7 Tips to Make Your Internet Faster Without Paying a Penny More

A woman waits for her internet to load. She looks bored. She has red hair and is wearing a pink hoodie.
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It seems like internet connection problems happen more often than they should in the modern world. You’re ready to jump on a Zoom call or stream the latest blockbuster and suddenly, your network isn’t cooperating. If you’ve upgraded internet service providers but are still struggling with bandwidth speed, you’ve got plenty of company.

While two-thirds of Americans have relatively fast internet with average top speeds of 119.03 Mbps, some households still struggle to find enough bandwidth. Let’s take a look at what’s contributing to slow internet speeds and how to get more bandwidth from your Wi-Fi.

Why Do I Have a Slow Internet Connection?

There can be a lot of different culprits contributing to a slow connection. But the most likely reason you experience slow internet speeds fits into one of these three categories.

1. It’s Your Internet Service Provider

Sometimes the problem isn’t you — it’s your provider. Network congestion in your neighborhood, outages and other infrastructure problems can translate into slow network speed.

2. It’s Your Wi-Fi Router

You might be getting the speed you need delivered to your home, but if your wireless router software isn’t up to date or your Wi-Fi signal is on a busy channel, it can result in low network bandwidth.

3. It’s Your Device

Some internet speed problems are a result of multiple devices using too much bandwidth. The good news is there are settings you can tweak to regulate traffic usage to the wireless devices you use most often.

Work from home and need tech fixes fast? We’ve got you covered with a guide on how to optimize your remote work setup.

What Is Bandwidth?

Before we get any deeper into bandwidth monitoring tools, it helps to ensure we’re on the same page about what bandwidth means. Bandwidth can sometimes be confused with speed because many internet sites use the terms interchangeably.

Bandwidth refers to how much data can be exchanged between two points within a network. It’s expressed with a measurement of megabits per second (Mbps). Mbps is essentially a data transfer rate, but is sometimes referred to as internet speed. Think of it as a measurement of how fast a data handshake can transfer information packets from one place to another.

How to Test the Speed of Your Internet Connection

The simplest way to troubleshoot your network performance is to start with an online internet speed test. Before you run the speed test, make sure you don’t have any devices streaming video, downloading large files or doing anything that could cause an internet bandwidth bottleneck.

You can test your internet speed here

Test your speed at different times during the day and on multiple devices to get a sense of the range of internet speeds you’re getting. It won’t pinpoint the exact problem, but variable speeds at busy times of day or on certain devices could provide a clue about what’s slowing down your internet access.

How to Troubleshoot Your Internet Connection

Let’s start with the basics that may boost your internet bandwidth before we get into more complicated or expensive fixes. Here’s the three-step process.

Clean Up Your Devices

First, check your computer and other devices to make sure you’ve got the latest updates. This includes running antivirus software or scans to address malware, deleting unused apps and files to free up storage and clearing your cache.

Pro Tip

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Reboot Your Router

Next, if it’s been a while since your router was rebooted, it’s worth a shot to restart and check your router settings. Make sure your router has the latest firmware updates and security fixes and that no one in the neighborhood is hitching a free ride on your Wi-FI. Try moving your router to a spot where an obstacle like a wall or a large appliance isn’t blocking the signal.

Contact Your ISP

Finally, your internet service provider (ISP) may have some good advice about how to increase your network bandwidth, like setting up a secondary network. If your bandwidth monitoring turned up sluggish speeds at certain times of day, it could be that your ISP is struggling to increase bandwidth to your neighborhood during peak internet usage.

Be prepared to hold your ground against your ISP’s suggestions to upgrade to faster speeds, especially if you’re not getting the quality of service you’re paying for now.

7 Tips to Make the Most of Your Internet Speed

If you’re still trying to figure out how to get more bandwidth out of the broadband you have, these tips can help.

  1. Change the channel on your Wi-Fi
  2. Reconfigure your QoS
  3. Get a better router
  4. Try a Wi-Fi extender
  5. Reduce devices on your network
  6. Use a wired connection
  7. Upgrade your internet plan or switch providers

1. Change the Channel on Your Wi-Fi

If you’re struggling with low bandwidth, it might be time to change the channel. Your router automatically operates on certain channels, but you can force it to switch the signal to a channel with fewer users in your area. This guide can walk you through which channels to use and give you directions on how to make the change.

2. Reconfigure Your QoS

It sounds like tech speak, but QoS, or quality of service protocols, prioritize which activities get first dibs on bandwidth usage. You can adjust the QoS in your router settings so that next time someone is streaming Netflix, but you’re on a work-related Teams call, Teams will get priority.

3. Get a Better Router

You get what you pay for and routers are no exception. Ideally, you want a high-end dual-bandwidth router that lets you use two different frequencies simultaneously. And yes, the old-school one your cable company gave you with your broadband package is probably part of the problem.

4. Try a Wi-Fi Extender

Wi-Fi extenders or repeaters won’t increase your internet speed but they will expand the reach of your wireless connection. If you have a room in the house that seems to be a dead zone, extenders can be a spot fix for intermittent Wi-Fi signal problems.

5. Reduce Devices on Your Network

Check your router to see which devices are connected to your network. Because of the ubiquitousness of the Internet of Things, modern homes have tons of smart devices battling for bandwidth. Disconnect what you don’t regularly use like that smart scale or toaster oven.

6. Use a Wired Connection

Wi-Fi signals can be finicky, but you can remove the guesswork out of your bandwidth problems by connecting your computer to an ethernet cable and using wired connections. One benefit of using a wired ethernet connection is that it’ll be easier to pinpoint the source of your slow bandwidth.

7. Upgrade Your Internet Plan or Switch Providers

Last but not least, maybe it’s time to consider breaking up with your internet provider or buckling down and paying for the speed you need. Switching providers can buy you more speed at lower costs if you’re willing to sign up for a longer-term contract.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Increasing Your Network Bandwidth

What Is Bandwidth Throttling?

If your internet bandwidth performance slows down with certain apps or activities, your ISP could also be engaging in bandwidth throttling. There are a few legitimate reasons your ISP might monitor bandwidth and slow down your speed intentionally, like network congestion or data caps. If you want to avoid bandwidth throttling, use a virtual private network (VPN). 

Will Using a VPN Increase Bandwidth?

Using a virtual private network (VPN) will only increase your speed if your internet service provider is throttling your bandwidth. VPNs are primarily used to improve online privacy by masking locations and ISP addresses, but they also avoid bandwidth throttling by obscuring online activities from your internet provider.

Can I Have More Than One ISP?

It may seem a little drastic, but there’s no reason you can’t have two internet service providers and two networks running simultaneously. You can even have two different types of internet — perhaps satellite and broadband — at the same time. Just be sure you’re ready to pay double the price for double the bandwidth.

Kaz Weida is a senior staff writer at The Penny Hoarder covering saving money and budgeting. As a journalist, she has written about a wide array of topics including finance, health, politics, education and technology for the last decade.