- How to test internet speed
- Accessing your router settings
- WiFi speed improvements
- General speed improvements
How to test internet speed
To find out how slow your broadband actually is, you’ll need to run an internet speed test to get a baseline reading.
Visit speedtest.net (or download the app) and click the big yellow “Go” button.
Once the test has finished, you should see something like this:
What does this mean?
- Your ping measures how quickly you get a response from the test server. Lower is better – less than 50ms is good.
- Download speed is how quickly your internet will download data, like video files. Higher is better – you’d want 6-8Mbps or more for HD streaming.
- Upload speed refers to how fast your connection can upload data to the internet. The higher this is, the quicker your Instagram/Snapchat story will upload.
- Mbps means megabits per second. 8 megabits = 1 megabyte. Remember that Mb means megabits and MB means megabytes. Most speed tests measure in megabits.
Note this result down somewhere, so that you can say for certain if you’ve made any improvements.
If your speed test is actually pretty high but you still have issues with buffering, this could indicate that your internet is slowing down when others are using it.
Accessing your router settings
Some of the fixes in this guide will require you to login to your router settings on your computer.
If you’re not comfortable doing this, that’s fine – you can simply skip the methods that require changes to your router settings. It’s not as hard as it sounds though!
Open up a new tab and type your router IP into the address bar. Normally, it’s either 192.168.0.1, 192.168.1.1, or 10.1.1.1.
If you’re not sure what your router IP is, you’ll need to find it manually.
To find it on PC, open the command prompt by typing “cmd” into the start menu/search bar. Type in “ipconfig” and look for the “Default Gateway”.
- Hit the Apple symbol and go to “System Preferences”.
- Click on “Network” and find your current connection.
- Press “Advanced” in the bottom right and select the TCP/IP tab.
- The default gateway will be listed as the router’s IP address.
The login screen you see will look different on each router.
Typically, the username is “admin” and the password is “password” or “admin”. If these don’t work, Google “[router model] default password” to find your default login details.
How To Improve WiFi Speed
First, we’ll look at some WiFi-specific fixes.
Remember that your issue might not necessarily be related to WiFi signal, even if most of your devices are connected to your router via WiFi. So if the first 10 methods don’t work, it’s worth trying the general fixes we’ve outlined further down the page.
Some of these solutions (like upgrading your router) will cost you a few quid. Feel free to try the free ones first before spending any money.
1. Switch frequencies
Most newer routers actually broadcast on two different frequencies – 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz.
The former provides better coverage over long distances. But the 5.0GHz broadcast is generally faster.
To change, simply open your WiFi settings and select the 5.0GHz network. You’ll most likely be on 2.4GHz by default.
If you only see one option, it’s likely your device isn’t able to pick up both frequencies. Or perhaps your router is only capable of broadcasting on 2.4GHz.
Most hardware manufactured prior to 2014 is unable to broadcast or receive signal on the 5.0GHz frequency.
2. Change the channel
WiFi isn’t only broadcast on different frequencies – there are different “channels” too. If you live next to a lot of other houses/apartments, different routers can interfere with each other if they’re on the same channel.
Connect to WiFi on your phone and download the “WiFi Analyzer” app on Android or an alternative like “Network Analyzer Lite” on Apple devices.
Find this screen:
Ideally, your connection should be on a channel of its own, like all three of the WiFi routers (represented by the coloured curves) are in the image above. On other apps, this information may be displayed as a table rather than a graph.
If your connection is on the same channel as a bunch of others, you’ll need to login to your router settings and change the channel.
To do this, go to your wireless settings and choose a channel that doesn’t have any other access points using it, if possible. If there are no free channels, choose the one with the fewest other connections on it.
3. Improve your signal strength
Apps like WiFi Analyzer will also tell you how strong your WiFi signal is. In the screenshot above, you can see that the signal strength of the router on the right is better than the signal strength of the other two hotspots. This is because it’s the closest router to the phone that took the screenshot.
On Windows, you can also use the icon on the taskbar to tell how strong your signal is.
If you generally get quite poor signal, you can switch to the 2.4GHz wireless network, as it generally works better over long distances.
But if you’ve got a really big house, you might need to get a WiFi range extender. These products take your current WiFi signal and boost it, giving you better speeds and greater reliability.
