We all feel the need for speed.
In a previous article about speeding up Windows, I mentioned that sometimes a computer can appear to be slow, but the fault may be in your internet speed.
That raises the question, of course: how do you increase internet speed in Windows?
I have some suggestions.
Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
Increasing internet speed
- Ensure Windows itself is performing well.
- Check your DNS speeds.
- Use wired ethernet when possible.
- Take steps to improve your Wi-Fi connectivity.
- Update system networking drivers.
- Run the Windows networking troubleshooter.
- Review and possibly update your networking hardware.
- Consult with your ISP to ensure you’re getting what you’re paying for.
O: Benchmark where you are now
Before we begin, it’s useful to get a picture of where you are right now. I do that by visiting speedtest.net.
A couple of caveats when running speed tests.
- Reboot first, and let your machine completely finish the process. Don’t open any programs other than your browser.
- If you can, run the speed test in a couple of different browsers. I’ve noted significant differences from one browser to the next.1
- Consider running it two or three times to ensure consistency.
- Make sure no other machines or devices are making heavy use of the internet at the same time you run the test.
With that as our starting point, we look for some adjustments.
1: Start with Windows
Almost everything discussed in that prior article — 10 Ways to Make Windows 10 and 11 Faster — has the potential to impact what happens to your internet usage, so begin there.
10 Ways to Make Windows 10 and 11 FasterComputers slow down for many reasons. I'll review some of the steps you can take to speed yours up again.
While that article mentions that slow internet speeds could make your machine seem slower, the reverse is also true: what your machine is up to can make your internet seem slower.
DNS — for Domain Name System — is the process of translating a domain name like askleo.com into the IP address used for the network connection. It’s the first part of every network connection, and it’s often surprisingly slow.
If you’ve never changed your DNS setting, chances are you’re using whatever DNS provider your ISP happens to set. ISPs need to provide this, but it’s typically not high on their list of priorities, and thus not always the fastest. The good news is you can choose to use a different DNS provider.
There are several alternatives that can be faster, and in some cases, more secure.
There are several others. Some, like OpenDNS, provide a level of additional security by refusing to return the IP address for known malicious sites.
You can also use a tool like DNS Jumper to run live tests against your current DNS provider, as well as many others, including those listed above.
If a different DNS provider is faster than what you’re currently using, head over to How Do I Change the DNS Used By My Computer? for help making the change.
3: Use wired ethernet
Wired ethernet is almost always faster than Wi-Fi. Yes, Wi-Fi is convenient, and speeds have certainly improved over the years, but it still doesn’t match the speed and stability a wired connection can get you.
If possible, switch to a wired connection.
4: Improve your Wi-Fi
If you want to use Wi-Fi, make sure it’s set up for the best results.
Wi-Fi is nothing but a specific type of radio-based communication protocol. It’s subject to the same quality problems that any radio signal can experience.
The protocol is designed to be as robust as possible, but many factors can significantly affect your Wi-Fi throughput, including:
- Router location
- Device location
- Antenna configuration
- Wi-Fi channel choice
- Other devices creating radio interference
5 Steps to Better Wi-Fi In Your House is a great place to start for suggestions and explanations.
5: Update drivers
Occasionally, problems relating to speed and performance are driver-related and thus fixed in updates. For the most part, this should happen automatically via Windows Update, but if you’re tracking down a speed problem and have done everything else you can think of (including the items above) without improvement, it’s something to try.
First, you’ll need to identify your network adapter. Right-click on the Start button, click on Device Manager, and expand the “Network” or “Network adapters” item.
Look for the item that mentions a specific manufacturer or brand of adapter. In my case, as I’m using a virtual machine, that’s the network adapter provided by the VM software. On my “real” PC (a desktop) it’s Intel(R) I211 Gigabit Network Connection. In the former case, I’d look to the VM software provider for current drivers, and in the latter case, I’d look to the manufacturer of the interface — in this example, Intel.
6: Run the network troubleshooter
In the Settings app, search for Troubleshooters. Click on Troubleshoot settings when it appears, and then Other troubleshooters (or Additional troubleshooters in Windows 10). One of the choices is Network and internet (or Internet connections in Windows 10).
Run the troubleshooter.
While the troubleshooter isn’t necessarily looking for ways to improve your performance, resolving any problems it finds may include that as a nice side effect.
7: Upgrade your networking hardware
This one takes some people by surprise, particularly if they have an older device. As their ISP provides faster and faster speeds, the router, switch, or hotspot that was once fast enough might not cut it anymore.
The most obvious case is a router that has only a capability of 100Mbps (megabits per second) connected to an internet connection capable of much, much more. Your speed cannot top 100Mbps no matter how fast the connection can go.
The same is true for the capabilities of all networking equipment, including Wi-Fi hotspots. If your new laptop is capable of the fastest Wi-Fi protocols but your Wi-Fi hotspot is not, you’ll be limited to the older, slower speed.
When it comes to routers in particular, it’s possible you may not have total control, though, which leads to my final suggestion.
8: Talk to your ISP
In theory, your ISP should provide or specify a router fast enough to handle the speed of the connection they’ve sold you. If you suspect that’s not the case, or if the router is provided and remotely managed by the ISP, it’s worth asking them to confirm the configuration.
And, of course, it’s also worth working with the ISP to confirm they’re providing you the internet speed they’ve promised and for which you are paying. No amount of configuration changes or improvements on your part will improve speed on an internet connection that’s throttled by the provider.
When you’ve tried some of the items above, re-run the speed test to see if there’s an improvement. Once again:
- Reboot first.
- If you ran it in multiple browsers earlier, use whichever browser consistently gave you the fastest results.
- Run it a couple of times.
- Make sure no other devices are making heavy use of the internet connection.
Hopefully, you’ll see the improvement you’re looking for!
Working to improve your networking performance can be a time-consuming task as you try different approaches and look for improved results. Take your time; the results are often worth the effort.
Also worth the effort (at least in my opinion): subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.
Footnotes & References
1: Speedtest.net (“by Ookla”) does have an app in the Microsoft Store, but I prefer being able to use it via different browsers.