Tips for Troubleshooting Slow Internet Connections at Home

This checklist describes common causes of slow Internet connections in homes. A poorly performing connection can be caused by broadband router configuration errors, wireless interference, or any of several other technical issues with your home network. Follow these steps to diagnose and also fix the causes of slow Internet connections. Many of these same tips also apply to wireless hotspot connections, too.

Broadband Router Settings

Rocket launching out of laptop

As the centerpiece of a network, a broadband router can be responsible for slow Internet connections if configured improperly. For example, the MTU setting of your router will lead to performance issues if set too high or too low. Ensure your router's settings are all consistent with the manufacturer's and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) recommendations. Carefully record any changes you make to your router's configuration so that you can undo them later if necessary.

Wireless Signal Interference

United States Radio Spectrum - Frequency Allocations
United States Radio Spectrum - Frequency Allocations.

Wi-Fi and other types of wireless connections may perform poorly due to signal interference, which requires computers to continually resend messages to overcome signal issues. Household appliances and even your neighbors' wireless networks can interfere with your computers. To avoid slow Internet connections due to signal interference, reposition your router for better performance and change your Wi-Fi channel number.

Internet Worms

An Internet worm is a malicious software program that spreads from device to device through computer networks. If any of your computers are infected by an Internet worm, they may begin spontaneously generating network traffic without your knowledge, causing your Internet connection to appear slow. Keep up-to-date antivirus software running to catch and remove these worms from your devices.

Running Background Applications

Some software applications you install on a computer run in the background, quietly consuming network resources. Unlike worms, these applications are designed to do useful work and not the kind a person wishes to remove from their device, although they can inadvertently. Games and programs that work with videos in particular can heavily utilize your network and cause connections to appear slow. It's easy to forget these applications are running. Always check computers for any programs running in the background when troubleshooting a slow network.

Faulty Network Equipment

When routers, modems or cables fail, they won't support connections properly. Certain technical glitches in network equipment adversely affect performance even though devices can stay connections themselves can still be made. To troubleshoot potentially faulty equipment, temporarily re-arrange and re-configure your gear while experimenting with different configurations. Systematically try bypassing the router, swapping cables, and tests with multiple devices to isolate the slow performance to a specific component of the system.

Service Provider Issues

Command Prompt - Ping - Unresponsive IP Address
Command Prompt - Ping - Unresponsive IP Address. Bradley Mitchell /

Internet speed ultimately depends on the service provider. Your ISP may change their network's configuration or suffer technical difficulties that inadvertently cause your Internet connection to run slowly. ISPs may also intentionally install filters or controls on the network that can lower your performance. Don't hesitate to contact your service provider if you suspect they are responsible for a slow Internet connection.

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