How to Speed Up Your Internet Connection

Slow internet can be disruptive, but you can fix it. Here’s how.
Emily Polner, Author
Catherine McNally, Editor
Last updated Sep 23, 2022

Slow internet speeds can be a drag. They can interfere with both work and play, and cause frustration in your workplace or household.

The good news is, there are a number of free and low-cost ways to troubleshoot your internet speed. We’ll go over what to do if your internet isn’t fast or performing as well as it should.

In this article
How to increase your internet speed for free
1. Clear your cache and cookies
2. Restart your modem and router
3. Move your router
4. Use a wired connection
5. Move your router antennas
6. Update your router’s firmware
7. Disconnect any unnecessary devices
8. Close any unnecessary apps or windows
9. Switch to a different Wi-Fi frequency band
10. Switch to a different web browser
11. Use an ad blocker
Other ways to make your internet faster
Don’t forget to regularly test your internet speed
FAQs
Bottom line

How to increase your internet speed for free

Speeding up your internet doesn’t have to cost you a dime. Here are some tried-and-true tactics for getting your browser to run faster that don’t call for upgrading to a more expensive plan or investing in fancier equipment.

1. Clear your cache and cookies

If you don’t remember the last time you cleared your cache or cookies, it’s probably time to do so. If it’s not cleared regularly, your cache can store a huge amount of data, which will slow your internet browser down significantly.

Deleting your browser’s cache and cookies may speed up your connection, but it will also help ensure you see the latest versions of the websites you visit. When older data is stored in your cache and cookies, it sometimes prevents newer site updates from loading.

2. Restart your modem and router

If you were plugged in all day, every day, you’d be tired too. That’s what happens with your modem and router—sometimes, they just need a bit of a reset in the form of unplugging and plugging to get back up to their normal speeds. Restarting your modem and router will also effectively clear out any tasks that have stalled.

Unplug the power cords from your router and modem to restart them. Don’t press any buttons that say “reset” because this may reset your devices to factory settings. Wait at least 30 seconds, then plug in your modem. Wait at least two minutes before plugging in the router, and then give your devices up to 10 minutes to fully reconnect.

3. Move your router

Your router’s location within your home or business can impact how fast your internet speed is. For example, if your router is up against a thick wall instead of in an open, centralized spot, your internet speed will likely suffer. Your router’s signal won’t be able to travel as quickly or efficiently when it’s obstructed.

To avoid slow internet speeds, don’t put your router:

  • Within 10 feet of microwaves, baby monitors, or other devices that use radio waves
  • Against thick walls or in corners
  • On the floor

4. Use a wired connection

Your internet data will always travel faster over a wired connection than it will through Wi-Fi. Wireless connections are fast enough for casual internet users and even a night in with Netflix.

But if you want to minimize lag on your gaming console or stop that buffer wheel from interrupting Zoom calls, you’ll want to use an Ethernet connection. Simply connect the Ethernet cable to the local area network (LAN) ports on the router and your device. All that’s left to do is hide the cord.

5. Move your router antennas

Your router’s antennas help distribute your Wi-Fi signal. If the antenna’s aren’t positioned properly, your signal could be disrupted or less powerful, thus slowing your internet down.

If your router needs to provide internet connection for both downstairs and upstairs in your home, for example, try turning the antennas at a slight angle. If you only need to use the internet on a single floor, point all of your antennas vertically for stronger coverage.

6. Update your router’s firmware

Firmware helps protect your internet connection from being affected by malicious activity and hackers. When your internet connection is slow, it might be because your router’s firmware is out of date.

You can update your router’s firmware yourself by downloading the latest firmware from your router’s manufacturer, and uploading them to your router. Remember to restart your router once you’ve updated your firmware to make sure the changes go into effect.

7. Disconnect any unnecessary devices

Your Wi-Fi plan likely has a maximum recommended amount of devices that should be connected. The higher your plan’s maximum speed is, the more devices you can connect without impacting your internet’s performance.

Your internet might be slow because you have too many devices connected to your network at the same time. Disconnect any devices you’re not currently using or don’t regularly use to see whether it makes a difference. You should also disconnect any devices you don’t recognize, as these could be unwanted guests who are using your Wi-Fi connection.

8. Close any unnecessary apps or windows

Leaving unnecessary apps, tabs, or browser windows open can take up your device’s memory. This means it may take longer for webpages to load, and your device may run more slowly.

For instance, if you have more than 20 tabs open on your Google Chrome browser, chances are, it will take longer for things to load than if you only had one tab open. Closing out any tabs you’re no longer using, and closing Google Chrome and opening it again will help you connect more quickly and efficiently.

9. Switch to a different Wi-Fi frequency band

Most modern routers support two frequency bands, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. 

  • The 2.4 GHz band is slower than the 5 GHz band, but its signals can reach further. 
  • The 5 GHz is faster, but its signals don’t extend as far.

If you’re experiencing a slow connection, try switching to the other band to see whether you experience a difference. For example, switching to the 5 GHz band and sitting closer to the router may help you see a boost in speed.

