British consumers often get a raw deal when it comes to broadband speeds, frequently receiving a slooooow service. Or at least – as OFCOM have reported – speeds are regularly slower than advertised. On average, UK broadband users receive only 49% of advertised headline speeds with the actual speed experienced averaging at 4.1MB/s – a long way from ‘superfast’.
If you don’t feel the need to change your broadband package (read our full article on how to do that here) you can still speed up your existing internet connection by taking some simple steps. Read on to find out how to get higher speeds without paying a higher price.
Test your speed
If you haven’t already done so, use a speed tester to measure the level at which your broadband connection is currently running. This will allow you to see what difference the following suggestions make to your speed. Test your broadband speed here. You can also use Comparitech, who donate $0.01 for each user that runs a test, with funds raised going to Computers 4 Africa and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
It’s good to talk
If you are not getting what you expected from your ISP (Internet Service Provider), give them a call. You may be able to boost your connection speed simply by asking them if there is anything they can do to help.
Reposition your router
The position of your router can have a significant effect on the quality of your wireless connection. Place it in an area where the signal will be affected by as few obstructions and little interference as possible. For example, away from appliances which emit wireless signals (e.g. cordless phones) and avoiding barriers (such as walls and doors) between the router and your computer.
Spring clean your cache
Every time you visit a webpage, your browser will store, or ‘cache’ it. All these items stored in your cache do take up space and over time it can get very full. Periodically clearing our your browser’s cache will enable it to function more effectively.
Upgrade your browser
If you are unhappy with the browsing speed of your connection then you should definitely look at upgrading to a newer web browser. Using the latest browsers can greatly reduce the time it takes to download a web page. Check www.download.com for free downloads of the latest browsers – but be careful when making any changes to the settings on your computer.
Make sure your PC is protected
A free anti-virus programme such as AVG can protect you against viruses, Trojans and worms (self-installing programmes that can damage your PC) and other users logging on to your computer and accessing your files.
Many people have minor viruses on their PC without even realising it. While they may not be that malicious (for example they don’t delete files off your hard drive) they will slow down your computer. Do a full virus and spyware scan at least every month or so.
If you don’t like AVG’s free protection, you can get a Norton Anti-Virus programme to give you full internet security for under £27.
Monitor your applications
There are many applications (such as RealPlayer or Windows Updates) that may discreetly start running when you log in to your computer, and these can slow your connection down. Set these applications so they don’t run automatically – this should reduce your bandwidth overhead and make a noticeable difference to your connection speed.
Disable P2P software
Whilst TV download applications such as BBC iPlayer and 4 On Demand are great for entertainment, they’re not so great for your connection speed. These applications often continue to run in the background even when you think you’ve turned them off as they continually upload and download. This will not only slow you down but can also use up your download allowance. To avoid this, check the settings and set the programme to ‘no peer to peer,’ so it won’t run when you’re not using it.
Loathe thy neighbour
If you have wireless broadband, the first and foremost thing you should do is secure your wireless network. If you are unwittingly sharing your connection with unauthorised users then they will be using up valuable bandwidth. This means that the speed of your connection and download allowance could take a battering, not to mention the security threat this poses.
The time of day at which you go online can greatly affect connection speeds. When lots of people are trying to access the internet at the same time there is increased traffic on the physical phone lines and also each website’s servers. Heaviest traffic is usually in the evenings, so to benefit from the fastest speeds you should try to surf when internet traffic is low, generally in the daytime or late at night. If you have heavy downloading to do, you will get the fastest download speeds during off-peak periods.
After all these measures, if your current package still isn’t giving you the speed you want, it may be time to switch. The speed you will be able to achieve does depend on some factors outside your control – such as your distance from the telephone exchange. Evaluate the time and money needed to improve your current connection and decide for yourself if it’s worth an upgrade.
Read our full article on what to bear in mind when switching your broadband account. For the current best broadband deals on the market, use our Ofcom-approved Moneymagpie broadband comparison service.
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