Reasons Why High-Speed Internet Can Be Sluggish

Is it you or is it the ISP?

What's wrong with my internet speed?

Chunumunu / iStock

Slow internet connections happen for various reasons, even when you pay for a high-speed connection such as DSL or cable. Because the internet is built on hundreds of technologies that talk to one another, there are many places where data can slow down before it reaches your computer screen.

What's Wrong With My Internet Speed?

There are several reasons high-speed internet performs slower than expected. The internet service provider (ISP) might be at fault, but there are other factors to consider. Some of these slow points are within your control and can be quickly fixed with a little do-it-yourself effort.

Here are some things to look at to find out why your internet speed is slow and what you can do to fix the problem.

Check the Router

If an old router or modem connects your computer to the internet connection or if you've had the equipment for a few years, its time to upgrade. Check with your ISP.

The modem or router may not be configured correctly. Check the documentation that came with the equipment or go to the manufacturer's website to find the correct settings.

The modem or router may not use the most current technology. An 802.11ac router is faster than 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n routers.

Prevent neighbors from borrowing your wireless connection by password protecting your wireless network. You should do this even if you aren't having speed concerns.

Check the Web Browser

Sometimes web browsers have add-ons and plugin features that consume bandwidth. Disable add-ons and plugins to see if this makes a change in your internet speed.

Screenshot of Google Chrome extensions

The web browser could have security features enabled that hold back pages while safety scans are performed. Check the browser security settings to find blocked content.

When browser memory cache is full, the browser slows down to allow for the limited hard drive space. Clear the cache, selectively or completely.

Screenshot of Clear Browsing Data

Check the Computer

Malware can infect a computer and secretly use internet bandwidth to send spam and distribute pornography. Run antivirus software regularly to prevent this.

Screenshot of virus scan

Computers that are more than three years old aren't fast enough for modern web pages. If possible, buy a new computer.

Look for Background Processes

If you use a torrent, uploads might run in the background and use bandwidth. Look for any downloads that may be occurring in the background.

When multiple app windows are open in the background, these apps use the computer's CPU. Check the Task Manager and close unwanted programs and browser windows.

Screenshot of Task Manager

If a dialog box is open and is prompting you for a response, this can stall the computer's CPU while it awaits your Yes or No input.

Check With Your ISP

Your internet service provider may be having issues routing signals to you. Contact the ISP with your concerns.

The DNS (domain name system) tables might be outdated, so signals are sent to the wrong addresses on your ISP network. Update your DNS servers.

Look for Obstructions

Radio or microwave devices in a home can degrade internet wireless signals. Don't locate routers, modems, and computers near the kitchen, a microwave, or a radio-based phone.

Distance causes a slowdown in speed. Position the router and modem near the computer or vice versa.

In a large house, where the router is in a basement or a far corner of the house, add an internet booster. Place the booster midway between the router and the computer to strengthen the signal and improve speed.

Take Action

These are some of the possible reasons why your internet speed may be slow. If you think that your internet connection is unreasonably slow, take these actions:

  1. Perform a speed test on your computer. Use a website like DSLreports.com speed testing or Speedtest.net. Repeat the test several times a day to see if the speed varies widely.

    Screenshot of Internet speed test
  2. Troubleshoot your computer. Use a troubleshooting list for your internet connection.

  3. Contact your ISP and explain your concerns. Only the ISP can test the signal coming into a home and tell you whether it's a high-speed signal. The ISP troubleshoots and corrects the problem if it lies with its service. If the signal is strong to your home, the router, the computer, or conditions in your home may be the cause of the reduced speed.