10. Switch to a different web browser

Some browsers load webpages more quickly than others, depending on how they were coded. Loading certain webpages and videos might be faster on one browser than another.

When your browser is underperforming, it may mean that its coding doesn’t align well with the websites you visit—and that’s OK. There are plenty of other free browser options that you can try out to see if your internet loads faster, such as:

11. Use an ad blocker

Ads can take a lot of time for your computer to load, and use up valuable bandwidth. Although using an ad blocker doesn’t actually increase your internet’s speed, it may help your webpages load faster by skipping out on loading ads.

Ad blockers work behind the scenes while a webpage or YouTube video is loading. The ad blocker checks to see whether any components of the webpage contain an ad, and if so, blocks it from appearing when the page loads.

Some popular free ad blockers include:

Other ways to make your internet faster

If you’re still finding that your internet is slow after trying each no-cost method, you may have to upgrade your current equipment or set up.

These may cost you some extra cash, but the productivity boost will be well worth it.

1. Extend or boost your Wi-Fi

If your Wi-Fi signal needs to reach a large area, it may make sense to extend or boost it. You can do this by:

  • Using a mesh network: More routers are better than one, and that’s exactly what a mesh network does—it gives you the option to set up smaller, satellite routers that connect to your main router. You can expand a mesh network however you see fit to get your desired coverage.
  • Getting a Wi-Fi extender: Wi-Fi extenders are placed between your existing router and the areas that need more coverage to bring your network’s signal closer to your devices that are connecting slowly.
  • Getting a Wi-Fi booster: A Wi-Fi booster boosts your Wi-Fi’s existing signal by rebroadcasting it to dead zones or devices that have a hard time staying connected.

2. Scan for computer viruses

Computer viruses can slow down your device—which means you’ll have a more difficult time browsing the web. This is mainly due to the fact that viruses typically use a lot of your computer’s memory and CPU.

If your internet is slow, it’s a good idea to scan your computer for malware, because you could have a virus. Invest in an antivirus program that will scan your device and help you get rid of detected viruses.

3. Buy a new router

It’s recommended you get a new router every three to five years. If you use a lot of smart home devices, you’ll want to replace your router closer to every three years than five. Using a router that’s several years old or outdated may slow down your internet. You want to be sure to use a router that’s compatible with your Wi-Fi plan and that is built for the latest connectivity standards.

You can either ask your internet service provider (ISP) for a new router, or buy your own. If you’re looking to buy your own, our experts suggest either the TP-Link Archer A54 router as a budget option or the Wi-Fi 6-enabled TP-Link Archer AX73.

4. Buy more data

Some internet plans come with a data cap, meaning there’s a limit to how much data you can use per month. Once you’ve surpassed the data cap, your internet speed might be throttled by your ISP. Data caps exist to ensure the best possible connection for everyone—there’s only so much bandwidth to go around.

If you want unlimited data, here are some providers that don’t have data caps:

5. Upgrade to a faster internet plan

Certain online activities are best done at faster speeds. If you’re using the internet to stream, game, or download large files, for example, you might need a faster internet plan. Likewise, if your business has recently expanded, you might need to upgrade to a different plan to accommodate a larger number of devices on the same network.

You can contact your current ISP and negotiate a rate for a higher speed plan, or shop around for a new plan and provider. For the fast speeds currently possible, we recommend going with a gigabit internet plan.

Don’t forget to regularly test your internet speed

We recommend testing your internet speed on a regular basis to make sure it’s running as expected. You can compare your measured internet speed with the maximum speed allotted on your internet plan to see whether you’re getting the fastest speed available to you.

To test your internet speed for free, visit Speedtest. Run the test with the default server, as well as with a few other servers of varying distances. A download speed of 50-100 Mbps is recommended for browsing the internet, gaming, and streaming on a few devices.

FAQs


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Why is my Wi-Fi so slow?

Your Wi-Fi could be slow for a number of reasons, including but not limited to, outdated equipment or firmware, computer viruses, or too many connected devices.


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Does Wi-Fi slow down with more users?

Wi-Fi can slow down when more users connect to it. This is because more bandwidth has to be shared and distributed amongst more devices, thus slowing your connection down. Most internet providers will give a maximum amount of devices they recommend connecting to each of their plans.


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Do neighbors affect internet speed?

Your neighbors can affect your internet speed if they are connecting to your Wi-Fi. When a certain number of devices are connected to your Wi-Fi network, your internet may slow down as a result.

Bottom line

If your internet is slow, there are a number of ways to make it run faster. You can disconnect unused devices, close open tabs and windows, and reposition your router to give your signal a boost.

Alternatively, you can extend your Wi-Fi network to cover more area, upgrade your router, or invest in faster Wi-Fi if your existing speed isn’t cutting it. Each time you make a change in your setup, be sure to run a speed test to determine whether the change was effective. Keep trying until you find the right solution — you got this!

Author Details
Emily Polner
Emily is a New York-based writer pursuing her lifelong passion of writing about technology. A social media and ecommerce expert, she explores the relationship between tech and privacy, as well as its impact on business and culture.