If your internet (Internet download speed slow) is slow, you can often resolve the issue on your end. The solution depends on what’s causing the slowdowns. Speed issues can occur due to various reasons, such as having a slow internet plan, Wi-Fi interference, or outdated/malfunctioning equipment.
Instead of spending a lot of time troubleshooting internet problems, we’ve compiled a list of the eight most common reasons for a slow internet connection. There’s a good chance that one of these solutions will address your issue. Before diving into a lengthy troubleshooting session or scheduling an expensive technician appointment, it’s advisable to go through the list and save yourself some hassle. if you need to, you can read this article also How To Find The Right Remote Job
Why is your internet so slow?
For more details on each potential cause of slow internet, scroll down to find solutions:
- Restart Your Modem and Router: The most effective troubleshooting solution is to restart your equipment. This should always be your first step.
- Home Network Congestion: Overloading your internet connection can cause congestion. To fix this, either reduce your internet usage or consider upgrading to a faster plan.
- Provider’s Network Congestion: Like your home network, provider networks can also get overloaded due to excessive traffic. Consider upgrading your plan to alleviate this issue.
- Weak Wi-Fi Signal: A weak Wi-Fi signal occurs when you’re too far from your router or face obstacles. Improve it by extending your Wi-Fi range, choosing a better router location, or adjusting router settings.
- Exceeded Data Cap: Some providers limit monthly data usage, and going over may result in a slowed connection. Monitor your data usage to avoid exceeding the cap or consider purchasing more data.
- High Latency: High latency can make your internet feel slow, especially during time-sensitive activities. This is particularly noticeable in gaming and video calls.
- Slow or Outdated Devices: If slowdowns are limited to specific devices, troubleshoot those devices first. Sometimes, a simple restart is all they need.
- Provider Throttling: Your ISP may intentionally slow down your connection for various reasons.
Click on each issue to automatically scroll to its respective solution for a quicker resolution.
How to fix a slow internet connection?
For a swift and effective resolution to internet issues, always start with the golden rule of troubleshooting: restart your modem and router. It’s a quick and easy process.
Follow these steps for restarting your modem, router, or gateway (modem/router combo unit):
- Unplug the power cable from the back of the modem, router, or gateway.
- Wait for 60 seconds.
- Plug the power cable back into the equipment.
- Allow the equipment to reboot, which may take up to 20 minutes.
2. Your home network is congested
If your internet seems slow, it might be due to congestion on your home network. Imagine your internet connection as a road leading to your house, allowing one car’s worth of people (or internet data) at a time. If multiple “cars” are trying to reach your house simultaneously, they form a queue, causing a traffic jam.
To determine if you need to upgrade your internet plan, follow these steps:
- Use our internet speed test to check if your speed matches the one advertised by your ISP.
- If your results are close to your plan speed, it may be beneficial to consider upgrading your internet plan.
To alleviate home network congestion without resorting to asking everyone to leave the internet for your Zoom meeting, consider these user-friendly tips:
- Prioritize Activities with QoS Settings:
- Some routers feature Quality of Service (QoS) settings, allowing you to prioritize specific online activities. For instance, you can ensure smooth streaming playback by granting first access to available bandwidth.
- Prune Unused Internet Connections:
- Identify and disconnect devices rarely or never in use to free up bandwidth. Access your router’s web interface to view connected devices and block unnecessary ones. Some routers offer apps for this purpose.
- Stagger Bandwidth-Intensive Activities:
- If your connection struggles with simultaneous online activities, schedule bandwidth-heavy tasks like updates and downloads during off-peak hours to provide everyone with uninterrupted connections.
- Create a Guest Network:
- Establish a guest network using your router’s web interface or mobile app. This allows you to control the bandwidth guests can use and restrict their access to specific services and websites. It also enhances security by isolating guests’ devices from your own, preventing potential malware transmission.
3. Your provider’s network is congested
Your internet service provider (ISP) can also experience network congestion on a larger scale, similar to congestion on your home network.
If congestion becomes severe, your ISP might resort to throttling internet speeds in your area to ease network traffic.
While you can’t control large-scale network congestion, you can try to manage it by scheduling significant downloads during non-peak hours, such as late at night.
