You may have hardware issues, but it could be a downstream network issue. Unfortunately, because of how the internet works, this might be an issue with your internet service provider or even some websites you visit. While you might not be able to fix everything, at least you’ll better understand how to fix what you can.
Hi, I’m Aaron. I love working with and around technology. I’ve done so for the better part of 20 years.
Let’s dive into how you can identify and fix problems with slow wifi and the internet more generally.
Table of Contents
- You can only fix what you can fix and that’s going to be with the equipment inside your home.
- Your internet may just be running slowly and you can’t do more to fix that than restart your modem and router or call your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
- Alternatively, you may be saturating your internet connection with too many connected devices doing too much for your internet connection to handle.
- If you’re not home, your best bet will be connecting to a different network, if you can find one.
Causes and Fixes
I’m going to walk you through my troubleshooting process to identify potential causes of wifi slowness. It’s not perfect by any means, but I think it’s a good starting point to identify the cause of your issue and figure out how to fix it.
It’s critical to understand that there are some issues you just won’t be able to fix. I’ve covered that here. The summary:
- There is a wire that enters your home that connects you to your ISP by attaching to a modem or modem and router combination in your home.
- You can fix any problems downstream of that modem or modem and router combination in your home.
- You likely cannot fix any problems upstream of that modem or modem and router combination not in your home.
With that introduction in mind, let’s cover some of the slow wifi causes you may see, starting with…
1. Slow Internet
Sometimes your slow wifi isn’t your wifi at all. Instead, it might be slowness in your downstream internet connection. That slowness can occur because of various causes all of which result in slowing the connection between your computer and the website you want to browse.
You can identify this by going to an internet speed test site like fast.com, provided by Netflix, or speedtest.net, provided by Comcast. If, after running those services, they report that your internet is substantially slower than the plan you’ve purchased from your ISP, that may be the cause.
While it’s unlikely to be an internal problem, you can reset your internet modem or modem and router combination. Walk over to the modem and unplug the power. Wait 30 seconds. Plug the modem back in.
Once your internet connection returns, run another internet speed test. If that resolved the issue, great! If not, then you should call your ISP to report the issue or wait for it to resolve.
If an internet speed test shows that your connection speed isn’t the cause of the problem, then…
2. Too Many Connected Devices
The speed of your internet connection and networking equipment is limited. Your ISP offers internet plans which represent a maximum speed for your home. That is cumulative to all devices connected.
If you have a 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) connection, you’re likely not going to be able to have 10+ devices streaming high-definition content without significant slowdown.
The same applies to your networking equipment. Your wireless router may only offer a 450 Mbps connection. So even if you have a 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) internet connection, if your devices are connecting through that wireless router then your maximum connection speed will be half of what’s available.
If you have a lot of devices streaming content simultaneously, turn some of those off or just stop streaming content. If that speeds up your network, then you’re over-using your network.
In that case, you have to limit your simultaneous use or increase your internet speed and/or buy devices rated for higher speed than your current devices.
If that doesn’t fix your problems, then…
3. Get Closer to Your Router
Wifi is a radio protocol that allows an internet connection to be broadcast wirelessly. As with other radio signals, they become weaker the further away you are from the source. They can also be blocked by materials between the transmitter and receiver. Since wifi radio waves are high frequency, these impacts can be seen over short distances.
Here’s a short YouTube video about how to measure and map wifi signal strength in your home.
Even if you don’t map wifi in your home, you can improve your wifi connection and speed. Move your connected desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, or streaming device closer to your wireless router. Alternatively, you can connect those devices to your router via an ethernet cable.
So far, I’ve covered things you can do to improve your home experience. When you’re using someone else’s wifi or public wifi at a business, you may not be able to limit other devices, plug in directly, or reboot the router. Instead, your primary option is to…
4. Connect to a Different Network
If one network is slow, another might not be. Different businesses may use different ISPs and will be using different equipment. If you’re experiencing slow internet in one place, if you go somewhere else the connection may be faster.
Sometimes, however, you’ll find…
5. Causes Out of Your Control
Unfortunately, you may try everything listed above and still not be able to address your internet issues. It might just be the case that your ISP or downstream websites are inaccessible or running slowly.
If that happens, all you can do is call your ISP and hope that they can fix the issue.
Why is My Internet Slow on My Phone?
Your iPhone or Android phone–or cellular-connected iPad or tablet–likely always has some kind of wireless internet connection. Sometimes that connection happens over wifi. Other times, it will be via a cellular data connection.
Unfortunately, a slow cellular data connection is very difficult for you to do anything about. That typically happens because of:
- Device slowness
- Distance from the cellular tower
- Cellular connection speed
- Internet speed from the cellular provider
- Website slowness
While you can get closer to a cellular tower, typically you may not be able to see it and therefore won’t know how to get closer to it.
Really, the only thing you can do to try to diagnose and address cellular connection slowness is to restart your smartphone or tablet.
There are a few reasons your wireless internet may run slowly all of a sudden. Those causes can range from issues with your ISP to issues with your hardware. As you diagnose your issues, take note of what you think your problem is and how you think you can address it. When you resolve it, take note of the solution.
Over time, as you fix these issues and others, you’ll build an encyclopedia of technology repairs that will serve you well in addressing other similar issues.
What else do you do to try and resolve wifi issues? Let me know in the comments below!
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