Automatic updates might be causing your slow broadbad

Automatic updates might not seem an obvious cause of slow broadband, but they can dramatically slow down your system.

Thursday, 20 April, 2023

An unfortunate consequence of the meteoric growth in web-enabled devices is the prevalence of automatic updates.

Smart devices will contain firmware and/or software, respectively governing the integral hardware and the services that device provides.

When hardware is connected to the internet over WiFi, it’s often programmed to automatically update its own firmware or software.

These patches are designed to be rolled out to end user devices when the manufacturer deems necessary, often without user interaction or confirmation being requested – or even required.

This may be in response to evolving malware threats, to capitalise on new features, eliminate newly discovered bugs and glitches, or simply to improve its dependability.

Irrespective of why automatic updates are necessary, the device in question could be temporarily knocked offline and out of service.

If numerous machines are receiving patches, this could even have a cumulative effect on domestic broadband speeds…

Cabinet reshuffle

We’re not talking here about full fibre broadband – any connection of 100Mbps or above should be able to accommodate system updates without issue.

The problems relate to Fibre to the Cabinet connections, where speeds may be as slow as 10Mbps down and 1Mbps up.

(For an explanation of why FTTC lines tend to be faster at downloading than uploading, read our guide to symmetrical connections.)

If you’re attempting to stream a Netflix documentary when your smart oven decides to patch itself or install new firmware, you might experience a noticeable drop in picture quality.

Issues will be compounded if updates are substantial in size, occur at inopportune times, or coincide with periods of intensive bandwidth usage.

Automatic for the people

Although automatic updates can be irritating, further diminishing the already modest performance of FTTC connections, they’re usually necessary.

That’s especially true of devices used for sensitive or confidential activities, like smartphones (mobile banking, contactless payments) or computers (work, personal financial data).

Fortunately, there are some steps which help to mitigate their impact:

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!