How to Improve Your Broadband Speed

Your Internet (broadband) speed depends on many factors including: your computer, browser, software, ISP, Wi-Fi and hardware. This article will discuss how you can get the most from your Internet connection.

We recommend that you try the changes in this article to get the most out of your connection. If your speed is still lower than you expect then you should consider switching to a different broadband package or change ISP (Internet Service Provider).

In this article we discuss the following:

Measure and Compare your Internet Speed

Before you make any changes you should measure your current speed at different times of day and on different days of the week. This will give you a good idea of your speed before you make any changes and will help to understand the benefits of any changes you have made. Make a note of these speeds and see how they compare with the speed promised by your ISP. You can also compare your speed with others in the same area to see if your neighbours are faster or slower than you.

Measure Your Speed

You can use our free Broadband Speed Test to measure and record your speeds. These results will show how your speed has changed over time.

Graph showing internet speed over time

Compare Your Speed

You can use our free Speed In My Area tool to compare your speeds with those in the neighbouring streets.

Map showing other speed test results

Improve Your Wi-Fi Speed

More and more of the Internet is being accessed via Wi-Fi connections and this is often the cause of a slow Internet connection. There are a number of causes for a poor Wi-Fi connection:

  • Interference from other users using the same Wi-Fi channel
  • Wi-Fi being used by other people (friends AND strangers)
  • Distance to the router and obstructions

Because this is such an important issue relating to Internet speed we have produced a detailed guide.
Please see our detailed guide on how to improve your Wi-Fi for more information.

Check Your Cables and Connections

Even if you connect to the Internet via your Wi-Fi network your slow speed can be caused by cables, connectors and your router. These are the cables and connectors between your phone or cable/fibre socket and the router.

Here are some tips on how to optimize your connections:

  • Plug your router directly into the main phone socket. Don't use phone extensions (this includes any secondary sockets that may be fitted in your property). If you have no choice then you should choose good quality cable, as short as possible and with no kinks, tangles or coils.
  • Use a powerline adaptor. These are devices that plug into your electric sockets and allow fast and reliable connections anywhere in your property. Use ethernet cables to connect one adaptor to your router and another to your computers or laptops.
  • Plug all phones into micro-filters. Micro-filters prevent interference between your phone and broadband. This is necessary because your phone and broadband share the same cable outside your property. Most ISPs supply more than one with the router. Note that these go on your phone devices, NOT your router.
  • Use a wired connection instead of Wi-Fi. Connect an Ethernet cable between your computer and your router to eliminate problems caused by your Wi-Fi connection. Ethernet cables are faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi. If this improves your speed then you can read our Wi-Fi guide. See here for more information on improving your Wi-Fi.
  • Check if other electrical devices are interfering with your router. Some lamps, speakers, TVs and power cords can interfere with your router. Try switching these off to see if things improve.

Talk to Your Current ISP

If you think your problem is with the service provided by your ISP then you should call them and they should help you understand what can be done to help. If you want to see what other ISPs have to offer before you call then check our guide on comparing ISP packages. Your ISP should follow the Ofcom Code of Practice and this gives you certain rights with regard to the speed provided. If you call them to complain about your speed you should be aware of the following parts of the Code:

  • ISPs should give customers estimated speeds in writing at the start of the contract
  • Customers can exit contracts without penalty if they receive speeds significantly below the original estimate
  • ISPs should clearly explain how technical factors can slow down the speed
  • ISPs should give help and advice about what you can do to improve your Internet Speed
  • ISPs should deal with your speed-related problems swiftly and effectively

If your ISP is not following this code then you should contact Ofcom for advice on how to resolve your problem.

Change Your ISP - Compare Packages

If you have optimized your speed from your current supplier then you should consider what other options are available. We have a couple of ways that we can help you decide on what is best for you.

