Slow internet is the worst!
Even studies show that wonky Wi-Fi connections are the number one modern-day inconvenience!
And it makes absolute sense. Waiting for downloads to finish, videos to buffer, or games to stop lagging is far from ideal.
But you can get your internet connection in the fast lane with a few quick adjustments, and I’m here to tell you all about them.
So let’s get tweaking!
10 easy ways to boost your internet speed
- Reboot your router.
- Find the best spot for your router.
- Do a check-up on your internet cable.
- Get yourself an ethernet cable.
- Buy a Wi-Fi extender.
- Block your ISP throttling.
- Update your router firmware.
- Switch your router to a different band.
- Choose another Wi-Fi channel for your router.
- Get a new, better router.
First, let’s measure your internet speed
Before we go into the nitty-gritty of increasing your internet speed, we need to establish your baseline.
What happens when you go online?
- Your internet connection crashes a lot;
- Your web pages take a long time to load, or you just get plain HTML versions;
- Streaming services buffer your shows to the point where you can’t watch them anymore.
Then it’s time to run a speed test.
There are many speed test providers out there, but they all provide you with three essential details about your internet connection:
- Your ping
- Your download speed
- Your upload speed
And if these words don’t mean much to you, don’t worry, I’ll explain everything to you.
In real life, when someone says they’ll ping you, it means you can expect a message from them shortly after. And it’s not much different for computers or other gadgets. Ping is the time it takes for data to leave your device, reach a server, and then come back to you. It’s measured in milliseconds (ms), so the lower the ping, the better your internet speed.
While ping matters in almost everything you do online, it’s crucial for gamers in live matches, as it helps them understand if they’ll experience dips in responsiveness during gameplay.
Your download speed
Don’t let the words here trick you. Your download speed refers to how fast you can get any data off the internet; it’s not exclusive to files you click Download for.
It’s measured in megabits per second (Mbps), and the higher your download speed, the faster your internet connection.
When you go online, you’re constantly downloading something, even though you might not be aware of it.
Visiting a web page? You’re actually downloading data to display it. Reading your emails? Nah, you’re downloading them first. Streaming a movie? You’ve guessed it; you’re downloading data all the way. And it only goes up as you increase the resolution and the quality.
Your upload speed
Just like with download speeds, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to uploads as well.
Your upload speed is all about how fast your internet connection allows data to be sent from your device. It’s also measured in megabits per second (Mbps), and the higher it is, the faster you can upload data.
All this matters the most if you specialize in live streaming from home or you’re dead set on having video calls with a 4K camera.
However, take these values with a grain of salt, as they’re all estimates based on stable network environments. Calculating exact bandwidth requirements depends on plenty of other factors, from the type of content you upload to the encoder you use.
Ok, now that you’re all up to speed (pun intended), you’re ready for your test.
Compare your numbers with your plan
Welcome to the moment of truth.
How do your internet speed test results compare to what you should be getting from your internet service provider (ISP)? Because whether or not your numbers can be improved depends entirely on them and your subscription.
For example, if you’re on a 15Mbps plan, you won’t be able to get faster connections, no matter how many tricks you try.
For below-average speeds, contact your ISP to see if they have any technical issues in your area.
However, if everything’s ok with your ISP, but your internet is still a slow poke, it’s time to put on your detective cap and see what’s going on. I’ll be the Watson to your Sherlock as we investigate increasingly tech-y tips and tricks.
As you can see, your router is a prime suspect.
Your router is the networking device that lets all of your wired and wireless devices use the internet connection at the same time and allows them to talk to one another.
Don’t confuse it with the modem that only connects your home network to the internet.
Often, your ISP will give you one box that serves as both your modem and router. However, they’re still different technologies. Not all modems include routers, and not all routers have modems, but you need both for internet access.
Now that we’ve cleared this up, let’s begin!
1. Reboot your router
Let’s begin with the oldest trick in the IT support handbook: turning it off and on again. And, believe it or not, there’s a special recipe for this.
While you’re at it, make sure you don’t accidentally push the reset button, this is not what we’re after.
As bulky as it seems, your router has less memory than a smartwatch, and resetting it would delete all your settings, customizations, and passwords.
So, reboot ✔️, reset ❌.