If you encounter persistent and substantial slowdowns from your ISP that don’t improve, switching to a different ISP may be the most effective solution. Fortunately, there are numerous new services available, including 5G home internet, satellite options, and advancements in fibre technology. To explore potential alternatives, enter your zip code in the search bar below; you’ll likely find new ISP options in your area.
4. You need a stronger Wi-Fi signal
Weak Wi-Fi signals caused by walls, distance, or interference from other networks can lead to slower speeds and frequent disconnects. To determine if this is your issue, check your device’s Wi-Fi meter and aim for at least three bars of signal strength for optimal connection.
To address weak Wi-Fi:
- Check Router Placement:
- Ensure your router is centrally located, elevated, and away from potential signal disruptors like walls and Bluetooth speakers. Sometimes, a small adjustment in your router’s placement can significantly improve signal strength.
- Consider Router Replacement:
- If repositioning doesn’t help, you might need a router designed for longer ranges or improved coverage. Alternatively, adding a Wi-Fi extender can expand signals into previously unreachable areas.
For more guidance on optimizing Wi-Fi coverage, explore our guides on choosing the best router placement and extending the Wi-Fi range. If you require enhanced coverage, consider long-range routers as well.
5. You exceeded your data cap
Several internet providers implement data caps, and exceeding your plan’s limit can result in significantly slowed speeds. You can typically monitor your data usage through your online account or the ISP’s app. Providers like Xfinity offer generous data caps, such as 1.2 TB in this example, which is generally sufficient for most households. However, satellite provider Viasat tends to be less generous with data allowances.
Satellite internet providers, similar to cell phone plans, charge based on data usage. Once you surpass your monthly data allowance, your internet speeds may be throttled. Hughesnet customers might experience speeds dropping to 1–3 Mbps, while Viasat customers may face deprioritization, pushing their data to the back of the line among Viasat customers.
Although many DSL, cable, and fibre internet companies are discontinuing data limits, some still enforce them. Check if your internet service has a data cap through our guide to ISP data caps.
6. You have high latency
Latency refers to the time it takes for data to complete a round trip from your device to its destination and back. High latency results in noticeable lag, creating a delay between your physical actions and the corresponding display on your screen, particularly evident in online gaming or video calls.
Addressing high latency can be challenging, as it depends on factors beyond your control, including your physical distance from internet servers, network congestion, and your internet provider’s infrastructure. The type of internet you use also influences latency; for instance, satellite internet typically has higher latency due to the travel distance of data to and from space. Conversely, newer technologies like fibre and 5G mmWave offer lower latency by handling faster signals.
For those seeking to improve their connection by reducing latency, our report on the fastest ISPs provides insights into internet services with the best-tested speeds and the lowest average latency.
7. You have slow or outdated devices
If you’re facing speed issues, the problem might not lie with your internet connection but rather with the device you’re using. Outdated devices such as computers, tablets, phones, or gaming consoles may struggle to process today’s Wi-Fi speeds.
For instance, the PlayStation Vita handheld console, while beloved, supports up to 150 Mbps per second due to its use of a Wi-Fi 4 radio. This speed may further decrease based on the router and security protocol it connects to, and it will never surpass that 150 Mbps limit.
To address speed issues on a desktop or laptop:
- Power Cycle the Device:
- Shut down the device completely for 30 seconds. This clears memory, refreshes the connection, and eliminates unnecessary processes and temporary files, often caused by an overworked processor.
Other factors that can slow down your devices include:
- Too many open applications
- Too many open browser tabs
- Outdated software or drivers
- The need for the operating system to reboot to install updates
- Ongoing patch downloads
- App downloads
- Presence of malware
To prevent overwhelming your computer’s CPU, close unused applications and browser windows. Keep your device’s operating system up-to-date by enabling auto-updates, and ensure your antivirus definitions are current.
8. ISP throttling
Internet providers can throttle your speeds, leading to a sluggish connection. While we’ll briefly touch on throttling here, you can delve into the subject further in our guide to network throttling.
