You might want to look at the previous trouble-shooting articles part 1 and part 2 if you’re wanting to, er, shoot trouble with an Internet connection. This is a similar round-up in one hit since I’ve had this conversation several times since and these are all money-free steps you can take.
If your mega-fast broadband connection seems unduly sluggish, there are things you can do before you go complaining to your ISP. It’s certainly worth doing this Holmes-style investigation in order to rule out any bottlenecks at your end; there’s nothing worse than complaining only for the ISP to insist after their own traffic analysis that the connection is in tip-top condition. Work through the steps to prove it’s not in your property and, to paraphrase the great detective, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
- De-fragment Your Hard Drive – when the data on your hard drive gets scattered across its surface over time, the drive controller becomes the bottleneck for reading and writing whatever Internet traffic hits the machine. De-fragmenting your drive essentially reallocates your data storage in contiguous blocks for faster access, leaving plenty of contiguous space for temp files, downloads and the like.
- Run a Virus Scan – if your connection speed slowed significantly, it may be the result of malware either sucking up system resources or leeching your Internet. A decent anti-virus program will scan your files to delete, clean or quarantine as necessary.
Switch to a wired connection – in general an Ethernet cable will provide a faster wired than a wireless connection. It’s worth positioning your computer close enough to the router to plug in a wired connection, just to see the result.
- Check for wireless interference. Two things come to mind – other devices and your building itself.
- Your wireless signal may suffer interference from other devices using the same frequencies as your wireless router – cordless phones, doorbells, CCTV systems, baby monitors and the like. Our esteemed editor lives in a house with RSJ’s in window frames and the staircase which attenuate mobile phone and wireless signals. Positioning of equipment makes a big difference the signal strength around the property. Radio frequency leakage on cables and connectors. A slow-down in connection speeds can be caused by broken connectors, kinked or split Ethernet cables, or too many cable splitters and joins. A new, single length of undamaged cable with intact plugs may put you well on the way to faster speeds.
- Router settings; getting the optimal settings for network protocols, versions, speed and error-correction can be another easy win. Back up all your settings first and consult the manufacturer’s website and or manual for instructions on the common settings. Cross-check these with the recommended settings from your ISP; the two may not be the same and a mismatch can slow down your connection. You may need to down-grade to match your ISP or be able override the defaults on the router for best performance for that connection.
- Spring-clean Your 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.
- Optimize your Browser Options. In ‘Tools’ of ‘Preferences’ in your browser, you can set it to cache pages and content automatically and save temporary internet files. This cuts down on repeated page loads each time you access the same pages. Modern browsers compare current page content with the cached copy and only download new or changed items. You may occasionally need to manually refresh pages, however.
- Router firmware. This one is a little more technical as it involves ‘flashing’ or updating the firmware that controls the router operation. The router manufacturer will have a web-page for each model, where you can download firmware updates released since you got the device. Newer firmware can patch bugs and take advantage of newer protocols for better performance.
- Another technical option is to switch to OpenDNS as your Domain Name Service; this goes to domain registry independent of your ISP and as well as providing faster Internet speeds and greater reliability, can enhance software protection against malware, botnets, and web filtering.
- If you’re really adept, you could install AnalogX FastCache – a DNS server on your computer that caches queries that you make to websites and which will speed up access to data from websites you visit regularly.
And that is the current list at Smithie towers. Now, diagnose, assess, then make sure you get precisely the connection you’ve paid for. AJS