No one likes slow internet. Whether you’re working on an important project, dealing with work calls, gaming, or watching your favorite movies, bad internet can ruin the whole experience. Now, you could go all out and buy a new Wi-Fi 7 router, get Gigabit internet, and completely overhaul your home network. But let’s be real here, that’s not always a realistic or affordable option.




Instead, there are actually plenty of ways to improve your internet speed, regardless of whether you’re on Wi-Fi or Ethernet. From choosing the right VPN to setting up a mesh router network for more coverage, here’s everything you can try to improve your online experience. We’ll start with basic fixes and work our way up to more advanced solutions from there.

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Before you proceed, diagnose the problem

Check your download/upload speeds, data caps, and ping

Two computers running a speed test on fast.com. One of the computers, the Geekom A8, only reaches speeds of 11Mbps, while the other is at 160Mbps.


Your first order of business is to diagnose the root of the problem. First, make sure you are familiar with your internet plan and the advertised speeds for said plan. Most internet service providers (ISPs) will have a customer portal website or app where you can check your coverage. You could also just look at your last bill or call your ISP for plan information.

Now, it’s time to perform a test by using the Speedtest.net tool. If you’re subscribed to a 100Mbps plan and are only getting 25/25Mbps on the download and upload, that’s your first problem. A few factors may be causing this slow speed: you might be too far away from your router, or your network is struggling to provide adequate bandwidth for all your connected devices. There’s also a chance that your ISP is having technical problems, if the issue is new or transient.


Hopefully, you have an unmetered connection with your ISP, meaning there is no data cap. While a data cap doesn’t directly correlate to slow internet, some ISPs will throttle your speeds once you exceed or are close to exceeding the limit. If you often exceed your data cap, upgrading to a higher plan is probably a good idea.

Finally, there’s also a chance that you’re getting decent download/upload speeds, but horrible latency in online games. This is most likely due to high ping, which is the time it takes for data to travel between your device and a server. The further the server is away from you geographically, the higher the ping. Let’s now take a look at how you can solve all of these different issues.


Use a wired connection, move closer to your router, and reset things

The basics

Close-up of the Ethernet port on the back of the Plugable TBT4-UD5 docking station

Let’s kick things off with fixes that won’t eat up your time (or money). Generally, a wired connection is always more stable and faster than a wired one. Personally, I use Wi-Fi on nearly all my devices, but I insist on using Ethernet on my gaming/work PC. Ethernet has always proven to be more stable, as it forms a direct connection from your router to your device. Wi-Fi travels through radio waves, which can be slower and less reliable. Now, I get that Wi-Fi is more convenient, but use Ethernet where you can. Gaming consoles, desktop PCs, and streaming boxes work best with Ethernet.


If you are going to stick with Wi-Fi though, make sure your router has good coverage. Bad signal strength leads to slow internet, so you’ll either want to move closer to your router or move your router close to you. If you have a bigger space and frequently struggle with Wi-Fi strength, invest in a range extender.

Finally, consider resetting your cache and browser history on the devices you’re having trouble with. As data accumulates over time across multiple devices simultaneously, your internet will start lagging. If that doesn’t work, consider restarting or resetting your router.


Configure your router for optimal settings

Remove unnecessary devices, change the channel or band, and use optimal settings

TP-Link Deco BE85 mesh system: An Android phone with the Deco app

Configuring and optimizing your router is a bit more advanced than the fixes discussed so far, but it’s still fairly easy. The method will vary from router to router, as the list of available settings will be different. You can start by logging in to your router and viewing all the settings from your ISP’s portal or app. Once you’re in, follow our guide on optimizing and configuring your router.


If you find that there are a lot of unnecessary devices connected to your network, start removing them. You can either do this manually, or more quickly by just changing the Wi-Fi password. After doing so, just enter your new login credentials on the devices that you actually want to use (and the rest will be offline). Make sure you’re at least using the WPA2 security protocol and a strong password. Some routers will also allow you to set up a guest network with limited bandwidth. This is a nice option for offloading people or devices you don’t want connected to your own dedicated Wi-Fi, so they don’t slow you down.

