Struggling with slow internet? These proven methods will boost bandwidth

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Is your internet speed dying by degrees? Are your downloads and uploads just not meeting your expectations? Do you find yourself getting jealous of the internet speeds at work or a friend’s house? Then it’s time to speed up your internet! A lot of variables can affect internet speed, but we’re going to talk about the common culprits and the steps you can take to improve speed.

Find out what you’re paying for (and change it)

First, it’s important to make sure that you are getting the internet speeds you’re paying for. Start by taking a speed test on your devices. Don’t take just one test; take several throughout the day (preferably on both weekends and weekdays, just to have a good sampling). Average them out and you should get a good Mb/s number to start with.

Now, head over to your ISP’s (internet service provider) website and check your specific internet plan package on the site. Almost every ISP has a listed internet speed for specific packages. This rate isn’t guaranteed—and there are a lot of caveats about it being the upper limit of what you can expect, etc.—but it is a good starting place. If your speed test results are wildly off from the stated speed, you have a problem. While you may want to try some of the other tips on our list first, this is a sign to give your ISP a call and try to improve your speed. Here are a few steps to try when you make contact.

Check data penalties: Some ISPs try what’s called bandwidth throttling, and while we don’t have time for a whole debate here, it basically slows down your internet so providers can save money, especially after you hit certain data use caps. Throttling is often invisible, so you may have no warning that it is happening. If your ISP has been known to slow down internet in the past, and you suspect that it’s happening here, it’s time to change providers.

Ask about any local issues: Maintenance and local problems may be causing internet issues in your area. Ask if anything is wrong, and when the problem will be resolved.

Buy a new package: If your internet speeds are in line with stated expectations, you can always consider bumping up to a better package and speed. Call in and explain your problem, and you could get a short-term discount out of it as well!

Switch to fiber: If you’re not already on fiber, see if you can make the switch for a vast improvement in internet speed. Most big ISPs offer some form of fiber connection, or packages that use certain fiber lines to improve speed. Verizon has FiOS. AT&T has U-Verse and Fiber. In other words, there are plenty of options out there, and fiber optic internet will almost definitely take care of any speed problems you have.

Update these things

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Many times, slow internet speeds — especially slowdowns that have happened within recent months — are caused by a lack of necessary updates to your devices, which may be working with older, slower firmware. We’ve got a list of things you should try updating to improve your speeds (and your security).

  • Internet browsers: Many browsers automatically update these days, but you may still have to relaunch or double-check that the update has loaded. If you see an update is available, use it!
  • Routers: Wireless routers get regular firmware updates too, which is something a lot of at-home net users rarely consider. Every router update process is a little different, but you need to go to the right router update page and make sure any new updates have been applied. Here’s how you do it with Netgear routers. Other brands have similar steps.
  • Operating systems: If you don’t have automatic updates turned on for your OS, check to make sure there are no important updates ready. It doesn’t matter which operating system you use, updates can help improve performance and speed up your internet.
  • End-use devices: Updates may also be available for TVs, game consoles, set-top boxes, and other devices. If they haven’t been updated in a while, it could be slowing down connection speeds.

Take a look at background downloads/operations

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Many operating systems hide background downloads and apps that could be eating up bandwidth and slowing down your internet activities — especially if you have a lot of active apps and processes happening at the same time. That’s why it’s smart to periodically take a look at just what background processes are active, and get rid of those you don’t recognize or need to help speed up your internet.

On Macs, you can use Activity Monitor to take a closer look. On Windows 10, you can use the Task Manager. Don’t let any hidden activity siphon away your internet speed!

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