How to speed up a slow broadband connection

A slow broadband connection can be extremely frustrating, especially if you decided on your internet package because of its advertised speed. We share some practical steps you can take to improve the performance of your broadband.

Updated on 19 May 2015.

Woman laptop annoyed desk home shouting

After deciding on a broadband provider and signing up for a package, you'll be keen to get surfing straight away.

But if you load up your internet only to find yourself crawling from one page to the next, going online can become more of a chore than a joy.

Luckily there are some simple steps you can take at home to boost your broadband speed and make sure you're getting the most from your connection.

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Test your speed

First of all it's a good idea to check what sort of speed you're getting, so that you can use this as a guideline when attempting to improve the performance of your broadband.

You can use a free speed tester which will be able to gauge the pace of your current connection.

Bear in mind that the speed advertised when you first decided on your package is likely to be higher than what you get in reality. Most providers advertise a headline rate of 'up to 20Mb', for example, but like the headline rate on a credit card this shouldn't be taken as a guarantee of what you'll get.

The advertised rate is a maximum, and research by Ofcom shows that many internet connections often don't actually reach those speeds in practice. Some internet connections will be slower than others because of your computer's distance from the nearest telephone exchange, for example.

Talk to your provider

If after testing your speed you're dissatisfied with how fast your connection is, it's worth contacting your broadband provider. They may be able to give you an explanation as to why your speed isn't as efficient as you'd expected and suggest measures that may improve the performance of your broadband.

For example, you may be advised to fit some additional filters to your phone socket to enhance your line's efficiency, which should be sent to you free of charge. Alternatively your provider may be able to adjust frequencies at their end to improve your broadband speed.

Move your router

If you connect to the internet wirelessly, the position of your router will make a considerable difference to your broadband speed. The closer your router is to your phone socket, the better your connection should be. Your router manual will come with lots of tips on making your router as efficient as possible.

If your wireless connection is still below par, try connecting directly to your router with an Ethernet cable to see if this makes a difference.

Close down bandwidth-draining programmes

You may not know it, but there could be a host of programmes ticking away on your computer, draining your broadband speed behind the scenes. Software installed to your computer to stream videos, for example, may run even when you're not using it - slowing down your connection and using up your download allowance too.

You can stop this happening by disabling the 'peer to peer' settings on the software. It's also a good idea to check that there aren't other invisible programmes running in the background by checking your Task Manager (right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager).

In addition you should check that you have the latest anti-virus software installed, as well as anti-adware, to stop speed-sapping viruses gaining access to your computer.

Surf off-peak

Traffic on the internet (the amount of people surfing at any one time) is higher at some times of the day than others. Things tend to get busiest in the evening, particularly Sunday evenings. Going online at these times can mean your connection is slower, as you compete for bandwidth with the other internet users online.

It's worth checking your contention ratio, which is the ratio of the actual bandwidth you have to the maximum amount of users surfing that bandwidth at one time. The higher your contention ratio, the slower your connection may be as there could be more users online at once.

As such, you may be able to enjoy higher speeds if you surf during the day or late at night, as these 'off-peak' times generally see less internet traffic.

Update your internet browser

Switching the browser you use may make a difference to your connection speed. It's possible that you're using an out-of-date browser, in which case it's worth updating to the latest version of Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox - or try switching from one to the other if your current browser isn't up to scratch. Google Chrome, Safari for Apple, and Opera are also worth a try.

Switch providers

Finally, if you've tried everything to improve your broadband speed and still have no success, it may be time to switch to a new provider.

By comparing the different packages and speeds available you should be able to find one that suits you, and enjoy swifter surfing from then on.

However it is worth checking if there is a fee involved in switching if you're in the middle of a fixed term contract. It's also worth noting that switching providers isn't guaranteed to get you a faster a connection.

Usefully, Ofcom's Code of Practice states that all internet users have the right to request for their package to be downgraded to a cheaper alternative if their connection doesn't meet the speed advertised by their provider.

As such if you are enduring extremely low speeds, you should bring this up with your provider and request to be moved to a cheaper package if switching providers is out of the question.

Written by at money.co.uk

Compare Broadband Deals
Make sure you get a broadband deal that is affordable and comes with a download limit and download speed that will suit how you use the internet.
Compare Broadband

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