Everyone knows how frustrating a slow internet connection can be. Slow downloads, not being able to watch Game of Thrones or livestreams in high-definition and laggy connections while you play video games are issues that can ruin the online experience.
Unfortunately, not everyone can switch internet service providers. More than 46 million American households have access to only one provider with speeds of 25 megabits per second or greater, which isn’t that fast.
If you’re in one of them, you need to get the most of what you have and that means speeding up your internet connection. Thankfully, there are things you can do before upgrading to a higher tier plan with your ISP.
In this guide on how to speed up your internet connection, we’ll give you 10 tips to increase your speeds. Most of our suggestions are free and the few paid ones are much cheaper than upgrading your internet package. Before getting to our tips, though, let’s see if you even need to go through the trouble.
Do You Need to Speed Up Your Internet Connection?
You need to make sure you can make the situation better before you start trying to speed up your internet connection. If you think your internet is slow, one of the best ways to confirm your suspicions is to do an online speed test.
Speedtest.net is a great resource for checking your speed with the press of a button, we use it for all of our VPN reviews for a reason. Once you have the results, compare them to your promised download and upload speeds to see if yours are as slow as you think they are.
If the test confirms your suspicions, it’s time to start trying the things on our list.
Restart Your Router
Turning machines off and on again is the common starting point for tech advice because it sometimes fixes the problem. You can do it by manually unplugging your router and plugging it back in, pressing the power button usually found on the back of the unit or logging in to the router through your browser and turning it off.
We recommend waiting at least 10 seconds before plugging it back in. The time it takes for a hardware reset varies by manufacturer, though. In most cases, a minute should do the trick.
Install Antivirus Software
It’s possible that you’ve downloaded something you shouldn’t have and ended up with malware on your computer. Usually, malware hijacks your bandwidth, which slows down your internet connection.
If you don’t already use antivirus software, you’re putting secure information, such as your passwords and bank account information, at risk, in addition to slowing down your internet connection. Malware can also steal critical computing resources, such as your CPU.
Check out our article on the best antivirus software to find the one that works best for you. We cover topics such as usability and features there, too. If you’re only worried about security, you can read our guide to the most secure antivirus software, as well.
Secure Your Browser
Viruses typically come through your browser, so it’s important to protect that area. Your first step should be antivirus software, but you can make its job easier by using a secure browser.
If you’re not sure that you’re using one, you should take a look at our guide to secure browsers. You can also get extra-secure browsers for banking or other sensitive transactions with Bitdefender or AVG. Read our Bitdefender Antivirus review and AVG review for more on those services.
Ads are annoying and they can bog down your browsing experience, especially if you have a slow connection to begin with. If you don’t have to load ads, you shouldn’t, as it fetches more data from multiple servers and requires a longer wait before the webpage loads.
We recommend you check out our selection of the best pop-up blockers. Cutting the amount of data sent to your computer by blocking ads can boost your browsing speeds since ads are often loaded before other content on the web page. Plus, it makes using the internet more bearable.
Flush Your DNS Records
Your computer records information about the IP addresses you visit while browsing the internet so it can speed up future visits to the same website. That information is a DNS record. When a website moves servers and you have to be redirected, your DNS records can become a speed hurdle rather than an enhancement.
You can clean out the cache to speed up your internet connection. In tech circles, that’s called “flushing your DNS” and it’s surprisingly easy.
If you’re on Windows 10, do the following:
- Click on the start menu and search for “command prompt.”
- Right-click on it and choose “run as administrator.” Only administrators can flush the DNS.
- When the command prompt opens, type:
- ipconfig /flushdns
- Then, hit “enter.”
After about a second, you’ll get a message that Windows was able to clean out the cache. You’re done and can close command prompt.
Delete Your Internet History
You may also want to clear your internet history. An extensive history, saved downloads, cookies and cached images can all contribute to a slower connection.
The steps to do so will vary based on the browser you use, but the steps for Chrome are outlined below.
Click on the three dots in a vertical column in the top right corner of Chrome. Choose “settings” from the drop-down menu that appears, which will open a new tab.
Scroll to the bottom of the page and click “advanced.”
Click “clear browsing data.” A pop-up window will open with four options that are safe to clear: “browsing history,” “download history,” “cookies and other site data” and “cached images and files.” All are selected by default.
You also have the option to clear your passwords, auto-fill data and more. Clearing them won’t do much, if anything, to speed up your web browsing and will force you to remember all those passwords you have saved and have since forgotten.
Storing your passwords in your browser isn’t secure, though. We recommend clearing them after signing up with one our best password managers.
Everyone uses WiFi these days, which means the bandwidths it uses to send information wirelessly can get overwhelmed, especially if there are many devices and routers near each other.
That can be a big problem in apartment complexes or dorms, where everyone is using a wireless device. All the traffic creates congestion that can slow your speeds.
To get around the problem, switch to using an ethernet cable connected to your router. Ethernet generally has faster maximum speeds and it isn’t subject to the same traffic that clogs up WiFi bandwidths.
This is a great move, especially if you’re using public WiFi, which may not be as safe as you think.
Switch to 5GHz
Most WiFi traffic is delivered over the 2.4GHz band. Router companies realized there was an emerging traffic problem and developed routers capable of broadcasting on the 5GHz band to address it.
The 5GHz band doesn’t spread as far, but it is still better because it avoids interference from appliances such as microwaves and garage door openers.
It also gets you away from the bands likely to be used by your neighbors. Plus, it’s a good long-term move since the 5GHz band has 23 channels as opposed to 11 on the 2.4GHz band. You can experiment with changing the channel on some routers and equipment, too, until you find the most effective one.
If you’ve purchased a router with a “dual-band” connection, you have access to 5GHz. Usually, your router will broadcast a second network called something like “routername_5.”
Use a Virtual Private Network
Sometimes ISPs throttle bandwidth to strategically lower your internet speeds. Often, they do so because you’ve hit a certain data cap. They can also do it based on the programming you’re viewing.
They target video websites, such as YouTube, and streaming services, such as Netflix or Twitch, since video content takes a lot of bandwidth.
If your ISP doesn’t know where your traffic is coming from, it can’t throttle it. That said, if you’re dealing with throttling, a VPN can help by redirecting your traffic so your ISP can’t identify it. If you’re interested in learning more about VPNs, check out our article on the fastest VPN.
Switching to a VPN won’t increase your connection speed beyond the maximum imposed by your ISP, but, in many cases, it can resolve bandwidth throttling.
Use a VPN-Ready Router
If you think a VPN will help your internet speeds, investing in a VPN-ready router may boost them even more. We have a handy guide to the best VPN routers, which you can use to learn about some of the best models on the market.
Getting the optimal settings may take experimentation. Make sure that you test your speed each time you change something so you know if you’re improving it or making it worse. Any of these tricks could solve your problem, but the solution may lie in some combination of the above, so don’t be afraid to try things.