Speed Up Your Internet Connection!

Category: Networking

Want 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 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 10X faster.

For those in very rural areas, satellite and mobile broadband may be good alternatives. My article What is The Fastest Internet Connection? goes into more detail on the different 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 Internet Speed Tests to find out how.

Slow Internet -- Hardware Factors

I 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. After upgrading my Verizon FIOS connection from 20Mbps to 50MBps, I discovered that my actual download speeds hadn't changed a bit. A free router upgrade solved the problem.

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, or a high-gain antenna. My article 10 Ways To Boost a 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 Upgrade Your Memory for Better Performance 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 The Missing Link in Computer Security 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 in 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 Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 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. Another free utility you can try is TCP Optimizer. I've not tried it, but one reader mentioned that it was helpful to him.

I've been asked if upgrading from a G-router to a newer N or AC router will boost speeds on a wireless Internet connection. The answer is most likely NO. The older G-routers can sling data at maximum (burst) speed of 54Mbps, with a sustained speed of 25-27 Mbps. For most people, that's faster than your incoming Internet pipe. DSL operates at about 1.5 to 3 Mbps, cable is typically 5-20 Mbps, and residential fiber optic service might get you as high as 50Mbps. The only exception to this would be those lucky enough to have access to super-fast Internet connections. If you do have that kind of incoming pipe, an N-router may increase your wifi throughput to about 150Mbps.

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 "Speed Up Your Internet Connection!"

Posted by:

bob price
07 Feb 2013

I watch a lot of full screen [24" ext monitor] HD movies on the laptop so Internet speed is essential, otherwise it stops and spools a lot. Closing the browser and reopening just the movie tab solves it for me.

Posted by:

07 Feb 2013

While looking through the optional Windows updates recently, I think one of them was for the network adapter driver. After installing that update, both the intranet and internet seem to function faster and better. E.g., That computer connects to a server for Quickbooks and now opens companies faster. Was that just a coincidence or is it another option to speed up your internet?

EDITOR'S NOTE: More likely it was a security issue than a speed issue. But that doesn't mean it couldn't be true!

Posted by:

07 Feb 2013

Flushing your PC's ARP (Address Resolution Protocol) cache can speed up a sluggish connection. Open a cmd window and enter this command:

netsh interface ip delete arpcache

Posted by:

07 Feb 2013

The points mentioned in the article are all good, but in my travels fixing slow machines, i know it makes good sense to start with a machine that is running fast even if disconnected from the Net.If i don't have to format a drive and reinstall Windows, i will use Revo Uninstaller to remove the unnecessary junk programs, pare down the startup list of programs and services to a minimum, run Malwarebytes and CCleaner for malware and the associated junk and clutter files, and if it needs it,a defrag. Many people i see complain about a slow Internet because they spend most of their time on the Net, but i see the pc is slow even at startup. Many of them also don't understand other factors like YouTube being a very busy site,or the time of day being a factor.

Posted by:

07 Feb 2013

Also , the distance from your DSL connection to the Service box governs your speed.
Plus ,where you are located ,city wise.
I was notified by a service man that since I was located on the edge of the service map,I would only get a certain bandwith.
I was paying for a faster speed but because of where I was living, I could not get what I was paying for.I dropped down to a slower speed & paid less money for the service, & the speed was the same.

Posted by:

Wolfgang Zero
07 Feb 2013

I have Cox internet cable service and pay for the lowest level of service ("3Mbps") and speed tests always show about 3.2Mbps download and .87Mbps upload.
I quit paying for higher levels of service because I rarely see downloads from web sites, including software downloads, that exceed 1Mbsp.
It appears to be limited by how fast the site's servers spoon out the data.
A few years back, I used "Download Accelerator" which seemed to help some by using mirror sites' servers to provide multiple sources for the download.
I don't see how Bob can realistically use 50Mbps in the real world unless he's connecting to really fast or "captive" (inhouse or home to business)servers.
If anyone has suggestions on how to speed up slow web sites (ex. www.Redfin.com) please let me know!!

Posted by:

Robert Darby
08 Feb 2013

Hi Bob,
The best clean up tool that I have come across is iobot The pro version is only about $12 AUD and the improvement is unbelievable.I have the pro version on my main computer and the free version on all the others (20) and I have no further trouble with slow computers. I hope you find this helpful.

Posted by:

joe wrenn
08 Feb 2013

Hey Bob! I was just looking through your suggestions for speeding up the internet connection. I understand that win 7 and 8 have built in ability to adjust internet settings on the fly. That being said, why would you recommend tweak master? They claim to be able to speed up even win 7 and 8. I think you have contradicted yourself for the sake of advertising bucks, Bob, what say ye??
P.S I really like most of your articles, they are for the most part very informative!!

EDITOR'S NOTE: You think *I* contradicted myself? You just said that TweakMaster claims they can speed up Win7 and Win8. If so, they must be doing something other than what's built into the OS. As for advertising bucks, I have no relationship with the company that sells TweakMaster. I even listed their product under the heading "What (Probably) Doesn't Work". :-)

Posted by:

08 Feb 2013

I looked up "iobot" on Google but it gave me his for "iobit". Backin 2009 and 2010 malwarebytes claimed that Iobit stole some of their proprietary data.

Posted by:

wild bill
21 Jul 2014

In re: a faster wireless router, I agree in general with your answer. However, I suspect that in households (or other environments) with
multiple wireless users sharing whatever, it might bee an advantage to have a faster router.
For instance, one user is streaming to another device while other users attempt to access the
internet. A bigger pipe allows more internal bandwidth without clogging access to the outer
world. Personally I am planning on adding a
N150 router to my gateway to accommodate internal

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