How to supercharge your broadband
Frustrated with slow broadband speeds? If we’ve not yet reached your area with superfast fibre, you might be able eek a few extra ‘bits’ of speed from your existing connection by following our top 10 tips.
1 – Check your speed
Do a free speed test. There are loads of free online tools which you can use. See below a selection of OFCOM approved speed checkers :
These show the speeds you receive at the actual time of doing the test, so it’s worth taking a few speed test results at different points of the day and night.
If you find that speeds are massively faster at night then it’s likely that your ISP is struggling with capacity during the day. They may even be employing traffic calming measures such as prioritising some connections over others.
Compare your average speed to what you’re paying for. If your ISP advertised “up to 8Mb “, yet you’re struggling to get 3Mb, then give them a call and ask why.
2 – Keep up with the Joneses
Find out what speeds your neighbours are getting. The distance between your house and the nearest Exchange or telephone cabinet will probably have the biggest impact on what speed you get, as speeds degrade the further they travel along copper lines.
To get an idea of what speeds are possible in your area, enter your postcode at: http://www.uswitch.com/broadband/speedtest/streetstats. If the Exchange is a long way away and your neighbours are experiencing similarly slow speeds, then try tips 3 to 10 below.
3 – Switch providers?
If your neighbours are achieving much faster speeds, give your ISP a call and ask what can be done about yours.
If you’re in a contract, ask to be downgraded to a cheaper package if the ISP is unable to help you get a faster service. Some may also offer new equipment to help boost your speed.
If you’re out of contract it might be time to switch. See, if another provider can offer better speeds and then ask your current ISP for your MAC code – you’ll need this to switch.
4 – Max out your signal
To get the best out of your phone line you need the clearest signal possible. Outside your house, there’s little you can do about the line, but inside, there’s a few ways to eek out the best performance:
- Microfilter Check – Your ISP should provide you with adapters that split your voice and broadband signals. Click here to see what they look like. These need to be plugged into every socket you use, not just the one you use for broadband. If after plugging in the filter, your phone line sounds noisy, try plugging in another filter, or invest in better quality filters; available from most electrical retailers.
- Find the best socket – While ideally the distance between your router and computer should be kept to a minimum, it’s worth trying multiple phone sockets to see if you can achieve a better result.
- Found the best socket? Then stay close – Your modem/router should be as close to the phone socket as possible. Poor quality phone wires can throttle speeds, so it’s better to have a short wire close to the socket. If you must have a longer wire, invest in the best-quality cabling you can find, but still keep it as short as possible.
- Invest in an iPlate – These cut off unnecessary wire in older phone sockets which can be prone to significant interference. They cost as little as £4 each or, depending who your provider is, you may get one free by ringing up and asking. An iPlate won’t work for newer “Openreach” branded sockets, only older types. So look for the Openreach logo first.
- Electrical interference – Like all wireless devices, routers are prone to interference, so location is essential. Nearby electrical equipment is the first thing to watch out for. Try placing it away from TV’s and PC’s. Switch everything except the router off then do another speed test. If it’s faster, try relocating your router away from all other gadgets.
5 – Ditch the neighbours
If you don’t encrypt and password protect your wireless network it will be available to anyone nearby. With other people using your WIFI, your speeds will drop. So, don’t be generous, keep all your bandwidth to yourself and make sure your network requires a password.
6 – Fine tune your wi-fi
We all love wifi; no wires, free movement about your home, what’s not to like. Most ISPs also provide them “free” when you sign up with them. If using a wireless router, make sure you’re getting the best out of it:
- Range –If your devices are situated at a distance from your router, or if you live in an older house with thick walls, it might be worth considering adding a better antenna to your router to boost signal range.
- Upgrade to new router? – Since most routers are given away “free” by ISPs, they’re often not the best quality available. If yours is a few years old it’s worth considering a new one. You’ll want the fastest current standard available. Ask at a local electrical retailer for advice on which one to go for but don’t waste money if you’ve already got a newer model. Also beware that some ISP don’t allow you to use third party routers. Always check first.
