How to check your internet speed and improve it

December 6th, 2018 - Get new posts sent straight to your inbox, click here. John R

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Watching your Netflix crawl by at the pace of a snail is aggravating, especially when all you want is to kickback following a long day at work. But how can you improve your internet speed?

There are numerous reasons why your internet connection may have been performing poorly recently. You could be at the end of your data allowance, or your phone line or router might be damaged. To identify and solve these problems you need to be able to read your internet speed and find a solution – it’s not that hard once you know how!

Read on, and find out how to improve your internet connection.

What is a good internet speed?

Before you can figure out how to fix your internet speeds, the first thing you need to figure out is what is a good speed. That, of course, depends on what you use the internet for.

As a rule of thumb, if you use the internet for email, social media, listening to music, or surfing the Web, then 1Mbps is more than enough. If you’re jumping on YouTube to watch standard definition (SD) video, then 2Mbps is plenty, while high definition video (such as watching Netflix on higher settings) is best watched with at 5Mbps connection. If you’re looking to play (and download) games online, or watch 4K, very high-definition movies, or if you’ve got a home office where you’re heavily using high quality images or videos, cloud services, and a VPN, then 10Mbps is a good baseline.

All of the above is for one person. If you’ve got multiple people in the household, then each person using the internet is going to take some of the connection speed for themselves. So if you’ve got two people looking to watch Netflix at the same time, then you’ll want a connection that’s 10-20Mbps.

It’s also important to remember that while you might purchase an internet plan of 10, 25, or 50Mbps, a wide range of factors means that the actual speeds that you experience may be lower than the amount classified.

See our recommended plans here, or you can customise your own plan to suit your specific needs here.

Actual speeds on FTTN/B technology type to be confirmed upon connection. For more information on nbn™ speeds see here.

Step 1: Test your speed

Speedtest.net is a free online tool which helps you accurately measure your network speed and latency. Simply complete a click test and you’ll be able to see what your current download and upload speeds are. You can also figure out your ping time (how long it takes to get a signal to your nearest location and back), which will give an indication of where any slowdown issues might be – this test is most important when you are streaming, gaming, or transferring large data packets.

The ping time and speed of your download and upload speeds can be influenced by a large number of factors, which is why it’s very important to note you shouldn’t compare your real-world results to your ISPs maximum expected speeds. Depending on where you live, you might not always be able to get the most out of the infrastructure around you.

If you live far away from a node or in a highly congested area without sufficient infrastructure you’ll most likely see a large drop in maximum speeds, especially during peak hours when everybody’s trying to get online.

Step 2: Check your ping

While Speedtest can be handy and measures ping with other servers, it can also be extremely useful to have a comparative measure of how your network is performing as a whole. Pinging a major site, such as Google, can usually give you an accurate reading of how your network is performing. Here’s how:

For users of Microsoft Windows:

Simply click your start menu.

Type CMD into the address bar and hit ENTER.

On the black screen, type ‘ping 8.8.8.8’ (the IP address of Google) and hit ENTER.

For users of Mac OS:

Open the Network Utility by going to Apps and then clicking on Utilities.

Click on Ping and enter a URL (for e.g. the IP address of Google).

For most places in Australia you’ll be getting a ping value of 10 to 50 milliseconds. If you’re in a major city, anything around 20 to 30 milliseconds means there’s an issue.

Step 3: Improve your internet speed

If you found your internet is going slow after running the tests in step one and two, it’s now time to work out how to improve it. There’s hundreds of things you can do, but here are some of the fastest and easiest to get you started.

#1 Reset the router

Modem glitches and faults are the number one cause of slow internet or total breakdowns in connectivity. Performing a simple reset is often all it takes to sort the matter and get you up and running on the internet.

There’s a reason routers usually come with a quick reset switch, and it’s this – in the case of bad internet, a complete restart will ensure all your open browsers are closed. A good 50% of the time this is all it takes to remedy the situation.

If you’re experiencing poor internet connectivity over a long period (such as a couple of weeks or months), try using a different router. Your existing one could be broken.

#2 Turn off unnecessary programs

If your internet connection is still slow, your next step should be closing all other hidden and known programs that might be connected to the network. Only restart the ones you need to use at the moment.

Check there’s nothing downloading in the background. If you use any file-sharing software, ensure it’s not downloading or uploading anything it shouldn’t.

