaced the splitter and some coax connectors. When I had a chain link fence replaced the fence company used aluminum wire to fasten the cloth to the fence structure. About 75% of those aluminum wire pieces have been chewed through. I guess this helps the squirrels keep their growing teeth (up to 6"/yr) from becoming too long.


Posted by:

Martha
17 Jan 2020

Andrew, thanks for bringing up the Internet Tourbus! Great memories!


Posted by:

Duncan Jack
17 Jan 2020

I too raised a silent glass to the memory of Patrick's squirrels


Posted by:

Shelly
17 Jan 2020

And it's a good idea to occasionally check for driver updates for your network adapters.


Posted by:

RandiO
17 Jan 2020

Five years ago, I landed on a super-special deal where TWC cable offered 300Mbps speed for the price of their 30Mbps speed. TWC to Spectrum name-change operation now considers me a 'Legacy customer' as they try to coax me into getting the same TV plus ISP service for $100 more. During the switch, I found out that my max speed was only ~90Mbps (not that I really need anything faster), the technician told me that my (expensive) F-type coax, right-angle adapter at the wall was the problem. Few hours after his departure, I put the right-angle adapter back and confirmed the problem did not comeback. I realized they got caught and did a quick 'switcheroo' on the line when he called the office during his visit.


Posted by:

Paul
17 Jan 2020

Note that the network adapter on many computers is still the old 10/100 standard and limits network speed, if you are paying for a plan faster than 100Mbps then consider getting an add-on gigabit adapter.


Posted by:

david payne
17 Jan 2020

I find that when people very slow internet or a slow computer overall that one might consider firing windows and going with mx linux. I have found out that windows 7 and up can get very slow in a short amount of time. I have been using mx linux and will never ever ever go back to windows. My internet is great now. Just saying.


Posted by:

Ken Driver
19 Jan 2020

A more powerful video card will make a big difference. It's about the page rendering speed, the better card the faster it renders the images and text.


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