- Frequency disruption – This is a little more complicated. Wi-fi routers operate on the 2.4Ghz frequency spectrum which is split into smaller channels. Many routers use the same default channel, so it’s worth switching to another one if there are lots of networks in the vicinity. The free Windows program InSSIDer will tell you what channels others are using. Download it here: http://inssider.en.softonic.com. Your router’s manual or ISP should be able to tell you how to switch channels which will reduce interference and may help boost speeds. Cordless phones, baby monitors and even microwaves can interfere with frequency too, so try to place any of these away from your router.
7 – Get wired
Reverting back to cables should give your broadband a boost. Even if you don’t want to switch permanently, comparing speed test results between a wired (Ethernet) and wireless connection will show you what you’re losing by using WIFI. Using an Ethernet cable is faster because it offers a faster rate of data transfer, and because there’s no need for it to encrypt the data being sent, as wireless routers do.
If you can’t bear to take a trip back in time to a bygone era of tangled wires cluttering your home, an alternative is powerline networking. With this you plug special adaptors into your power sockets and send the network signals through your home wiring. Starter kits cost around £35, with additional adaptors around £25 each, so it’s not as cheap as the humble Ethernet cable. Find out more about cabling.
8 – Have a usage limit?
If you have a monthly download and upload allowance it’s important to install a usage checker to keep on top of it. Going over can be expensive, not only in terms of cost. Some ISPs will restrict your connection if you exceed your limit. Your ISP should offer one online or as a software download.
9 – Make sure your computer has a clean bill of health
If your computer or laptop can’t make the most of fast broadband there’s no point paying for it. You might be surprised at the difference changing a few settings can have. Things to check:
- Antivirus – This is essential. Not only is it a must, but your antivirus software should be up to date and switched on. Some viruses, adware, malware and spyware programs can use your broadband connection to steal your data and return it to the virus creator. Even if not malicious, these types of programs often use up bandwidth gathering information on you and bombarding you with ads and offers. It’s vital that you check you’ve got decent antivirus protection and that its switched on, with regular full system scans.
- Cache – Your computer’s cache stores images and web page information from recently visited sites. This helps the pages to load faster when you next visit them. However, over time, your machine will need to delete files to make space for new ones. Otherwise everything slows down. To empty it, use your web browser’s menu options (often found in an ‘advanced’ tab or little ‘burger’ icon).
- Bandwidth – If you use the desktop version of video on demand services like 4oD on your computer or Smart TV, check your settings. By default, some of these will use your bandwidth to send content to other users, even when you’re not using it. BBC’s iPlayer used to do this too but now works differently. Check the settings to switch this off if possible or use the web version of the player instead. Also, always select the satandard definition or ‘SD’ version when downloading or streaming video.
- Updates and start-up programs – It’s not only video content you should be careful of, some automatic program updates can also steal bandwidth without you knowing. You can switch off automatic updates in most program settings. Be careful though as this can be a security risk, i.e., with web browsers or antivirus software which you should leave on for the latest updates. Also check which programs are set to run on startup, as too many will make the computer become extremely slow. Find out how to disable them so that you can manually control updates.
10 – Consider a software boost
If your connection is so slow that even simple browsing takes ages, try a software solution:
- Browser – If you’re using the web browsing software that was pre-installed on your computer, consider switching. The newest generation of browsers are faster, more secure, and completely free. There’s a huge amount of choice from Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera and many more.
- Browser speed booster – Some browsers have free ad-ons to further boost performance which can be found in their app or web store. For example, the free web browser Opera has a ‘turbo mode’, which compresses content before it gets to your computer. This uses less data so can sometimes reach you faster, although sometimes if the browser’s server is located in the US or further away, it can be slower. Always worth a try though.
We hope that the tips above help you get a little more out of your current connection. Check here to see if and when superfast access will reach you, but fear not, even if we have no current plans for your area, we are constantly working on reaching as many parts of the county as possible.