After three years of living on my own, I've more than familiarized myself with the struggle of dealing with internet speeds that don't quite cut it. Moments of frustration with connectivity issues during intense episodes of OITNB and long load times while perusing my Instagram feed have led me to wonder whether I'll ever find an internet connection that truly is 'the one.'
Although I'm quick to blame my provider in most cases, it's possible that simple things like where I've placed my router or how long I've neglected clearing my device could be the real culprit. After troubleshooting around my apartment and gathering advice from peers and IT experts, I've been able to identify several effective hacks for achieving higher internet speeds without committing to a larger monthly internet bill.
Before we get started on this list of hacks you can use to increase your internet speed, I recommend evaluating your current internet speed. Run a speed test using a site like Speedtest.net and compare the numbers with your internet plan’s promised speed. If the download and upload speeds match, it means you’re getting what you’ve ordered, and you might need to upgrade your plan for higher speeds.
If your speed test results are lower than what you’re paying for, try a few of these hacks to increase your speed.
Reboot your devices and equipment
When was the last time you restarted your computer, tablet, modem, or router? A reboot helps your hardware and software sync up with each other and can improve internet and computer performance.
After shutting down your device, run a power cycle on your router and modem as well. To do this, simply unplug both pieces of equipment and leave them off for a few minutes. Then plug them back in, turn them on, restart your device, and, finally, reconnect to the internet.
Clear your cache
Certain websites and downloads store temporary internet files on your computer. While these files are designed to improve your experience when you revisit the sites they came from, they can actually slow down your overall internet speed if they build up.
Once a week, clear your browser’s cache and history, as well as your DNS cache. You can find history – and cache – clearing commands in your browser’s menu, usually under 'history,' 'options,' or 'tools.' As for your DNS cache, to clear it in Windows 10, Open DNS support says to open the command prompt and input “ipconfig /flushdns.” For Macs running El Capitan, OSXDaily says to type “sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder” into the command terminal.
Clean your computer
Even the best internet won’t run smoothly on an outdated computer. Look through your applications and remove any programs or oversized files you no longer use. If you need to keep large files but don’t use them regularly, store them on the Cloud or an external hard drive.
Additionally, if you don’t already use an antivirus program, install one and run it frequently to check for and remove any viruses, which can significantly slow down your computer and internet speed.
Block bandwidth bandits
Software, plugins, apps, and hackers can eat away at your bandwidth, slowing down your internet speed. If you use a PC, use the Resource Monitor to review which programs are connecting to the internet. If you have a Mac, you can use the Activity Monitor to check data usage.
Pop-up blockers, such as AdBlock Plus or FlashBlock, help shut down ads and animations that use up bandwidth. That said, your favorite sites pay their bills with ads, so if you're a fan of a website, you're doing your part by adding their URL as an exception and letting the ads run. Installing a firewall can also limit your computer’s vulnerability to hackers and bandwidth-hogging programs.
Update or switch browsers
Browser developers regularly release updates to fix bugs and improve performance. Most browsers notify you when an update is available, but you should check manually to make sure you’re running the latest version. If you are running the latest version and still experiencing lags, consider switching to a different browser.
The most popular browsers known for speed and security are Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. However, there are several other under-the-radar browsers. Experiment to see which browser works best for you, and remove any you don’t like or use.
Relocate your router
Routers don’t make for the most attractive home decor, but hiding them behind the TV or below a desk can impact your internet speed. For the best signal, a router should be in an open, central location, elevated, and with antennas pointed perpendicularly.
Some routers are discreet enough to be mounted to the ceiling, but even if yours isn’t, you may be able to place it out of sight, like on the top of a bookshelf. Wherever you put it, just make sure it’s free of potential interference from thick walls or large electronics.
Connect with cables
As a general rule, wired connections are faster and more reliable than wireless ones. If you’ve been struggling to get a Wi-Fi connection on your computer, plugging your device in with an Ethernet cable that runs directly to the modem could fix the issue.
When you’re looking at Ethernet lines to buy, don’t forget to check the category on the plastic covering. You should see a classification like “Category 5” or “Cat-5.” The higher the number, the newer the standard. Ideally, you want at least a Cat-5e.
You don’t have to be a tech expert to make small tweaks to your internet experience. Set aside some time to put these hacks into action and kick your internet speed into high gear. If you still experience ongoing delays, it may be time to call your internet provider for expert help. If you're not willing to give your current provider another shot, look for options to upgrade to a fiber connection which experts say is able to more effectively transmit connection than cable and DSL connections.
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