Now that so many of us are working from home, many of us are wondering whether our Internet is too slow. There are lots of reasons for slow Internet browsing, but the good news is some can be easy to sort.
So let’s do some diagnosing of the problem. Ask yourself the following:
Is the problem your Internet or your computer?
Do you get the same problem in all your Internet browsers?
There are lots of browser programs available. There used to be a big difference in browser performance, but recently performance in the main five (Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and Opera) has improved.
I do find that many people still use Internet Explorer because it is familiar. This is an old browser now, slower and less secure than all of the above.
Be aware that speed should not be your only criteria – make sure you are using a secure browser.
Are you getting lots of pop ups and has your home page changed?
In my experience, add-ons, plugins, toolbars and extensions are the cause of 60% of slow Internet speed issues. Lots of plugins, extensions and toolbars get downloaded and installed over time– most without the user even knowing that they have been installed. Typical examples are gmail synchronisation, toolbar synchronisation across devices, search engine toolbars and such like. Many of these automatically run whenever you browse the web. Most you probably didn’t want and are not actually needed. So, if you have slow Internet try setting your browser back to defaults – that resolves most issues. If you would rather not do this, try disabling toolbars, plugins and extensions and see whether they make a difference.
Icons on your browser toolbar and no idea how they got there?
Everyone knows that malware can make the computer slow. People are getting better at seeing the signs.
Don’t assume, however, that because you are not getting these obvious signs everything is ok. Some malware is stealthier. If in doubt, run your Internet security software and download and run a program such as Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and Malwarebytes Adwcleanere. Be particularly careful that you download the genuine version if your browser has malware. If in doubt download it on an unaffected computer and copy it across using a memory stick.
When was your router installed? Years ago?
How old is your router? Router technology has changed over the years, got faster, better. Yet routers rarely get changed. So the first thing to do here is to check with your Internet provider – they can often tell you whether there is newer technology and may even provide a new router for free.
We do find that routers develop faults that can result in slow Internet. So if your provider does contact you offering to update your router periodically – take them up on the offer.
Also where is your router connected? Lots of materials can interfere with wireless signals – mirrors, metal filing cabinets, insulation in walls, microwave ovens, cordless telephones. A simple test is to connect your phone to WiFi, wander round and check the signal strength. If there is a problem you might find installing a second WAP (Wireless Access Point) or booster/repeater will make the difference. Sometimes all you need to do is relocate the router.
What are you downloading?
Not all Internet usage is equal. Normally it is internet traffic across wireless that causes most problems. Particularly uploading and downloading files. Things to consider include:
Ok, let’s assume you had a router that was 108 Mbps (Megabits per second). If one device is connected it has the whole 108 Mbps. Whereas if two connect they get 54 Mbps each. Consider that if ten connected then you are down to 10.8 Mbps each. A typical wired connection will provide at least 10 times this speed.
Now, firstly let me say that this is a gross simplification. In truth it is rare for all devices to connect to the WiFi at exactly the same moment. Plus modern WiFi routers often have more than one ‘stream’ and ways to handle multiple connections. Having made that caveat, the fact remains – the more devices you have connected, the slower your WiFi will be.
What can you do? Well does everything have to be Wireless? I know lots of people that think of Wired versus Wireless as an either/or. There is, however, nothing to stop you identifying the heaviest users of bandwidth and connecting those via a wired connection. You can leave the rest wireless for flexibility.
Do you need to run big downloads/synchronisations when you are working? Could they run overnight?
How fast is your broadband connection?
We often get asked to look at computers because the ‘WiFi is slow’, only to discover that the problem is not the WiFi at all, but that the Internet connection is slow. The broadband speed that is available to homes and businesses is highly dependent upon location, and how much you are willing to pay.
A good place to start is BT. Their speedtest will give you an idea of what BT thinks is achievable based upon your telephone number – see link below. You can compare this with what you are actually achieving via speedchecker sites – again see links below. I would recommend turning all but one computer off, and then running the test on that one computer with nothing downloading or uploading.
Try more than one speed checker site and hopefully they will all come in around the same speed. Ideally, connect to the router via a wired connection so you can be sure the problem is the broadband, not your WiFi.
Often speed can be improved by paying for a connection with a lower contention ratio (less people accessing the line), fibre optic lines, dedicated lines, SDSL (as opposed to ADSL), etc.
There are lots of other things that can contribute to slow Internet problems, so if you would like advice or help, don’t hesitate to contact me or Glen on 01787 881475 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.