What to Do When Your Home Internet Connection Underperforms

Tips for solving slow internet connections at home

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A poorly performing internet  connection can be caused by broadband router configuration errors, wireless interference, or any of several other technical issues with your home network. Use these tips to diagnose and fix the causes of your slow internet connection. 

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Check Your Router Settings

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As the centerpiece of a network, a broadband router can be responsible for slow internet connections if it is configured improperly. For example, the MTU setting of your router can lead to performance issues if set too high or too low. Ensure your router's settings are all consistent with the manufacturer's documentation 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.

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Avoid Wireless Signal Interference

Wi-Fi and other types of wireless connections often 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. In general, the closer your device is to the router, the better the Wi-Fi connection.

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Beware of Worms & Other Malware

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

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Stop Background Programs That Hog Bandwidth

Some software applications on a computer run background processes that are hidden behind other apps or minimized to the system tray, where they quietly consuming network resources. Unlike worms, these applications are designed to do useful work and are not the kind that a person wants to remove from a device normally. Games and programs that work with videos, in particular, can heavily impact your network and cause connections to appear slow. It's easy to forget these applications are running. Check your computers for any programs that are running in the background when you troubleshoot a slow network.

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Make Sure Your Router & Other Network Equipment Is Working

When routers, modems, or cables malfunction, they don't properly support network traffic at full speeds. Certain technical glitches in network equipment negatively affect performance even though connections themselves can still be made. To troubleshoot potentially faulty equipment, temporarily rearrange and reconfigure your gear while experimenting with different configurations. Systematically try bypassing the router, swapping cables, and testing with multiple devices to isolate the slow performance to a specific component of the system. Then, decide if it can be upgraded, repaired, or replaced.

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Call Your Internet Service Provider (ISP)

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

Internet speed ultimately depends on the service provider. Your ISP may change its network 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 lower your network performance. Don't hesitate to contact your service provider if you suspect it is responsible for your slow internet connection.