How to Improve Slow Internet in Minutes

graphic of desktop with buffering screen

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There’s nothing worse than wanting to enjoy a night in watching Netflix, only to spend half the evening staring at a buffering screen.

We’ve all experienced this at some point. Slow internet is frustrating. It interrupts your favorite shows, meetings, and work. And it’s always at the most inopportune times. It’s more maddening when you pay for fast internet and still deal with buffers. 

Now, with the pandemic, everyone is online more than ever. How we interact with friends, do business, and even show up to work relies on fast, reliable internet. If you’re experiencing poor service, try these quick fixes before upgrading your plan or buying a new router. Sometimes, moving your equipment higher on a shelf is all it takes.

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Reset Your Router & Modem

Internet and WiFi get confused a lot, but they’re actually two separate things – and they require different equipment. Your modem delivers internet to your house, but your router is what gives you WiFi. The router connects all your wired and wireless devices to the internet connection. 

Resetting (also called power cycling) your router and modem is one of the easiest ways to try and boost your connection speed. Sometimes routers and modems get backed up from overuse. Power cycling helps clear their memory, allowing it to run smoothly. It’s a simple but effective way to boost your network. 

Quick Steps:

  1. Unplug your router first and then your modem.
  2. Wait thirty seconds to one minute after unplugging.
  3. Then, plug it back in, wait a few for the activity lights to glow.
  4. Once it lights up, try to connect to the internet again.

Restart Your Computer

Restarting your computer is another version of power cycling. Sometimes, our computers need a quick restart to run better, like routers and modems. Restarting your computer is one of the best troubleshooting techniques. It can also save time and help with other computer issues and updates, like restoring memory leaks or overheating. You’ve probably restarted a computer before, but to be sure follow these steps.

Quick Steps:

  1. Save all open documents.
  2. Exit all programs.
  3. Shut down your computer, and wait a few minutes.
  4. Then, restart your computer.
  5. Once fully on, connect to the internet and see if it’s faster.

Use an Ethernet Connection

Your router directs network traffic, but did you know you can plug your computer directly into the router to boost WiFi? WiFi signals are prone to connection issues. Plugging in your computer directly to the source decreases connectivity issues.

To direct-link your computer, you’ll need an ethernet cable. If you can’t move closer to the router, you will need either a longer ethernet cable or a network switch to relocate.

When ready, plug the ethernet cable into the correct ports on your router and computer, and wait one minute. Your connection should be instantaneous on your computer. And, you can still connect to WiFi on the same router.

desk workspace graphic

Relocate Your Router

If your router is hiding in a corner or some far away area where nobody would find it, you may have connectivity issues at some point. 

Most people leave their routers next to their modem. But it may not be the best place for it. Routers work much better in a location near the center of the house or at a higher elevation. This helps send WiFi signals to multiple devices evenly.

However, before you move your router, there’s a few things you need to know:

  1. Some routers are router/modem combos. If this is the case for you, you don’t need to worry about router location because you get internet through a phone line. Moving this box means you would need a longer phone line. 
  2. If your modem and router are separate, the only thing needed to move your router is a longer ethernet cable. The router is connected to the modem via an ethernet cable.
  3. Some routers come with antennas. Those antennas help disperse the signal. Try moving them around. But don’t leave them all facing in one direction.

Play around with the location and check your connection each time you move your equipment. Sometimes this is the easiest way to improve slow internet – not a new router.

Switch To a 5 GHz Radio Band

WiFi networks use radio signals in various frequency lengths to transmit data from one device to another. Many routers these days let you switch between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. The differences between these two frequencies lie in network speed and wireless range. 

The 5 GHz frequency usually supports faster internet speeds. This is because a 5 GHz network can carry about twice as much data per unit of time compared to a 2.4 GHz frequency. 

Knowing when to use these frequencies is important. A lot of modern appliances also run off the 2.4 GHz frequency band, like microwaves. This can interfere with your router’s signal, causing a slow connection. Switching to the 5GHz frequency band gives you a faster connection because there’s less interference. 

Quick Steps:

  1. To change the frequency, log in to your router via the app or browser (call your internet provider if you don’t know what this is).
  2. Navigate to Settings.
  3. Adjust the wireless frequency band to 5 GHz.
  4. Give your router a few minutes to adjust settings.
  5. Then, reconnect your device and see if you notice any improvement.

Unplug Devices You Aren’t Using

Today, we expect our internet signal to support however many devices we want. But this isn’t always the case. Too many devices bog down a router’s signal and cause slow WIFI. 

Most likely, you have devices connected to WiFi that you aren’t using at the moment. If you’re on your computer, chances are you don’t need your phone using WiFi at the same time. This goes for other people in the household.

Unplug, or turn off devices you aren’t using at the moment. This helps increase your WiFi signal by removing unneeded stress on your router. If you are still experiencing slow internet, keep reading.

Prioritize Devices On Your Network

Prioritizing devices on your WiFi network is similar to unplugging, but with a few technical differences. As stated, too many devices on one network will slow WiFi signal, especially with streaming or gaming. This may not be the case for those paying for the fastest internet plan. But the sluggish signal is noticeable for those paying for a slower plan.

smart devices in a row

“Prioritizing” means setting up the importance of specific devices on your router. Your router picks up on this command and gives these devices dibs on data. 

For example, if someone is streaming Netflix in the house and you need to start a Zoom meeting, the router will give your device (the Zoom meeting) higher priority. Netflix may run slow during this time, but that depends on your internet speed in general. 

Only a few routers come with this feature. 

To start, log in to your router’s admin settings and find the Quality of Service section (sometimes labeled at QoS). If you don’t see a QoS section, your router probably doesn’t have this option. If it does, you can adjust settings, devices, and of course, prioritize as needed.

Change Your WiFi Password

Don’t be surprised if updating your WiFi password improves your internet connection. Changing your WiFi password every few months is always a good idea for security reasons. It also keeps unwanted guests from using your WiFi, which slows the bandwidth. 

To change your password, you need to know your current WiFi login and the name of the network (SSID). The password might be listed as a WPA, security key, or passphrase. Log in to your router via the app or browser and choose a strong password to replace it.

Final Thoughts

Having faster internet doesn’t always mean upgrading your internet plan, buying a new router, or adding additional equipment like access points. Not everyone wants to upgrade, and you shouldn’t have to.

Instead, try these tips first. You’ll get the maximum speed possible even with multiple users on your network. If you still have slow internet after using our tips, maybe it is time to upgrade your service. Look at our list of high-speed internet providers to find the best service to fit your lifestyle.

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Paula Novo
With over four years of telecom experience, Paula Novo is the Site Editor for HighSpeedOptions. She has helped develop the criteria by which HighSpeedOptions reviews and recommends internet service providers. Paula also leads HighSpeedOptions' coverage of the digital divide, broadband policy, and ISP reviews.