The quality of your internet connection at any given moment is affected by numerous factors. You may have come to expect flaws in service based on where you are or the provider you’re with, or you could have a consistently awesome gateway to the wider world that rarely drops out. Either way, there are bound to be disruptions in service at times. They might be minor issues that you can wait out without any hassle, but they can grow into more serious problems that require action. If your internet connection is failing to perform as you might hope, there are some steps you can take to identify the problem and get everything back on track.
1. Isolate Device Issues
If you have been using one device all day and the connection slows to a crawl or drops altogether, it is worth considering that the device itself may be the cause. First things first, visit a website on your phone or tablet connected to the same network and, if possible, run a speed test. If it turns out that the issue is just with that first device, there are a couple of checks to make. Ensure you are connected to the right network and try disconnecting and reconnecting to initiate a new session.
2. Check for Viruses
If everything is well at the network level, there may be a software issue. If there is, it will hopefully be nothing malicious. However, software that is working as it should rarely causes a slowdown when visiting web pages, streaming or playing games. If you have a virus, it can slow down your internet for all sorts of reasons, such as communicating across the network with other computers. Most of our readers will be savvy enough to have virus protection in place already. Those that do not should rectify that immediately, and the good news is that the free versions of most popular software are more than sufficient –make sure to download it from the source to ensure it has not been compromised.
3. Check the Fine Print on Your Package
It is unlikely that your provider will cut you off completely unless you have not paid the bill. If the internet works to an extent but is slower than normal, consider whether you have reached any soft limits on your account. Some providers slow traffic for those that have reached certain download levels in a set period and some connections can be throttled temporarily during peak times to ensure fair access for all users. Whether you find that acceptable if it results in slower speeds than published is a different conversation.
4. Check the DNS Server
DNS servers make it possible to visit sites using their friendlier names rather than the string of numbers in their IP address. If your local DNS or that of your service provider is experiencing issues, this tends to manifest itself through difficulties with reaching certain sites. You can bypass or disable your DNS server temporarily to fix the issue, although if the issue remains for longer than a few hours, it may be a problem that needs to be addressed more directly.
5. Check the Router
We have mentioned the gateway between you and the internet already, and your router represents the physical embodiment of this. Fortunately, routers are designed to make the identification of problems easier, as long as you know what the various lights mean. It might require a trip to the manual, but the router is your best tool for assessing whether the internet is off or connectivity is limited. Many routers also come with diagnostic software, so if the lights indicate an issue, the accompanying software may be able to give a clearer answer concerning current issues.
6. More People and Software mean More Bandwidth
If you’re experiencing a slowdown, it is worth checking which programs could potentially be hogging all the data on your current device. On Windows, you can check network usage in the Task Manager and potentially wait out any software using a significant amount of bandwidth or disable it until later as required. It is worth considering other people’s software too, as if others in the house are doing intensive tasks like streaming videos, it may degrade the quality of your own connection.
7. Keep Your Hardware and Software Up to Date
Updates tend to improve functionality and may potentially even make your internet connection better. If you are not up to date, however, it can potentially have the opposite effect. Your kit will undoubtedly interact with others on the same network, and if they are using different versions, it may not make for optimal connections. If you run into issues, do a quick check to ensure you’re using the latest version of everything available.
8. Restore Your Settings
It can be tempting to meddle with the default settings on routers, hubs and other objects that your network relies on. You probably know what you’re doing, but something as simple as activating the wrong setting without thinking can impact on your network integrity. If you have made significant modifications to your setup, it can be worth reverting them. You can do this one by one if you want to identify the specific issue or carry out a full reset.
9. Change the Hardware
Your router may have degraded with age or may have trouble with certain configurations. An upgrade may be in order even if it just gets your speeds back to where they were, and you’ll also want to consider replacing other elements of the network like adapters and cables if they may be affecting throughput.
10. Get on to Your Provider
If none of the above has worked, the chances are that the issue does not lie with your setup. Most providers have service status updates localised to your area, and if nothing is showing, contact them directly to raise an issue and seek a fix.