The Cheapest Ways to Speed Up Your Internet
Get the most out of your internet connection without draining your wallet.
The best way to get the most out of your internet is to make free and cheap adjustments on your end of the connection. You can’t increase your base internet speed without upgrading to a faster plan, but there may be updates and adjustments you can make to improve your speed. We’ll show you how to tweak your router and your devices.
Before we dig in, run our speed test to see where your connection stands against your plan’s promoted top speed. Run the test directly from your modem using a wired device, and then rerun it using the same wired device connected to your router. If there’s a significant difference between the two tests, your issues are with the router.
Power cycle your network
The best way to improve your speed without spending a dime is to restart your core network.
Your modem is your internet translator, and your router is your local delivery system. Sometimes a soft reboot can help clear any communication errors between these two devices and your wired and wireless devices.
And sometimes, you need to pull the power on your modem and router (power cycle) to clear out any lurking bugs a simple software reboot doesn’t squash.
How to power cycle your network
Step 1: Unplug your modem and router from the power outlet.
Step 2: Wait at least 30 seconds.
Step 3: Plug your modem back in to the power outlet and wait for the status lights to indicate that it’s back online.
Step 4: Plug in your router and wait for the status lights to indicate that it’s back online.
If you have a wireless gateway:
Step 1: Unplug your wireless gateway from the power outlet.
Step 2: Wait at least 30 seconds.
Step 3: Plug your wireless gateway back in to the power outlet and wait for it to come back online.
Check for router updates
Your router is a small computer dedicated to network management and routing. Like a computer, smartphone, or tablet, a router is powered by an operating system (also called firmware). Manufacturers release updates that optimize the code to improve performance, squash bugs, and fill security holes—just like any other operating system.
Generally, a router updates its firmware automatically, but you should check to see if it’s running the latest version just in case.
How to check for updates:
You can check for updates in two ways: by using a mobile app or a web browser.
Router mobile apps are generally easy to use and navigate, while the web interfaces are more complex and require you to enter the router’s IP address into a browser. You need the router’s login information to use both.
You can locate the firmware information for Linksys routers, for example, within the Network Administration section in the Linksys app. However, you can’t update the firmware using the app.
You’ll also find the information located in the web interface by selecting Connectivity. You should see a Check for Updates button, along with a tool to install any firmware you downloaded from the manufacturer manually.
Don’t know how to check your router for firmware updates? Use our guide to find out how to log in to a router and check other information like channels, SSIDs, and more.
Get closer to your router
Wi-Fi uses radio waves in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands to send and receive data. Your router converts your modem’s electrical signals into data and adds that data onto radio waves. The modified waves are then sent through the router’s antennas and captured by the antennas in your wireless device.
But unlike AM and FM radio, Wi-Fi has a limited range. Of the two bands, the higher 5 GHz spectrum has a harder time penetrating walls, floors, and other obstructions because the waves are short. The 2.4 GHz spectrum has longer waves, so it supports a longer range. But interference from devices that also use the 2.4 GHz band and all other neighboring Wi-Fi networks can reduce your connection’s speed.
So if you’re experiencing slow internet in the next room or in another part of your home, move closer to the router, especially if you’re using the 5 GHz band. For great coverage, we suggest getting one of the best mesh Wi-Fi systems.
Relocate and adjust your router
Router placement is critical to your wireless internet speeds. As mentioned above, the radio waves of each Wi-Fi band spectrum have a limited range. Place your router in a corner, and you may have more connection problems than if it was in a central area. The 2.4 GHz band has a better chance of penetrating walls than 5 GHz, but the latter connection is faster and less congested.
Move your router to a centralized, open location (if possible) so walls and furniture don’t absorb the transmissions. Keep it on the same level with the devices you use, and adjust any external antennas. Remember that radio waves broadcast perpendicular to the antenna, so reposition at least one antenna horizontally if you need coverage on another floor.
Change the channel
The 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands divide into smaller channels: 11 with the former and 45 with the latter. Your router typically selects the best channels during the initial setup. However, you may need to manually change channels if, for example, a neighbor installs a new router that uses the same one. This overcrowding can slow down your local wireless speeds.
To change the channel, open your router’s web interface in a browser and select a different channel. There’s no golden rule for which 5 GHz band channel you should use, but we suggest finding one that is 40 MHz and wider, as these channels provide more bandwidth.
Here’s a list of suggested channels.
|2.4 GHz||5 GHz|
We provide instructions on how to discover the best Wi-Fi channel in Windows and macOS.