They can cost a decent amount, but are pretty easy to set up. If you’ve got signal problems and can’t find a better spot for your router, they’re definitely worth a try.
4. Move your router
If you get poor signal but don’t want to invest in a WiFi extender, try and move your router to a new location.
The best places to put a WiFi router:
- Are close to the device(s) you want to use the internet on.
- Have a direct line of sight to the places you want to receive WiFi. Although routers can normally transmit through obstacles, they may struggle to broadcast a good signal through multiple brick/concrete walls.
- Don’t have many/any nearby devices that may cause interference (more on this below).
5. Eliminate interference
It’s not just your neighbours’ WiFi that can cause interference issues. Even stuff like microwave ovens and baby monitors can mess with your signal.
Try and connect to the internet with all of your nearby electronic appliances turned off. If this helps to improve your speed, find a new place for your router away from these devices.
If you don’t want to move your router, do the test again, but turn each device back on one by one until the internet slows down. Once it does, move the offending appliance away from your router.
6. Check your WiFi receiver
It’s easy to blame your poor old router for slow WiFi, but how well are your devices actually picking up its signal?
If you’ve got a piece of hardware that’s over five years old that always seems to have slow internet, it could be that its WiFi receiver is faulty.
Custom-built PCs don’t normally have the hardware necessary for WiFi installed by default. If you’re using a plug-and-play USB solution, this could be slowing you down. Switch to an adapter that plugs into a PCI-E slot on your motherboard for better reception.
To test how good your device’s WiFi receptors are, simply take it to a friend’s house (preferably someone you know who has good broadband speed). 😛
If it’s still slow, you might need to replace your device’s networking card or upgrade to a new piece of hardware.
7. Stop WiFi bandits
If someone else is using your WiFi they could be hogging your bandwidth, slowing your connection to a crawl.
Make sure you’ve set a WiFi password that’s really tough to guess – avoid using just your name, pet’s name or date of birth. Go ahead and change it in your router settings just to be on the safe side – the password reset field should be located in the wireless access point options.
While you’re here, make sure your “security mode” or “security protocol” is set to one of the following:
- WPA + WPA2
- WPA + WPA2 PSK (best option if it’s available)
- WPA2 PSK
- WPA2 + AES
Basically, use something with WPA2 in it. Avoid WEP, and “none” (open network – no password) at all costs.
8. Get a better WiFi router
Some routers (particularly old ones) just aren’t good enough to provide a consistent WiFi signal.
If you’re still using a family heirloom from the late 90s or the crappy router your ISP gave you, it might be time for an upgrade.
You don’t have to spend £200 on a new modem/router combo. Just look for something in the £50-£70 range from a trusted brand. Once installed, you should notice better WiFi coverage and most importantly, faster broadband speeds.
9. Switch to a wired connection
In some households, there’s simply nothing you can do to get better WiFi. Many people make the switch to wired connections because they’re often faster and more reliable.
You’ll need a separate Ethernet cable for each device you want to connect to your router. If you don’t have enough Ethernet ports on your router, you’ll need an Ethernet splitter to turn one port into two (or more).
Each device you’re going to connect will a) have to have a free Ethernet port and b) be close enough to your router for you to connect the two (unless you use powerline adapters – more on this below).
10. Use a powerline adapter
Is your router too far away from your computer, Xbox or PS4 to connect the two with an Ethernet cable?
To make the switch from WiFi to Ethernet without the need for a 30m long cable, you can use a handy gadget called a powerline adapter.
Basically, they use your electricity lines (that you’ve already got in your house) to transmit internet data. Don’t worry – this won’t disrupt your mains power supply.
Here’s how to set them up:
How To Improve Your Internet Speed
No luck with any of the methods we’ve discussed so far? Or are you using mostly wired connections in your house?
If you’re still buffering all the time, read on to find some non WiFi-specific fixes.
11. Unplug (and plug back in) your router
Sometimes it’s the simple stuff that works really well.
If you’ve had your router running for ages, it might need a quick refresh to boost its speed back up to what it should be.
Simply unplug the power cable on the router end. Wait a few minutes, and plug it back in again. Then try a speed test once you can reconnect to the internet.
