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We’ve all seen the tell-tale signs of an internet connection that’s struggling to keep up. Maybe your latest round of Warzone was lagging, or Disney Plus keeps buffering while you’re trying to binge The Mandalorian. The next time you find your home internet connection getting in the way of your good time, take a few minutes to troubleshoot it. A good place to start is by checking your internet speed.
Amplifying any perceived connection issues from your internet service provider is that many of us are still working remotely, at least part of the time. Combine that with your roommates or fellow family members all working, schooling, playing games and streaming videos, and your internet speed can start to falter.
The fix may be as simple as restarting your modem and router — which should always be your first step — or upgrading to a mesh network as a last resort. Below, we’ll show you how to check your internet connection’s speed and offer advice when it comes time to troubleshoot.
Run a speed test on your computer, phone or tablet
Whether you install an app or use a website, it’s a good idea to run the test a few times to get a sense of your connection’s performance. Each test will take under a minute to complete, offering the download and upload speed results.
The Federal Communications Commission published a guideline for household broadband speeds based on the number of devices and people connected to the same network. Basic service ranges from 3 megabits per second to 8Mbps and will be good enough for light usage (browsing, email, video calls, streaming HD video, etc.). Medium service is classified as 12-25Mbps and is best for up to three users or devices simultaneously, with medium to high usage depending on the activity. Finally, advanced service is any connection speed over 25Mbps and is best suited for those with more than four users or devices using the connection at the same time for more than light usage.
Your internet connection’s speed will vary based on the time of day, the number of devices connected and in use, and other factors. I suggest running multiple speed tests for a day or two, tracking the results, to gauge your connection’s true speed.
(For our tech-savvy readers, you can use a Raspberry Pi to run speed tests on a set schedule and upload the results to Google Drive for you to monitor by following this handy guide.)
Ideally, you’d connect your computer directly to your ISP’s modem with an ethernet cable to run a speed test, but that’s not always possible. But there’s another option for running a speed test: use your wireless router’s app.
Do a speed test on your wireless router
Depending on your wireless router, it might be possible to run a speed test through its dedicated app. For example, Google’s Nest Wi-Fi can run a speed test in the app or ask Google Assistant how fast your internet connection is.
Using your wireless router’s speed test may prove to be more accurate — in theory, at least — because the router is connected directly to your modem.
You don’t have to rush out and buy a new router if the speed test results are lower than you expect or are paying for. However, that may be the case, depending on how old it is. Router technology, like any other technology, often changes, and that can lead to performance issues. If your router was purchased in the last couple of years, odds are it’s fine, and the issue is due to something else.
What to do if your speed is slower than it should be
I recommend turning off your modem and wireless router, leaving them off for about 60 seconds, and then turning them back on. Most of the time, this fixes any speed issues for me. CNET’s Ry Crist has further tips on how to get better, faster Wi-Fi to help you get your network back to working as it should.
The answer isn’t as easy as calling your internet service provider and informing them of the subpar service. It’s a frustrating fact, but ISPs are allowed to throttle your connection speed. However, there are steps you can take to determine if that’s the case or if there’s another issue at fault.
You can also check your provider’s app or website for an outage. The first thing I do when my Comcast Xfinity connection is acting flaky is open the Xfinity My Account app and look for any service issues. The app will give you an estimated restoration time when there is one. Knowing that the issue isn’t anything on your end means you can forgo any troubleshooting.
Finally, you can call your provider to ensure your modem supports your plan’s speed or to see if there are plans or promotions that will be worth an upgrade, so you can get the speeds you need to have a stress-free day of work and play.