Why Is My Internet So Slow – and How to Fix It

Who would have thought that slow internet would become one of the biggest stress triggers in the 21st century? 

It's bad enough that you're behind with your deadlines, and now the stupid internet starts slowing down on you? (Hashtag Hulk smash) 

There, there. 

Unfortunately for you, there are many possible causes of your slow internet problem. So you may need to postpone those deadlines a bit further (don't shoot the messenger).

Below, we have a list of things that commonly cause poor internet connection. It could be your ISP's fault, but it could also be yours. In some cases, it's both.  

Troubleshooting Slow Internet Connection 

Just like playing doctors, you need to know 'the why' before administering the cure. The diagnostic is crucial. 

Try eliminating them one by one until you find that 'eureka' moment. But seriously, keeping your cool is the pre-requisite step number 1.

Common Causes of Slow Internet Speed - and the solution

1. Your plan doesn't support fast internet 

Fast internet is "lyfe," but it's probable that what you pay for doesn't buy you the fast internet you've been dreaming about.  

First, re-read your contract, including all the fine lines. And then, test your internet speed. If what you have matches what's in the contract (more or less), then everything is okay. 

If not, check other causes in this list of diagnostics, or skip to "call your ISP" section below.  

Solution: It's probably time to upgrade to a more expensive plan.

If you don't have the budget, try working with what you have: learn to prioritize your work, use text-only versions of the most important websites, and work as productively as you can. laptop on a desk

2. Your connection isn't slow, your Wi-Fi is

Another possibility is that you actually have fast internet at your disposition, but somehow when you use the Wi-Fi, it sucks.

To test this, find your ethernet cable and connect your computer to your router. And then, do the speed test again. Is it improving? If yes, it's your Wi-Fi.

There are a few possible causes for this:

  • Obstructions. The router's signal can sometimes be blocked by physical obstacles like walls or closed doors. Solution: move your working station closer to the wireless router to eliminate obstructions.
  • Interference. In this case, the signal is blocked by other devices emitting their proper signals, such as a TV, microwave,  or even the neighbor's Wi-Fi. Solution: avoid placing the wireless router behind an electronic device. Also, if your router has an antenna, put it in a vertical position.

3. Your router doesn't work properly

It's a tiny box; how do I know if it's not working right?

Fast blinking lights that are not supposed to be blinking is one of the symptoms - along with some lights are off, some on. Also, check if every cable connected securely. 

Another problem that can occur and that a lot of people don't know about is the overheating problem. Place your hand on the router to check if it's overly hot or hotter than usual.

Solution:

  • Reconnect all cables properly.
  • Try resetting your router. There are many types of router out there, and the steps to reset them may vary slightly. See if you can find your router on this list to have a corresponding manual.
  • To avoid overheating problem, don't place it on something that can heat up, like your PC. Put it somewhere where it has airflow and space.

ethernet cable

4. Your hardware is outdated

We use the internet more and more intensely, and old hardware simply can't keep up. You may have the priciest internet plan out there, but if your machine is not designed for that kind of speed, you'll still have turtle speed connection. 

To test this, do a speed test on each of your devices. If your beloved iPhone 7 is way faster than your 2008-laptop, you've got your answer.

Or, maybe the device is not so old, but you have had it working non-stop for weeks or even months. Even machines need rest from time to time. If this is the case, even the latest version of hardware will not function as it should, and hence, the slow internet connection. 

Solution

  • Restart your system. If it hasn't been off for a long while, it may be best to turn it off completely and let it 'rest' for a few hours. 
  • Upgrade to a later version. Yep, it represents a budget, but if you use the internet moderately to intensely every day, it's worth it. Also, your sanity is definitely worth it.

5. There are bandwidth-hungry apps/software running

This is not always obvious as some apps/software run in the background.

Also, if you opted for 'automatic update' for your apps, they may be downloading the latest version once it's out without you knowing. Big app/software downloads a significant volume of data, too.

Another thing that may happen is that a lot of apps sync themselves across all your devices in the background, such as Google Drive,  Dropbox, and so on.

Solution: Check your device if a bandwidth-hogging app/software is running in the background. You can also close all programs or apps to be sure. Try to tick off the 'automatic update' feature when you're troubleshooting to see if it affects the connection speed.

6. You have malware invasion

Especially if your anti-virus doesn't automatically update itself, there's a possibility you have an unknown malware or virus invasion.

Malware or worms can spread from a device to another within your network without you realizing it. The thing is, it will make your connection SEEM slow while in reality, it's your whole system.

Solution: Install an anti-virus on all of your devices and turn on the automatic detection feature. You should also pre-program regular scanning, so you never have to think about it.

And since new malware gets invented every day, never delay updating your anti-virus. Seriously, it only takes a couple of minutes. 

7. Your VPN service is not set up correctly

If you've just decided to get VPN software, it may be the cause.

Some causes for the VPN-related speed problems:

  • The interconnection level between your VPN and ISP is poor. The consequence is that even if you usually have super fast internet, you won't be able to enjoy the VPN at its best. Also, for some reason and in some cases, you lose a percentage of speed when you connect to a VPN.
  • Your firewall setting is not right. This results in the VPN not being able to flow consistently. The firewall doesn't directly affect your internet speed, but your CPU speed. When your CPU is slow, it can make the VPN slow down your internet connection.
  • Your data plan and equipment can't handle it. If your speed limitation set by your ISP is already low, you can expect an even slower internet with VPN. Ditto with your equipment (see point diagnostic n° 4).

Solution: Get a reliable VPN provider that can guarantee 0% in packet loss. And make sure that you have enough speed limitation by your ISP and fairly recent hardware. Just remember that VPN won't make a bad connection better or an old computer new.

woman calling using vintage phone

When to Call Your ISP about Slow Internet Speed

If you suspect that it's your ISP's fault (and you've eliminated all of the causes mentioned above), it's time. Also, you should call when your internet speed is not as fast as what the contract says.

To speed up the process:

  1. Explain to the operator what happens. Include as many details as possible. If the connection slowed down suddenly, you should mention at around what time this started to happen.
  2. List all the things you have tried and possible causes you've eliminated. This is to avoid the "have you tried turning it off and on again" question.

It's possible that they're experiencing technical difficulties or updating/resetting something that affects the clients' connection. If this is the case, there's nothing else to do but wait until everything goes back to normal.

This may be the universe's way of telling you to go out and play.

Otherwise, they should be able to tell you what to do next. Because after all, it's a part of their job to ensure you get the speed you deserve. But before you go on ranting, do make sure that the problem doesn't come from you!

Serina Rajagukguk

Serina is a writer whose passion includes learning all about new technology and trying to explain it in a layman term. 

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