Why Is My Internet Connection SLOW Sometimes?

Category: Networking

A frustrated AskBob reader says: 'My Internet connection is usually pretty fast, but sometimes it slows to a crawl, 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 for my advice on diagnosing (and fixing) a slow Internet connection...

Diagnosing a Slow Internet Connection

It's the nature of intermittent problems that they 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 or stuttering (buffering) when others in the house are using Youtube, streaming a movie or TV show, or playing a graphics-intensive online game. My wife and I have seen this happen when we were streaming a TV show, and our son was playing World of Warcraft in another room.

Did you know... if you have cable Internet, 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.

Slow Internet Connection

An unknown program may be downloading or uploading data in the background without your knowledge. It might be something innocuous, like a cloud 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 Botnet Alert: Are You Vulnerable? for more on that. Run a "deep scan" with your 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Outdated software can result in a slow Internet connection.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 Here's Why You Must Keep Your Software Updated (and how to do it for free) 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, which throttle you to super-slow "2G speeds" when you've used your bucket of high-speed data. Sure, you still have unlimited data in theory, but it's like driving a car that can only go 10 MPH on a superhighway. 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

You can check your Internet download and upload speeds with Speedtest.net. You may find out that your actual speed is much lower than what you service provider has promised!

A slow Internet connection may be part of an overall PC performance drop. Your computer may need some general maintenance. My tips on Need a PC Tuneup? Free PC Maintenance Tools will help you find software to use for those tasks.

A misconfigured router or overheated modem 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, after waiting a bit solved my sluggish Internet connection problem. Was it overheating, or was it clogged with transitory cybergunk? Who knows? I got a replacement from the cable company, and 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. A signal booster/extender can help with this issue. (See How to Boost or Extend Your WiFi Signal.) 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...

 
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This article was posted by on 22 Sep 2022


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The Top Twenty

Most recent comments on "Why Is My Internet Connection SLOW Sometimes?"

Posted by:

Lucy
22 Sep 2022

Not mentioned, but I understand using a VPN slows your internet also.


Posted by:

Bob K
22 Sep 2022

Recently I upgraded to a fiber connection. Since that time, when viewing high definition video streams, the router would lock up after awhile.

I blamed this on the router, and will replace it. But recently have read a lot about Roku devices (and my TV is a TCL) killing internet connections. This is because Roku uses the same WiFi channel to talk to the remote as what the TV or Roku adapter is using for it's feed.

Anyone else run into this, or heard anything about it?


Posted by:

Nigel A
22 Sep 2022

Another couple of issues with satellite Internet are a tree growing taller and getting in the way of the signal or the receiver goingout of alignment perhaps impact by a bird.


Posted by:

Lucy
22 Sep 2022

@Bob K
Have you tried using an ethernet connection for streaming?


Posted by:

Steve K
22 Sep 2022

My ISP (Spectrum cable) promises 100 Mbps, and I've just confirmed with Speedtest that it's there. In fact, it's always there, every time I've checked.

My wife can watch YouTube off the Roku while I'm reading the news on my Chromebook, and we're both happy campers.

At the same time, my router is an old bought-at-a-yardsale-for-ten-bucks Netgear N600 (WNDR3400). 802.11a/b/g/n ... 300 Mbps data transfer rate.

Am I correct in thinking a faster router won't matter if my ISP speed is 100 Mbps, and that I should just keep the N600 until fiber comes into our area?

In fact, am I correct in thinking fiber won't matter if all we do is watch YouTube and read the news?

Thanks for all feedback.


Posted by:

Rad
22 Sep 2022

Another cause of slow internet may be the website's server not having enough bandwidth to deal with the number of folks trying to access it ... a case of the problem is not yours, it's them causing the problem.


Posted by:

Bob K
22 Sep 2022

Lucy:

No, but that is on the things to try. Have the Ethernet cable to the TV complex, have to squeeze on the connector, and set up a hub for the TiVo and Chromecast.

It will be interesting to see what the connection to the remote uses. A couple web searches say this will be a bad way to go :-(


Posted by:

cropduster
22 Sep 2022

If you have Home Internet by T-Mobile (which I LOVE!) your speed is largely governed by the positioning of the gateway. In my case, I suffered with slow speeds and complained without receiving a 'solution'. By chance, I rotated the gateway by 180 degrees and my internet speed jumped by 20 fold! The gateway connects to towers by using a directional antenna and my error was not fully understanding how to 'find' a tower. I will NEVER go back to AT&T or cable!


Posted by:

MartinW
22 Sep 2022

My internet speed varies, but not by a great amount. My problem is periods of NO internet. Two computers, side by side, one is going fine and the other slows (gradually or quickly), stops, and says no connection. I disconnect via the little widget, then reconnect. The computer sits, then says connection secured but no internet, then says connected to the internet. This takes about a minute. This happens once in a great while on Linux, and every single day (once, twice, occasionally more) when I'm using Windows. If I can just STAY connected while working, speed doesn't matter as much.


Posted by:

Wild Bill
22 Sep 2022

And sometimes things can slow to a crawl if a major server farm is suffering a DDOS attack or is being compromised by malware affecting the servers.


Posted by:

James
23 Sep 2022

I have FIOS. I found by looking that I have 10 connections that include 3 Fire sticks, 2 phones, 3 laptops and my main TV with ethernet. WOW


Posted by:

Bart De Bie
23 Sep 2022

For people using WiFi there's an app called:
Wi-FiSweetSpots
It works like a metal detector and gives you feedback where your Wi-Fi signal is at his best!
I used it in a bank where i worked to stay connected during the day.


Posted by:

kevin
24 Sep 2022

Nobody has mentioned the fact that your browser can be the cause of a slowdown. I found that my longtime browser, a FIrefox offshoot called Waterfox (which had always been good,) was the reason many web pages were becoming slow to load and clicking certain things seemed to not work at all. But those same sites worked perfectly - and all clicks produced responses - when loaded in the Microsoft Edge browser (which I am not otherwise a fan of).

I have yet to determine if my usual browser just needs more "refreshing" than I already tried, or may need to be reinstalled (a task I am reluctant to do). I certainly hope that it has not finally become unable to keep up-to-date with necessary changes. Either way, my point is that different browsers may perform differently, depending on the circumstances. So slow Internet may sometime be due to a browser issue, rather any of the reasons identified in the article.


Posted by:

Rajan
24 Sep 2022

I am using Win 10 with Edge browser. I tried to use extension for downloading videos but could not succeed. I tried to download free video downloaders, but everytime Kaspersky Int sec blocked download. Is there any ree safe video downloader ?


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