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In an era where work, entertainment and communication all happen through the internet, a fast and reliable connection is more than just a luxury — it’s often essential. So what do you do when that connection isn’t providing the speeds you’re paying for?
The first step is to find out what you’re actually getting. If your speedtest results are close to what your plan promises, there may be some issues on your end that are holding back your Wi-Fi. Before you jump ship, see if any of these steps help boost your Wi-Fi signal.
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Pro Tip: For best results, use an Ethernet cord to connect your router or modem directly to your device before you run the test.
1. Restart your modem and router
As any IT person will tell you, turning it off and turning it back on is a good first step. In fact, some internet service providers (ISPs) actually recommend rebooting your router every few months. The best way to do this is to unplug your modem and router from their power source, wait about 10 seconds, then plug it back in.
Just like rebooting your computer, a hard reset allows your modem and router to temporarily fix any problems that are slowing them down. The root problem might still come up again, but in most cases, the problem will be fixed in the short-term.Learn more about rebooting your modem and router
2. Check if your provider has a data cap
If you notice your home Wi-Fi is suddenly much slower than usual, it might be because you’ve reached your monthly data cap. Although data caps aren’t as common as they used to be, some internet providers still put a limit on how much data you can use each month. That said, it’s generally hard to reach these caps for most households.
Most data caps have enough room to stream every episode from all nine seasons of The Office — about 99 hours — more than three times.
For some plans, the penalty for going over is a steep fee. For others, your internet connection will just be slowed to a crawl. If you notice a sudden drop in speed, it’s worth looking into the details of your plan to see if you’ve reached your limit.Learn more about internet data caps
3. Download any firmware updates
If your router hasn’t been updated recently, it may be the case that your equipment needs the latest software to operate properly. That might sound more complicated than it really is. Just like your phone automatically installs software updates, your modem and router also require occasional maintenance.
Fortunately, it’s a pretty simple process. In most cases, you’ll just need to connect your router to a computer with an Ethernet cable and go to the manufacturer’s website to install updates. Here’s how to update some of the most popular routers:Learn more about optimizing your router
4. Put your router in the right spot
There’s a lot that goes into choosing the best location for your Wi-Fi router. Putting the router in a central location in your home sends signals out in every direction, so you’re not wasting your connection on the corner of the house. In general, the higher you can put it, the better the results you’ll get, too. You’ll also want to make sure there’s no clutter around your modem or router. If anything is blocking your router, it may not be able to transmit the signal as strong as it has in the past. Clear any clutter to ensure your router has open space around it.Learn more about finding the best spot for your router
5. Double-check who’s accessing your network
There’s always a possibility that a neighbor is piggybacking off of your network. If you suspect this is the case or can monitor access on an app and see authorized devices, change your password and review all of your security settings. You can also create a guest network to make sure malware and viruses from visitors’ devices don’t make the jump to your home network.
6. Clear your browsing history and cache
You might not think that your browsing history could slow down your internet speed, but all that accumulated data can be a lot of dead weight for your connection to pull. If you haven’t done it in a while, go in and clear the browsing history and cache on computers that are connecting to your Wi-Fi. This can often make each individual device perform better, even if the internet connection is actually the same.
If you’d rather automate this routine maintenance step, there are a number of “clear cache” plugins for browsers that automatically delete things like cookies and history.
7. Use an ad blocker
To speed up your browsing experience, one of the most effective steps you can take is to install an ad blocker. It turns out those targeted ads you see everywhere actually take more time to load than the page itself. According to research by developer Patrick Hulce, about 60% of total load time on web pages is caused by scripts that run ads or gather data on users, adding about two-thirds of a second to loading times. By using a plugin that disables these features, your browser should move from page to page more quickly.Learn more about the best ad blockers for Chrome
8. Disconnect devices you’re not using
Over the years, many people connect their Wi-Fi to everything from smart refrigerators to streaming devices. But even as those devices are replaced or forgotten, the connection often stays behind, using up valuable bandwidth.
To kick everything off all at once and start from scratch, we recommend changing your Wi-Fi password. You’ll have to log in to every device all over again, but it will cut off any devices you’re no longer using. Some newer routers also come with a home networking app, which shows you everything that’s connected to your Wi-Fi. If you have one of these, you can simply go into the app and manually disconnect any unwanted devices.
9. Switch providers
Sometimes bad internet is just bad internet. If you’ve tried everything and your internet is still painfully slow, you might need to switch providers altogether. Some providers lock you into contracts with early termination fees, but in most cases, switching is fairly easy these days. Before you cancel, you’ll want to find out what other providers are available at your address and compare their plans to the one you’re currently using.Learn more about switching internet providers
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Written by:Joe Supan
Senior Writer, Wireless & Streaming Content
Joe oversees all things wireless and streaming for Allconnect. His work has been referenced by McAfee, Fox network and more. He has utilized thousands of data points to build a library of metrics to help users n… Read more
Edited by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband & Wireless Content
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