People often think slow internet must be down to their broadband provider. But computer settings, wireless hardware or an old PC can all have an impact. Here are our top tips to help you get up to speed:
In this guide:
Struggling when browsing the web? Try upgrading to the latest version of your browser, or switching to a different one entirely. If you're using Internet Explorer, for example, switching to Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, could potentially reduce the time it takes to load a web page.
Lots of things can impact the strength of a wireless broadband signal - walls, doors, even interference from things like baby monitors. So if you're suffering from slow or unreliable Wi-Fi, try moving your router. Ideally, it should be positioned high up - on top of a bookshelf, for example.
If you want to maximise coverage across the whole house, try sticking it somewhere central, maybe at the top of the stairs. Alternatively, if there's a room where you do most of your surfing, try putting the router in there.
As a general rule, the closer you are to the router, the better your web connection will be. And, whatever you do, don't stick your router in a cupboard - you'd be surprised how common a mistake that is!
Your router has lots of different settings that can affect your wireless broadband signal. These settings can be tweaked and adjusted to help get the best speeds you can. For example, you could make sure you're using a different wireless channel to your neighbours - sharing the same one can cause interference and drop speeds for both of you.
Of course, with the sheer number of different types of router out there, it would be near-impossible to tell you how to adjust all of them, so read your router's manual, or check your provider's support pages for details on how to adjust your settings.
See the exclamation mark in the header? We're screaming this one at you because it's important. Not only is an open wireless network a massive security risk, it also means neighbours or other people nearby can piggyback on your network.
If they use it a lot, or start downloading, they'll send your broadband speed plummeting like the Hindenburg. And if you have a monthly download limit, they could also be gobbling up your precious data allowance.
So how do you stop those bloomin' freeloaders? Secure your network! Make sure you encrypt your signal and password protect it. Our guide to Wi-Fi should tell you more.
There are tons of applications on your computer that could be using the internet possibly some without you even knowing it.
Things like Windows updates, security scans and updates, media player pop-ups, instant chat applications, Skype, open website tabs and more - all these things can eat away at your broadband speed.
Some of these ask permission before they run, but others may be going on in the background. Cancelling them can give your broadband speed a little boost. You can find out what's running on a PC by pressing Alt + Ctrl + Delete to bring up your task manager, which shows you everything that's running.
Just make sure you don't turn off your anti-virus software!
Video: 5 easy tips to speed up your broadband
If you're still experiencing slow broadband, a BT iPlate is an option. Also known as a broadband accelerator, this connects to your phone socket and gets rid of a lot of the potential interference there. In some cases, an iPlate can boost broadband speed by as much as 60% - though there's no guarantee that would be the case for you.
The downside is that you have to pay for it, but these devices aren't particularly expensive. You can get one for around £5, and they're really easy to install.
Broadband providers typically provide decent routers these days - the BT Home Hub and Virgin Media Super Hub are both pretty good, for example. But if you're using an older device, or you're not finding them up to scratch, you have a few things you could try.
Like changing the aerial, for example. Most modern routers have built in antenna - however, by connecting it to an external one (which, sadly, you'd have to buy) you could boost your signal by up to five times.
Or, you could buy a brand new router altogether. A higher quality router will often have more features, such as allowing you to select ports for gaming, or giving you a better firewall.
The downside is that the better the router, the worse it will be for your wallet when you have to buy the thing. However, if you've been with your provider a long time and still have the router they gave you years ago, it's worth phoning up to request a newer model.
It's a good way to test your provider's customer service. If you find they're not very helpful, and assuming you're out of contract, you know what you should do - switch.
If you're having trouble with wireless, you could invest in a wireless repeater. These improve your wireless range, bouncing the signal over a larger area.
You could also add a powerline adapter. These use the wiring in your house to send a Wi-Fi signal around. Wherever you have a free plug socket, you'll be able to position a wireless hotspot. This is a significantly more expensive option, but is often much more effective.
For more information about repeaters and powerline adaptors, take a look at our guide.
Here's some zen-like wisdom for you: a wireless connection will always be slower than a wired one. When you set up a wireless network, you should expect a bit of a drop in speed - no problem for people with fast connections, but for those whose broadband moves like an exhausted snail, it may not be the best choice.
So try connecting directly via ethernet cable if you can. You'll likely find speeds better - and if you don't, it implies that the problem may be with your provider, not your equipment.
10. Talk to your provider
If after all this, you still can't up your speed, then it's time to talk to your broadband provider. Simply talking to them could help them identify a fault - either at your end or theirs - and take steps to sort it out for you.
Alternatively, if you've been on the same package for a long time - 12 months or more - your package might be outdated. Not only may faster options be available, you may be paying more than you need too. It's up to you which of those is worse.
Ask your provider if you can be upgraded if you agree to renew your subscription. You could find yourself moved to a faster package for more or less the same price.
Either way, your provider should be able to give you a line test, and tell you what speeds you should be getting. If you're not getting what they say, your provider should be able to suggest some of the reasons why. If not, make a complaint - check our provider guides for information on how to contact your provider.
If you still find that your connection is slow, it might mean that your package just doesn't support your needs. Consider what you actually need, and see if there are any other packages that better fit those requirements.
For example, in today's gadget-filled homes, many people find that broadband speeds are slow because too many people are using it. The more people using a web connection at the same time, the slower speeds get. So if Mum's watching Casualty on BBC iPlayer, while Dad watches the match on BT Sport, and the kids are playing video games online, broadband performance issues are more likely. If that's the case for you, consider getting fibre optic broadband - the extra speed available could alleviate many of your troubles. That's assuming you can get fibre in your area of course.
So if you think a new package could be the answer to your problems, make sure you use our broadband comparison service to compare broadband deals available where you live, and find a more suitable package.
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