Don’t you just hate it when you’re subscribing to a particular internet plan that provides a certain speed to suit your lifestyle, but speed suddenly drops and you don’t get your money’s worth?
You call your ISP and after all that guided troubleshooting, neither you nor the customer service representative can figure out what’s wrong. Or, as far as they're concerned, the "line test" shows that the internet connection is totally fine.
If you're lucky, they'll send someone over to have a look....eventually. And even then, you need to have the patience to sit around and wait. Could be days...
Otherwise, you just have to put up with a slow internet connection.....or do you?
If your internet suddenly slows, here are some reasons that may explain why you are suddenly getting speeds that are slower than the tortoise in the popular fable, and things that you can try doing to speed up your connection.
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Why Is My Internet Suddenly Slow?
There are a myriad of reasons why your internet suddenly could become sluggish. From too many users, to defective hardware, to your ISP having problems. Here are some of the issues that commonly crop up, some quick fixes you can do to remedy your situation, and what to do if the problem is something you cannot fix.
Your Wi-Fi Might Be the Problem
In some cases, it might not be your internet connection that is slow—the problem might lie with your Wi-Fi.
Let’s say that your internet service provider is offering you 100Mbps, but for some unknown reason/s, you just aren’t hitting those speeds!
The first thing to do is to pinpoint where the trouble lies.
Giving Your Router a “Breather”
The very first thing you should do it to simply restart the router. Unplug the power cable of your router and wait around 15 seconds or so before plugging back the power cable of your router. It sounds so simple, but usually does the job and fixes a number of problems.
The logic behind this is that electronics, like your router (or modem), are built to be constantly running, but everything has a breaking point, right?
When your modem/router is switched on for considerable periods of time, memory leaks may occur. A memory leak occurs when allocated memory is no longer released when a program or OS stops using it. This results in less memory being available overall - affecting performance.
By unplugging the power (power cycling is the proper term), you are basically giving your router and/or modem a break. Power cycling can often improve slow connections and solve wireless issues—for a period of time, at least. The older your router/modem becomes, the more likely that memory leaks can occur (and the frequency of those leaks).
Another reason could be your modem is gradually desynchronizing against your ISP. What happens here is that when you leave your modem constantly running, it corrupts the packets that you are sending and receiving. Your modem’s response is to keep resending these packets, and that lowers your speed as well.
Upgrade Your Router?
It is possible that your Wi-Fi router might not be able to handle the given speed. If this is the case, then you might need to upgrade your Wi-Fi router to fully maximize your internet subscription.
To help determine if your current Wi-Fi router can handle the internet speed that you are paying for, follow these steps:
1) Plug in your computer or laptop directly into the router/modem using an Ethernet cable.
2) Now go ahead and check your download and upload speeds using one of the many speed testing websites like speedtest.net. Run the test 3 times to gauge an average.
3) Once that test is finished, connect a device—like your smartphone or tablet—to your router via Wi-Fi.
4) Using your second device, go to the same speed testing websites and test the speed.
Note that you should NOT run the two tests simultaneously as this would affect your internet speed adversely. Also, we recommend disabling wifi on ALL network devices around your home, in case they interfere with the test, giving inaccurate results.
Now compare the two speed tests. Did they both reach the same speeds? If your device that is connected via Ethernet has the faster speed, then it might mean you need to upgrade your router in order to fully maximize the connection you are paying for. Of course, this isn’t a problem that wired Ethernet users will be worrying about.
Normal wear and tear may also be another reason. Aged Wi-Fi routers can start to slow down due to the radio/amplifier burning out. This is especially the case if you have adjusted the radio power upwards, on your router.
Too Many Users Are Connected To Your Wi-Fi Router
Another reason that might be causing your internet to slow down is that there are just too many users connected to the router. What happens is that all the different connected devices are likely pulling bandwidth to/from the internet, thus slowing down the internet speed.
Normal browsing does not really affect internet speed—unless, of course, there are two or more users hammering the connection doing things such as downloading huge files or watching high definition videos at the same time. These activities would really affect the network and bandwidth, thus slowing overall internet speed.
If you are sharing your connection with family members or housemates, a possible solution is to limit their bandwidth by accessing your router’s settings and allocating a certain bandwidth to each device. You can do this by enabling an advanced feature called QoS (Quality of Service). This will minimize the bandwidth tug of war for at least some of your users, and possibly applications.
Note that this feature may not be available on cheaper routers. However, you could consider a 3rd party firmware install, if your router supports it. This should give you QoS. You can learn more here.
Location of your Wi-Fi Router
If you are on a wireless connection and your internet is slower than usual, one of the most common problems is that the location of your router might be negatively impacting your wifi speed and coverage.
Two of the main causes of this are:
a) the distance, and
b) certain obstacles, like walls and doors
Let’s say that you are currently in your bedroom and your Wi-Fi router is in the living room. How thick your walls are and how far you are from the Wi-Fi router are factors that will have a significant effect on the speed of your connection.
What speed YOU experience from your internet connection, greatly depends on the quality of Wi-Fi signal that your device is receiving. Simply put, the farther you are from the Wi-Fi router, the signal to your device degrades. The result? You may not be getting the maximum speed that your ISP has promised....particularly at further distances.
Moving your router not an option? Depending on the electrical wiring of your home, you may get a Powerline, or MoCA adapter. Basically, these adapters turn your regular electrical outlets into Ethernet sockets, well away from your router. Some also have wifi capabilities.