12. Update your router’s firmware
To ensure your router is performing as well as it possibly can, you can update its firmware. Manufacturers typically issue firmware updates every few months to keep their hardware running as efficiently and securely as possible. Some modern routers will perform this update automatically.
To install a new update manually, you’ll need to go to the manufacturer’s website and download the appropriate firmware file from there. Searching for “[your router brand + model] firmware” should help you find it.
Next, login to your router and upload this file. Normally you’ll find the upload button under “gateway” or “firmware” settings. Consult the router manual if you’re having any trouble.
13. Do a factory reset of your router
This can sound scary, but it’s not so bad really. You’ll only need 15 minutes or so to reconfigure your router once it’s been reset. It’s definitely worth reading the manual first so you know what you’ll have to do to get the router back up and running.
To do the reset, look for a button on the underside of the router. You might need a paperclip to press it in.
This can improve your internet speed because over time, settings may have been changed which aren’t optimal for your current setup. Or, the router may have been configured incorrectly when it was first installed.
14. Use better DNS servers
When you visit a website, your computer sends the domain name (for example, google.com) to a domain name system (DNS) server. The DNS server will then return the IP address associated with the domain name, which the browser requires in order to be able to connect to the website.
Most routers will use the DNS servers that your ISP runs. However, sometimes they’re just unresponsive, or have really poor latency.
To resolve this, simply tell your computer or phone to connect to different DNS servers – there are plenty of free ones out there.
Here’s how to do this on Windows 10. We’ll be using Cloudflare’s DNS server – 126.96.36.199 and its backup, 188.8.131.52.
If you don’t have a shortcut to your control panel on the taskbar like we do, simply type “control panel” into the start menu to bring it up.
On Mac, the process is pretty similar.
- Open system preferences.
- Look for “DNS servers” and select it.
- Click the “+” symbol and add both DNS servers individually (184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11).
15. Change quality of service (QoS) settings
This one is for those of you who notice your internet slowing to a snail’s pace when other family members get online.
Using your router’s QoS settings, you can tell it to prioritise your traffic, effectively giving your device/application a separate fast lane.
If your router has this function, login and find your QoS settings.
Don’t change any of the rules already defined. They help ensure video, VoIP and other traffic is prioritised correctly.
What you need to do next will depend on how your router’s QoS works.
On some routers, you can simply drag and drop different traffic types, like gaming, video streaming and bulk downloads, to create a list in order of priority.
You may also be able to prioritise by device. To do this, you’ll need the static IP address or MAC (not Mac) address associated with your specific console/computer/phone.
To find your static IP on Windows, open up the command prompt and type “ipconfig”. Hit enter, and look for “IPv4 address”.
On Xbox/PS4 and most mobile phones, you can find the static IP under advanced networking settings. On Mac OS, go to system preferences > network > your active connection (on the left) > advanced > TCP/IP – and then it’s displayed under “IPv4 address”.
Your MAC address on the other hand is normally found on a sticker on the outside of the device, but on smartphones you’ll have to look for it in advanced networking settings or in hardware info. Look for a string with six groups of two digits/letters, for example: “01-23-45-67-89-AB”.
Once you’ve got your static IP/MAC address (depending on what your router uses), add a new QoS rule. You may be able to tell the router to give your device a specific amount of bandwidth, or to prioritise it based on an ordered list.
Don’t put it above VoIP or other essential traffic types. Also, make sure you have your old settings noted down in case you need to return to them if there’s no “reset to default” button. It’s also a good idea to consult your user manual because every router has a different way of handling QoS settings.
16. Cut down on broadband usage
If your router doesn’t have a QoS feature, you may need to cut down on how much internet you (or your family) is using on unnecessary downloads. There’s a few ways to do this:
On Windows, press control + alt + delete (all at the same time) and click on “Task Manager”. Navigate to the “Startup” tab.
To get this list up on Mac, go to System Preferences > Users and Groups. Then choose your user and click on the “Login Items” tab.
From here, click on any non-essential programs that are likely to use bandwidth (like Skype), and click “Disable”. This will stop them from opening on startup and hogging your internet while you use your computer.
Here are some other things you can do:
- Change your torrent client’s settings to stop it seeding files you’ve downloaded. If this is going on in the background, your internet may slow to a crawl. Alternatively, set a limit on how much bandwidth it can use for seeding (this should be an option in settings).
