Want to Speed Up Your Internet Connection?

Category: Networking

Are you looking for ways to speed up your Internet? A slow, crawling Internet connection can be 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…

How to 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.

As a side note, I found out last night that sometimes speed is essential to safety. I was stopped in the right lane, behind a long line of cars waiting to exit the highway, when a car hit us from behind, hard! He was looking at his phone, and never hit the brakes. Fortunately, there were no injuries, but both cars were badly damaged. Note to self: avoid situations where you cannot maintain highway speed.

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.

Speed Up Internet Connetion

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.

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. (Think about what would happen to water flow if you connected a 6-inch pipe to a garden hose.) 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 PC Matic 4.0 – My Review will point you in the right direction if you need help with these software and 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 Improved Speed and Safety on the Info-Superhighway.

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. You may also find it helpful to reset your browser. See my related piece Is It Time to Reset Your Web Browser?

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.

There are many utilities on the Web that claim to "optimize" your Internet connection. 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.

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 "Want to Speed Up Your Internet Connection?"

Posted by:

22 Jan 2021

I heard about that accident: Snowstorm causes 134-car pileup along Japanese highway (2021/01/19)...

My original Cable company DSL install was not approaching the advertised 300Mbps speed; I felt quite embarrassed by the cable-tech, when he removed the high-speed (gold-plated), right-angle, Type-F adapter from the incoming RG-6 cable.

Posted by:

Stuart Berg
22 Jan 2021

Several ideas:
1. Browsers: You can use Speedometer to benchmark the speed of each of your browsers:
In my case, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Brave were very similar but Microsoft Edge was one-third faster.

2. I have my cable modem, router, and VOIP Ooma box on one power strip. That power strip is plugged into a weekly timer that turns it all off for 2 minutes at 3 AM once a week. I believe that occasionally rebooting your IT hardware solves a lot of potential problems.

3. Streaming devices like Roku, Firesticks, etc. for TVs can use a lot of bandwidth. For them, I like to use powerline devices that essentially bring the Ethernet connection to the streaming device without WiFi. For example, TP-Link makes some great powerline Ethernet devices. (P.S. Don't use the TP-Link power-saving feature because it often drops the connection when you don't want it to.)

Posted by:

22 Jan 2021

Sorry to hear about your vehicular mishap but happy to hear no injuries. A lasting fact drilled into my thick skull at Driver Ed decades ago was that the most dangerous speed on a highway is zero mph - my instructor at the time said always have an 'out' - stop a car length or 2 back from the guy in front and watch your mirrors - you see someone coming who's not going to stop it time use that above space to get out of the way.
Also perhaps you should lobby your politicians to ban hand held cell phone use in cars. Your SOLE task when driving is keeping the 2 tons of metal under control and absolutely nothing else (that also includes sipping on coffee). Humans are utterly incapable of multi-tasking.

Posted by:

22 Jan 2021

I've had problems with my Frontier DSL service. I noticed a long time ago that everything goes through Google. I installed a new WiFi router, put the Frontier modem in bridge mode, set OPENDNS as my DNS server and nothing changed. Everything still went through Google and was slower than I thought it should be. I was a network admin at a company that had one of the top 5 web presences in the world so I thought I knew a few things. I just changed over to the duckduckgo browser and my speed increased about 30%. The duckduckgo pops up every time I click a link saying that Google tried to track me and was blocked. Way less Google and much higher speeds, who knew?

Posted by:

Oliver Fleming
22 Jan 2021

Australia has a $1,000.00 fine for even holding your mobile phone while driving. You must be off the road, engine switched off and the keys out of the ignition to make or answer a phone call in your car.
"KEEP YOUR HAND OFF IT!" The billboard reads.

Posted by:

Stuart Berg
23 Jan 2021

Where can I download the Duckduckgo browser for Windows 10? All I have been able to find is the Duckduckgo browser for iOS and Android.

Posted by:

23 Jan 2021

I am glad you were not hurt. And I hope dealing with your insurance company goes smoothly.

Posted by:

Jillian S
24 Jan 2021

I just went to fast.com. It reported my speed as 16 mbps. My latency was 15m unloaded and 1.4s loaded. I really don't know what this all means.

Posted by:

25 Jan 2021

Will, I recently changed the searched engine on my Firefox to duckduckgo as well and my searches are a bit faster too. Might be the data that Google saves on its users.

Posted by:

26 Jan 2021

I have a nominal 200Mbps cable connection which PC-Matic clocked at 160 in mid-morning, which I thought was pretty reasonable. As for browsers, I use Opera and Vivaldi almost exclusively, save for when I need a disabled ad-blocker for a charity donation add-on to work - when Firefox gets the job. Quite honestly, I don't trust either Microsoft or Google not to harvest, and make use of, as much data about me and what I do that they can get away with. Their security is one factor, but I don't pay for a high-speed connection only to have them steal much of the extra bandwidth that *I* am paying for. Search engines? DuckDuckGo or Ecosia for choice. Similar reasons.

Posted by:

GC Dave
31 Jan 2021

@Oliver Fleming. Watch out! You're posting on an American website, land of the free. They might let phones be banned from use while driving but don't go after their guns!

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