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Is It My Computer or My Broadband That is Slow?

Rinky Dink Inc

If your broadband speed can best be compared to a drop in the ocean than a heavy downpour, it could be a multiple of reasons. From the way your home is constructed to a particularly nasty bit of malware. Sometimes the slow internet is cyber space's way of telling you to go for a swim. Other times it's the broadband's cruel joke to mess up your productivity.

The health of your PC can affect your internet connection. Viruses and spyware can cause problems, but your broadband speed can also be affected by the amount of memory the computer has, RAM, add-on programs, the condition of your computer hard disk and space, as well as other programs that are running.

But two leading causes of slow internet connection are viruses and spyware. Spyware interferes with your browser and monopolises your internet connection. It also monitors your usage and keystrokes, thus adding delays. And if several spyware programs are running at the same time, the problem gets worse, cutting off connection altogether. The best protection at this stage is to run an anti-spyware software to rid of any infestation.

Viruses, on the other hand, installs computer code which attempts to propagate/replicate itself. It can send copies of itself via email. Some viruses are capable of multiplying at the rate of hundreds of email messages in a single minute, leaving little computing power and internet connection bandwidth. Viruses are hard to track down, so it's best to run antivirus software at all times.

Your Type of Connection

The kind of connection you have makes a huge difference in broadband connection issues and especially speed.

In the United Kingdom, the three most common ways to connect from home are cable, DSL and dial-up. If you can afford it, cable and DSL are the fastest. Dial-up will also connect you if you're patient enough.

There has also been a proliferation of ISPs, Internet Service Providers, offering Fiber Optic Service (FiOS), which connects to the internet using an optical network that uses light. Most British homes are connected to the Internet using copper wiring. FiOS offers superior connectivity and higher speeds than traditional copper wiring. But depending on where you live, some ISPs can roll out multiple options. Many densely-populated areas are likely to have FiOS available.

Fastest Modem

Internet speeds are measured in Kilobytes per second, Kbps, or Megabytes per second, Mbps. If you're planning on a dial-up connection, there are several ways you can achieve maximum internet speed. First, you need to buy the fastest modem available. At the moment, the fastest modem you can use is capable of sending and receiving information at the rate of 56 kbps. This may not happen all the time. But with a good phone line, it's possible to stabilise at 45-50 kbps. Dial-up is however almost obsolete in the UK and DSL and Fibre are more commonplace.

Ensure your home phone line is in excellent condition. If the line is deteriorating, it will affect your computer and connectivity. You may also pick cross talk or stray signals from other sources. These problems will slow your internet connection because your modem will have to labour sending the same data over and over until it flows without interruption.

Little Memory

Like all computer programs, an internet browser (e.g. Mozilla, Internet Explorer) requires a certain amount of computing power, disk space and memory to run efficiently. Every web page that lands on your screen are first captured by memory and then saved to temporary hard drive files.

When you run another program that uses plenty of computing power and memory, it triggers competition with the browser and causes delays. If you discover your connection is slow, and you have other programs running, try closing them.

But if you want other programs to run simultaneously with your browser, then consider increasing the memory on your computer, RAM.

RAM or Random Access Memory is the temporary storage memory your computer uses when the various programs are executing tasks. So, the more programs you run, the more RAM you'll need, and the slower your machine will be if you don't have enough.

A rule of thumb of not having enough RAM is if your computer slows down every time you attempt to process large files, or it "hangs" or freezes if you try out multiple different actions at once.

It's simple to add more RAM onto your motherboard (The hardware board that houses electronic circuits that run your computer) with an extra memory stick or two or consider purchasing an entirely new motherboard if all memory slots are taken. There is no ceiling on the amount of RAM that you can have on your computer. And a 64-bit operating system is quite ideal for running many computers, but in practical terms, 4GB is more than enough.

Low disk space can also cause performance problems. You can increase disk space by deleting files you don't consider useful at the moment.

To Fix Hardware Problems

If your computer runs on Windows, there is a built-in troubleshooter that automatically finds and fixes common broadband connection problems.

Open the Internet Connections troubleshooter by clicking the Start Button. Then click the Control Panel. Type "troubleshooter" in the search box. Then click Troubleshooting. After Network and the Internet pops up, click Connect to the Internet.

Run a disk defragmentation

Disk Defragmenter is a utility in Windows that is designed to boost access speed by rearranging files stored on the hard disk to occupy storage locations. The technique is called defragmentation. Defragmenting a disk minimises the head travel, which in turn slows down the time taken to read and write files to the disk.

Understanding Broadband

Several different factors can affect your internet speed. Some are dependent on the technology used to connect your computer online while others affect all types of broadband connections.

ADSL, or Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, refers to a broadband technology that enables fast data transmission over copper telephone lines and uses a modem or router. Broadband can be delivered by a cable company such as Virgin Media. As the word implies, it uses a cable connection to your home. There are other types of services that deliver broadband, for instance, mobile broadband, wireless services, etc.

