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Why Is My Internet So Slow?
What to do when slow Wi-Fi gridlocks your day
There are few things more annoying than prepping for your pajama-friendly work from home day and then finding out that your internet is too slow to support your Zoom meetings. We’ve been there with the loading symbols and the glitchy connections, and we know it’s not fun.
Luckily, a lot of internet-slowness problems are simple to fix. Work through these troubleshooting steps and see if your speeds increase. If not, it might be time to call your internet service provider (ISP).
1. Check your internet plan
First things first, check your internet plan and make sure it supports the speeds and amount of data you need to run your life—whether that’s working from home or streaming Netflix videos.
For example, if your plan supports only 15 Mbps of download speed, then you’re probably not going to have a great experience with streaming. That’s especially true if your kids are trying to do virtual school and your partner is also on video conference calls.
Along with checking what speeds you have, check to see if you have a data cap on your plan. Your internet service provider can deprioritize your internet speeds if you exceed the amount of data on your plan.
If your plan should have more than enough speed and data to go around, run a speed test to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.
Internet still too slow or your speeds aren't hitting the mark?
It might be time to opt for another internet service provider. You can check out our recommendations for the fastest internet service providers, or explore some speedy internet providers in the table below.
|Xfinity Internet||$20–$80*||75–1200 Mbps||View Plans|
|AT&T Fiber||$55–$180†||300–5000 Mbps||View Plans|
|CenturyLink Internet||$30–$70‡||100–940 Mbps||View Plans|
|Verizon Fios Home Internet||$49.99–$119.99^||300–2048 Mbps||View Plans|
|Viasat Internet||$30–$169.99°||12–100 Mbps||View Plans|
2. Check your router
It doesn’t matter how fast your internet plan is if your router can’t get the signal to your device. Make sure your router is in a good place for signal strength. That might mean it’s time to pull it out of the basement and put it in your living room.
You should also check to make sure your router configurations match the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you accidentally changed the settings, it could have affected your internet speeds.
If all fails, try the old standby trick of turning it off and on again. Unplug your router for a couple minutes and then plug it back in. Hint: It also helps to station yourself near the router for the strongest signal.
3. Check your hardware
If the above steps haven’t worked, then the problem might be the device you’re using. Check internet speeds on another computer, tablet, or phone in your household and see if they’re the same.
If things are only sluggish on your laptop, then the problem is your hardware. Try clearing your cache and make sure you’re connected to the right network. You can also try these other steps:
- Restart your device.
- Check for updates, viruses, and malware.
- Delete some old or unused programs.
- Say goodbye to extra photos or videos (that you already have backed up to the cloud).
- Try different browsers. Test out Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari to see if one works better than the other.
- Change the password on your Wi-Fi network. If you have an unsecured network, or if you’ve been using the same obvious password for a while, you might have some hop-ons hanging out on your network.
4. Close down some apps
We know it’s boring to be stuck at home, and all your family members are probably opening multiple apps on every device you own. Keep in mind though that some functions, like video and gaming, can take up a ton of bandwidth.
If everyone in your house is streaming and gaming all at once, ask them to take a break while you make that conference call or finish that presentation. You’ll also want to close down any extra apps you have open on your device that you don’t need right away.
5. Hardwire using Ethernet
Hardwired connections are faster and more reliable than wireless ones. Try plugging your computer directly into your router with an Ethernet cord instead of using Wi-Fi.
It’s not as flexible as wireless, and you can’t work from your back deck anymore, but Ethernet might be able to pull you out of that low-speeds slump for a bit.
6. Call your ISP
Ah the dreaded internet customer service.
But sometimes, when all else fails, it’s time to pick up the phone and call your internet service provider. A customer service rep can tell you if the network is down in your area or if your speeds are being throttled, either due to network congestion or your plan’s data cap.
They can also check your connection on their end. We've heard endless tales of friends not getting the internet speeds they need, calling up their ISP, and the internet rep changing something on their end so our friend gets a nice boost in download speed. (Moral of the story: It never hurts to ask.)
Or take a look at the ISPs we recommend the most.
Yes. VPNs have a tendency to add an extra layer of slow to everything, but it’s more about bogging down your PC than it is the VPN actually slowing down your connection. Not sure what we’re talking about? Read our review about VPNs.
Sometimes internet service is busier due to more users on the network. (Don’t worry, we all get those late-night “gotta surf the internet” blues.)
We will say, it’s good to check your internet speed at Speedtest.net at different times during the day and night. You might find certain windows of time are just no bueno for building Maroon 5 playlists on YouTube. But it might just be that your provider throttled your speed.