Why Is My Internet So Slow?

What to do when slow Wi-Fi gridlocks your day
Recent Updates: Less than 6 months

COVID-19 Update

Be aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a huge increase in at-home internet usage across the country. Some issues you’re seeing with Wi-Fi slowness could be caused by the increased traffic on your provider’s network. Check out internet companies providing resources for affected customers in our roundup of Companies Offering Aid During COVID-19.

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).

Check your internet plan

First things first, make sure you’re not out of data. 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.

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Pro tip
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 data to go around, run a speed test to make sure you’re getting what you pay for. We recommend a site like Speedtest.net.

Internet still too slow?

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 plans in the table below.

Recommended internet providers
ProviderMonthly priceDownload speedsLearn more
Xfinity Internet$20$80*251000 MbpsView Plans
CenturyLink Internet$49$6515940 MbpsView Plans
AT&T Internet$49.99$50100 MbpsView Plans
Viasat Internet$30$150^12100 MbpsView Plans
Verizon Fios$39.99$79.99°200940 MbpsView Plans
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1- or 2-year contract.
New customers only. Rate requires paperless billing and excludes taxes. Additional fees apply.
For the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement.
^ For the first 3 months.
° w/Auto Pay + taxes. Equipment charges may apply.

Find the best Internet Providers in your area.

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.

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Need better range?
You can invest in Wi-Fi range extenders if your signal needs a boost throughout your house. You can check out options like the Eero Mesh Wi-Fi System on Amazon.

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.

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, 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.

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.

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.

Call your ISP

Ah the dreaded internet customer service. 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.

FAQ

Do VPNs slow down your internet?

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.

Why does my internet slow down at night?

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.

If you need help deciding which internet service to get, check out the following articles:

Best Satellite Internet Providers
Best Internet Providers
Best Internet For Gaming
Fastest Internet Providers
Best Internet For Streaming

  • Katherine Elizabeth Lawrence

    don’t forget good ole squirrel chew. that attenuation is NUTS.

    i hate myself

  • https://plus.google.com/104168356547766630195 Tmg

    We’ve been through 5 modems and still have dropping speeds. Tests good with meter but after several speed tests premodem it drops. No one can figure this out. So our 1 gig service might get 200 meg speed. Ugh!