Top 10 Ways To Deal With A Slow Internet Connection

Sometimes, slow internet is the universe's way of telling you to go play outside — and sometimes it feels like a cruel joke to destroy your productivity. Here are 10 ways to troubleshoot, fix or just survive a slow internet connection.

10. Check Your Speeds (And Your Plan)

You'll rarely achieve anything like the maximum speed available on your connection, and you need to have realistic expectations of what's possible. ADSL is slow than ADSL2 which is slower than most NBN connections. One other thing to bear in mind is shaping. Many plans slow your connection speed after you've used your monthly bandwidth allowance.

If you're stuck in an area where pair-gain means ADSL is your only option, slow speed is going to be a fact of life. If your connection promises ADSL2 but you never get above 1MBps, it might be time to complain to your provider.

9. Troubleshoot Your Hardware

The first basic stop: give your modem and router a quick reset (that is, turn them off and on again) and see if that helps. Check the other computers in your house to see if their internet is slow, too — if the problem only happens on one computer, the problem is that machine, not your router or modem. Run through these troubleshooting steps to see if it's a hardware problem. Then, once you fix your router or modem (or replace it), you'll be browsing speedily once again. Check out our complete guide to knowing your network for more router tips.

8. Fix Your Wi-Fi Signal

If you're using Wi-Fi, you might find that your router and internet are fine, but your wireless signal is weak, causing a slowdown. In that case, you may need to reposition, tweak and boost your router with a few tricks. There are more than we could share in one paltry paragraph — in fact, we have a whole top 10 list just for fixing Wi-Fi, so check that out if you suspect wireless signal is the problem.

7. Turn Off Bandwidth-Hogging Plugins And Apps

If your hardware seems to be in working order, see if any other programs are hogging the connection. For example, if you're downloading files with BitTorrent, regular web browsing is going to be slower. You could also try installing extensions such as AdBlock Plus or FlashBlock, which will block some of the bandwidth-hogging ads, animations and videos that can use up your connection. They won't solve all your issues, but they can at least help make a slow connection feel more usable.

6. Try A New DNS Server

When you type an address such as into your browser, your computers uses DNS to look up and translate that name into a computer-friendly IP address. Sometimes, though, the servers your computer uses to look up that information can have issues, or go down entirely. Check out our guide to finding the fastest DNS servers for more information. If your default DNS servers aren't having problems, then you probably won't find too much of an improvement with an alternative server — but it might speed up your browsing by a few milliseconds, at least. One reminder: if your provider offers unmetered browsing for services such as iView, be cautious when changing DNS details, since this can mean those services are metered and will count against your download allowance. Photo by Studio 37 (Shutterstock).

5. Optimise Your Web For A Slow Connection

Troubleshooting slow internet can take a while, and in the meantime you still need to browse. Or maybe you're at a cafe or on a plane, and there's nothing you can do about your slow speeds. In that case, it's time to optimise your web for a slower connection: use mobile or HTML versions of your favourite sites, disable images, and use features such as Opera Turbo. In fact, we recommend setting up a secondary browser on your laptop for just such a situation — it can really make a difference when you need to work on a slow connection.

4. Work Smart

If you need to get work done on your slow connection, you may have to prioritise tasks differently. Separate your tasks into bandwith-heavy and bandwidth-light ones. Get the light ones done when you're on your slow connection, and group all the bandwidth-heavy tasks together so you can do them if and when you get faster access. Similarly, work outside your browser whenever possible — if you're doing basic writing, do it in your favourite text editor instead of in your browser. If you plan your work ahead of time, you can at least make the best of a bad situation. Photo remixed from Kirill__M (Shutterstock).

3. Call Your ISP

If you've gone through all the necessary troubleshooting steps and your internet is still slow, then it's time to call your internet service provider and see if the problem is on their end. Remember: don't automatically assume they have done something wrong, and treat your customer service representative with respect. You're much more likely to get good results. Check out our guide to getting better customer service for tips on dealing with the situation. Photo by sergign (Shutterstock).

2. Find A New Provider

If your ISP can't help you (maybe they don't provide the speeds you want, or maybe you're just sick of their horrible customer service), it's time to look elsewhere. Your choices at a given address will vary. If you're really lucky, you'll have the option of an NBN connection. In city areas, you may be lucky and have a choice of different ADSL providers and the option of cable — but you might be stuck with a single ADSL connection option (though you can still potentially choose who supplies you that connection). Using a 3G or 4G hotspot is another option, but data is much more expensive in that context. Photo remixed from Kim Scarborough and Andreas Gradin.

