When internet speeds bog down, many consumers are quick to blame their service provider. However, often times mediocre speeds can be attributed to factors beyond the ISP, most notably outdated hardware and poor computer configuration. Before you make the switch to another provider, you should verify that your current internet troubles are not the result of one of the following issues:
A majority of computer users are content using Internet Explorer, the pre-installed browser software that is included with all Windows based operating systems. Not only is Internet Explorer far less secure and flexible as competitors such as Firefox or Chrome, the version installed on Windows is typically Version 6, which in itself is significantly outdated. Internet Explorer 6 downloads web page files in sequential order, a method far too inefficient to handle image heavy sites.
Windows users should confirm that they have the most updated version of Internet Explorer, or make the switch to Firefox or Chrome.
Verify Your Broadband Plan
Another common mistake people make is confusing megabytes (MB) with megabits (Mb). Since most data is presented in megabyte form, it seems logical to assume that internet speeds will be advertised as such. Subscribing to a 8 Mbps plan, for instance, will at best transfer 1 MB every second. Another misconception users have is that the advertised speed is fixed.
On the contrary, bandwidth speeds are affected by distance from the telephone exchange, network congestion, or throttling by your ISP. When taking these two factors into account, the actual speeds will differ precipitously from what the consumer might have been led to believe.
To get a more realistic idea of how fast your internet is, run an occasional speed test at varying times and days of the week. Many sites offer comparative figures to those in your area. Comparing numbers can help isolate whether the issue is an external problem, meaning you will need to upgrade your service, or an internal problem, where data is being bottlenecked by poor settings or hardware.
For those living in tightly packed communities, a single wireless signal can reach a wide array of residences. If your router is unprotected, any of your neighbors can log on using your connection and steal your bandwidth. While WPA encryption is preferred, at the very least your router should have a secure WEP password to protect it from unauthorised use.
Decrease Bandwidth Overhead
On any given system there may be a number of software programmes installed that automatically run every time you turn on your machine. Many of these applications not only consume processing power, but also may constantly check for updates, consuming bandwidth in the process. To check which applications run on startup, type ‘msconfig’ in the Start Menu search box and go to the Startup tab. From there you can manage which applications you would like to run when you boot your computer.
Get an iPlate
BT’s iPlate removes the bell wire used to make older telephones ring. This bell wire can acts as a conductor for electrical interference. With a bell wire, everything from light fixtures to household appliances could affect your broadband speed. Research shows that an iPlate can improve bandwidth by up to 60 percent, and subscribers to ADSL services should consider purchasing the relatively cheap device.
Outdated Router or Modem
For those who connect to the internet wirelessly, a higher range router can transmit a more powerful signal and therefore produce better speeds at larger distances. Users can also purchase a signal amplifier or router aerial, which can increase signal range and strength by 30 to 50 percent. If barriers prevent wireless signals from attaining desired speeds, you might considered switching to a wired connection.
Then again, even for wired connections an outdated modem can throttle internet traffic. For example, older DOCSIS 1.0 or 2.0 modems are incapable are delivering the higher speeds associated with a fibre optic network. Without changing service, users who upgrade to DOCSIS 3.0 receive a noticeable boost in overall speed. Before purchasing a modem, however, customers should ensure that the model is approved by their particular ISP.
Move the Modem Closer to the Faceplate
The larger the distance between your modem is to the broadband socket, the weaker the connection. This is because the standard wires used to connect the two are generally of poor quality. In fact, for ADSL connections, studies have shown that moving the modem closer to the faceplate can improve bandwidth by up to 3 Mbps. For wired connections, the quality of your ethernet cable from your computer to the modem may also affect bandwidth speeds.
Monitor Bandwidth Consuming Programmes
Newer TV streaming programmes such as 4oD and the BBC iPlayer will continue to run in the background of your computer even after you have closed them. As part of a peer to peer file sharing service, these programmes are dependent on users donating their upload bandwidth to the cloud even when they are not in use. This, however, will also slow your speeds considerably and consume your download allowance.
In order to close these applications completely, you must open the File menu and select ‘Quit’ rather than click the ‘X’ to close as with other software.
If you have tried all these solutions and service is still far slower than advertised, try switching providers. Laws in the UK make it relatively simple to switch ISPs by obtaining a MAC code from your existing provider. This code holds all the current information regarding how you connect to the internet, and will make the transition smooth and effortless.