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Why is my internet so slow? And how can I fix it?

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Few things are more frustrating than a slow internet connection when you want to make video calls for work, play an online game, or stream a movie. Our comprehensive guide will help you diagnose your problem and arm you with the know-how to improve your internet speed. 

Understanding what influences your internet speed

Several factors can affect your broadband speed, including:

  • Type of connection: The type kind of internet connection you have is critical to the speeds you’ll get. Ultrafast broadband like FTTP, for example, uses fibre-optic cables to deliver speeds of 300-1,000Mbps. Other types of connections include ADSL and FTTC, each having significantly different speed capabilities.
  • Number of connected devices: As a rule of thumb, the more laptops, game consoles, TVs and other gadgets that are linked to your network, the slower your internet speed.
  • Quality of cables and your router: Old or poor-quality cables and routers can negatively impact your internet speed. The placement of your router also plays a crucial role in your Wi-Fi speed. Obstructions, such as thick walls, and even fairy lights can disrupt the signal and slow down your internet speed.
  • The average speed in your area: Broadband speeds can be slower during 'peak' hours of 6pm – 11pm, especially in densely populated areas.

How to troubleshoot a slow connection

"You have the right to get what you pay for. If you’re not getting the speeds you were promised by your provider, get in touch as soon as possible. If it’s found to be a fault at their end and they can’t fix it after 30 days of you making contact, you’re allowed to leave your contract without having to pay an early exit fee." - Charlotte Burns

Experiencing slow internet speeds? Start by running a broadband speed test. Our simple tool measures your connection speed and can help you determine if your broadband is working slower than advertised. If you're unsure, our internet speed guide can help you understand what a 'good' speed looks like.

If your speed is much worse than you were promised when you signed up, you may want to check if there are any problems in your area. We’d recommend visiting your provider’s site to check for service updates, as well as Downdetector, which is an independent service where customers of all household-name broadband providers report problems in their location. In the event you need to get in touch with your provider, you’ll find contact details for all the main networks in our one-stop contacts directory. Your provider will be able to tell you if the problem can be fixed remotely, or whether you’ll require a visit from an engineer. Click here to read more on how to check if the internet is down

Quick fixes to boost your internet speed

  • Restart your router. This can refresh your connection and potentially improve your speed. 
  • Move your router: Positioning your router in a central location in your home can enhance your Wi-Fi signal. If you have a large house or multi-storey property, you might want to invest in a broadband booster or a mesh router network to extend your Wi-Fi’s range.
  • Secure your connection: Password-protect your Wi-Fi network to prevent unauthorised users, such as neighbours, from slowing down your connection.
  • Check your devices: Computers, consoles and other internet-connected gadgets running background processes, such as software updates, could be consuming bandwidth. Try closing applications or pausing updates that aren’t essential and see if that improves your speeds.
  • Plug in with an ethernet cable: If possible, use a wired connection for a faster, more stable internet connection. 

More ways to improve your broadband speed

If the quick fixes don't work, you might need to consider other solutions:

  • Upgrade old devices: Older phones and ageing laptops are sometimes incompatible with the newest wireless standards and may not be capable of handling faster internet speeds. 
  • Keep anti-virus software up to date: Viruses and malware can significantly slow down your internet speed. 
  • Check if the provider is throttling the connection: It’s rare these days, but some providers will deliberately slow down internet access to better manage traffic. Contact your provider if you suspect this is happening. 
  • Check the download allowance: Some providers may slow down your connection if you exceed your download allowance. 
  • Upgrade to a faster broadband package: Depending on your household and usage, you could consider upgrading to a faster one.

Switching suppliers

If you’re still not happy with your internet speed, or simply tired of poor service and high prices, you might want to consider switching suppliers. With MoneySuperMarket, you can easily compare broadband before choosing the right package.

Remember, there may be an early exit fee for leaving a contract early, but exceptions exist, such as if the speeds are too slow. If you're thinking of going down that route, read our guide on how to leave a broadband contract early. So, don't hesitate to explore your options. As Charlotte Burns rightly said, "You have the right to get what you pay for." 

Frequently asked questions

Does resetting your router make the connection faster?

It can do. Restarting your router clears its memory and resets tasks that might have stalled.

When you reset, wait for at least 10 seconds before turning it back on again. This way, you’ll make sure you clear every last drop of memory.

Can a new router increase internet speed?

It could help with providing a more stable connection. While a new router can’t affect the signal coming into your home, it could have the capacity to improve the Wi-Fi’s reach by emitting a stronger signal to those previous dead spots around the home.

Do Wi-Fi boosters work?

Wi-Fi boosters can increase the range of your wireless network in the home. They work by picking up the Wi-Fi signal from your router, copying it, and rebroadcasting it to a different area of your house.

However, there are a few limitations. A Wi-Fi booster is governed by the speed of the internet connection coming into the property, the distance you set it up from the router and the demands placed on Wi-Fi from your household.

What is a good Wi-Fi speed?

Wi-Fi speeds have increased in recent years, and will continue to as technology advances.

What constitutes a good speed depends on what you’re using the internet for. If it’s just for casually browsing the web and checking emails, a basic standard speed package with maximum speeds of 17Mbps should suffice.

But if you want to stream movies and play games, you’ll want a faster fibre-optic connection.

Over 25Mbps should allow you to stream HD video from one device. But if you’re connecting to the internet on multiple devices, or live in a large household, you could consider superfast broadband packages with speeds of 30-300Mbps.

Once you go beyond 300Mbps, you’re into ultra-fast territory and should have more than enough speed for all your internet requirements.

However, it’s also important to find out what speed your household can get, not just what speed is advertised. Otherwise, you could end up paying for a package you can’t make full use of.

What’s the difference between a modem and a router?

These two can often be confused. A modem connects to the internet, while a router connects devices to Wi-Fi. A router establishes a local network and creates and manages Wi-Fi, whereas a modem connects directly to the internet, doesn't set up a local network and isn’t responsible for Wi-Fi.

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