Even if Netflix loads quickly and Instagram refreshes right away, it’s worth testing your home internet speed. With that number, you can make sure you’re getting the speeds your internet service provider (Telkom, Afrihost, etc.) says it’s giving you and that none of your devices are acting as a bottleneck for that sweet, sweet internet. Here’s how to check.
Wireless connections have variables, like walls that block the signal, interference from neighbours’ Wi-Fi, and the tech inside your gadgets. The only way to get an accurate number for the speed of the connection coming into your house or apartment through the wall is to connect a laptop or desktop directly to your router—typically, that’s the black box with a coaxial cable going into it, and the Verizon or Comcast logo somewhere. If you have two boxes, don’t worry. One of those is likely the modem, which feeds into a router that broadcasts the wireless signal. All you need to do is find an open Ethernet port in either box to create an unbroken connection chain from your computer to the wall.
This may be a bit of a ordeal. If you have a modern MacBook, you’ll need an Ethernet adapter. (I use this one from Satechi). Second, the router is probably somewhere under a table or behind a couch.
There might be an Ethernet cable already plugged into the router, usually a port that’s white or marked with a globe/sphere logo. That’s the router’s connection to the outside. Leave that alone, and plug your laptop into one of the other ports, which should be marked like this: <…>
When you’re plugged in, turn off Wi-Fi on the laptop so you’re only connected through the Ethernet cable.
Open a browser (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, whatever). Go to Speedtest.net and hit Go. This will check your download speed in mbps, or megabits per second.
If Speedtest says you’re getting more than 50 Mbps (megabits per second), you’re doing pretty well. Still, look at your internet bill and compare your number with the number your ISP says is saying you’re getting. If you’re paying for the Gigabit Deluxe package and only clocking 100 mbps, it might be time to make a stink to customer service.
Before you do, however, know there are a whole host of things that could be slowing down your wireless connection after it makes its way through the wall, and those problems are, in fact, on you.
Check the Wireless, too
If your wired connection speeds are good, now you can measure the wireless connection speeds. Speedtest.net has a free app by the same name that is just as great. For anyone who wants more geeky numbers, I use Network Analyzer Pro ($4). Among its functions, that app will show you all the devices on your wireless network — useful for figuring out if any specific devices are hogging your bandwidth, or if you think a neighbor is mooching. (If your home internet doesn’t have a password, set one right now before someone more nefarious than a neighbor decides to get on board.)
Fix the Wireless
If your wireless speeds are much, much slower than the wired speed, there are a couple of possible culprits. Namely, your router may be too old for your newer devices, or older devices might be too old for your new router. The technology that undergirds Wi-Fi has improved over the years, and older routers and gadgets are simply incapable of dishing out or receiving the fastest signals on the market.
If all your devices are equally slow, check the capabilities of your router. The most recent and peppy wireless standard is called 802.11ac, or Wi-Fi 5, and if your router doesn’t support it, you aren’t getting the fastest speeds available. If you want to upgrade but not spend a lot, the excellent TP-Link Archer A7 handles the modern most modern 802.11ac standards, and can usually be found for less than $70. And heads up, a new Wi-Fi standard is coming down the pike, so it might pay to wait.
It’s not all up to the router however, devices can slurp internet as fast as their internal radios allow, so if one old laptop or computer in particular is sluggish, it might be on that gadget and not your router. Like before, check the specs and see what kind of Wi-Fi it can handle.
Another tip is to look at what wireless channels are being used—I use a free app called Netspot for this. If you live in a densely populated area, you can look at what channels your neighbors’ routers are using, and set your router to a different channel, where you’ll get slightly less interference. That’s a setting you can adjust by going to the admin page for your router. The instructions for doing so change from brand to brand and router to router, but you should be able to find the instructions and default password for yours with some cursory Googling. Then, while you’re in there, change that password as well.
If Wi-Fi speeds are good when you’re near the router, but are slow in other rooms, the walls are probably blocking the signal. My advice: skip the “extenders” and buy a mesh networking kit. These work by relaying a signal from the main router to a second or sometimes third satellite beacon that amplifies the original signal.
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics