Slow internet is at best a headache and at worst, a work or school nightmare. We’ve all struggled with it at one point or another. It can be really frustrating to pay good money for your internet connection, only to wind up experiencing slow internet speeds. The good news is, there are several different ways to increase your internet speeds and get back to doing all your favorite at-home activities, whether you’re having virtual happy hours with friends or streaming the newest movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. Keep reading for help troubleshooting your slow internet speeds.

Check Your Internet Speeds

The first thing you should do before trying to increase your internet speeds is check what speeds you’re actually getting—you can do this using our free internet speed test. Within just a few seconds, you’ll know your download speeds, and you can check your upload speeds and latency simply by clicking “Show More Info” beneath your result. Make sure you do this a few times until you get a semi-consistent number, then write that down so you can compare later.

Internet Speed Test Results

Then, you’ll want to log into your internet service provider (ISP) account and check what speeds your plan includes. With internet plans, the speeds listed refer to the maximum you’ll experience—it’s typical to frequently have slower speeds than the listed maximum. For example, I’m on a plan that can get up to 300Mbps download speeds, yet I just did the internet test and was “only” getting 110Mbps (110Mbps is still rather fast, but hey, it’s not 300). Before switching to a faster internet plan, try a few of our quick tips to speed up your internet connection.

How to Speed Up Your Internet Connection

There are a number of different ways to speed up your internet, including things you can try without paying extra money and investing in better equipment or a faster internet plan.

How to speed up internet without paying:

  1. Turn off unused devices
  2. Exit unused applications
  3. Move your router closer to your device
  4. Reboot your router
  5. Make sure your WiFi is password-protected (to ensure no one is stealing your internet)
  6. Check for malware or viruses
  7. Clear your cache
  8. Use an ethernet cable

Paid ways to speed up your internet connection:

  1. Buy a new router, laptop, or phone
  2. Buy a WiFi range extender
  3. Upgrade your internet plan or switch to a new one

Turn Off Unused Devices

One quick and easy thing you can try to increase your internet speeds is to turn off unused devices, such as:

  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • Smart home devices
  • Smart TVs
  • Video game consoles.

For instance, you may close your laptop at the end of your workday instead of turning it off, assuming that it’s idle, but it’s actually still connected to the internet. Plus, many devices nowadays automatically install updates without needing approval, which means they could be using bandwidth without you even knowing it. If enough unused devices are connected to the internet, they could be slowing your internet down. Being diligent about turning off these devices can gain you a little extra speed.

Exit Unused Applications

You may not know this, but many apps on your laptop or desktop are constantly downloading or uploading data in the background even when you aren’t using them. Web browsers, such as Chrome and Safari, are big culprits. You probably know which apps you aren’t currently using, so go ahead and turn those off, but there may be some running you’re unaware of.To check which apps are running on a Windows computer, type in “Task Manager” in your search bar. On a MacBook, you’ll want to search for “Activity Monitor” and open that up. The section you’ll want to scan is the “Network” section, which will tell you how much data each app is currently using. You can then exit apps directly from that Task Manager or Activity Monitor.

Activity monitor on laptop

Move Your Router

This may sound kind of goofy, but moving your router really works. That’s because your WiFi router sends external signals every which way, but these signals have a somewhat short range, meaning objects can interfere with them. As you can imagine, if objects block these signals, this can reduce your internet speeds.

A simple fix is to move your router to a better location within your house or apartment. Make sure you move it to an open space close to where you typically use your internet—a central location is probably best. You don’t want it in the corner behind your couch or a table. And weirdly enough, there are a few objects that are extra no-nos when it comes to putting a router near them. These include:

  • Microwaves
  • Fish tanks
  • Mirrors

So basically we’re saying, don’t put your router in the kitchen, the bathroom, or in your aquarium.

Reboot Your Router

Another quick tip for speeding up your internet is to reboot your WiFi router. Your router, much like a computer, runs background processes and caches data. Because of this, it should be rebooted fairly frequently to clear up background information.

Rebooting your WiFi router is easy:

  • Disconnect the router’s power cord.
  • Wait at least 30 seconds.
  • Plug your router back in.

You should find that you’ll get a little speed boost from this.

Make Sure Your WiFi is Password-Protected

This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people are still using an unsecured WiFi connection in their homes. If you’re one of those people, make sure you secure your connection right away by adding a password (one that’s not easy to guess). Unsecured connections tend to run slowly because anyone within reach could connect to your internet, whether knowingly or unknowingly (since many phones are set to connect to whatever WiFi connections are available). Depending on your ISP, you may be able to just log into your internet account and change it there. Not every ISP allows you to do that, though.

