There are a few reasons your PC download speed may be slow, ranging from computer performance issues to network performance issues. Diagnosing and resolving the problem can be difficult and frustrating. I’m here to help!
Hi, I’m Aaron. I love technology and love sharing my passion for it. I’ve made mistake after mistake working on computers so you don’t have to! Unless you want to, of course.
In this article, I’ll highlight sources of slowness for your downloads and what you can do to try and fix them.
Table of Contents
- Key Takeaways
- Network Issues
- Computer Issues
- You may be downloading too much at once.
- Your internet or the download server may be running slowly.
- It could be an issue with your hardware.
- But if it’s none of those, then it could be a virus.
Your PC’s download speeds may be impacted by network issues. I’ll briefly outline the cause and resolution for some common issues. Some of those network issues can be fixed by you while others can’t. Starting with what you can fix…
1. Multiple Downloads
You may be trying to download multiple things at the same time. Whether from the same site or not, that takes resources: network resources, processor resources, motherboard transmission lane resources, or hard drive (HDD) and solid state drive (SSD) resources.
One of the easiest ways you can speed downloads is by pausing or stopping other downloads. The fewer simultaneous downloads you run, the fewer computing and networking resources you encumber. For older or slower computers, phones, or tablets, this might be incredibly helpful.
Along those lines, you could also have issues with…
Your internet connection is only so fast. Most home internet plans top out at 1 gigabit per second (gbps). Some plans top out at 2 gbps. That’s incredible speed and with typical home use you’re unlikely to saturate that connection.
However, if you have a 10 megabit per second (mbps) connection, or something that runs at 1% of the speed of the 1 gbps connection, connection then it’s highly likely you could saturate that with one computer playing games and another streaming video.
Even a 100 mbps connection can struggle to keep up with streaming videos and music, gaming, and internet browsing from the tens of devices that may be connected to your network.
You can remove devices from your network or limit the content being consumed on your network to free up precious mbps of connection speed.
If it’s not throughput, it might be…
When you download something, your computer connects through various servers to the content hosting server for the file you want to download. That connection is effectively the passing of electrons between your computer and the next device in the path to that server, which connects to the next device, and so on.
Where that connection happens by wire, fiber optics, and potentially wireless connections, the download is simply the movement of electrons, light, and radio waves, respectively. All of that is limited by the universe’s speed limit, the speed of light, and the ability of each component in the transmission chain to process the information between your computer and the download server.
While each individual part of that connection is blazingly fast, the combination of those parts slow down your communication with the download server. With enough connection points and distance that adds up.
You can reduce latency by selecting your preferred download server, if given the option. Many modern sites do that for you, but some will still let you pick which geographic region from which you want to download information. Pick the one closest to you.
If latency isn’t your issue, then you might have…
4. Network Congestion
Each device on your network has a specific address, called an IP address, that allows the router to send information to individual devices. It’s how you can stream content to a smart tv and also browse the internet on your laptop or tablet.
Depending on how your network is set up, you may have a maximum number of addresses. If you hit that limit, devices trying to connect to your network may be vying for those addresses. While that’s more likely to just terminate a download, it may result in slowing the download which stops and resumes when your computer reconnects to the network.
Adventurous readers should log in to their router and try to adjust settings to increase device lease times and also the maximum number of IP addresses. Alternatively, you can shut down devices you aren’t using to free up address space.
There are also problems that you can’t solve like…
5. Content Server Issues
The server–essentially a gigantic computer–from which you’re trying to download information may have its own connectivity, routing, and addressing issues. The complexity and variety of issues are orders of magnitude higher than what you can experience at home.
Suffice it to say the only thing you can do is wait it out. You can also try to find the content you’re trying to download from elsewhere, but depending on the uniqueness of the content that can be difficult.
Network issues aren’t the only that can bog download speeds. Issues with your computer can also limit download speed, like…
1. Slow Drive
Your HDD or SSD have top speeds, which are measured in mbps, and can vary depending on file size.
Most modern consumer HDDs are 7200 RPM drives, meaning that the platters in the drives spin at 7200 rotations per minute. Some are 5400 RPM drives. Those drives typically connect via SATA 1, 2, or 3 which have different throughput rates.
Your drive may also be a SSD, which uses memory chips to store information. SSDs can connect via SATA connection or m.2, which is a special kind of connection on some computer motherboards.
Depending on your configuration, with a 5400 RPM drive connected via SATA 1 being the potential slowest, you can have download speeds in the tens to a little over a hundred mbps. The fastest SATA SSDs can cap out at 500 mbps to 600 mbps, while the fastest m.2 SSDs will cap out at 7,500 mbps.
It is unlikely you will be able to totally max out a SATA SSD connection with downloads alone, but you might if you’re doing other data processing. If you feel like your computer is running slowly, you might want to consider upgrading your storage.
It might not be a slow drive that’s impacting your download speed, but instead a…
2. Full Drive
SSDs, and especially some kinds of budget m.2 drives, slow down the fuller they get. Depending on the kind of memory chips used, they can even be slower than older 5400 RPM drives when they get too full.
While you can fill an SSD to the brim, it’s highly recommended that you don’t. You can extend your drive’s life and increase its speed by keeping some space free. Some drives have tools that do this automatically via over-provisioning.
Here’s a great explanation from YouTube about what over-provisioning is and how SSDs work.
But you might not even have a drive issue, it could be…
3. Too Many Running Processes
Your computer runs software constantly, some of which write to disk, some of which use memory, and some of which will consume CPU cycles. If you have too many processes running, it can slow down your computer and downloads.
Processes include both programs you know are running and programs that run transparently in the background of your computer use. You can terminate specific processes. I’d recommend you try that if you restart your computer and it doesn’t speed up.
If it’s not processes slowing your computer, it could be another kind of program…
Malware is malicious code running on your computer. It can be as terminal as ransomware or as troubling as unwanted crypto mining. Your computer can even be hijacked into a much larger botnet.
If you’re running Windows, believe it or not, you’re running one of the best-performing antimalware solutions on the market: Windows Defender. If you’re ever concerned that your computer has malware, though, you can’t go wrong downloading and also running another leading antivirus or antimalware solution.
Here are some commonly asked questions about download speed performance.
My Laptop Download Speed is Slow but the Internet is Fast
This is because your connection to the content server from which you’re downloading is slower than your connection to other things. It’s not you, it’s the content hosting server from which you’re downloading.
Why is My PC Download Speed Slower than Xbox?
Because Microsoft hosts the content delivery servers for Xbox. You are likely downloading from a different content delivery server and hosting provider on your PC. Alternatively, your PC may be downloading slowly because of some of the causes I listed above: too many running processes, malware, network or equipment saturation, etc.
Why is My Download Speed so Slow on Steam?
Steam’s content delivery servers may be overloaded or otherwise impacted by conditions that are limiting their speed. Or it could be your network connection or computer. Check to see how other programs run and other webpages load. If one of those is slow (or both) then it could be a computer or network issue, respectively.
There are many reasons your PC download speed is slow. Those reasons can include: your slow network speeds, hosting server network slowness, and computer issues you may have. Your best bet is to try and address the things that you can control. If that doesn’t work, you may just need to wait out the hosting server slowness.
Is there anything else you do to address download speed issues? Let me know in the comments below!