1. Use Your Time Productively

If you're lucky, you can get your internet speeds back up to snuff quickly and stress-free. But, if not, you can at least try to put a good spin on it: As long as your work isn't too bandwidth-intensive, slow internet could actually make you more productive. After all, if Facebook takes a minute to load, you're a lot less likely to pop over for a "quick break" (that turns into an hour-long photo-fest) when you're supposed to be working.

Originally published on Lifehacker



    Cable over 5Ghz wi-Fi to MacBook Pro Retina, no issues here. I think I downloaded a 6GB itune movie in 20mins on the weekend...

      That right there, is why we need a NBN.

      20 minutes for 6GB? Too slow. :)

        if youre getting 6gb in 20min i hate you hahahaha

      That's pretty slow bro, I get around 12-15GB in 20 minutes on my NBN connection.

    Leaving your ISP doesn't always fix bad speeds. If your phone cable is bogged with water, corroded and broken, or your internal wiring is bad/poorly filtered, changing ISP will generally only change the hardware at the exchange, or just recode it for someone else. It is like buying an elantra because your swift won't drive on a muddy road.

      A swift would kill an Elantra on a muddy road... Just saying...

    What's a slow Internet connection

      What every other person in Australia will experience for the foreseeable future

      Last edited 30/09/15 1:16 pm

    You forgot to add "Move faster" since, relatively speaking, your internet connection will appear to go faster as your own speed approaches that of light; although the data might take longer to catch up to you, hmm, I might not have thought this one through very well...

      So all you need to do is move in the direction your data is coming from and BAM... problem solved.

        I just have to move, period :(

    I think it's pretty to have pictures in the backgrounds and the sides and everywhere,

    browsers with tabs (best of which was firefox in the beginning) really helped a slow connection - you would load up a bunch of tabs and let them load while you read through each one... this is still an effective method. Tabs 4TW!!!

    I'm glad I decided to switch to optus cable, went from 2.5mbps maximum on adsl2+ to 100mbps on cable, life is good.

      Cos I'm sure you get the full 100mbps on cable all the time...

        Clearly not, during peak hour I get anywhere from 30-50mbps and it's still better than 2.5mbps maximum I'd get on adsl2+.

    Call your ISP yesterday and Order a NBN connection to be connected in a fortnight.
    YES HA AT LAST!!!!

    We live in a particularly bad area which thankfully had NBN fibre begin to be rolled out to last weekend.

    Currently we get about 8mb/s down which I can live with, but we max out at 0.3mbs up which is atrocious (Telstra RIM) and any sort of cloud based backup will effectively bottleneck the connection and kill downloads in the process. Right now we just have to schedule uploads (Crashplan Backups) to occur while we're out or asleep, and if we have an upload backlog I'll take my laptop or phone to the local library to use their connection.

    While a tip for all connections in general, I have two extra that should especially help slow connections.

    First, get Ad Block Plus installed - sometimes it is not the connection being slow, it's the 10,000 flash ads per page tying up one's CPU.

    But, yes, having that there also helps slow connections in that the ads are hopefully not downloaded in the first place.

    Also, install Disconnect. Mostly for privacy but also to keep tracking traffic down on one's connection.

    I got Over 400 ping 0.39 downloads speed from Telstra faster internet & living in central coast

    Turn off the device and get out into the sun?

    move to nz or pretty much anywhere else in south east asia.

    Am stuck with Optus ADSL2 and kind of between a rock and hard place. A connection that used to offer me 14mbps now rarely puts out 2mbps since a year ago. After almost a year on the phone with them (because the problem is with the exchange) they still have not fixed the problem. I cannot get nbn or cable because the building doesn't have it. Switching isps will therefore chuck me on the same exchange I am now so speeds will never improve. Optus or Telstra reluctant to fix. What do I do in this case?

    Try a new provider ??? Fat chance. Our section of the neighborhood is only serviced by the dogs Telstra. Telstra refuses to let other IP's use their nodes and now we're stuck with expensive slow internet.

    the internet takes almost 3 mins to load a single web page and safari takes like 10 HOURS to load and just about to rage and smash my mac to bits!! >:( nothing works

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