2. Find the best spot for your router
One of the most important decisions for the quality of your signal is where you place your router. And chances are you might have to offset a bad start.
When technicians come into a house to set up an internet connection, they’re not looking to optimize your connection; they just want to place the modem where the line enters the property. And that’s usually along the wall in the corner of the house.
But that’s far from ideal for you. Instead, here’s what you should do.
Pick a central location in your home
Routers send their signal out in all directions, so corners are not their sweet spot. A good chunk of your internet will literally go out the window.
To optimize everything, move the router towards the middle of your house, considering various floors.
Place your router up high
You should put your router up high to maximize coverage. This could mean a bookshelf or someplace on a wall near the ceiling.
Just make sure it has plenty of empty space around it, and nothing is covering it.
Adjust the antennas
If your router has any antennas, now’s the time to adjust them, as they help direct the signal. Ideally, you don’t want them all pointing in the same direction, so experiment with various setups according to your needs.
Keep your router away from other electronics
To get the best speeds, try to position your router away from other electronics or large metal objects that could interfere with the signal.
Avoid the kitchen and the microwave in particular. It usually emits a strong signal in the 2.4GHz band, the same your router uses to operate.
But more on this later on.
3. Do a check-up on your internet cable
If you ever accidentally stepped on a cable and misshaped it forever, you already know they’re not the most durable thing. And the same goes for your internet cable.
So, with your detective cap on, check its integrity. Look for bends, punctures, and tears, as they could all affect the speeds you’re getting.
On the ocean floor, internet cables are the mercy of sharks and other fish. In your garden, pests and pets could sink their teeth in them, so check for bite marks as well.
If you find anything out of the ordinary, call your ISP and let them know. They’re usually the ones to replace damaged cables.
4. Get yourself an ethernet cable
Wi-Fi is great and highly convenient.
However, cable connections like ethernet are faster and more reliable since they get the signal directly to your device rather than relying on over-the-air transmissions.
If you can, connect your essential gadgets like your laptop or your PC to the internet via an ethernet cable. You’ll get a considerable speed boost when gaming, streaming and downloading large files.
If you want to do this for gadgets that don’t have an ethernet jack (and most of them don’t), you’ll find plenty of adapters on the market.
5. Buy a Wi-Fi extender
You might know these nifty devices as Wi-Fi extenders or Wi-Fi repeaters. The name says it all: they extend the coverage area of your Wi-Fi network. Sometimes, they’re so efficient they can effectively double it.
If you live on a large property or in a multi-story house with a patchy Wi-Fi signal, you should consider getting yourself a Wi-Fi extender.
However, keep in mind that a Wi-Fi extender can’t help you increase your router speed.
6. Block your ISP throttling
Your ISP plays a big part in the speeds you get online. But here’s an ugly truth: sometimes, the sloth-like speeds you experience are intentional, and that’s called throttling.
Bandwidth throttling or ISP throttling happens when your service provider decides to regulate network traffic and minimize bandwidth congestion. Obviously, it’s good for them and bad for you when you want to stream or download something, especially at rush hours.
Throttling limits both your download and upload speed and turns going online into a headache.
How to tell if your ISP throttles your connection
One of the easiest ways of testing whether your ISP intentionally messes with your internet speed is to make a comparison.
- First, run a regular speed test, and write down the numbers.
- Then, rerun the same speed test, but this time do it while you’re connected to a virtual private network (VPN).
If you get better speeds with the VPN, there you have it; your ISP is messing with your connection. Keep reading for more details on this technology.
However, the devil’s in the details with this one.
ISPs don’t throttle all the traffic all the time. They usually slow down intensive activities like streaming or torrenting during peak hours (think 7 pm to about 11 pm). So that would be a good time window to do your speed test.
And if it’s any consolation, throttling doesn’t only happen to you; everyone in your area is affected.
Rule out data caps
Before you can make a clear throttling verdict, you need one more piece of information: are there any data caps mentioned in your service agreement? Because they would also decrease your internet speed.
Many ISPs limit how much high-speed data you can use in a billing cycle, and everything that goes over the limit translated into some throttling. As you might expect, this tends to happen more towards the end of a month.
