Top 10 Ways To Deal With A Slow Internet Connection

Sometimes, slow internet is the universe's way of telling you to go play outside — and sometimes it feels like a cruel joke to destroy your productivity. Here are 10 ways to troubleshoot, fix or just survive a slow internet connection.

10. Check Your Speeds (And Your Plan)

You'll rarely achieve anything like the maximum speed available on your connection, and you need to have realistic expectations of what's possible. ADSL is slow than ADSL2 which is slower than most NBN connections. One other thing to bear in mind is shaping. Many plans slow your connection speed after you've used your monthly bandwidth allowance.

If you're stuck in an area where pair-gain means ADSL is your only option, slow speed is going to be a fact of life. If your connection promises ADSL2 but you never get above 1MBps, it might be time to complain to your provider.

9. Troubleshoot Your Hardware

The first basic stop: give your modem and router a quick reset (that is, turn them off and on again) and see if that helps. Check the other computers in your house to see if their internet is slow, too — if the problem only happens on one computer, the problem is that machine, not your router or modem. Run through these troubleshooting steps to see if it's a hardware problem. Then, once you fix your router or modem (or replace it), you'll be browsing speedily once again. Check out our complete guide to knowing your network for more router tips.

8. Fix Your Wi-Fi Signal

If you're using Wi-Fi, you might find that your router and internet are fine, but your wireless signal is weak, causing a slowdown. In that case, you may need to reposition, tweak and boost your router with a few tricks. There are more than we could share in one paltry paragraph — in fact, we have a whole top 10 list just for fixing Wi-Fi, so check that out if you suspect wireless signal is the problem.

7. Turn Off Bandwidth-Hogging Plugins And Apps

If your hardware seems to be in working order, see if any other programs are hogging the connection. For example, if you're downloading files with BitTorrent, regular web browsing is going to be slower. You could also try installing extensions such as AdBlock Plus or FlashBlock, which will block some of the bandwidth-hogging ads, animations and videos that can use up your connection. They won't solve all your issues, but they can at least help make a slow connection feel more usable.

6. Try A New DNS Server

When you type an address such as lifehacker.com.au into your browser, your computers uses DNS to look up and translate that name into a computer-friendly IP address. Sometimes, though, the servers your computer uses to look up that information can have issues, or go down entirely. Check out our guide to finding the fastest DNS servers for more information. If your default DNS servers aren't having problems, then you probably won't find too much of an improvement with an alternative server — but it might speed up your browsing by a few milliseconds, at least. One reminder: if your provider offers unmetered browsing for services such as iView, be cautious when changing DNS details, since this can mean those services are metered and will count against your download allowance. Photo by Studio 37 (Shutterstock).

5. Optimise Your Web For A Slow Connection

Troubleshooting slow internet can take a while, and in the meantime you still need to browse. Or maybe you're at a cafe or on a plane, and there's nothing you can do about your slow speeds. In that case, it's time to optimise your web for a slower connection: use mobile or HTML versions of your favourite sites, disable images, and use features such as Opera Turbo. In fact, we recommend setting up a secondary browser on your laptop for just such a situation — it can really make a difference when you need to work on a slow connection.

4. Work Smart

If you need to get work done on your slow connection, you may have to prioritise tasks differently. Separate your tasks into bandwith-heavy and bandwidth-light ones. Get the light ones done when you're on your slow connection, and group all the bandwidth-heavy tasks together so you can do them if and when you get faster access. Similarly, work outside your browser whenever possible — if you're doing basic writing, do it in your favourite text editor instead of in your browser. If you plan your work ahead of time, you can at least make the best of a bad situation. Photo remixed from Kirill__M (Shutterstock).

3. Call Your ISP

If you've gone through all the necessary troubleshooting steps and your internet is still slow, then it's time to call your internet service provider and see if the problem is on their end. Remember: don't automatically assume they have done something wrong, and treat your customer service representative with respect. You're much more likely to get good results. Check out our guide to getting better customer service for tips on dealing with the situation. Photo by sergign (Shutterstock).

2. Find A New Provider

If your ISP can't help you (maybe they don't provide the speeds you want, or maybe you're just sick of their horrible customer service), it's time to look elsewhere. Your choices at a given address will vary. If you're really lucky, you'll have the option of an NBN connection. In city areas, you may be lucky and have a choice of different ADSL providers and the option of cable — but you might be stuck with a single ADSL connection option (though you can still potentially choose who supplies you that connection). Using a 3G or 4G hotspot is another option, but data is much more expensive in that context. Photo remixed from Kim Scarborough and Andreas Gradin.

