Plagued by slow broadband speeds? Take matters into your own hands.
In the age of on-demand TV and home working, it’s absolutely critical to have a decent broadband speed in your home or place of work. Unfortunately, despite considerable investment, the UK’s broadband network can at best be described as patchy. There are huge fluctuations in average connection speed from one street to the next, while overburdened exchanges often creak under the strain of peak loads. This can be particularly frustrating from a work perspective, when efficiency is hindered by flaky download and upload speeds.
What many people fail to realise is that broadband speed depends on far more than just your connection to the local exchange. Here are ten steps that everyone can take to try and improve their broadband speed:
- Investigate the current situation. Don’t just assume that the speed you have now is all you’ll ever get. A website like Broadband Speedchecker can identify current and optimal speeds at your address; switching broadband providers (particularly to a fibre optic broadband service) may significantly improve achievable line speeds.
- Use the best browser. While many people continue to rely on the now-defunct Internet Explorer, other browsers have features that can pre-load pages (Chrome) or compress them prior to download (Opera). Always keep your browser up to date as well, so the latest web pages display quickly and smoothly.
- Prevent unnecessary software from hogging bandwidth. Many programs on modern computers automatically connect to the internet, but not all of them are as essential as antivirus software or Windows Update. You can manually prevent programs from going online, or use an app like PC Speed Up to identify unnecessary activities. Similar apps or programs can be sourced for Apple and Linux-powered devices.
- Download an optimiser. More tech-savvy readers may wish to acquire free software like TCP Optimizer. Compatible with every version of Windows from XP onwards, it adjusts TCP/IP parameters and other technical criteria to suit your connection speed.
- Connect through your main phone point. Satellite phone points will provide slower data transfers than the main phone socket in your home, though they’re still generally faster than WiFi. Another option that can be quicker than WiFi is a Powerline adaptor, which distributes broadband through plug sockets in a home or office.
- Perform hardware maintenance. Deleting temporary internet files and unused programs can make a significant difference to how many files are clogging up your machine. Every installed program or cached file slows down the processor slightly, so remove duplicate programs and obsolete files on a regular basis.
- Reposition any WiFi routers. If a hardwired connection isn’t an option (e.g. for tablet users) try to position the WiFi router away from electrical devices like microwaves or speakers. Use a long Ethernet cable to locate it centrally within your home or place of work, and don’t stash it in a cupboard that could block signals.
- Strike a balance between speed and security. Viruses and spyware can slow your computer down, but the same can be true of antivirus software. Some security programs scan every incoming file, webpage or document, slowing your device to a crawl. Choose a good antivirus package but beware of its maximum security settings.
- Don’t use the internet outside peak hours. This is a useful tip for the self-employed, home-based staff or anyone who benefits from flexible working hours. The internet is slowest between 7pm and 10pm, so try to avoid being online during these hours. After 10pm, download speeds will rise rapidly and stay strong until mid-morning.
- Consider a second line. If all else fails, installing an additional line can be beneficial. There may be tenancy restrictions in rented offices or homes, but it isn’t difficult to get a second line fitted if you own your premises. Remember that two lines can be bonded together to double the total connection speed on offer.