Make sure you don’t have too many programs running at once, and that they aren’t downloading large files like software updates. Software distribution platforms can also affect your speeds (for example, softwares like Steam automatically processes downloads unless you turn off the option, which can easily tank your internet quite quickly if left unchecked).

Internet browsers often suffer from memory leaks and bloat when you have a lot of tabs open. Sometimes what appears to be a problem with your internet speed can simply be the browser slowing down over extended use. Try restarting your browser if pages initially seem unresponsive.

If you don’t have great internet speed at the best of times, you might just have so many programs open they are weighing down on your network. Shut off a few, and you might see a small rise in your connection speed.

#3 Check that you know all the devices on your network

If your internet is performing slowly, try jumping into your modem admin software to see what is actually connected to it. If there are devices that you don’t recognise, it might be that someone has figured out how to access your network. Or, potentially, you’ve got a guest access that people don’t need a password to connect to.

Disconnect those devices from the network, change your modem’s password, and remove the guest access connection.

#4 Clear the browser cache and cookies, or try restarting the device

If you’re only experiencing slow speeds from a single device, then try clearing it of anything that might slow it down. If it’s a PC, and the browser is slow, that might be because the cache has become bloated and you’ve got too many cookies collected on it. Clear those away and see if that fixes things.

For game consoles, smart TVs and other devices, make sure they’re all fully updated as per the manufacturer’s instructions, and try restarting them (also check if there’s a way to refresh the devices’ memory).

With so many devices these days we’re encouraged to leave them in “sleep” mode rather than turn them off entirely, but electronic devices need a proper rest just as we all do, so a full shutdown is sometimes necessary to clear the device up.

#5 Virus check

If you haven’t run an antivirus scan in a long time, it’s best that you do so now. Some malicious software can hijack your network and slow down things.

If you don’t have an antivirus program, you should definitely invest in some. There are lots of options out there, the most popular ones being Norton, McAfee and Kaspersky.

Mac and Windows have their own inbuilt virus protection as well, which are often sufficient enough to protect your network, but you should still do your research to find out if there are other ways recommended to protect your devices.

#6 Check that there aren’t conflicting signals

If you’re using a wireless router, it’s possible that other signals from within the house (wireless security cameras, for example, Bluetooth devices, cordless phones, and even microwaves and fluorescent lights) might be conflicting with signal of the router.

The two common signals that a router produces are 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz. Try turning off and unplugging electronic devices in your home, aside from the router. If your speeds improve and/or become more stable, then try moving the modem or those devices so they’re out of line of sight with one another. As a rule of thumb try and keep other signal-producing devices 5-10 feet away from your router.

Read our article here for more advice on router management.

#7 Purchase a signal boost

Again, if you’re using a wireless connection, and move too far away from the modem, your internet connection will grow weaker and less stable. This can be a problem if you’ve got your nbn™ device installed at one end of the house, but your home office or gaming den is at the other end.

The solution is a wireless booster. These little devices simply plug into a power outlet, and connect to your modem. They then receive a signal from the modem and “boost” it to the part of the house they cover. Try using a couple of these to fill the black spots in the home.

Step 4: Test again

Now that you’ve looked at and fixed common causes of a slow internet speed, it’s time to see what improvements the changes have made. Go back to step one and two and run the same test, and hopefully your internet speed has now improved.

If you’re still not happy with your internet speed after testing and fixing as much as you can, it may be time for a new type of internet connection. There are plenty of options available, but we recommend firstly checking if fast nbn™ internet is available – which you can test eligibility here.

If you’re with Aussie Broadband already and are reading this article, call us on 1300 880 905 and we will personally help you diagnose, fix and improve your internet speed issue.

Step 5: Get a new ISP

A slow connection might not have anything to do with your home setup at all, and you may well have the right plan in theory for your needs. However, not every ISP delivers similar results, and some are more prone to drastic slowdowns than others. This is particularly true in those early evening and morning “peak times”, when people tend to be at home and trying to catch up with their Netflix viewing at the same time.

Swapping to a new ISP, such as Aussie Broadband, can sometimes be the best solution. We were awarded a 2019 Best Internet Service Provider Award by ProductReview in recognition of our amazing service, and we’re here for you. Find out if you’re eligible for nbn™ with Aussie Broadband here.

About the author

John R

John Reisinger

John Reisinger is known as one of the fastest coders in the business. He’s the one at Aussie Broadband dreaming up and developing new products for our customers. Sometimes, you can find him performing with his theatre group at the Melbourne Comedy Festival.