- Disable automatic updates on gaming clients like Steam and Origin, as well as on mobile app stores.
- Set limits on when certain members of the family can use the internet. Maybe on weekdays the kids can have 3 o’clock until 7, and the adults get 7 until 11pm.
If you’d prefer to have anyone in your house be able to use as much internet as they want, whenever they want, you might want to consider upgrading your broadband plan.
17. Remove unnecessary traffic from the network
The truth is, you don’t know how much broadband your household devices are using when they’re switched on. These days, nearly everything requires constant software updates, many of which are downloaded automatically even when you’re not using the device.
Turn off every single internet-connected piece of hardware in the house. This includes phones, FireSticks, smart TVs, games consoles – the lot.
Leave only your computer or phone on and do a speed test. If your speed improves, you now know that network congestion is what’s causing the issue.
To fix this, you have a few options:
- Leave every device off unless it’s being used.
- Set up QoS settings (as we looked at above).
- For each device, turn it back on and then do a speed test. If you find a single piece of hardware that’s causing your problems, deal with it individually. If it’s an Xbox/PS4 or a mobile phone, change its settings to stop automatic app/operating system updates. If it’s a computer, look at what internet-hungry applications are running on it and try to close them.
18. Change your DSL filter
Most routers require the use of a little box called a filter (sometimes called a microfilter).
It sits in between the phone socket and your router – one end plugs into the wall and the other into your modem. These filters help to remove phone line noise and prevent broadband interference.
Make sure that you’ve got a filter installed for both your phone and your modem (you can use the same filter for both). Also, ensure that your filter is the right type (ADSL or ADSL2+) – some will work with both.
19. Swap out your phone
Certain brands of cordless phone can interfere with your internet signal, even with a good DSL filter installed.
Don’t throw your home phone away just yet though! Simply unplug it and see if you notice your speeds increase. If you do, it might be worth changing your phone to a newer model with less interference.
20. Upgrade your cables
Most people (ourselves included!) are using Ethernet cables that are so old no-one remembers where they came from.
If you’ve got ancient cables, it might be worth upgrading. Be sure to replace the one connecting your wall socket or DSL filter to your router and the ones connecting your router to your computer/other devices.
Look for Category 5e/6 Ethernet cables when shopping online. Each category (often abbreviated to “Cat”) refers to certain strict specifications that the cable must be manufactured in accordance with. Cat 5e for example will transmit data at up to 1Gbps, which is plenty fast for most households.
The higher the category number, the better the cable. But be sure that you’re buying from somewhere fairly reputable. If the seller lies about the cables being Cat 6, then you might as well have kept using your current cables.
21. Ensure you’re not dropping out
Also make sure that your Ethernet cables aren’t too long – data can begin to drop out over long distances. This will force your computer to have to wait for lost TCP packets to be retransmitted, slowing you down significantly.
Cat 5e or higher cables should be able to transmit data at full speed over 100 metres. However, if your cables are Cat 4 or lower, data might begin to drop out much sooner.
Consider getting a powerline adapter instead of using a super long Ethernet cable if your speeds and latency are suffering. To test if this is the cause of your slow internet, try putting your device next to your router and connecting the two with a much shorter cable. Then do a speed test and see if it’s any faster.
22. Install a broadband accelerator
The wiring used to transfer internet data to and from your home can pick up heaps of interference from other electronic devices around the house.
Broadband accelerators like the BT iPlate can help to resolve this issue by filtering out electronic interference. Installation is easy – you’ll just need a screwdriver to attach it to your phone socket.
Note that this gadget will only work if you’re on an ADSL internet connection.
23. Try Speedify
Get this: you can combine the bandwidth of multiple internet access points, allowing you to create a single ultra-fast connection.
Speedify is a software application (available on PC, Mac, Android and iOS) that allows you to combine your WiFi, Ethernet, 4G (cellular), dongle, and public hotspot connections. By utilising all of these streams at the same time, it allows you to download (and upload) data much faster than using a single connection would allow.
This is the free version, but you can prioritise certain networks on the paid program to avoid using up your precious mobile data.