If data caps restrict you, you should be able to monitor your usage from your account on the ISP’s platform and make sure you don’t go overboard.
How to stop throttling with a VPN
If you want to put an end to ISP throttling, what you need is a VPN.
Short for virtual private network, this piece of software hides your IP address and, more importantly, it encrypts your connection. A good VPN stops your ISP from successfully inspecting your traffic. And if they no longer know whether you’re streaming or torrenting, they can’t impose any speed restrictions anymore.
And if it looks like a VPN would increase your overall privacy and security online, you’re not wrong. Reliable VPNs protect you from all sorts of snoopers and hide your digital footprint. They’re what you need to shield yourself from Big Brother.
7. Update your router firmware
If your usual interactions with your router are just the occasional reboots, now’s your chance to change your ways.
Regular updates are essential in ensuring everything runs smoothly. And your router needs them as well, especially since it handles ALL your information.
Router manufacturers typically roll out software updates several times throughout the year. But there’s a big catch to them. As a user, the onus is on you to find, download, and install them. If you haven’t done this in a while, you can expect to be rewarded with a speed boost at the end of the process, so it’s well worth it.
While some routers offer desktop or mobile apps, most use a web interface for updates.
- Download the firmware update from the manufacturer’s website. If it’s archived, unzip it.
- Log into your router’s web interface. Open a web browser, type your router’s IP address into the address bar, then hit enter.
- Type the username and password your ISP provided for you.
- Look for the section where you can update the firmware. Depending on your model, you can find it in the Administration, System, Setup, Advanced, or Tools area.
- Upload the newly downloaded firmware file.
- Wait for a few moments for the process to complete, and you’re good to go.
For specific details, you can check the manufacturer’s website or contact your ISP’s Customer Support.
8. Use all the bands of your router
If you were hoping for some music, I have some bad news for you: this isn’t about tunes.
A wireless band, or frequency band, is how your wireless data is transmitted. These are radio waves that carry your data to and from your router. Currently, two of them are in use:
- The 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) band
- The 5 GHz band
The 2.4 GHz band is the default for Wi-Fi networks and plenty of wireless devices, but they can make the airwaves rather crowded. So multiple-band routers were launched to fix this problem.
For example, dual-band routers give you access to both bands. It’s like having two separate networks in one device, maximizing speed. These are usually easy to spot since they have at least four antennas.
Tri-band router take it up a notch and broadcast on three separate bands:
- One 2.4 GHz band
- Two independent 5 GHz bands
You should go for one of these babies if you live in a household with over 30 internet-connected devices, and you don’t want them competing for band length and speed anymore.
How to choose between the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands
One of the main differences between the two bands is the speed they can provide, with 5 GHz the winner that allows you to send and receive data faster.
But, because the 2.4 GHz band transmits signals at a lower frequency, it’s able to cover more ground and penetrate walls and other solid objects.
Most dual-band routers are plug-and-play, so you shouldn’t have any problems setting up your networks. For more details, check out the manufacturer’s website or contact their Customer Support department.
9. Choose another Wi-Fi channel for your router
Let’s play a little game: did you get your router from the ISP or bought it in the past five years? If that’s the case, congratulations! Your device is more than capable of detecting the best Wi-Fi channel and picking it automatically, so you can skip this section.
However, if you’ve had your router as your trusted companion for more than five years now, it’s time for a lesson in how to optimize radio transmissions.
So, as we’ve just detailed, routers operate on two bands: 2.4 and 5 GHz.
Optimize your 2.4 GHz router
Generally, the 2.4 GHz band has 11 channels, but some of them overlap. So, the more wireless networks operate on the same channel, the more interference they experience, leaving you with not-so-great speeds.
The recommendation here is to go for the sweet spot of channels 1, 6, or 11, as they’re the ones with the least overlaps. But that’s just the theory. In reality, depending on the other wireless networks you have nearby, one of those channels might be a better option than the others.
For example, let’s say your router uses channel 1, but your next-door neighbor is on channel 2. In this situation, to keep your throughput from plummet, move at the end of the spectrum. Channel 11 will help you avoid all interference.
Before you jump on that, consider architecture as well. Interior walls, especially brick ones, are great for weakening signals and stopping interference. But that’s not the case for paper-thin walls or layouts where there are lots of windows, and that’s when you should consider switching to a different channel.