First: Our Comparison Table

Our comparison table has a couple of unique features that will help you:

  • First Year Cost. Our first year cost column is the total cost for the first year of your contract. This helps to compare all the offers taking into account any temporary low price offers and the cost of installation. You can sort our table on this column to see which is the cheapest deal for the first year. Some ISPs occasionally offer cashback or reward cards. Because these are not guaranteed they are not included in the first year cost but are described in the text and an equivalent first year cost is given.
  • Monthly Cost. This is how much you will pay each month AFTER the original offers have expired. This helps to compare the ongoing cost if you stay with the supplier. Contracts are typically 12 or 18 months so you should particularly consider the ongoing costs if the package is for 18 months. Many comparison pages only list the introductory price which can be misleading. All comparison sites and suppliers have to include the line rental in the monthly cost and this has made comparison considerably easier and more transparent.

Second: Availability of packages at your address?

Our comparison table is great if all the packages from all the providers are available at your address. But availability changes with postcode? This is more of an issue if you want to have fibre or cable. On the same comparison pageyou can enter your postcode to filter the packages to only show those available to you.

This table will also include an estimated speed for each package at your address. This information is based on the distance from the exchange and measured speeds in the area.

Not all packages will be available at your property and the speed you get will vary with distance from the exchange.

Sample of comparison table

This image is for illustration only and has been edited to remove supplier and date information to avoid confusion.

Check and Improve Your Devices

Computer Settings

Download speeds may be reduced because of incorrect computer settings of the computer. Microsoft Windows default settings are not optimized for the fastest Internet connections. We recommend the free tool TCP Optimizer. It is a small program that takes just a couple of minutes to install and run and changes all the settings needed to maximise your speed. When you run the tool just accept the defaults and it will do the rest. Even Windows 8 and 10 come with default settings that are slowing you down.

Browsers

You access the Internet by using a browser (Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer, etc.). Whichever one you prefer, it is important that you keep it up to date. This will ensure that you have the latest (and fastest) version.

Your browser can also be configured to maximise the speed of your Internet browsing. For example, Chrome automatically pre-fetches (downloads pages in the background) pages it thinks you may want to visit next. Opera has an "off-road mode" that compresses pages before being downloaded (smaller files take less time and pages will load quicker). You can also install extensions or 'add-ons' to your browser to increase your speed such as Firefox's Image Block.

Software Running In the Background

There are many programs that start running in the background as soon as you log in to the PC. Many of these will need to access the Internet even if they appear to be switched off. These programs may continually upload and download data and not only slow you down but also use up your data download allowance. Some applications like Windows updates and security suite updates are essential and should be running all the time but others can be stopped. Go to your task manager by right clicking on the Task bar and look in the Applications Tab to see which applications are running. You can prevent most of these from starting automatically by changing the settings in the program.

To have better and easier control over what programs are running on your computer then use a tool such as PC Speed Up. The free version of PC Speed Up allows you to easily control which programs start when Windows starts. PC SpeedUp also optimizes your computer including everything that TCP Optimizer does.

Router

The router or modem that you use also plays an important role in the performance. A better modem or router may give better features such as being able to select ports for gaming etc., and may also have a better firewall.
For wireless connections you should position the router to minimize obstructions from walls etc. To see if you are losing speed because of obstructions you should test the wireless speed and check it against the speed you get when using a network cable.More about improving wireless internet speeds

Glossary of Terms

TermMeaning
Ethernet / Network / CAT5 Cable:An Ethernet Cable (also referred to as CAT 5 or network cable) is used to connect routers to computers and other routers and allow for fast and reliable connections.
ISP - Internet Service Provider:This is the company that you are paying for your Broadband or Fibre access to the Internet.
Micro-filter:Small connectors that are fitted to phone lines to prevent interference between the phone and broadband signals.
Package:Each ISP company sells a number of products (packages). They are called packages because they bundle (or package) items such as phone line rental, phone calls, TV and other services with the broadband service.
Powerline adaptor:These are devices that plug into your electric sockets and allow fast and reliable connections anywhere in your property. Use Ethernet cables to connect one adaptor to your router and other adaptors to your computers and laptops.
Router / Modem:A router or modem is the box that connects to your phone line or cable/fibre outlet and actually provides the Internet Service to your property. These are normally provided by your ISP and are often combined into one unit. The modem provides the Internet Service and the Router allows other devices to connect to it via cable or Wi-Fi. We use the term 'router' to refer to both in this article.