We’ve covered instances where a provider might throttle your speeds, such as exceeding your data cap or network congestion. Additionally, providers may slow down your connection if they flag your internet activity as potentially illegal or if they discourage specific activities, like torrenting.
To determine if your provider is throttling your internet, follow these steps:
- Run a speed test without using a VPN.
- Run the speed test again, this time using a VPN.
If your speeds improve with the VPN, your provider is likely throttling your connection. Congratulations on identifying the issue!
Other factors that affect your internet download speed slow
Your internet plan’s maximum speed
Internet speeds are measured in megabits per second (Mbps), indicating your connection’s total bandwidth rather than the time data takes to make a round trip (latency). Providers typically advertise speeds as “up to” a specific Mbps, with fine print noting that these speeds are not guaranteed. Legally, providers are often clear if the internet doesn’t consistently perform at the highest advertised bandwidth.
In reality, even if you’re paying for, let’s say, 400 Mbps per month, you might not consistently experience that maximum speed due to hardware issues between your internet provider’s operator (a device communicating with multiple modems) and your physical internet connection. Factors like utility pole connections and buried cables significantly influence how your connection performs.
For a quick refresher on internet speeds and their meanings, explore our guide to internet speeds.
Your upload & download speeds
Every day, whether on a smartphone or laptop, you engage in uploading and downloading data. For example, when you access a website, you upload a request to that site and then download temporary files to view it in your browser.
If you don’t face issues with streaming or downloading files but still experience symptoms of slow internet, the problem might be with your upload speed. Cable, DSL, and satellite providers usually allocate less upload bandwidth than download bandwidth because most users request more information from the internet than they send. Upload speed becomes a concern for heavy uploaders, such as Twitch streamers, individuals working with video or audio, or those frequently sharing large files.
For a significant improvement in upload speeds, consider switching to a fibre plan. Fibre-optic internet connections often provide upload speeds equal to download speeds. If you’re unsure about the speeds you truly need, check out our recommendations for upload and download speeds.
Your internet connection type
Internet providers utilize various technologies to deliver connections, including cable, fibre, satellite, and DSL. The type of internet connection significantly influences overall speeds.
- Satellite Internet:
- Transfers signals from a base station to a satellite to a receiver at your home, covering long distances for data transfer.
- Can have high latency compared to other types, slowing down internet speeds.
- DSL Internet:
- Uses phone lines to carry data, with a bandwidth limitation compared to cable or fibre.
- Tops out at just over 100 Mbps, and signal quality degrades over long distances.
- Cable Internet:
- Faster than DSL, utilizing coaxial cables with higher bandwidth than phone cables.
- Speeds can reach up to 1,200 Mbps.
- Fiber-Optic Internet:
- One of the newest types, offering the best-wired connection.
- Uses light pulses for data transmission, resulting in lower latency and higher bandwidth.
- Provides speeds up to 5,000 Mbps, is less prone to network congestion, and offers high download and upload speeds.
In summary, DSL and cable are the most common types, while fibre is newer but less widespread. Satellite internet is suitable for rural areas where other types may not be accessible.
More ways to speed up a slow internet connection
For a quick improvement in your internet connection speed, consider the following tips. However, if you’re ready to thoroughly troubleshoot and get to the bottom of your internet speed issues, check out our comprehensive internet troubleshooting guide.
First, know your plan speed
You need to know how much speed you pay for each month and compare that number against the speed you’re getting now. Look on your paper bill or login to your online account to see your plan’s advertised maximum speed.
Next, run a speed test and compare
To identify where your internet speeds might be slowing down, running a series of speed tests at different points in your network can be helpful. Let’s break down the testing process into two sections.
Part 1: Test the Modem
- For your initial speed test, ensure the most accurate results by disconnecting your router from the modem.
- Connect a computer directly to the modem using an Ethernet cable. If you have a wireless gateway, plug it into one of the Ethernet ports. Warning: Browsing the internet without a router for an extended period is not recommended. Routers have built-in security features that protect your network from viruses and malware.
- Run the speed test to check if you’re getting the correct speeds to your home as advertised by your internet provider.
- The results should be close to the speeds promoted with your plan. If not, monitor the issue over multiple days and times to establish a pattern.
