With any internet connection, your maximum speed is set by your ISP, but there are plenty of other factors that can affect how fast and reliable your internet connection is. If you are experiencing a spotty or unreliable connection, or even if you want to make your internet work just a bit better, here are several things you can do.
Use a Hardwired Connection
Even though WiFi is incredibly convenient and just keeps getting better, connecting your computer directly to your router with an Ethernet cable still has its advantages.
The first is a more stable connection because you don't have to worry about any interference. Generally, as long as the router is on and connected, so is your computer. Most routers should have several Ethernet ports available, and it's simple to connect your computer, so this is one of the first and easiest things you can try.
Second, wired connections have better latency than WiFi connections. Latency, also called ping, is basically the response time between your computer and the server your computer is communicating with. Longer response times mean greater delays, which are especially noticeable if you're doing something like gaming. If you need help, a computer technician can help you figure out if your latency is high or if you're experiencing problems like losing packets; this essentially means that data is being lost on its way to and from your computer, which can affect your connection.
While WiFi is convenient, if you are really struggling with reliability, speed, and latency, try a hardwired connection.
Limit Your Simultaneous Bandwidth Use
One of the main thing that limits how much you can do online is bandwidth. Every connection and every action takes some bandwidth; if you're streaming a movie on one device and playing a game on another, these both take up some of your finite amount of bandwidth. Even individual programs and apps can use bandwidth, and this can cause problems if too many devices and programs are using bandwidth simultaneously.
There are a few ways you can see what's using bandwidth on your computer, so beyond only using a few devices at a time, you can make your computer more efficient as well. These methods are a little more complex, but a professional can help you with each.
- If you use a Windows PC, you can view the Network tab of the Resource Monitor tool to see every program that's sending and receiving data, as well as how much.
- You can use Netstat, which is a Command Prompt tool, to look at your active connections and use this information to look up what programs and processes are using data.
- Some third-party programs can monitor your network and show you its total bandwidth use and break it down for you.
When in doubt, close programs you aren't using and make sure too many programs aren't running in the background. If you still have issues and help, ask a computer technician to help you with the troubleshooting steps listed above.
Modify Your Browser Settings
Sometimes the biggest culprit of your internet troubles can actually be your browser itself. The default settings may work for many people, but if you're on a slow connection, there are some things you should check.
- Make sure your browser is up to date. Updates can sometimes include bug fixes and memory leak issues that can cause them to run more slowly.
- Check your list of plugins and extensions and remove any you don't regularly use. If you have a lot, these can quickly bog your browser down, especially if they're no longer supported.
- If you have problems with streaming or watching media, try enabling or disabling hardware acceleration. Where this option is depends on your browser, but this can solve many streaming issues and lag.
- Clear your cache every so often. This saved data helps you load pages faster by saving information about each page so you don't have to load everything each time, but this can build up and cause your computer to run sluggishly.
Many of these options can be modified while offline, so if you're struggling to figure out what settings work right for you, consult a professional.