Pro tip: look for reputable public WiFi that you can pick up. By using Speedify, you can take advantage of one or more of these hotspots without being stranded if it drops out.
Just remember not to use public hotspots when transmitting private information, like when you’re doing internet banking.
24. Scan for malware
If you’ve got any sort of computer virus, no matter how serious, it’s likely to be using up a good deal of bandwidth. Hackers often use infected PCs to perform activities online, like mining Bitcoin or visiting websites as a part of a DDoS attack.
To scan your computer for infections, download and install the free version of Malwarebytes.
Once it’s installed, click “scan now” and leave it for an hour or so to do its thing.
When it’s done, it’ll display a list of potential malware.
Hit “Quarantine Selected” unless you’re 100% sure the file is safe.
On this computer, Malwarebytes detected a “PUP” – a potentially unwanted program. These aren’t normally dangerous, but can slow your computer down, so it’s a good idea to remove them.
25. Upgrade your browser
Let’s face it: Microsoft’s browsers suck. Both Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge underperform when it comes to speed and add-on availability.
26. Install an adblocker
Internet ads aren’t just annoying, they also use up heaps of bandwidth. Video ads and popups in particular can make certain pages really slow to load.
If you’re browsing on a mobile or tablet, download the Brave browser from the app store. It blocks ads by default, without the need for any extensions. Plus, it functions just like Chrome, so it’s easy to get used to.
27. Clear computer/browser caches
Caches are file repositories designed to speed up your computer. However, if they get clogged up, they can actually slow you down.
To clear them all in one easy step, download and run CCleaner.
Use the checkboxes on the left to select what you’d like it to clean. Remember to check the options under the “Applications” tab too!
Click “Run Cleaner”.
If it removes more than 20GB or so, this should perk your browser up and improve your speed a fair bit.
28. Remove toolbars
Why remove toolbars?
Any browser extension – toolbars included – is simply another thing your browser has to load every time you visit a new web page. If you have more than one or two add-ons installed and your PC is fairly old, chances are this is slowing your browsing down considerably.
To remove them, try to spot an “X” to click on the toolbar. If you can’t find one, navigate to your browser extension/add-on settings to remove it.
On Internet Explorer, click the icon in the top right and head to “Internet Options”.
Click on the “Programs” tab.
Select “Manage add-ons”. Then, click on the add-on you want to remove, and choose “Disable”.
On Firefox, type “about:addons” into your address bar. If you’re using Chrome, go to “chrome://extensions”. You can then choose add-ons and toolbars to disable.
Likewise, on Microsoft Edge, click the three dots in the upper right, go to extensions, and click the blue switch to disable add-ons.
You’ll want to get rid of any extensions you’re not using on a daily basis. For most people, the only add-on you’ll want to keep installed is an adblocker.
29. Remove unnecessary software
Like toolbars, unnecessary programs can slow down your browsing, especially if they’re related to your internet use.
- On Windows, navigate to the control panel, and select “Programs And Features”.
- On Mac, open Finder (the smiley face), and click on “Applications” on the left.
You should see a list of all currently installed programs. Click on an application and follow the prompts to uninstall it.
You’re safe to uninstall pretty much anything you don’t want to have, but remember:
- Keep one antivirus program installed. Avast is a good free one. The software typically installed by default on laptops, like Norton and McAfee, can slow you down a fair bit. Never use more than one antivirus program at once. Virus scanners/checkup tools like Malwarebytes do not constantly monitor your PC like antiviruses do, so you’re safe to have one of them installed at the same time as your antivirus software.
- In general, it’s a good idea to keep anything installed by Intel or Microsoft, or Apple on Mac computers. Software like the .NET frameworks is normally necessary for certain programs to run.
30. Update your apps
On mobiles and tablets, it’s possible to continue using the old versions of certain applications indefinitely.
This could be slowing you down significantly, as old apps may be poorly optimised by modern standards.
Navigate to the Google Play or App Store and update any applications you use to access the internet. Don’t turn automatic updates on though. If you do, your device will be frequently downloading patches, which could slow your internet right down.
31. Upgrade your device
If you’re running hardware that’s 10 years old or more, it’s possible that it’s simply incapable of handling modern internet speeds.
