Fed up with inexplicable lousy broadband speeds? Don't despair, here's a set of simple steps you can take to help improve your broadband speed and get the most from your home internet.
Getting to grips with your broadband:
1. Know your connection’s maximum speed
Before looking for ways to increase your connection speed (aside from switching) it’s important to know the maximum speed of which your line is capable. It shouldn’t be hard to find this information out, as usually your provider will have informed you of this maximum speed capability when you signed up.
For example, you might be familiar with phrases like “up to 100MB speeds” etc. The key phrase here is “up to” because unfortunately, a lot of the time your connection might perform at speeds a lot lower than its full potential. There are many factors and potential barriers that can prevent your connection from reaching maximum speed and the rest of this article aims to help you to remove these barriers.
2. Test your speed
Once you know your maximum possible speed, it’s time to test the average speed you are actually getting. You can do so using our Broadband Speed Test. Make sure that you do this test a few times, and at different times of the day, to make sure you are getting an accurate reflection of your average speed. Factors like peak traffic times, other people using the connection and so on, will slow your speeds at different times of the day.
3. Know your download allowance
Although most broadband plans allow for “unlimited” data these days, it’s still worth checking to see what your provider’s policy is.
If you do have a download allowance, many providers now reduce speeds rather than charge you for exceeding your allowance. You should be emailed a warning if you exceed your usage allowance.
There is also another allowance known as the traffic management allowance, which your provider will put in place during peak traffic times. The bad news is, if you’ve exceeded the traffic management allowance, you won't be informed and your speed will simply drop for a fixed number of hours (or until the peak period ends).
Security and Updates:
4. Make sure your browser is up to date
Browsers, such as Chrome, Firefox and Safari are constantly being updated to increase performance. Ensuring that you are using the latest version of your browser will help maximise your connection speed. When it comes to browsers, it is generally accepted that newer is better.
Also, make sure that your browser isn’t using a lot of unnecessary add-ons such as toolbars or extensions that you don’t want or need. They will slow down your browser’s performance.
5. Shut down background applications
The default setting on some computer applications can sometimes be to start up automatically when you turn on your computer (Skype and Spotify for example). Many of these will quietly use your broadband (and thus slow it down for you) without you knowing. Make sure that all unnecessary applications are shut down to prevent this.
Having large numbers of windows and tabs open that you aren’t using could also potentially have an effect on your speed. Make sure to close any windows you don’t need.
Also don’t forget to consider other devices in your house that could be using a lot of data without you realising! Devices like Sky boxes, game consoles and such can slow down connections significantly while they are downloading movies, shows, updates and so on.
6. Protect your computer from viruses
Setting up decent anti-virus software is almost a prerequisite to running a computer but did you know that aside from infecting and corrupting your computer, viruses, trojans and worms can use your broadband connection in the background without you knowledge to slow everything down?
Viruses and adware can also cause your computer to slow down considerably which can have the effect of making your broadband connection seem slow.
7. Protect your network
Probably a no-brainer but also something that is easily overlooked; always make sure your broadband connection is password protected to keep freeloaders at bay! The last thing you need is to have your speeds sapped by a neighbour hogging all of your bandwidth without your knowledge!
8. Make sure your router is up to scratch
If you want to have the fastest speed possible, investing in a decent router is a very good idea, especially if your broadband comes in on poor quality telephone lines. A good router will lead to improvements in speed and reliability. If you’re not sure what kind of router you have, you can always find the model online and look up reviews which will most likely reflect its quality.
Aside from quality, make sure that your router is up to date. Older models might not support more recent upgrades to your line. If you’re not sure, give your broadband provider a call.
9. Use a wired connection when possible
Of course wireless broadband is the handiest type of broadband connection - especially when it comes to mobile devices, but if you want the fastest and most reliable connection you should use a wired connection where possible.
Wireless networks can be subject to interference and are affected by the size and composition of your home. Connecting using a wired ethernet (network cable) avoids the problem and can improve speeds, but it obviously is less flexible than a wireless connection.
10. Make sure you’ve got the right cables
If you’re using a wired connection and you need to extend the reach of your cable, always be sure to only use an ethernet cable! Poor quality extension cables (non-ethernet) can massively increase interference on your line and cause broadband speeds to be lowered.
11. Have you tried turning it on and off again?
Ah, the foolproof solution! There’s a reason why the first thing we’re told to do when anything IT related doesn’t work is to try turning it off and on again, but do you know what it is?
You’ll notice that we mentioned that broadband connections can run into interference which can cause them to slow down. Interference generally happens when your signal is physically blocked by something or there are too many devices trying to run off the same channel.
Turning your broadband router off and on again causes the router to search for the best channel to reconnect your broadband to, hence why turning your router off and on again can often sort out speed issues.
Your broadband connection can run on up to 11 or 13 channels (depending on your router) so, if your neighbours’ Wi-Fi and your Wi-Fi are both running on channel 1, then your signal will suffer. It’s preferable to have at least one, if not two channels of separation so if your neighbour is on channel 4 you'll want to be on channel 7 and so on.
Very few routers actually show you which channels surround your house, so most people just leave the router to automatically pick a channel. However, if your have the right software on your device, you can walk around each room in your home to see what channels you can pick up and then you can manually pick a channel for the router. It's a good idea to check this again once a month.
12. Call in the experts!
If you’re a total technophobe, or you’d rather not deal with all the above hassle to get the most out of your broadband connection and you’re a Virgin Media customer you’re in luck! Virgin Media recently launched their new “Red House Ninja” service, which sees tech experts visit customers’ homes to ensure that they’re getting the most out of their broadband and entertainment services.
13. When all else fails, switch providers
If you’ve tried all of these steps and you’re still not seeing results it might be time to switch broadband providers!