Slow internet connections are unquestionably a first world problem, but there’s something particularly annoying about sluggish connectivity.
A poor connection can disrupt online gaming, lead to buffering in streaming media, cause webpages to time out and make uploading files feel like a chore.
And while some causes of slow internet connections can’t be tackled (such as relying on old-fashioned copper telephone cables), others may have relatively straightforward solutions.
These are our tips for identifying and resolving sluggish connectivity…
The cause: Overtaxed router. It’s rare to leave home computers on all the time, and modern TVs knock off after a few hours. Yet broadband routers rarely get time off.
The solution: When you don’t need to be online, unplug the router and reboot it. Try to do this regularly to clear its memory and update software, optimising performance.
The cause: Faulty equipment. The microfilters which plug into phone sockets are notoriously fragile, but any piece of broadband equipment could develop a fault.
The solution: To pinpoint possible issues, try replacing microfilters, swapping Ethernet leads and disconnecting cable splitters. You could also try borrowing a wireless router from a friend or neighbour in order to check that your own router isn’t the culprit.
The cause: Network congestion. Internet rush hour takes place between 7pm and 11pm, when every member of the family may be competing for connectivity.
The solution: Set on-demand content to download overnight rather than streaming live. Do the same for system updates, and turn off non-essential web-enabled devices in the evenings.
The cause: System faults. ISPs occasionally experience network failures. This might be down to damaged infrastructure, server problems or simply human error.
The solution: If a connection slows down or stops, use a 4G device to check your ISP’s website for outage reports. If other people are offline too, you’ll have to await a resolution.
The cause: Inefficient DNS servers. This is a bit technical, but ISPs may be instructing broadband routers to connect to the internet via slow or overloaded servers.
The solution: Switch router DNS servers by accessing its website interface and searching for DNS options. Check online to find a list of alternative server addresses.
The cause: Poor router positioning. If a WiFi router isn’t centrally located within a property, it might struggle to reach every corner of the building.
The solution: Try to position the router in a relatively central position on the entrance level of your home, off the ground and away from expanses of signal-muffling metal or concrete.
The cause: Lack of WiFi signal. Even placing your router in an optimal position won’t always counterbalance its modest internal aerial and limited range.
The solution: Non-Virgin Media customers should be able to replace the ISP’s router with a more powerful high street model, sporting external aerials or mesh repeaters.
The cause: Wireless interference. Most WiFi routers use the inefficient and congested 2.4GHz frequency by default, often leading to slow internet connections.
The solution: Switch dual-band routers to the 5GHz frequency. Turn off baby monitors or cordless phones, and experiment to see if microwaves or car alarms are causing interference.
The cause: Slower connections over WiFi. When you ring an ISP for tech support, they always ask you to plug a computer into your router – and with good reason.
The solution: Hardwired connections are always faster than wireless ones. Always connect devices via Ethernet cables or Powerline adaptors if possible, so as to reduce pressure on WiFi.