- If you consistently experience lower-than-expected results, contact your internet provider to discuss why you’re not getting the correct speeds.
Part 2: Test the Router
If the modem isn’t the issue, the next step is to test the router. Reconnect the router to the modem and run multiple speed tests using both wireless devices and wired devices plugged into the router’s Ethernet ports.
- Check for Discrepancies:
- Compare the results from tests with the modem and router. If there’s a significant difference, your router or the Ethernet cable connecting it to the modem may be causing the connection slowdowns.
- Consider Device Variations:
- Note that not all wireless devices experience identical speeds. Connection performance depends on the hardware, so the speeds may vary between devices.
- Troubleshoot Router Issues:
- Follow these steps to troubleshoot router problems:
- Step 1: Unplug the router’s power, wait 30 seconds, and plug it back in.
- Step 2: Ensure all cables are securely connected, and all ports are functional.
- Step 3: Update your router’s firmware through the web interface or mobile app.
- Step 4: Reposition your router.
- Step 5: Optimize wireless connections to the best Wi-Fi band.
- Step 6: Change the Wi-Fi channels in the router’s interface to find a less crowded one.
- Step 7: If needed, perform a factory reset by pressing the reset button on the router’s back.
- Follow these steps to troubleshoot router problems:
- Consider Upgrading:
- If the issues persist, and your router is more than a few years old, consider upgrading to a newer or more powerful router. Technology evolves rapidly, and a modern router may improve your internet experience.
For guidance on router selection, check out recommendations for the best long-range routers, modem and router combos, and routers for specific ISPs like Xfinity.
Check for Wi-Fi dead zones
Wi-Fi problems can stem from various factors, such as the range of your router, crowded frequency channels, signal interference, and physical obstructions. Assuming your router is already centrally placed, elevated, and equipped with properly directed antennas, you can take the following steps to address Wi-Fi issues.
Check Signal Strength by moving around your house with a computer or smartphone and observing the Wi-Fi signal strength indicator. Identify any dead zones and consider adjusting your router’s placement or investing in a Wi-Fi signal booster for those areas. Creating a Wi-Fi heatmap can provide a more precise analysis.
Consider upgrading to Mesh Networking if you encounter multiple Wi-Fi dead zones. Mesh networking kits typically include at least two nodes, creating a coverage “blanket” with seamless device switching between nodes. Additional nodes can be added for extended coverage.
Explore Wi-Fi Extenders or Powerline Adapters if you prefer sticking with a traditional router. These solutions can enhance coverage, though mesh router kits are generally favoured over the router/extender setup.
Addressing Wi-Fi issues involves finding the right solution for your specific situation, whether it’s optimizing router placement, utilizing signal boosters, or upgrading to mesh networking for comprehensive coverage.
Reorganize your Wi-Fi connections
If you’ve already streamlined your Wi-Fi connections by removing unnecessary devices, the next step is to ensure that all active connections are on the correct Wi-Fi band.
Modern routers typically provide two Wi-Fi bands, each creating its own visible Wi-Fi network. These are usually labeled with their frequency bands, or a customized name if you’ve made changes. The bands operate on two different frequencies: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 2.4 GHz band offers better range but is slower and more susceptible to signal interference. On the other hand, the 5 GHz band is faster but has a shorter range.
For bandwidth-heavy applications like streaming or gaming, it’s preferable to use the 5 GHz band. Devices that don’t require high speed, such as smart home devices, can utilize the 2.4 GHz band.
You can usually adjust the Wi-Fi band for each device by logging into the respective Wi-Fi network on each device. However, some routers broadcast only one network name and automatically select the best frequency band for your device. This can pose an issue if you specifically need the faster 5 GHz connection but the router forces your device to use the 2.4 GHz band.
Change your Wi-Fi band’s channel
While changing your router’s channel is a common troubleshooting suggestion, it may not always be effective due to certain limitations.
All three frequency bands are divided into small 20 MHz channels, and routers combine these channels to create larger ones. Most modern Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 devices prefer 80 MHz channels when connecting to the 5 GHz band for maximum speed, and routers often default to using these.