1. Use Your Time Productively

If you're lucky, you can get your internet speeds back up to snuff quickly and stress-free. But, if not, you can at least try to put a good spin on it: As long as your work isn't too bandwidth-intensive, slow internet could actually make you more productive. After all, if Facebook takes a minute to load, you're a lot less likely to pop over for a "quick break" (that turns into an hour-long photo-fest) when you're supposed to be working.


Comments

    And the unmentioned top way to improve the speed of your internet:

    Don't vote for the Liberals in the upcoming election.

      The Liberals way of implementing the NBN is much more efficient. Instead of trying to put the fibre optic cables in every house in Australia, Liberal is going to connect all the nodes with a fibre optic connection. In doing this just about every single place in Australia will have a significant internet boost. Later, the rest of the NBN cables will be placed meaning a much better and thought out plan, more people will have faster internet and get the complete NBN infrastructure much faster. Therefore meaning you are better off hoping for liberal winning. And even if you are going to vote for labor you're obviously not a very smart nor bright person as Kevin Rudd has sabotage the labor just to benefit his qualities.

        Two points: both models involve sending out to nodes, and there's no guarantee or provision in the Coalition plan that the network will be extended later -- there has been mention of the idea individual premises or houses could do this, but no detail. The speed of the Coalition approach is very much dependent on copper remaining in place, and that brings a different set of complications to the Labor approach (which brings the complication of a slower rollout).

        What Angus said. Also, each Liberal node will need a set of batteries (i.e. UPS), which will need to be maintained and replaced every 3 years (approx a total of 0.5M batteries assuming 80,000 cabinets with 6 batteries each). Along with being vague on the details on the ongoing cost to Telstra to use the copper network, and paying for this maintenance of batteries, the ongoing/maintenance cost for FTTN is much, much higher, let alone environmental cost for all those batteries. Also, not too sure how keen councils will be on a cabinet on each street corner. I'm happy to wait longer for a more robust solution, which has nodes in telephone exchanges, and the save money on the interest of borrowed money whilst interest rates are low.

        Last edited 01/07/13 11:52 am

        Much more efficeint! Build node boxes on every street then render them all obsolete when they run fibre to the home! Unless they have no intention of ever doing that.

        Actually, it's not more efficient. The Malcolm piecemeal approach is terrible. It will cost a lot more in the long run. Those cabinets have to built, only to be dismantled when the inevitable fibre connections to homes and businesses will be required.

        To demonstrate by analogy, imagine you have a number of plumbing jobs that need to be done around your home. What's cheaper, getting the plumber out to do the jobs all at once or getting the plumber out one job at a time? Obviously it's better to get the plumber out once. It's the same reason that renovating costs a lot more than building new.

        Having the network upgraded a bit at a time is not very efficient. I think it's naive to think that we won't need a proper fibre network eventually (i.e. the copper will need replacing).

        From actual telstra workers installing this way is the dumbest way to do it will cost twice as much and your connection will only be as good as they crapy lines running to your house we will just keep falling further behind the rest of the world because this country's decisions are made by fossils that belong museum not making decisions for one of the biggest country's in the world.

    The majority of Apple customers need to read this. After spending 2 years working for AppleCare they always seem to call Apple first before doing anything else if their internet is not working or the connection is slow

    You forgot to mention that ADSL is also effected by distance. If you live further than 5k's from your exchange you are going to suffer, no matter what you do. Before you go ringing your ISP and telling them what assholes they are, find out where your local exchange is. That's the Telstra building where all the copper goes. If your close and you get crap speeds get on to them, and try the things above, if your on the fringe it could be time to go wireless. My 2 cents... Typhus, why the hell anyone would ring Apple if they have a slow connection, just comes down to the intelligence of Apple users. Oh I'm going to cop it for that....

      Typhus, why the hell anyone would ring Apple if they have a slow connection, just comes down to the intelligence of Apple users. Oh I'm going to cop it for that....

      While I hate Apple and normally jump at the chance to have a go at them or the people that use their products, I do need to point out that this kind of thing isn't restricted to Apple users. I did a stint at Microsoft technical support a few years ago and the amount of people calling up for non-Microsoft related problems, including internet connectivity issues, was absurd. I had one guy that called up because Norton Internet Security wasn't working on his version of Windows and was insisting it was Microsoft's problem to fix.

      It's as if the first thing they think about whenever something goes wrong with their computer is that "It must be Microsoft/Apple's fault! That's the only logical conclusion!".

      Do not under estimate the end user.

    If the company you work for is charging consumers for extended warranty support that is already covered by Australian consumer law, it sounds a little churlish when you don't approve of them making every use of the service.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now