If your internet keeps loading and loading every time you go to a different website, you can feel good in the knowledge that at least your slow computer isn’t to blame. Your internet provider, as well as other factors, make it up to half as slow as advertised.
The Federal Communications Commission recently reported that the advertised speeds are off by about 50%, making that commonly heard claim by internet providers that “up to 10 Mbps” look bogus.
What is Internet Speed?
How fast your internet is depends on three factors: Download speed (how fast you can retrieve something from the internet), upload speed (sending something to a remote location on the internet), and latency (lag time between each point during information transfer). Download speed is what you experience the most and can send you to tap your fingers for what seems like minutes before a web page shows up on your screen. If you’re streaming movies from Netflix, download speed is important.
The higher the number for download speed, the quicker the movie will get from the Netflix website to your computer. A movie downloaded at 15 Mbps should take one-tenth as long as having a 1.5 Mbps connection. Without getting too technical, Mbps (megabytes per second) is a measurement of data and how fast it can flow through an internet connection. Always go for the highest number you can get, although if you’re just sending e-mail and not watching movies, you can save money by getting a slower connection.
You Can Check Your Internet Speed
The company that we buy internet service from has an online network speed test to see how fast the 10 Mbps that we’re paying for really is. A quick test showed that our “downstream” download speed was off by about 40%, at 6.44 Mpbs. There are many websites to test your server speed. Speedtest.net showed we had a download speed of 8.16 Mpbs, which is better than our own service provider’s test showed. The online speed tests are free, so check out a few.
These Factors Are Slowing Down Your Computer
Our internet provider points out that internet speed depends on many factors, and that information can only travel as fast as the slowest connection on the way. One is the website being called up, with more complex sites taking longer to load. Our provider also states on its website that typical variations in line speed can produce speed tests showing a connection running at 80% to 90% percent of maximum speed, which is much better than the FCC says. Speed can be determined by network traffic, hardware or software capabilities, Wi-Fi setup, and limitations on the computer. In other words, if you have an old computer, say six years or so, then you’re going to have a slower internet than a new processor would provide.
How to Speed Up Your Computer
There are all kinds of technical fixes you can make to your computer to improve the speed of being on the internet, which many Windows Vista users find handy. The Windows XP suggestions are very technical, so hiring a “geek” to do will make life easier. We took my computer to Staples recently and paid $140 for a tuneup that got it running faster.
Here are some simple steps that Microsoft recommends to do yourself to improve speed:
1. Free Up Disk Space
Get rid of programs you don’t use and use the Disk Cleanup tool. To access, Start menu > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup. Run it about once a month.
2. Run Disk Defragmenter
It will free up disk space. You get there in the same way: Start menu > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. The tool helps your computer run more efficiently so it doesn’t have to look in many different places to find a file.
3. Protect Your Computer Against Spyware
Use a free service, or buy one, that will check and remove viruses.
4. Use A USB Flash Drive Or Memory Card
to improve performance without having to add additional permanent memory.
The good news is that no matter what you do with your computer and internet setup at home, the FCC’s National Broadband Plan suggests helping consumers by having a “broadband performance” rating on computers in stores, much like the energy efficiency labels on appliances. The nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute the New America Foundation is proposing “broadband truth-in-labeling” for full disclosure similar to that required of credit card companies.
With the amount of time that people spend on the internet doubling in the past ten years to 29 hours per month at home, usage can only go up. Let’s hope it doesn’t take internet providers ten years to improve service.