How to Speed up Slow Broadband

We've all been there - shouting at a buffering screen wondering why your broadband provider hates you so much.

While slow internet can be frustrating, the good news is that sometimes the issue is something really simple that you can iron out in a matter of minutes rather than a technical thing your broadband provider needs to sort out.

It's often just computer settings, wireless hardware or even Christmas fairy lights slowing down your connection.

These tips won't change the broadband speed coming into your house, so if you've done all you can and it's still not enough, then consider switching provider. [LINK SWITCHING GUIDE]

Test your speed

Before you start faffing around with routers and calling up your broadband provider, you need to test your broadband speed to see if you really are getting less than you were promised.

Broadband providers advertise their speeds as "up to" a certain level, and you can find out how much you're actually getting with a broadband speed test, which takes a few seconds.

Use our free speed tester tool to see what speed you are getting.

Run the test a few times - at different times during the week and day, during peak times etc - so you have all the facts you need to arm yourself when you contact your broadband provider to complain.

Has the test said your broadband is slow?

It maybe tempting to call your broadband provider to kick off straight away, however before they do anything remotely technical, they are going to make you try the below tricks first.

Go through the list and tick them off, then if your broadband speeds get no better, call up your provider to complain. You can then tell them everything you have tried to speed it up.

If it never speeds up, last report - switch to a company that will give you the broadband speeds they promise.

Change the channel on your wireless router

If you find your home Wi-Fi is slow or drops out a lot, it's worth changing the channel your router uses - which sounds super technical but is actually really simple.

Your broadband router has to pick and use a channel to send data via Wi-Fi. The problem is that all your neighbours' routers are likely using the same channel as you.

This can cause a lot of interference (clogging up of the line) meaning your internet slows down and streaming anything becomes a buffering nightmare.

By manually switching to a less crowded channel, or one currently not used by any other networks, your signal should improve substantially.

How to spot the busy channels

You can just try flicking through the channels to see what works for you, but you can be extra clever about it and look up online which ones are particularly busy.

There are lots of tools to find out this information, but the inSSIDer utility for Windows is good and free to use.

With it, you'll see a graph that shows the different Wi-Fi networks nearby in different colours and the channels they are currently using, along with the strength of signal.

This will help you decide which channel you need to use - i.e, the one least populated.

How to change the channel

Now you know what channel you want to connect to, you have to access your router's web interface, which can be done by opening a web browser and navigating to the router's IP address.

  • Your IP address should be printed on your router (usually on a sticker) and will look something like this - 192.168.1.1.
  • You'll then be asked to enter the router's name and password (again, this should all be on a sticker on the device itself).
  • Click on Wi-Fi Settings and the channel numbers should be selectable via a drop-down menu.

Although you think it would, Auto will not automatically put you on the best channel.

Secure your Wi-Fi

If your Wi-Fi is not password protected, ANYONE can use it. This means that people might be logging onto your network without you knowing and downloading who-knows-what.

It's really important you secure your network immediately - for security reasons as well as speeding up your broadband.

Log into your account, open your browser and enter the manufacturer's default IP address (it will be on a sticker on your router). Using your username and password, log into your router settings page.

Open the wireless tab to edit your wireless settings and once there, go to the "Primary Network (or equivalent) tab.

Click to enable WPA-PSK (Wireless Protected Access) or EPA2-PSK encryption using either the drop-down or check-box option.

Now set up a strong password using a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and special characters.

A good rule of thumb is that a password needs to be at least six characters, though many networks will require you to use 10.

Move your router

Lots of things can impact the strength of a wireless broadband signal - walls, doors, even interference from things like baby monitors and Christmas lights.

If you want to maximise coverage across the whole house, try sticking it somewhere central and up as high as possible.

Aim for the most direct line of sight possible between your router and your computer as wireless broadband signals weaken if there are things in the way.

Change your router to boost broadband speed

Upgrading your wireless broadband router could make a real difference to the speed of your broadband connection, especially if your current one is a few years old or has been knocked around a bit.

It's definitely worth being a bit cheeky (without having too much expectation) and calling up your current provider to see if they will send you a free replacement because you're so unhappy with the current speeds.

If your charm didn't work, you can always go out and buy one yourself. They tend to range from between £50 - £150 in high-street stores such as Argos and Currys.

Extend your Wi-Fi

If you live in a pretty big house, you may find there are areas with weak or dead Wi-Fi, which is a real pain. These black spots are most often caused by distance from the wireless router, thick stone walls and interference.

It maybe worth buying a Wi-Fi range extender to push your signal that extra bit further. You can also add Powerline adapters that use your home's electrical wiring to create a speedy home network with added Wi-Fi hotspots.

Update your online browser

Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and all other popular browsers undergo frequent updates. If you've been clicking the "remind me tomorrow" button for weeks, you maybe using an outdated version, that could mean slower download speeds.

The same goes with your antivirus software as viruses, trojans and worms can use you broadband connection which can make your speeds seem to slow.

Viruses and adware can also cause your computer to slow considerably which can make your broadband seem sluggish. Get yourself some free antivirus software if you aren't protected. [LINK?]

Avoid peak web hours for faster broadband speeds

Most of us get home from work, switch on our computers, games consoles etc and use the majority of our broadband consumption in the hours of 7-11pm.

These are peak hours, because everyone is on the internet at the same time. If you can avoid going online at these busy times, you'll find you experience a faster broadband speed.

Switch broadband provider

If you've tried all that (and turned grey with frustration if it weren't already) it's time to complain to your service provider to see what they can do.

If you're still not happy, switching to another provider is possibly the best solution. Companies should be able to do a line test and give you an indication of the speeds you can expect to see before you sign up.

Check out our guide on how to switch broadband providers for full info.

Some contracts are reduced in price if you already have services with the supplier.

For example, if you have BT Broadband, you save £5 per month on a BT Mobile SIM, or if you add an additional EE SIM to your account you can save money too.

Select any of the products you already have below to ensure that you find the best deals available.
The UK has four licenced network operators: EE, Telefonica UK (O2), Three and Vodafone providing services using a variety of mobile technologies.

There are a number of other companies that provide mobile network services such as Tesco, giffgaff and Virgin. These are known as MVNO (mobile virtual network operators) which lease network capability from one of the four licenced operators.

These are all listed below so you can determine which of the four network operators provides service.

EE O2 Three Vodafone
ASDA giffgaff ID Mobile Lebara
BT Mobile Lycamobile Three Sainsburys
co-op O2 Talkmobile
EE Tesco Mobile Vodafone
Family mobile
Orange
T-Mobile
The People's Operator
Utility Warehouse
Vectone
Virgin Mobile