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 lifehacker.com.au 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This story was originally published 2/7/2015 and has since been updated.