Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2012, 11:30 am
You can fix a slow Internet connection
Comment on this story
By Leslie Meredith
Is your Internet access agonizingly slow? Assuming you're not on dial-up, there are ways to speed up a pokey connection, but some factors are out of your control.
Is your connection slow? One test is to see how well video plays. When you click to play a YouTube video, do you find yourself pressing stop and waiting for a less than 5-minute video to load, so the video will play through without stopping to buffer?
To determine the speeds you are getting, try one of the free test sites available online, such as speedtest.net and the Internet Speed Test from whatismyip.com. Conduct several tests at different times of the day and over a week or so, because speeds can vary based on how many people are using a service at any given time and other factors.
The FCC says the minimum download rate to watch an HD movie is 4 megabits per second, while streaming Internet radio and browsing the Web only require about 1 megabit per second.
There are many factors that affect the speed of your connection, and tracking the culprit is often a trial and error process. Here are three common causes of a slow Internet, and their fixes.
If you have too many applications running and numerous tabs open in your browser, you will experience delays. Close browser tabs and programs you don't need. If you're on a PC, open your Task Manager to see what applications are running.
You may not be listening to Spotify, but it runs in the background using quite a bit of bandwidth, so right click and end the process. On a Mac, click the Apple icon at the top left of the screen and select Force Quit to see, and close, running apps.
For mobile users, double-press the start button on iOS devices to see what's running and then close apps you're not using. On Android phones, go to the Settings menu and then the Apps menu and then tap "Running."
Browser extensions also can cause Web pages to load more slowly. Try disabling your extensions by going into your browser's settings, choosing "extensions" or "add-ons" (depending on the browser)and disabling them one at a time to find the culprit.
If you find that one or more extensions are causing problems, uninstall it.
Here's a third possibility. Last week, I struggled with a sudden slowdown in browsing. I tried closing tabs and disabled the handful of extensions running in Chrome. No improvement. I tried browsing in Firefox to eliminate the possibility that it was a problem in my computer, such as a virus.
Luckily, Firefox worked fine. So, I uninstalled Chrome and reinstalled it, which worked. You can do this with your browser —Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome or Firefox —if you have a similar problem.
Families often have several Internet-connected devices. If your son is playing Halo on Xbox Live, your daughter is Facetiming and you're trying to watch Netflix on your computer, something's gotta give.
If possible, connect your computer and other devices with an Ethernet cable, which is usually faster than Wifi and will reduce the load on your router. As a last resort, enforce a schedule to avoid overloading your Wifi.
But sometimes, you have no control over Internet delays. For instance, Netflix may experience a problem with its servers. Likewise, when there's a sudden rush of people trying to access a single site, you'll have to wait.
Apple has frequently suffered from similar network problems when it launches new products.
You can check for outages on sites such as isitdownrightnow.com that will give you the status of a site in question, and tell you when the site last experienced an outage. If you consistently have slow connections and you've optimized your home computing setup, it may be time to consider a faster service package.
First, find out what your current speed is by running one of the speed tests we mentioned above.
If you live in a highly populated metropolitan area, you will have several options. Keep in mind that fiber optic service is the fastest, followed by cable and then DSL. Like choosing a carrier for your cellphone, you should check with friends and neighbors for recommendations because service from the same provider can vary based on your location.
Ogden, Utah-based TopTenREVIEWS.com guides consumers by comparing products in the world of technology, including electronics, software and Web services. Have a question? Email Leslie Meredith at firstname.lastname@example.org, or join her at AskLeslie on Facebook or Leslie Meredith on Google+.