Wi-Fi Bridge Or Repeater
Another option is either implementing a wifi repeater or bridge. These devices eliminate the signal problem by extending the wireless throughout your house or by "boosting" your router signal further, so you can have the proper internet speed that you are paying for.
Keep in mind though: booster/repeaters may also have a negative effect on the whole Wi-Fi network. In terms of improving internet speed, this method should only be used if you are certain that devices on the fringes of your router's wifi coverage are receiving a terrible signal, and resulting in poor and unreliable wifi speeds.
On a budget? Why not try this simple hack of making your own booster? All you need are aluminium cans!
Your Device Might Be the Problem
If there are no problems with your router and/or modem, then the problem may lie in the device you are using...whether it be a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or even a smart TV.
Power Saving Mode
If your device is on power saver mode, then it might mean your network adapter is not transmitting or receiving optimally.
If you're using Windows you could:
1) Go to Control Panel>System and Security>Power Options
2) Click on “Change Plan Settings” beside your selected plan
3) Click “Change Advanced Power Settings”
4) In the Advanced Settings tab, locate the settings for your wireless adapter and set it to “maximum performance”
Update Your Network Drivers
Make sure that your network adapters are constantly updated, to avoid malfunctioning and errors
1) If you’re on Windows, go to Control Panel>Hardware and Sound>Device Manager
2) Click “Network Adapters”
3) Right click each device on the pull down menu and select “Update Driver Software”
4) You have the option of automatically searching online for updates or updating it with a file on your computer.
Background Programs Using Bandwidth
Another possible reason for your slow internet is programs that are running in the background and using up your internet bandwidth. While most of these background programs probably do not take up much bandwidth on their own, together, these can really add up.
An example of background programs eating up too much bandwidth are "Internet Security" clients, also known as anti-virus software. But this could be easily remedied by implementing any QoS feature your router may have. Some routers have a one-click solution, which should give you noticeable performance improvements immediately.
Another possible culprit of slow device (and we're moving into the operating system of the device as a whole, rather than just looking at the internet speeds here), are programs, whether you know about them or not, hogging your system resources.
If you notice a program that is using a huge amount of bandwidth but you are not certain on what the purpose of this program is, just simply check the program online by Googling it.
Make sure you're using a good antivirus program (with real-time scanning) to help make sure you don’t have any malware on your computer. Malware programs are notorious for messing up your internet speed as well. Not to mention they are potentially hazardous to your private data. Anti-spyware software is also useful.
If you have tried the solutions in the earlier part of the article, but your internet is still slow, it might be because of reasons that are usually beyond your control. The most you can do is protect yourself.
Heavy Traffic On Websites
This is definitely fits into the more intermittent category.
If a website is trending, chances are there are a lot of people trying to access that website as well. If this is the case, check your internet speed and open up a couple more websites. If the speedtest.net shows your subscribed speed and other websites are loading fast as well, then most definitely the slow website is dealing with heavy traffic at the moment.
You can either wait or come back later.
Too Many Routers on One Channel
If too many routers in one area are connected to the same channel, it is possible that these routers are conflicting with each other’s signals. However, it is possible to change the current channel that you are on and choose another one that has lesser routers connecting to it.
Log on to your router. You should normally be able to locate the channel options there.
Consider switching to 5GHz wifi, rather than 2.4GHz if it is possible—more channels and less congestion, although note that 5GHz does not quite have the same area coverage as 2.4GHz.
Wifi Interference From Other Appliances
There may be other, non-wifi devices, that may be impacting your wireless signals. These include, but are not limited to, baby monitors, microwaves and cordless phones. They share the same frequencies as your wifi network (they use unlicensed frequency bands).
Also, furniture and the aesthetics of your home can impact signal. Don't place your router near metal sheeting!
Have an Unsecure Connection
If you suspect there are other people—apart from you and your household—using your internet connection through your Wi-Fi, best thing to do is change your password. In fact, you should do this regularly, regardless.
You’ll need your router’s IP address to do this. If it’s not on the sticker at the bottom of your router, you can also get it through Windows.
Now access your router, and choose WPA2 security and AES encryption, and change your wifi password. Or add one, if you did not previously set a password. You can now be at ease that the only people using your bandwidth are the only people who ARE supposed to be using your bandwidth.
Make sure your change your router admin password too. This is the password that gets you into your router to make changes.
Internet Traffic “Rush Hour”
Your internet may slow down at certain times, such as early evening or weekends when all the users in your neighbourhood is using the internet at the same time. This causes “connection congestion” and also affects websites that users are trying to connect to as well.
Call Your Internet Service Provider (if you haven't already)
If you have tried everything to speed up the connection to no avail, then it’s time to pick up the phone and call your Internet Service Provider.
The fault for a slow internet is often with the service provider. Possibilities can range from terrible weather conditions to damaged equipment. Ask them if they’re experiencing any problems. If not, go through their preliminary troubleshooting and finally ask for a technician to check your line.
A slow internet connection is always annoying, and may be caused by a number of reasons. It’s important to pinpoint what the problem is exactly, as the problem maybe be solved by something as simple as unplugging your modem and/or router and rebooting your computer.
You’ll need to identify if the problem is within your control or beyond your control. After all, if it’s something that you can’t solve by yourself then it’s time to call in the experts.
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