I first logged onto the Internet when I was a mere child living with my parents. I couldn’t have been more than 30. At that point my computer was about the same size as a fully developed Saint Bernard and about as slow. The Internet existed but it was still pretty useless. There it was, this huge expanse of potential but no one knew what to do with it. Everything was in text, there weren’t any pictures and it all seemed kind of fly by night. Porn would eventually change all that.
The first thing I remember finding that seemed at all interesting on the Internet was a real estate site from Los Angeles. I was stunned and shocked that I could browse (the text only) listings of homes for sale across the continent from me.
I was hooked.
Many evenings I sat with a cup of hot chocolate staring at the blinking amber text, slowly loading all the housing options in Encino, California.
It went something like this …
For sa …… (elapsed time 5 minutes)
le. Two bedro ……. (elapsed time 2 minutes)
om bungalow. (elapsed time 10 minutes)
$45 (elapsed time 2 minutes)
Because of the super-fast Internet speeds of today I can pull up that little tidbit of information in as little as … oh … 10 minutes or so. About half the time. Impressive.
In the words of the now departed fella, “I’m not stupid, but sometimes I do stupid things“. Not keeping track of my Internet speed over the past few years is one of those stupid things.
I actually did keep track of it judging by the number of holes punched into my office wall, it was just an unusual system is all. Once I realized my Internet was 7 fist holes slow, I decided it was time to do something about it.
Also, about 2 weeks ago my Internet connection got so bad I couldn’t in fact even connect to the Internet at all. What followed was a day long extravaganza of swearing, crying, smiling, scowling and eventually … surfing.
Several things were adding up to me having a really slow download speed. And I’m going to show you how to fix the problem if you have slow downloading too. But FIRST.
What the hell is download speed?
Download speed is the speed at which your computer can load “stuff” from the Internet. Like what stuff?
- video/audio streaming
- file downloading
So if it takes a long time for your computer to load any of these things, but the rest of your non-Internet related computer tasks like Photoshopping, Excel, Word etc. work fine, you probably have a poor download speed which is taking precious years off of your life and delaying the instant gratification you could be getting from Gawker.com.
Here’s a handy list of all the things I ended up doing that day to make my Internet 3x as fast.
If I had been doing speed tests regularly, and really understood them, I wouldn’t have spent 2 out of the past 4 years of my life waiting for Amazon.com to load.
To do a quick test to see how quickly your computer is downloading information from the Internet click here. The website is called Speedtest. Just click “Begin Test” when the site loads and it will tell you exactly how fast or slow your computer is downloading and uploading information.
Download speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Your download speed might range anywhere from something extraordinarily bad like 2 Mbps or something as astonishingly good as 50 Mbps.
Think of it in terms of driving. Going from one place to another at 2 Miles per hour isn’t going to get you there nearly as fast as if you were going 50 miles an hour.
When I tested my download speed before fixing anything my download speed was 4.77 Mbps. BAD. Really, really, bad.
By the end of the same day, after I fixed everything, my download speed was 28.65. Good. Very, very good.
When my download rate was only 4 Mbps I could click on a website, walk away, make a coffee, drink said coffee, draw my own stick figure porn, come back to the computer and STILL only half of the page will have loaded.
Bad. Especially for someone who makes their living … you know … ON THE INTERNET.
Before you scream fits that you aren’t getting a good download speed after taking the test, pay attention to what day it is and what time it is. You’ll always get a slower download speed at night (when everyone else who uses your Internet Service Provider is home using the Internet too). Because of this, test your speed at a couple of different times in the day and week.
Now that you’ve established you have a really crap download rate it’s time to check on your modem. An older modem might not be able to handle the faster download speeds of today. Even a 5 year old modem might not be able to keep up. If your modem is from your cable company ask if you can exchange it for a newer model. That’s what I did.
My Internet is provided by my local cable company so I had them come out and check to see if there were any issues with the cables running into my house. Indeed there was. The line running from my house across the street is damaged and needs to be repaired, so the technician booked an appointment to come back and fix it. He also took a look around my house and found an old splitter that another technician put on my house over 10 years ago. It was faulty and out of date and was barely conducting any signal at all. He replaced the splitter and my download speeds increased immediately.
Another thing my handy cable technician mentioned was the Internet package I had with my Internet Service Provider. I signed up for my Internet package when I first got Internet in this house 15 years ago and that was that. I never thought about it again and definitely didn’t think about upgrading it or looking at new packages.
You see, most Internet providers offer you a bunch of different Internet packages to choose from. They offer different maximum download speeds as well as different amounts you’re allowed to download.
I had a package that allowed for 15 Mbps. I’ve had this package for 15 years. It’s so useless that it became obsolete recently but my cable provider neglected to tell me this. Luckily the technician didn’t.
He suggested I get the 30 Mbps package even if it was more money because that’s how I was going to get more speed. As it turns out, the 30 Mbps package was $1 CHEAPER than my slower, 15 Mbps package for some reason. I signed up immediately.
My Internet download speed shot up again.
This is a big one. It may be that your Internet speed is fine and the thing that’s slowing everything down is your cruddy router. Try plugging your computer right into your modem instead of using your router and do the speed test again. If it’s remarkably faster then your router is the problem.
My router was a problem. So I started researching routers.
I ordered this Netgear Nighthawk from Amazon .
It’s a $200 router and worth every penny. It has a huge range so I can use my laptop anywhere inside or outside the house without losing signal. It has two bands, a 2.6 Gigahertz band and a 5 Gigahertz band. That means my AppleTV can be hooked up to one band, and my laptop to another. Someone can be watching streaming video while someone else is on the Internet and neither of your download speeds will slow down. GREAT for families with multiple download uses going on at the same time, like video streaming, gaming and browsing.
A good router makes a big difference. Upgrade your router at least once every 3 or 4 years.
This one is something most people don’t think about but you should because everyone is a cheater and a liar when it comes to the Internet. Probably even you. If you don’t protect your router with a password ANYONE in the area of the router signal can use it. So while you’re comfortable in your family room wondering why Netflix keeps pausing … your neighbour is comfortable in their family room illegally downloading the entire Beatles library through your Internet.
Once I realized I’d been experiencing really, really bad Internet service partly because of poor lines, connectors and modem I called my Internet Service Provider and complained. I explained that I’d been a great customer for years and I was incredibly disappointed that I was paying for what was supposed to be great service but in fact was getting terrible service.
They offered me $25 off of my monthly cable bill for a year. That’ll save me $300 this year.
That’s money I can now put towards the downpayment on a nice little bungalow in Encino.