Now is also a good time to familiarize yourself with router specs such as Wi-Fi generations, channels, and bands. If you have a dual-band router, it will offer a 2.4GHz and 5GHz connection. The former is a bit more stable and has better coverage/range, but the latter is faster. Make sure you choose between the two wisely.


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Consider upgrading your router

ISP-provided routers usually suck

If your Wi-Fi speeds are not in line with your ISP’s provided plan, there’s likely something wrong with your router. For example, there’s a high chance that you’re using an old single-band Wi-Fi 5 router provided by your ISP. While Wi-Fi 5 routers can theoretically support Gigabit speeds, that’s often not the case. Wi-Fi 6 has a better chance of achieving faster speeds because of technologies like MU-MIMO and OFDMA.


Chances are that your phone, laptop, computer, and almost every other device has support for Wi-Fi 6 or newer. Using an older router with these devices is a bit of a bottleneck, so you should upgrade your router if possible. You might also need plenty of fast Ethernet ports if you do local networking, and you usually don’t get many of those with the router that your ISP provides.

Coverage is another issue worth considering. High-end routers with well-designed antennas and powerful amplifiers can improve your coverage, especially if they are Wi-Fi 6 or newer. You could also get a mesh router system that allows you to attach multiple routers or satellites to expand the network. These mesh networks are quickly gaining popularity as they provide vast coverage and great speeds.


Make sure you choose the right VPN

It’s not as simple as you think

The NordVPN add-on for Firefox shows the main login screen on Mac.

A commercial VPN opened in Windows.

These days, you can’t go online for a long period of time without running into an advertisement for a VPN. While a VPN is a good tool for enhancing online privacy and accessing blocked content, the marketing behind VPNs is very misleading.

In some cases where your ISP is throttling your connection, a VPN might speed up your connection. A VPN essentially encrypts your internet traffic, making it harder for your ISP to see what traffic you’re using. This may help in bypassing the throttling issue. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.


Depending on available servers and the configuration, internet speeds can vary wildly when using a VPN. A cheap VPN might have heavy resource contention which heavily slows down your internet. So, it’s always best to experiment with free trials of more popular VPNs like Express, Nord, or Private Internet Access. A reliable client is also important, so you can configure the settings properly.

In short, you should choose a VPN based on security, reliability, and speed. Don’t believe in promises of anonymity, as many providers keep logs of your traffic. Also, your school, workplace, and ISP can still see that you’re using a VPN, even if they can’t view your traffic directly.


Use the right networking gear

Powerline adapters, range extenders, network switches, and more

TP-Link RE500X range extender living room

For most people, their network setup likely just consists of a modem, router, and a basic Ethernet cable. There is nothing wrong with that simple setup, as it gets the job done. However, if you need more Ethernet ports, better coverage, or a quick speed upgrade, here are a couple of accessories that can improve your experience:

  • Powerline Adapters: As the name suggests, powerline adapters plug into your wall socket and give you an Ethernet port (or two) in return. A powerline kit usually consists of two adapters: one connects to your router and the other connects to your devices. It’s a quick and easy way of getting access to more Ethernet ports.
  • Wi-Fi adapters: If you have a PC that has bad Wi-Fi, consider adding a Wi-Fi card to it. If you choose the right one, you can get a decent upgrade in Wi-Fi speeds for work, streaming, and gaming. You can also get a USB Wi-Fi adapter, but the cheap ones have tiny antennas and tend to overheat. Some of the more expensive options, like the D-Link AX1800, work much better.
  • Ethernet switches: A network switch connects directly to your router and gives you more Ethernet ports in return. Network switches can have up to 16 high-speed Ethernet ports (or more). If you need more ports than your router provides, Ethernet switches are a very convenient solution.
  • Range Extenders: A range extender wirelessly connects to your router to expand the Wi-Fi coverage. A lot of these work with mesh networks, but most of them will work with almost any router. They’re great for eliminating dead zones throughout your house.


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Surfing the web without speed issues

While slow internet is frustrating, it’s not exactly a hard-to-solve problem. As long as you’re using the right gear, have optimal settings, and have decent coverage, you should be fine. If none of the fixes work, it’s always worth calling your ISP and asking them to send a technician. There’s a chance you’ve either overlooked something, or there is something wrong on their end.

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