Here’s how to change or set up your WiFi password using your laptop:

  • Connect your laptop to your router with an ethernet cable.
  • Open a web browser and type in your router’s IP address into the address bar. You can find your IP address on the side or bottom of the router or look up the model of your modem online.
  • Your IP address will take you to your ISP’s page. Enter “admin” for the username and password, and if that doesn’t work, the password might be “password” or there may not be a password.
  • After that, steps may vary. When in doubt, look for a section called “Wireless” or “WiFi” and you should be able to find your password to change it or the password section to set one up.

Check for Malware or Viruses

If you’re recognizing a sudden drop in internet speeds (and processing speeds) on your computer, malware may be to blame. Sometimes these viruses aren’t readily detectable on your computer, so you’ll need to run an antivirus software. Thankfully, there are several free malware removal programs you can try. If for some reason, none of those work, you may have to opt for a paid virus removal software.

Clear Your Cache

Clearing your cache only takes a few seconds and should immediately boost your internet connection. Your computer cache stores data, such as information on social media sites or websites you visit, so that when you return to those same sites later, you’ll have a shorter wait time. While this is a great function, it can slow down your data speeds if you aren’t disciplined about clearing your cache. Whichever browser you use, you’ll want to clear your cache on that browser.

For example, here’s how you clear your cache in Chrome:

  • Click the triple-dot button on the upper right of the Chrome screen.
  • Select “More Tools” then “Clear Browsing Data.”
  • Choose the period of time you want to delete cached info (ranging from “last hour” to “all time”).
  • Checkmark the boxes of what info you want to clear (browsing history, download history, cookies, caches images and files, etc.).

Clear the cache in Safari by following these steps:

  • Click the Safari menu on the upper left-hand corner.
  • Choose “Preferences.”
  • Click the “Advanced” tab.
  • Select the box that says “Show Develop menu in menu bar.”
  • Exit out of preferences.
  • From the menu, select “Develop” then “Empty Cache.”

Use an Ethernet Cable

I know, I know, it’s the time of wireless connections, but using a wired connection via an ethernet cable can make a huge difference when it comes to speeding up your internet connection. If you have devices, such as your computer, close enough to your router, you can connect your device to the router using an ethernet cable. It’s a win-win situation, because your device will experience faster speeds AND you’ll be saving network bandwidth for other devices you can’t connect with a cable. Plus, if you have a desktop computer that you don’t move around, there’s really no downside to using a cable. This is a particularly helpful tip for online gamers, who need to reduce their lag or network delay.

Buy a New Router, Laptop, or Phone

Unfortunately, old equipment can be responsible for your slow internet connection, although running out and buying something shouldn’t be your first course of action. Once you’ve exhausted all the other tips and tricks, as well as contacted your ISP, you may want to consider buying a new wireless router or modem. This may fix the problem because sometimes old routers and modems can only handle a certain max internet speed so regardless of how you’re your plan is, you won’t be able to reach the speeds you’re paying for. While they certainly aren’t cheap, they are cheaper than going out and getting a new laptop or smartphone. If a new router doesn’t do the trick, you may want to invest in a new laptop or smartphone—this is because outdated devices don’t work as well with new wireless technologies. It’s a bummer, but there isn’t really a way around it. If you’re looking to buy a new phone without breaking the bank, there are countless phone deals out there, offered by major and small carriers alike. If your old smartphone works great, you may want to consider trade-in deals so you can get a nice discount.

Buy a WiFi Range Extender

As the name suggests a WiFi extender repeats the signal from your router to increase its coverage. Essentially, it rebroadcasts your wireless connection to spots where the connection is weak throughout your home. This can be a nifty way to boost your WiFi speeds while only spending between $20 and $50.

Switch to a Faster Internet Plan

If you aren’t satisfied with the internet speeds you’re getting, and you’ve already tried troubleshooting the issue, you may want to consider switching to a faster internet plan. This could mean either upgrading with your current ISP or switching to a new ISP. Switching may save you more money since a lot of ISPs offer introductory rates that last for one or two years before they increase.

Either way, don’t worry about exorbitant prices—faster internet speeds don’t necessarily equate to a higher internet bill. Plenty of internet service providers (ISPs) offer cheap internet plans with 100Mbps download speeds or higher.

Best High-Speed Internet Plans