Slow Internet Sometimes? Here's Why...
An AskBob reader says: 'My Internet connection is usually great, but it 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?' Yes, several! Read on...
Diagnosing a Slow Internet Connection
Unfortunately, intermittent problems can be difficult to diagnose, because they are not easily reproducible. Many different things can cause your Internet connection to slow down. Some of them are within your control, but many are not. Here are some 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 "high speed" connection on your home network, you may experience slowdowns when others in the house are using Youtube, streaming a movie or TV show, or playing 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 around the time that kids are getting home from school, or weekday evenings between 8pm and 10pm, it's likely that your cable TV company has oversubscribed the equipment that serves your area.
This type of slowdown is unique to cable internet, because the service provider may not have allocated enough bandwidth for a particular neighborhood. If the connection becomes saturated when many people are using the service, speeds will drop. A fiber-optic solution such as Verizon FIOS will not be susceptible to this type of problem, because each subscriber has an "end-to-end" connection to the central office.
An unknown program may be downloading or uploading data in the background without your knowledge. It might be something innocuous, like a backup operation, Windows 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Outdated software can result in a slow Internet connection.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 Keep Your Software Updated (or else...) to make sure everything is up to date.
Another possible issue could be a data cap. Some service providers will "throttle" your connection speed if you exceed your monthly allotment of data. This happens more often on mobile phones and satellite internet connections, but can also happen on wired home internet service. Some service providers limit download speeds during peak usage times, or if a user has recently downloaded a large amount of data. This can happen even with "unlimited" data plans. Check with your service provider if you think your speed may have been slowed down due to a data cap issue.
Checking Under The Hood
A slow Internet connection may be part of an overall PC performance drop. Your computer may need some general maintenance. My tips on Seven Free PC Maintenance Tools 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. A few years back, my cable internet service was intermittent, and a technician discovered that the incoming cable was rubbing against a tree branch, causing it to fray. Squirrels also seem to enjoy nibbling on Internet infrastructure.
Sometimes there are traffic jams on the Internet; there's not much you can do about those. If some websites load speedily while others are slow, it could be there is a bottleneck between you and the slow-loading sites. Or the site you want to access could be bogged down with too many visitors. You just have to wait for the problem to be fixed, or try at some other time of day.
Slow Internet connections on mobile devices such as an iPad or smartphone are almost always caused by heavy network traffic or weak 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 cellular signal. Wifi may be spotty in certain areas of your home. Satellite internet connections can be affected by heavy rains, thunderstorms, and solar activity.
Do you have other tips to help with slow internet connections? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 10 Nov 2020
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Slow Internet Sometimes? Here's Why... (Posted: 10 Nov 2020)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved