Is your internet running slower than you‘d like? A lagging connection can make it difficult to work productively, stream movies, play games, and more. The good news is that with a few targeted tweaks, you can optimize your network for significantly faster speeds.
In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll cover all the ways to troubleshoot and improve slow internet connectivity. Follow these tips to boost speeds across your network and devices.
How Much Speed Do You Really Need?
Before optimizing your internet, it‘s helpful to understand ideal connection speeds for different online activities. This way you can target the right level of performance.
Here are the recommended internet download and upload speeds for popular tasks:
- Basic web browsing – At least 25 Mbps download / 3 Mbps upload
- Streaming HD video – 25 Mbps download minimum
- Online gaming – 50 Mbps download / 10 Mbps upload
- HD video conferencing – 1.2 Mbps upload minimum
- Large file downloads – 100+ Mbps download
So for example, if you notice video buffering or laggy gaming, aim for at least 50/10 Mbps speeds. Use these requirements as a guideline when testing your network.
10 No-Cost Ways to Speed Up Your Internet
Before paying for network upgrades or faster internet plans, try these 10 tips to tweak your existing setup for better performance. Best of all, they won‘t cost you a dime.
1. Reboot Your Modem and Router
Rebooting your network equipment is one of the simplest ways to give your internet speeds a quick boost. When modems and routers run nonstop for days or weeks, they can develop performance issues.
Rebooting them clears out those problems for a fresh start. Here are the proper steps:
- Unplug your modem and router power cables.
- Wait 30 seconds before reconnecting the modem. This gives time for it to fully reset.
- Wait 2 full minutes for the modem to come back online. Avoid interrupting its reboot sequence.
- Finally, plug in and reboot your router.
Following this exact sequence avoids networking conflicts and gets both devices working optimally. It‘s a good idea to schedule a weekly reboot to maintain performance.
2. Log Into Your Router to Update Firmware
Your router firmware is the core software that runs your router and controls Wi-Fi connectivity. Firmware version bugs and inefficiencies can slow down internet speeds.
Manufacturers release firmware updates to fix issues and improve performance. Logging into your router‘s interface to check for the latest firmware version only takes a few minutes.
Refer to your router‘s documentation for how to access its controls. Navigate to the firmware update section, check for new versions and follow prompts to update. This keeps your router running efficiently.
3. Switch Your Wireless Channel for Less Congestion
Interference from neighboring Wi-Fi networks can slow down speeds. To reduce signal congestion, change your router‘s channel to one less crowded.
Channels 1, 6 and 11 are most popular. Scan nearby networks with an app like Wi-Fi Analyzer for Android or InSSIDer for Windows to see which channels have the least activity. Then switch your router to the clearest option.
4. Optimize Router Placement for Better Coverage
Where you place your router significantly impacts Wi-Fi coverage and speeds throughout your environment. For best results:
- Position your router centrally in your home or office for widest reaching signals.
- Place the router in an open area up high, avoiding tight spaces or corners.
- Keep the router away from thick walls, metal objects or other barriers that can block signals.
- Maintain several feet of clearance around the router to prevent interference.
Taking the time to find the ideal spot for your router can work wonders for your wireless speeds.
5. Use Ethernet for Devices Where Possible
Wi-Fi will never be as fast or reliable as a direct wired connection. When you need speed, plug devices directly into your router with ethernet cables.
This removes Wi-Fi bottlenecks and provides full wired throughput to devices. Desktop PCs, smart TVs, printers and games consoles benefit the most from ethernet.
Newer routers have multiple gigabit LAN ports to allow wiring in several devices. For more ports, add an ethernet switch to create a hardwired network.
6. Reduce the Number of Connected Devices
The more devices simultaneously connecting to your Wi-Fi network, the more congested your internet pipeline becomes.
Audit smartphones, computers, smart home devices and anything else using Wi-Fi. Disconnect gadgets that aren‘t being actively used to lighten the load.
Ideally, limit connections to essential devices only – especially for high bandwidth activities like streaming or gaming. Excess gadgets can always reconnect as needed.
7. Refresh Your Browser Cache and Cookies
When browser caches and cookies grow too large, they bog down internet speeds. Clearing this data forces browsers to load fresh, clean page copies instead of pulling from cache.
In Chrome, access Settings > Privacy and Security > Clear Browsing Data. Be sure to select cached images/files and cookies before clicking Clear Data. Do this for all browsers monthly.
8. Close Unused Browser Tabs and Apps
Too many browser tabs and unused apps running in the background drag down internet speeds due to RAM and bandwidth strain.
Aggressively close any programs or browser tabs not currently needed. Set tabs to suspend automatically after inactivity. Disable startup apps that auto-launch unnecessarily.