To test if it’s really your phone/computer holding you up, try and see how fast your speed test is compared to a more modern device using the same connection. If it’s much slower, it’s probably time for some new hardware.
Note that some old devices may have an OK speed test, but browsing will still be really slow. This is because their hardware is simply incapable of handling modern web pages, despite the machine having access to a high-quality broadband connection. So if the speed test seems fine but everything is actually really slow, you may still need to upgrade.
If you don’t want to buy a new computer/phone just yet, try uninstalling unnecessary software, clearing your caches, and upgrading to a better browser (as we talked about above). It might be software issues rather than hardware problems that are slowing your old device down.
32. Make sure you haven’t hit your usage cap
Most broadband plans used to be sold with a monthly bandwidth cap. If you hit it, your internet would be slowed down tremendously until the end of the month.
Nearly all plans sold in the past 10 years should provide unlimited data. But if you’ve had your plan for longer than this, there’s a chance you’ve still got a cap.
Log into your account on your internet service provider’s website or ring them to see if you’ve got a monthly limit.
33. Call up your ISP
If none of the above works, it could be that your internet service provider isn’t providing as much speed as you should be getting. This could be for any number of reasons.
Commonly, people experience super-slow speeds at night, when everyone in the neighbourhood is online. This happens because the ISP isn’t providing enough bandwidth for everybody to use at the same time.
They may say that other factors could be causing the problem, like poor WiFi signal. But if you’ve already tried our methods to solve common internet speed issues (like switching to Ethernet), the problem is likely to be something else.
Good ISPs will arrange to perform a line test once you call them. This means they’ll send a person around to your house to test your phone line cables for damage. If the cables need replacing, you might have to pay to have this done.
If your provider makes excuses or simply won’t give you what you’re paying for, you can lodge an official complaint with their complaints department. If this still doesn’t work, you can escalate the issue. Ofcom has a handy guide explaining what you should do in this situation.
34. Change your broadband plan
If your current provider won’t fix the problem, it’s probably a good idea to switch to a company that’ll give you the service you’re paying for.
Similarly, if you’ve found that you’re receiving the speed you’re entitled to but it still isn’t enough, you’ll want a better plan to stop those HD streams buffering.
Look for fibre plans, especially those that offer an average speed of over 40Mbps. Also check out customer reviews of the provider, so you can get a good idea of how reliable they are before buying.
35. Talk to your neighbours/the council
Sometimes there’s nothing your ISP can do to improve your internet speed, because the phone line infrastructure in your street is too poor. This can be a particular problem in rural areas.
If you know any geeks in your town, try asking them how their internet is, and see if they’ve got any tips to boost your speed. They might know of a smaller provider who can hook you up with faster broadband than what the major telcos offer.
If you have no luck with this method, contact your council and ask them about the infrastructure in your area. See what their plans for the future are regarding upgrades, and lobby them if necessary. In this day and age, there’s really no excuse for poor broadband speeds in first-world countries.
36. Switch to a dongle
If there won’t be any infrastructure upgrades in the near term, you may be better off using a wireless dongle to access the web.
They connect to the internet just like your phone’s 4G connection does. However, you get a USB stick you can plug into your computer in order to get online without having to set up a hotspot. Plus, you can access the internet no matter where you are (as long as you have signal).
There are a few potential downsides to using a dongle:
- It may be more expensive.
- It can drop out more often (depending on how strong your signal is).
- There’s normally a monthly data usage limit, so they’re not really suitable for streaming video on a regular basis.
37. Move house!
If neither your ISP nor the council will do anything about your slow speeds, and a dongle won’t work for you, moving might be your only other option.
In general, the fastest internet speeds are available in and around major cities.
Use this handy tool to find the average internet speed of nearly any postcode in the UK.
This report by speedtest.net lists the average broadband speed of each major American city.
You’ve reached the end of our guide!
Hopefully you were able to fix your sluggish internet. If you’re still having trouble, feel free to contact us.
If you’ve got an awesome method for boosting broadband speeds that we haven’t mentioned, we’d love to hear it! Drop us a comment if you’d like to share your secret to ultra-fast internet. 😉
About the author
Tom is the founder of Broadband Savvy. When he’s not writing about broadband, you’ll find him walking his dog (Rex) or playing agar.io.