How to improve your broadband speed

Get top tips for faster broadband including adjusting your broadband router and switching to a faster network.

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Super-fast broadband networks have become an essential in most households where movie streaming from services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are the norm. Many are also streaming music and playing video games, and it’s common to have multiple devices connected at the same time.

Fast as today’s connections are, we always want more and sometimes we instinctively know that our broadband needs a boost. Here are our top tips for boosting your broadband connection.

How fast is your broadband connection?

Before you start making changes, check the performance of your broadband connection. That way you’ll know whether you’re getting what your Internet service provider is promising you or if it’s falling short. Testing speeds before and after is also a good way to see the impact of our tips for boosting broadband.

There are various speed tests available, including one from telecommunications regulator Ofcom. There is also an online test available called Speedtest. For those using mobile devices, there are apps you can download to your tablet or mobile phone to run a regular speed check on your broadband speed.

Speedtest has apps available for Android, iPhone and Windows platforms, which you can find on the Google Play store, iTunes store and the Microsoft App store. You can also visit these stores and search for broadband speed checkers.

There is a Speedtest desktop App for those still using Windows 7 and an app on the Windows App store, which is published by Microsoft Research.

Move your router for faster broadband

An easy thing to try if a broadband speed test reveals disappointing speeds is to move your router. You’ll be surprised how much impact this can have. There is a whole host of things that can literally get in the way of your broadband router delivering the fastest possible speed. The most common mistake people make is to put their router – because it’s an eyesore – in a cupboard. Putting a router in a cupboard blocks the wireless signal and will give you slower broadband speeds. Similarly, thick walls in older houses can block wireless router signals.

To boost your broadband speed, you can try the following:

  • Put your router in the centre of your house.
  • Keep your broadband router away from thick walls, which can interfere with the broadband signal.
  • Don’t put your router on the floor. Instead, look for a location that’s high up – on a bookshelf, for example.
  • Make sure you can see your router. Line of sight is important to the devices connecting to your router. You might not want to look at it, but being able to see your router will give you faster broadband speeds.
  • Avoid windows so that your signal isn’t going outside rather than inside to the devices you want to connect.
  • Keep your router away from your TV, and other metal objects especially electrical equipment, which can interfere with the signal.

Secure your Wi-Fi

More devices connecting to your broadband via your router will slow it down. You’ll probably have multiple devices in your own home, but you don’t want others piggybacking on your network and slowing it down.

It’s important to secure your Wi-Fi and stop others using it. Nowadays, most providers will set up a secure password for you, but if your network is unsecured, you can set a password for your router yourself. To do this, you’ll need to access your router settings. You do this by typing the address of your router into your web browser. This looks like a set of numbers such as 192.168.01. You might find it printed on the device or alternatively in the documentation from your Internet service provider. You might need to log in (again check the base of the router for details). From the settings, you can set up a password and secure your router.

Update your router

Perhaps you’ve been with your broadband provider for a while. If you have, and they haven’t sent you a replacement router then it might be time for an upgrade.

The standards for routers have evolved from a standard called 802.11b and 802.11g to a newer standard called 802.11ac. You can check what Wi-Fi standard you are running on by doing the following:

  1. Click on the Wi-Fi shortcut at the bottom of the computer screen.
  2. Hover the cursor over your broadband service.
  3. Look for the standard, which should be listed next to “radio type”.
  4. You’ll only see the full benefits if the devices you’re using are newer and are also using the 802.11a standard.
  5. However, you may still see an improvement by upgrading your router. It might not improve the range, but you may see an improvement regarding speed on devices further away. You’ll also be future proofing for any new devices you buy.

Update your router software or firmware

Like computers, tablets and phones, routers come with built-in software and this can sometimes need updating. You can usually find out if a software update is due by visiting the manufacturer’s website.

Change your router channel

In terms of your router, another thing you can try is changing the router channel to get rid of any interference. Think of this as a bit like when many years ago you may have experienced interference on your landline from neighbours or a crossed wire. The same can sometimes happen if you and your neighbours are all using the same Wi-Fi channel.

There are tools online that can help you check if you’re on a busy channel, including apps that will do this for you such as WiFi Analyzer.

Switch to ADSL or fibre broadband

Should the broadband speed checker reveal your network is incredibly slow then it might be time to consider switching to ADSL or fibre broadband. Fibre coverage now extends to 93% of UK households and can provider superfast download speeds of up to 24Mbps. Virgin Media is the only company to own its own fibre optic network with average download speeds of up to 362Mbps, the UK’s fastest.

Buy a powerline adapter to boost broadband

Powerline adapters are another way to boost broadband speeds, but they can be expensive. You’ll need to make sure you get one with Wi-Fi capabilities. Plugging in a powerline adapter will create new Wi-Fi signals in rooms you can’t reach. There are a number available from amazon.co.uk. Some Internet providers will offer them, so it’s worth checking with your broadband provider, too.

Clean up your computer

Where it’s your computer that seems to be sluggish online, you could try cleaning the device up. A simple tip is to press Ctrl+Alt+Delete (Windows) and see if there are any power hungry or bandwidth hungry programmes running and close these down. Click on the Task Manager to see what programmes are running.

Wireless heat map checker

There are also Wi-Fi tools or “heat maps” you can use to see how well your Wi-Fi is performing in different areas of your home. NetSpot, for example, runs on Windows and Mac platforms.

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