Task managers like Windows Task Manager provide visibility into bandwidth and memory hogging apps to quit. Limit open apps to only essentials.
9. Try a Faster, Lighter Web Browser
Some web browsers like Chrome are notorious resource hogs, especially with multiple tabs open. Switching to a speedier browser optimizes page loading.
Good options to test are Opera, Microsoft Edge, or Brave. Safari is fast on Macs. Install a different browser and import bookmarks to test speeds. Often caching causes browsers to slow over time too.
10. Block Ads and Trackers with a Content Blocker
Ads and trackers funneling data can bottleneck internet connections. Using an ad/tracker blocker minimizes this content to streamline browsing.
Top ad blockers like uBlock Origin, AdGuard, and Adlock are free and provide a lighter, faster web experience. Download extensions for your browsers to start filtering out speed-sapping content.
6 Advanced Ways to Improve Your Internet Speeds
If you‘ve tried the tips above and are still not getting the internet performance you want, some upgrades may be in order. Here are 6 bigger changes that can boost your network speeds in a major way.
1. Upgrade to a Faster DOCSIS 3.1 Modem
Your modem is the foundation of your internet connection, so an outdated model can bottleneck speeds. DOCSIS 3.0 modems are limited to ~1 Gbps while new DOCSIS 3.1 modems support ~10 Gbps throughput.
Upgrading to a 3.1 modem future proofs your connectivity for the fastest internet plans available. Ensure any new modem is compatible with your ISP.
2. Get a High-Performance Wi-Fi 6 Router
Outdated routers that only support old 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 can‘t deliver fast enough wireless speeds. A new Wi-Fi 6 router like the TP-Link AX73 provides next-gen speed.
Wi-Fi 6 operates on the new, less congested 6 GHz band and offers 4x increased capacity over Wi-Fi 5. This means faster wireless connectivity, especially for many devices.
3. Extend Coverage with a Mesh Wi-Fi System
Lagging Wi-Fi in parts of your home is likely due to poor router coverage. Mesh Wi-Fi systems add multiple access points to blanket large areas in strong signal.
Mesh routers work together to form one unified network. Leading options like Google Nest Wifi make it easy to achieve full home coverage for robust speeds.
4. Add a Wi-Fi Range Extender
If your Wi-Fi router only needs a small coverage boost in certain areas, a less expensive Wi-Fi range extender can help fill in dead zones.
Strategically place the extender between your main router and weak coverage areas to boost signals. Extenders pull in Wi-Fi then rebroadcast it at full strength for expanded range.
5. Optimize Router Antenna Placement
Your router‘s external antennas help direct Wi-Fi signals for wide coverage. Adjusting their angle and direction can improve reception in certain rooms.
Pointing antennas to concentrate signal toward devices most in need of strong Wi-Fi can make a difference. Experiment to see if tweaking antenna positioning helps speed and reliability.
6. Upgrade to a Faster Internet Plan
If your household is strained by insufficient bandwidth, upgrading your internet plan itself may be the ultimate solution.
Consult your ISP on boosting to the next tier, whether that‘s increasing from 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps or even gigabit fiber. Faster plans allow more simultaneous streaming, gaming and smart home usage.
Improve Speeds on Your Devices Too
Optimizing the devices connecting to your network is just as crucial as your router for fast internet:
- Update Wi-Fi adapter drivers to the newest versions for peak wireless speeds.
- Turn off background app tasks and disable startup programs to minimize bandwidth drain.
- Run antivirus scans regularly to purge any malware that could be slowing connections.
- Restart computers and phones routinely to clear any memory or software quirks bogging down speeds.
Test Internet Speeds Before and After Changes
Testing your download and upload internet speeds is important to validate improvements from network tweaks.
Run speed tests over both Wi-Fi and ethernet at Speedtest.net before and after changes. Compare speeds across multiple devices to identify anomalies and issues.
Regular speed testing ensures your network is running optimally. Document your speed results to track performance over time.
Maintain Your High Speeds Going Forward
Now that your network is operating at peak speeds, be sure to:
- Keep router and modem firmware updated regularly via the admin interface to maintain performance.
- Set a weekly reminder to reboot your router and modem to prevent gradual slowdowns.
- Routinely close unused browser tabs and apps to free up RAM and bandwidth.
- Clear browser caches and cookies monthly to prevent storage bloat.
- Dust electronics regularly to prevent dust buildup from causing overheating issues.
With a few targeted tweaks and upgrades, you can take your home or office internet from lackluster to lightning fast. Follow the tips outlined in this guide to optimize network speeds across the board. Soon you‘ll wonder how you ever put up with a slow connection!