How to Speed Up Your Internet

When the Internet is slow, it can be frustrating. Web pages take forever to load, video streams buffer slowly, and video calls and online games lag out. When lag strikes, it can seem to come from nowhere, and make users question if they have enough Internet speed. 

Before you start cursing your slow speeds, though, there are steps you can take at home to make your Internet faster. Sometimes it’s little things that can be the key to getting faster Internet. 

What Devices Are Slowing You Down?

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One of the first ways to speed up your Internet is to look around the house. There could be hidden sources of lag all over. 

Routers and modems need to be restarted occasionally. So does your computer, and any other device that uses your Internet service. All of these devices process data all the time. Some of them, like your modem or your computer’s operating system, also get updates that require periodic restarts. 

A lot of devices rely on the Wi-Fi signals from your connection, including a few that are commonly overlooked. Gaming consoles, TV sets and DVRs, tablets, laptops and cell phones all use wireless networks to fulfill some of their functions. Many of those little mobile apps we take for granted are using WiFi to do what they do.

Smart home devices, like light bulbs and thermostats, also take up a small amount of bandwidth. So do a lot of computer accessories, such as your mouse, printer, or keyboard. Even these small amounts add up as more devices are added.

How Bandwidth Determines Speed

Internet speed is actually a combination of two factors. The first is bandwidth, which is how “wide” the transmission band is. The second is how much data is traveling on it, called latency. 

When a lot of data is traveling on a narrow bandwidth, it can get bottlenecked or even corrupted. Broadband Internet has wide bandwidth, so theoretically allows a lot of data back and forth. 

Some companies have data caps. Data caps are a maximum amount of data that is allowed to pass through your home. Many Internet providers have unlimited data, but deprioritize your connection once you pass the limit. Limits are usually very high, but it’s important to know yours, even if you have an unlimited plan.

During any given day, there are periods of high Internet traffic, when many people in the neighborhood are using the same connection hub. Even the widest of bandwidths can’t accommodate unusually high amounts of data. If your unlimited plan has a deprioritization clause, you might notice pages loading more slowly. If you have a data cap, you may want to postpone use until after this period.

What If It’s Not Your Hardware?

Sometimes your Internet speed is lagging because your wireless router is in the wrong place. Your router is part of a mesh network, which is like a web. The best place for the center of your Internet web is the center of your home. This way, your Wi-Fi network can cover the whole dwelling, reducing the possibility of dead zones.

Another option is to “hardwire” any devices you can. Hardwiring means plugging your device into the wall with an Ethernet cable instead of relying on your WiFi network. Gaming consoles, TVs, home computers and laptops are all capable of being plugged in using a standard Ethernet cable.

Simple computer maintenance includes clearing the cache and cookies from your browser. Not doing so can also make your Internet seem slow. Ads that appear on websites can also slow down your computer’s performance. A good ad blocker can make a noticeable increase to Internet speed. 

How you use the Internet is also a major factor in how it performs. If you are just checking email and going to social media, you are probably not using much bandwidth. If you are streaming movies or playing online games, you are using quite a bit. Many devices use a little in the background at all times.

A speed test is a good way to get an overall picture of your use. You can also determine if your modem is outdated if your speed is lower than your Internet plan. Your Internet service provider may have speed testing on their customer portal, or you can find one online. You can also get an estimate of how much broadband you need based on your device use by going here.

Check for Malware

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Malware comes in many forms. Sometimes it is a tiny app that floods your computer with ads. Other times it can be so destructive it turns your device into a useless “brick.” Malware can hide on your devices and hijack your connection or even steal your personal data. It can also slow down your Internet by disrupting the flow of data.

Some malware allows hackers to steal some of your broadband from afar. Some hackers might even sit within range of your wifi signal and use it for their own online activity. In both cases, hackers have set up a way into your network that is hidden. This means there are more devices using your broadband and slowing your connection.

Be on the lookout for unusual data use, but always keep your wireless network secure. Many Internet plans have security apps as optional extras. You can also purchase security programs such as McAfee or Norton separately. Password managers, like Lifelock or Bitwarden can also keep unwanted intruders from your home network.

Making Your WiFi Go the Distance

If everything plugged in with an Ethernet cable, imagine what a spider’s web the interior of our homes and offices would become! Thankfully, many devices are enabled for wireless, from computer accessories, to light bulbs and thermometers, to refrigerators, coffee makers, and even the front door of your home. You want to make sure your WiFi can reach it all. However, the best way to boost a WiFi signal depends on your WiFi.

One of the attributes of WiFi to look out for is the frequency band you are using. The 5ghz band is a stronger signal but has shorter waves that have trouble with obstructions. Some devices use it because of the stronger signal, but the less strong 2.4ghz band is widely used by older or smaller devices. There is also more traffic on the 2.4ghz band.

Many routers are built to switch back and forth automatically, but the differences between the two bands mean they use different methods to spread WiFi around a large area. The more powerful short waves of 5ghz need the web formation of a mesh network to direct the signal to other points. Mesh systems accomplish this by establishing access points all over the house, wherever you put them.

The longer waves need WiFi extenders, also called WiFi repeaters, to amplify the signal strength so it reaches farther. They are like antennas, and many routers have this feature built in. You can also buy external ones. They can transmit either in one direction or in an omnidirectional net. Usually, however, WiFi “dead zones” are in specific sections of the area to be covered, rather than throughout, so directional extenders can often be more practical.

In addition to specific frequencies used, there are also Wi-Fi channels. Channels 1, 6, and 11 are best for 2.4ghz band WiFi because they are least used. Channel 14 is also a commonly used WiFi channel. 

Channels can bring distortion from other people using the same channel for their WiFi. One of the benefits of using the 5ghz band is that routers check automatically for the least used channel. Users of the 2.4ghz band should check the channel manually.

Upgrade Your Plan

Sometimes there may be no other option but to upgrade your Internet plan. Today’s Internet transfers more data, and devices add to the load. Most Internet plans provide plenty of data to run all your devices, but some people underestimate how much they use and wind up with plans insufficient for their needs. 

If you’ve tried everything else but your Internet still seems slow, it’s time to take a look at your plan and compare it to what’s available in your area. Even if you have the best your area has to offer, it’s better to be sure, especially if you plan on adding devices in the future. Paying a little more for more data and bandwidth could be the best way to have the Internet you want.

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