Channel selection is not something you have to worry about with 5 GHz routers, as 23 out of the 45 channels they offer are non-overlapping.
Eventually, as everyone upgrades their hardware, picking the right channel will most likely become a thing of the past.
10. Get a new, better router
Well, there you have it: the nuclear option.
If you’ve tried everything on the list but nothing seemed to improve your speed, it might be time to face the fact that your router is past its heyday. The general lifespan of a router is considered to be about five years, but it all depends on its maintenance, usage, and developments in technology.
How to tell when it’s time to change your router
Because it’s not like your router goes belly-up once it reaches the five-year mark, here are the signs you should be looking for considering how you’ve maintained and used it and whether or not its technology has now become obsolete.
Did you take good care of it?
Routers have little to no moving pieces inside, but they still need your care and attention.
Ideally, they’re placed in dry environments, away from direct sunlight, and their cables aren’t fumbled with to avoid premature wear and tear.
However, there’s not much you can do to fix poor quality. If your router was cheap and you’ve started noticing loose ports or frayed cords, it’s time for a change.
Has your router been overused?
If there are multiple users hooked at your router all the time and they’re doing data-heavy downloads, the device might overheat.
The band-aid solution is to give it a rest from time to time. Easier said than done in the context of the pandemic, right?
Does it still fit your coverage needs?
Different routers have different coverage areas. So if yours has been with you for years and years as you upsized and moved houses, it might not do the trick anymore and fail to cover large areas.
Is the tech inside now outdated?
A lot of times, it simply doesn’t matter how much care you take of your router; fast technological developments can end up making it obsolete. And wireless network standards and data speeds make considerable jumps in short periods of time to improve user experience.
To give you an extreme example, even though it might still work, a router launched before 2009 uses different standards and simply can’t offer you the same internet speed as a new model.
If you have a router that passed the five-year threshold, it might not be able to keep up with current internet speeds and give you all the juice you need for gaming, streaming, and working from home. Not to mention it won’t do a 5G connection any justice.
If your current router:
- Hasn’t been properly maintained;
- Has been overused;
- No longer serves your coverage needs;
- Or has outdated tech inside.
It’s time for a newer model. And I can guide you through that buying decision as well.
What to look for in a new router
Routers vary significantly in functionality, price, and performance. And some work better than others at boosting your internet speed. The consensus is that what you pay for is what you get. If you go for cheaper options, you risk more issues along the way and a shorter lifespan.
Price tag aside, here are some of the details you should pay attention to when shopping for a new home router.
5G is the 5th generation mobile network. It’s the new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. You might remember some of them, but one thing’s for sure: things have improved a lot since it all began in the 1980s!
5G enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect everyone and everything. So, it paves the way for mind-boggling speeds, smoother, more realistic video streaming, and gives us all the ability to connect multiple smart devices to the same router.
There’s only one conclusion here. If you live in a country that started rolling out the 5G tech, look for a router that supports it. The 100x traffic capacity will most likely astonish you.
To refresh your memory, modern routers are dual-band and tri-band, and they’re the equivalent of having two or three networks in one device.
You should pay attention to this feature, especially if you have many IoT devices at your place.
When you hunt for your new router, here are three little words to look for: quad-core CPU. It will give you all the computational power you need to go online seamlessly.
Here are some of the best routers available at the moment.
For impressive speeds, you might also want to consider getting a mesh router, the latest in home networking technology.
A standalone router uses a single device to give you Wi-Fi coverage in a limited area. However, mesh routers use two or more connected devices to offer you multiple Wi-Fi signal sources, all on the same seamless network. It’s like having 3-5 separate routers in your home.
In this category, the most popular and budget-friendly option is the Google Nest Wi-Fi router. It blankets your whole home and gives you fast internet while eliminating buffering in spaces up to 120 square feet.
It’s time to pick up speed!
Well, that was it: our top ten most effective ways to improve your internet speed!
If you went through them, you now have probably a nice checked-off to-do list.
You covered a lot of ground, and your reward should now be a blazing-fast internet connection!
What’s your favorite trick for increasing your internet speed? Let me know in the comments below.
Until next time, stay safe and secure!