Why You Should Check Your Internet Speed Regularly
Slightly sexier than saying to a friend or loved one, “Hey, can you give me a minute? I need to finish testing the download speed so we can go to the party. ” But if you don’t check your internet speed on a weekly basis, you might not know what the problem is. You’re unlikely to notice the difference between 150 Mbps and 80 Mbps download speeds when browsing the web, watching (1080p) YouTube, or chatting with friends, but if you’re downloading a huge Fortnite update, why bump a slow lane?
Speed tests are not time-consuming or difficult
Most people will probably be able to run the Netflix fast.com test once a week or so, but there are a few caveats to consider before starting testing. To understand if you are getting the speed you want from your ISP, you first need to know what you are paying for. (Call them to ask if you forgot.) For the purposes of this article, we will assume that you have purchased a “speed up to 150 Mbps” package.
Take your fastest device. Preferably it is a desktop or laptop with a wired gigabit connection to your router. A wireless AC device will also work (like an expensive laptop or a high-end smartphone that you purchased at some point in the past few years), but only if you have a wireless AC router to pair it with. If you are using wireless-n for any of these, this test may not be very practical if you are paying for faster internet speeds than what your devices can connect with.
In an ideal world, your router will do the testing for you. You will find this kind of setting on mesh systems like Google Wifi , which can measure the speed between your router and your ISP, as well as the speed between the router and any device connected to it. Other mesh systems like Eero , Orbi, and Amplifi also have various speed tests built directly into their apps and, depending on the system, may even automatically check (and graph) your connection speed once a day.
What is slowing down your connection?
The point of all this testing – and running the tests on the fastest connection you can make between the router and the device – is that you are trying to find bottlenecks. If you’re paying for a 150Mbps data plan but are using old wireless-n devices with a crappy wireless-n router, you might find it difficult to even achieve a stable 150Mbps (or so) speed around your home or apartment – even if you are sitting in the same room as your router.
If you are connecting using a wired gigabit connection and only see 80 Mbps in the fast.com test, then there are a lot of problems that can arise: you may actually be connecting at 100 Mbps and not 1000 Mbps. eventually . Your ISP may be experiencing some network congestion right now. Someone may have hacked your system and ate your connection, launching a huge BitTorrent server. Maybe fast.com will screw up and you should check the results with another speed testing site .
If you never get great download speeds from your ISP but pay them a fortune for performance, that’s a whole different story, requiring a little more troubleshooting. For now, let’s assume that everything is fine and you get exactly what you pay for … until the weekly testing finds an issue.
What to do with all your test data
Regular self-tests of your network can give you the confidence that you are connecting at maximum speed, or the excruciating uncertainty that something is wrong with your setup.
If you’ve tested and your download speed is about the same as your ISP’s plan, remember what your tests usually report. Then check your network in the same way about once a week. If you suddenly notice a sharp drop in speed, you can do a little quick troubleshooting:
- Do you see the same speeds when testing on different devices? (This assumes they can connect to your router at higher speeds than promised by your ISP.)
- Do you see the same slow speed throughout the day?
- If you have a separate router and modem, try resetting one, retesting, then resetting the other and testing again. It is better?
- If you have a separate router and modem, try connecting a device (such as a desktop computer) directly to the modem and try again. Then reconnect the desktop to the router and the router to the modem again. This hardware firewall is important.
- If you call your ISP, what speeds do they see on their end? (In other words, this is their problem or your problem.)
If your ISP is at fault, alert them and find out what they can do to get you the network performance you deserve. And if all these signs indicate that the problem is on your side, the exciting troubleshooting task begins. You may need to replace your modem or router. New wireless hotspots in your area may be causing a lot of interference. There might be something wrong with the Ethernet port on your desktop PC. Perhaps a recent driver update for your wireless card did something wrong. Your Ethernet cable may be damaged.
While troubleshooting isn’t the funniest thing to do, at least you’ll know you have a problem that you may not have known about before, as few probably pay attention to their internet connection speed if everyone seems to be fast enough. By checking your network speed regularly, you will always know if you are getting the best performance.