The challenge lies in the fact that routers only display the smaller channels. For instance, you might use a Wi-Fi diagnostics app and find that channel 36 appears clear for use. However, in reality, it might be utilized by a neighbouring network that, like yours, combines channels 36, 40, 44, and 48 to create a single 80 MHz channel.
In such cases, the best option is to select one of the higher 5 GHz channels (if available) and hope for improved performance. While most standalone routers allow you to change the channel through the web interface or mobile app, it’s worth noting that channel adjustment may not be possible on certain mesh systems.
Check connected devices
As previously mentioned, at times the problem doesn’t lie with your internet connection but rather with the smartphone, computer, or tablet used to access the internet. This device might require a reboot, could be outdated, or may be affected by having too many open apps and programs that strain the device’s processor.
Manage your network
If you’ve reached this point and are still grappling with slow internet speeds, revisit the tips in the home network traffic section mentioned earlier if you haven’t already.
The root of your speed issues likely lies either with your internet provider’s reliability or the traffic on your home network. Even with organized and reduced connected devices, there may be insufficient bandwidth during specific times of the day to handle all network activities. The only viable solutions are either to limit internet usage or consider upgrading to a faster internet plan.
Fix #1: Power cycle your modem and router (or wireless gateway)
Give your modem and router a quick refresh with a power cycle to ensure optimal performance. Simply unplug both units, wait for 30 seconds, and then plug the modem back into the wall outlet. Once it fully boots up, repeat the process with the router.
For wireless gateways, follow the same procedure of unplugging, waiting, and plugging it back in.
This power cycle effectively clears the system memory, resolves any local communication issues, and establishes fresh connections. Additionally, it allows the modem to resync with your internet provider’s operator, a device that communicates with multiple modems, and refreshes your router’s public IP address. A power cycle can significantly enhance your internet speeds on your side of the modem.
Fix #2: Move your router to another location
Avoid hiding your routers or wireless gateways in closets, behind furniture, or in basements, as this can lead to poor Wi-Fi performance. Instead, aim to minimize physical barriers between your router and devices by placing it in a central, elevated location. Walls, floors, ceilings, doors, and large furniture can obstruct Wi-Fi signals, especially over longer distances.
Keep in mind that signals from other devices, such as microwaves, Bluetooth speakers, baby monitors, and cordless phones, can interfere with wireless speeds.
For optimal Wi-Fi coverage, position your router where you use Wi-Fi the most, such as a home office. If your router has external antennas, utilize them for better coverage. Most router antennas broadcast Wi-Fi signals in an outward circle perpendicular to their position.
For example, if antennas are vertical, Wi-Fi signals are broadcast horizontally in all directions. In a one-story house, keep the antennas vertical, and in a multistory house, position at least one antenna horizontally to reach additional floors.
Fix #3: Use the internet during off-peak hours
If you anticipate a significant download, such as the latest macOS version or a hefty Xbox Series X game update, consider scheduling it during a time when you don’t require online connectivity for other activities. Optimal times are often in the early morning hours when internet usage is minimal, and most users are asleep, ensuring that no other downloads compete for bandwidth.
While operating systems tend to schedule updates for the early morning when users are less active, game updates usually require manual initiation. Plan and start the download during non-peak hours to avoid interruptions.
If your internet speed slows down during peak hours, consider downloading content earlier in the day or during the night to ensure a smooth streaming experience without buffering interruptions.
Fix #4: Upgrade your internet plan
If your household has grown, you’ve transitioned to remote work, or you find yourself using the internet more frequently, it might be time to consider upgrading to a faster internet plan.
How do I know if I need a faster internet plan?
You probably need a faster internet plan if slowdowns occur when you attempt bandwidth-heavy tasks, like downloading or when multiple people are using the internet in your home.
What type of internet plan is the fastest?
Fiber internet stands out as the fastest type of internet connection available, with residential fibre-optic plans offering speeds up to 5,000 Mbps, and some plans reaching an impressive 10,000 Mbps of bandwidth. Fibre internet provides symmetrical speeds, ensuring that both upload and download speeds are equally fast. This symmetry proves beneficial for activities like Zoom calls, Twitch streaming, and uploading large files.