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Why your internet is slow (and what you can do about it)




It’s easy to take for granted your high-speed internet connection and router that allows most — if not all — of your devices an easy wireless hookup. The minute there’s a drop in performance, though, all bets are off and you scramble to find a solution; no one likes internet that’s slower than what they’re used to. Let’s take a look at some of the common causes for a slow internet connection and what you can do about it.

There are many more unforeseen reasons your internet might be slowing down than what I have listed here, but this is a good start.

  • Device is connected over Wi-Fi. A wireless connection to your router is, in most cases, going to cut the speed that you’re paying for from your internet service provider (ISP). Signal interference can come from other electronics (particularly microwaves), walls, and furniture, and simply moving to the outer reach of the antenna will cause issues. If you want the best speed possible, stick with a wired connection using an Ethernet cable.
  • Device is outdated. You won’t likely see a sudden drop in internet speed as your device has its third birthday, but trying to run modern web browsers — especially loaded down with extensions and add-ons — on aging hardware will make it seem like your internet speed is the problem.
  • Router needs a reset. Just like a PC, powering down your router (usually by unplugging the power cable) can do wonders for your internet. It’s easy for your router to get out of sync with the myriad wireless devices connected to it, and a reset usually gets everything back the way it should be.
  • PC might be infected with malware. One of the most common causes of a noticeable change in network speed is a malicious program communicating with the open internet, using up your bandwidth before you even begin. Let your antivirus do a full scan and see what it dredges up.
  • Too many people using the same band. Unless your router and devices have multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output (MU-MIMO) capabilities, data is delivered in a rotating manner to any connected devices. The more devices, the longer it takes the router to arrive back at the first.
  • You’re connected to an extender. Wi-Fi extenders are a low-cost way to extend the reach of a wireless signal, perfect if a back corner of your home can’t be reached by your router alone. However, extenders generally cut bandwidth in half due to wireless backhaul traffic. You have data delivered to your device, and your device must deliver data back to the router.
  • ISP has you throttled. Did you recently re-download your entire Steam library onto a new hard drive? Did you recently binge an entire eight seasons of a TV show? Depending on the plan you have with your ISP, they might be throttling your connection.
  • ISP is having technical issues. Your slow internet might be completely out of your hands. The network beyond the modem in your home is extensive, and there are plenty of opportunities for it to fail. A quick search in a web browser (as long as your internet isn’t completely down) will usually bring up a website where you can verify whether or not the problems are network-wide.

Even with all these potential problems, there are still plenty more things that could be affecting your overall speed. If you’re downloading a file, the server on the other end might be getting slammed, and likewise, a website that’s experiencing unusually high traffic will take longer to load. Depending on the density of your neighborhood, everyone trying to connect at once might be causing speeds to take a hit.


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