Install a Wi-Fi repeater or extender
If you experience internet slowdowns in specific spots, a Wi-Fi repeater or extender can be a cheap alternative to purchasing a new router.
Generally, the terms ”extender” and “repeater” are used synonymously for a device that extends your router’s broadcast into otherwise unreachable areas. The most common version is a “repeater” that grabs your router’s signal and repeats it into dead areas. An extender essentially does the same thing, only it’s physically tethered to your router and creates a separate Wi-Fi connection—think of it as a miniature secondary router—whereas a repeater does not.
Check out our list of the best Wi-Fi extenders and repeaters if you need to fill areas of your home your router can’t reach.
Use a powerline adapter kit
Powerline is a connection that sits between wired and wireless in terms of performance. It uses the existing electrical wiring in your home or office, so technically, it’s a wired connection. It sends data using radio waves at a higher frequency than what’s used to send electricity through your home or office.
A kit typically consists of two units that plug into electrical outlets: one that’s tethered to your router’s Ethernet port and one that resides preferably on the same electrical circuit somewhere else in the home or office. The bandwidth depends on the kit and wiring in your home, but the key takeaway is the stability of a wired connection without having long runs of Ethernet cable snaking along your baseboards.
We provide a list of the best powerline kits to get you started.
Upgrade your router
If you have an old router, you can upgrade to a new model at a reasonable price if you don’t need all the bells and whistles. Our current budget pick is the TP-Link Archer AX10, which costs just over $70. It supports the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard and speeds up to 1,201 Mbps on the 5 GHz band.
If you’re shopping for a new router but you don’t know where to start, we have plenty of suggestions ranging from routers with excellent parental controls to ones with a long range—and more. Here’s a list to get you started:
If your network is running fine but you still need more speed, you’ll need a faster internet. Enter your zip code below to see what’s available in your area.
Use a wired connection
Wireless speeds can fluctuate based on interference, range, device congestion, and other factors. Wired connections don’t, making them ideal for streaming HBO Max to an Apple TV unit, playing first-person shooters online, and streaming gameplay to Twitch. Most devices with an Ethernet port support 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) speeds, and CAT 6a and newer can handle 10,000 Mbps and higher.
Get one of the best Ethernet cables to connect your computer to an Ethernet port on your router. If your device doesn’t support Ethernet, you can purchase an adapter from Amazon with an Ethernet female port and a USB-C/A/Micro-B male connector.
Ethernet connections are the best for fast, stable speeds, but Wi-Fi is a better option in specific situations. Check out our guide to see whether you should use Ethernet or Wi-Fi for streaming 4K content, gaming, and more.
Modern routers broadcast Wi-Fi on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. The 5 GHz band uses shorter radio waves at higher frequencies, which can’t penetrate walls, floors, and other obstructions like those transmitted on the 2.4 GHz band.
However, the 5 GHz band has wider, non-overlapping channels. That translates to more bandwidth than the 2.4 GHz channels. The newer Wi-Fi standards also play a part, allowing more data to be transmitted simultaneously across the 5 GHz connection only.
That said, your connection may seem slow due to your location and how many devices are using a single band simultaneously. Disconnect from one band and connect to the other to see if your internet connection improves. These two bands can have different names.
What if you see only one connection?
In some cases—like on mesh routers—you may see just one network name displayed on your Wi-Fi list. The router selects the best connection for your device and rejects its request to connect to the other band. You may have an option to disable this feature (called band steering) so you can manually move between the two bands.
Close unused browser tabs
The more tabs you have open, the more a computer or mobile device processor works. After a while, it becomes overloaded and sluggish. Tabs can also fill the device’s memory, giving the processor little room to work on non-browser tasks. All this translates to a tired device and what feels like a sluggish internet connection.
Close unnecessary tabs. If you have multiple windows of the same browser open—each displaying numerous tabs—consolidate them into the same window, and narrow down your tabs.
Author - Kevin Parrish
Kevin Parrish has more than a decade of experience working as a writer, editor, and product tester. He began writing about computer hardware and soon branched out to other devices and services such as networking equipment, phones and tablets, game consoles, and other internet-connected devices. His work has appeared in Tom’s Hardware, Tom's Guide, Maximum PC, Digital Trends, Android Authority, How-To Geek, Lifewire, and others. At HighSpeedInternet.com, he focuses on internet security.
Editor - Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for HighSpeedInternet.com for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.