Software, Technology

How-to: Troubleshoot Slow Internet Connections Part 2

Netgear Wireless LAN RouterIn Part One, we ran through the hardware diagnostics for the home Internet connection that was running badly; speeds up and down, intermittent drop-out, low signal wireless signal strength.

Before calling the service provider, there’s still some research to do to add weight to that irksome technical support call. A poor connection could be down to any or all of the technical issues on the list we worked through in Part One:

1. Spring-clean your browser
2. Your computer’s network speed – devices and drivers
3. Your home network set-up – broadband router, wireless

In this, Part Two, we move on:

4. Software – social networking, file-sharing, malware and viruses
5. Your Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) broadband Internet service

The same rules apply: try your connection with just one machine accessing the Internet. If the speed varies according to the time of day, then it could be software at your end.

3. Software – applications, social networking, file-sharing, malware and viruses

I’d start by spring-cleaning the Startup programs; you may find in the list of those programs that are set to launch when your computer boots up that not all of them are necessary; some may be old or optional extras, and some will be things you can run on demand. Run through the list for any programs that you can safely disable (take them out of the Startup group), to speed up your computer in general. How many of them are set to dial home for updates?

Background Applications are notorious for quietly consuming network bandwidth:

  • peer-to-peer file-sharing
  • torrent downloads
  • scheduled backups to the Cloud (Dropbox, SpiderOak, UbuntuOne, PogoPlug)
  • anti-virus updates via the web (AVG, Clam-AV and the like)
  • Software Updates
  • Social networks polling for updates (Facebook et al.)
  • Email (mail clients and web clients)
  • Instant Messaging and chat (IRC, Skype, Google Hang Outs)

Take an inventory of exactly what’s running in the back ground that accesses the Internet:

  • Don’t assume that you know already; extra background tasks can creep in with new software versions, features and upgrades, without you knowing.
  • Don’t assume each one is running fine by itself; check the individual settings – frequency of polling, updates, downloads et cetera.

You may find an obvious network hog, polling too frequently or out-ranking in priority or bandwidth every other program accessing the Internet.

You might want to stop all of them to test your connection with nothing running in the background. Load them one at a time.

Move on to the combinations; combining any of these could be enough to drag down your connection speed for other tasks. If in doubt, stop the service and check performance without it.

Still not found anything soaking up bandwidth? If you have anti-virus and malware detection software, use it. If not, get some. Take the time, run the scans. Thousands of variants of Internet Worms, ‘dialers’, down-loaders and covert peer-to-peer software such as bot-nets can disguise themselves as legitimate services. Flush them out.

4. Your Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) broadband Internet service

So we finally arrive at Service Provider issues. Internet speed ultimately depends on the service provider. Don’t assume your ISP manages it’s network to peak efficiency. They don’t. All of them change their network configurations regularly, all of them suffer technical difficulties, frequently without knowing the impact on all their customers. Those are inadvertent causes of slow connections.

Try testing your connection speed using a service such as

  • run it a few times against different server locations, in order to get a representative spread of measures
  • try repeating the tests at different times of day, so that you have an objective measure of the connection speed you’re achieving.
  • make notes of the up and down speed at different times of day

ISP’s may also intentionally install filters or controls on the network that can lower your performance. If you’ve been through everything else, you can confidently take the problem back to the ISP. It may only take a simple reset of a network switch at their end; maybe they need to contact the supplier of the fiber or copper line to report a fault in that part of the network.

It’s important that you get the connection package that you paid for. Have patience, don’t be fobbed off, ask them to explain everything. And don’t be surprised of your connection ‘suddenly’ comes back to life all on it’s own while you’re speaking to them! AJS

Image credit: WRT54G v2 Linksys Router Digon3 by Jonathan Zander, via Wikimedia Commons

About Allan J. Smithie

Allan J. Smithie is a journalist and commentator based in Dubai.


6 thoughts on “How-to: Troubleshoot Slow Internet Connections Part 2

  1. Nice! I am trying to get a handle on the topic and your article provided help on the way. Thanks.

    Posted by G Prairie | Apr 28, 2012, 8:18 am
  2. Hello there, simply turned into aware of your blog thru Google, and you got me looking at me router signal. Thanks.

    Posted by Gartner Krasnow | Jun 6, 2012, 5:47 am


  1. Pingback: How-to: Troubleshoot Slow Internet Connections Part 2 | txwikinger-open-source | - Mar 2, 2012

  2. Pingback: How-to: Speed Up Your Internet Connection For Free « Everything Express - Aug 11, 2012

  3. Pingback: How-to: Speed Up Your Internet Connection For Free « Allan J Smithie - Aug 11, 2012

  4. Pingback: How-to: Fix Networking Issues with IPConfig « Everything Express - Sep 17, 2012

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