How Broadband Affects Internet Speed

Internet speed is usually measured by how much data can be sent to you as a subscriber, and is measured as per the second rate. Bandwidth means the ability your device has to receive and send information. The more bandwidth your device has, the faster you will receive, and transmit data. But there can be delays when all this is going on.

Now, on a fibre network, data is transmitted at speed of light, which is tremendously fast. However, even the tiniest delay in that transmission when travelling over long distances can be easily noticed. Also, the file you asked for rarely goes over one route to you, and during its voyage into cyberspace, it will pass through several networks where bottlenecks can occur. Cyberspace is crowded with international data travelling on various routes at once. And regardless of the speed of your connection, there usually occurs a delay of +150 milliseconds for the data to reach you.

Common types of Broadband Connections

DSL = Digital Subscriber Lines.

These are the standard for home connections. Your telephone line is upgraded to support DSL, and with a router, you are always connected.

Fibre = This a relatively new technology in the UK. But is quickly getting adopted by home and business people. Fibre connections are made over fibre cables. These are thin glass tubes that carry data as flashes of light.

Mobile Wireless = Popular mobile broadbands include 2G, 3G and 4G. 5G is approaching fast. These utilise cellular networks to transmit data wherever your cell phone captures the signal.

At the moment, DSL is the most common choice in the UK given its high availability, affordable costs and speeds that range from 1Mbps to 50Mbps. But with fibre becoming more available for both businesses and homes, many users cannot wait to take advantage of speeds between 100Mbps and 200Mbps.

While DSL and Fibre are cable dependent, Mobile Wireless gives the subscriber the freedom to get connected from virtually anywhere.

When Does a Broadband Connection slow Things Down

Here are some of the most common reasons why your internet speed is struggling, and possible remedies to fix it.

Understand your maximum speed

Ordinary broadband over telephone lines decreases in speed the further the line is from the phone exchange. And while most ISP advertises speeds of "up to 20Mbps", most lines are rated to carry slower connections speeds.

This can also apply to fibre broadband. The majority of fibre offers use Fibre to the Cabinet, or FTTC, where the connection is between the telephone exchange and the roadside cabinet nearest to your home. The link between your home uses copper cables.

If you run a broadband speed test using your postcode, you may notice the speed promised by the ISP to be a bit slower.

ISPs can Reduce Your Speed

If you exceed your monthly usage allowance, make sure your ISP provider has not deliberately reduced your speed. Many providers now reduce your speed instead of charging you for exceeding your allowance. This is a smart strategy to prompt you to renew your subscription.

Applications Running in Background

Many applications run in your computer background, and some of them quietly and stealthily use your broadband connections for talks ranging from installing updates to uploading data. For instance, the BBC iPlayer download version.

Ensure that all unnecessary apps are shut down to prevent this. If you have scores of browser windows or tabs open at the same time, it may also affect your download speeds.

Where You Live:

Where you live has an enormous impact on your internet speed. The distance between your home and the exchange and the wiring quality are significant. If your house is a typical ADSL, meaning copper wire connected, the further your home is from the exchange, the slower and more distorted the connection will be. Much of the UK urban centres still uses copper wire, but many cities now have fibre optic broadband.

Moving house to get faster internet is out the question for many, but changing the way you receive your broadband, for instance changing your ISP provider, could make a big difference. And a mobile "hot spot" using a 4G network is an excellent wireless option.

Your Browser Settings

Your browser stores every website you've visited in the past in its cache. In time, this can get counter-productive when your memory cache becomes bloated with old data. This can slow down the connection.

Clearing out your cache, and all old stored data files will make browsing faster. If this doesn't work, try uninstalling your browser then re-installing it.

Wi-Fi Network Setup

Your wi-fi data comes via your router at home. And where you have mounted your router and your computer could be slowing your broadband. Also, individual objects, for instance, metallic encumbrances in between will weaken the broadband. Metal is particularly nasty for ruining signal. Placing the router too far from your computer will also slow the signal. Doubling the distance between your router and computer decreases speeds by two-thirds.


Malware and other viruses are always trying to sneak into your computer when you're online. Not only can they slow down your computer, but also your broadband, as they upload and download data, and exposing other computers as well. Ensure you have antivirus software and keep it updated as well.

You can also install an anti-spyware software too, such as Super AntiSpyWare. Make sure your computer's firewall is activated to guard against attacks.

The Time of Day

Internet speed is affected by the day or time of day. When more people are online, servers get overloaded and cause delays in the response time. If you're using a broadband cable to connect and share the cable with other neighbours, who log in at the same time, you will notice a decrease in speed. When most people are at home, e.g., From work or school, or weekends are often slow times.

If a significant event is occurring around the UK, e.g. a general election, it may cause speed related issues. When the U.S went through tragic events on September 2001, world news sites were so overwhelmed with traffic that they would take several minutes to load or not load at all.

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