Tips for Troubleshooting Slow Internet Connections at Home

This list describes common causes of slow Internet connections in homes. A poorly performing connection can be caused by broadband router configuration errors, wireless interference, or any of several other technical issues with your home network. Use these tips to not only diagnose but also fix the causes of slow Internet connections. Many of them apply to wireless hotspot connections, too.

1. Check Your Broadband Router Settings

As the centerpiece of a network, a broadband router can be responsible for slow Internet connections if configured improperly. For example, the MTU setting of your router will lead to performance issues if set too high or too low. Ensure your router’s settings are all consistent with the manufacturer’s and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) recommendations. Carefully record any changes you make to your router’s configuration so that you can undo them later if necessary.

2. Check Your Speeds (and Your Plan)

Sometimes, your internet is slow because you’re only paying for slow internet. Log onto your provider’s web site (or give them a call) and find out what plan you have. Then, head on over to Speedtest.net and run a speed test. If the numbers match up to what you’re paying for, then your network is working fine and you’re just paying for slow internet—and the best way to speed it up will be to upgrade. (Though some of the below tricks will help you eke out a bit more speed). If the numbers don’t match, read on for a few ways to fix that problem.

3. Avoid Wireless Signal Interference

WiFi and other types of wireless connections may perform poorly due to signal interference, which requires computers to continually resend messages to overcome signal issues. Household appliances and even your neighbors’ wireless networks can interfere with your computers. To avoid slow Internet connections due to signal interference, reposition your router for better performance and change your WiFi channel number.

You may also need a WiFi extenderA WiFi extender connects to a primary internet router, either over the air or by ethernet cable and essentially acts as a secondary connection source. Where signals lose strength over distance and through walls, extenders make up the difference by catching and boosting their effective range. The ultimate goal of a WiFi extender is to eliminate internet dead spots within a building but but many extenders also support wired connections to provide further networking power.

4. Beware of Malicious Software

An Internet worm is a malicious software program that spreads from device to device through computer networks. If any of your computers are infected by an Internet worm, they may begin spontaneously generating network traffic without your knowledge, causing your Internet connection to appear slow. Keep up-to-date antivirus software running to catch and remove these worms from your devices.

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5. Stop Network Applications Running in the Background

Some software applications you install on a computer run as so-called background processes – hidden behind other apps or minimized to the system tray – quietly consuming network resources. Unlike worms, these applications are designed to do useful work and not the kind a person wishes to remove from their device normally. Games and programs that work with videos in particular can heavily utilize your network and cause connections to appear slow. It’s easy to forget these applications are running. Always check computers for any programs running in the background when troubleshooting a slow network.

6. Optimize Your Web for a Slow Connection

Troubleshooting slow internet can take awhile, and in the meantime you still need to browse. Or maybe you’re at a coffee shop or on a plane, and there’s nothing you can do about your slow speeds. In that case, it’s time to optimize your web for a slower connection: use mobile or HTML versions of your favorite sites, disable images, and use features like Opera Turbo. In fact, we recommend setting up a secondary browser on your laptop for just such a situation—it can really make a difference when you need to work on a slow connection.

7. Isolate and Repair Faulty Network Equipment

When routers, modems or cables malfunction, they won’t properly support network traffic at full speeds. Certain technical glitches in network equipment negatively affect performance even though connections themselves can sometimes still be made. To troubleshoot potentially faulty equipment, temporarily re-arrange and re-configure your gear while experimenting with different configurations. Systematically try bypassing the router, swapping cables, and tests with multiple devices to isolate the slow performance to a specific component of the system. Then decide if it can somehow be upgraded or repaired… or if it needs to be replaced.

8. Work with Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) if Necessary

Internet speed ultimately depends on the service provider. Your ISP may change their network’s configuration or suffer technical difficulties that inadvertently cause your Internet connection to run slowly. ISPs may also intentionally install filters or controls on the network that can lower your performance. Don’t hesitate to contact your service provider if you suspect they are responsible for a slow Internet connection.