Speed Up Your Cable or DSL Service by Tweaking These Settings

Maximize your broadband connection speed

Woman's hand plugging in cord
kreci/Getty Images

Home networking enthusiasts started experimenting with cable and DSL tweaks years ago when broadband internet services first became popular. Initially, they focused on increasing performance in general web surfing, but today's techniques typically aim at specific applications such as P2P file sharing systems and games. Nevertheless, if your cable or DSL broadband internet connection seems slow, these tweaks might help speed it up.

Limitations of Broadband Speed Tweaks

Broadband speed tweaks come with a few caveats:

  • Attempt these broadband tweaks only after your network is tested and running reliably. Speed tweaks are performance optimizations only; they're not designed to fix installation errors or basic network configuration issues.
  • These changes might yield only small speed increases, and then only in certain situations. For example, a tweak to improve the performance of one online game might benefit only that title, and then only initially as it is loading.
  • They might help certain applications such as games while slowing down others such as web browsing.
  • In general, expect only a 5–10 percent gain rather than 50–100 percent.
  • They can create instability on some networks. Depending on the type of equipment and internet service you use, some will be technically incompatible and best avoided.

Types of Broadband Speed Tweaks

The most common broadband tweaks involve adjusting various parameters of the TCP/IP network protocol, typically:

  • TCP receive window size
  • Maximum transmission unit (MTU)
  • Maximum segment size (MSS)
  • Time to live (TTL)

The Microsoft Windows Registry contains default values for TCP/IP parameters. You can apply these speed tweaks to your computers by using a Registry editor to change some of the default values on each, rebooting the computers each time.

Screenshot of several registry keys in the Windows 10 Registry Editor
Registry Keys (Windows 10).

Other operating systems such as Linux and macOS provide alternative mechanisms to tune TCP/IP parameters.

Wi-Fi network settings in macOS

Another common broadband tweak entails manipulating web browser settings. For example, suppressing the download of large images saves network bandwidth that can be used instead to download other data faster.

Block images from downloading in Chrome

Finally, although this is a less commonly used method, you can modify the settings on your router and modem. For example, you can change the TCP/IP MTU settings on a broadband router.

Example - Router Administrative Console Home Page - Linksys WRK54G
Example - Router Administrative Console Home Page - Linksys WRK54G.

Making Broadband Tweaks Work for You

Because speed tweaks can cause computer and network crashes if made improperly, test each change individually before making the next one.

To determine whether a speed tweak is working, use an internet speed test service to measure performance before and after making a tweak.

Bandwidth Place Speed Test
Bandwidth Place Speed Test.

In addition, try local file transfers, web downloads, online games, and other applications you use often to assess whether a tweak makes any noticeable difference. Don't hesitate to undo a change if you cannot observe any benefit.