Is My Wi-Fi Slow Because of My Router or My ISP?
The best way to find the source of your network slowdown is to take a few internet speed tests at different potential choke points. We’ll walk you through how to identify exactly where your problem is.
Know the speeds you should have
Check your internet plan to see what speeds you should be getting to your home. You should be able to find this easily on a bill or when you log in to your account. Keep in mind that most advertised speeds from internet companies are top speeds, so you can expect your actual performance to be a bit lower than this number (but hopefully not too much).
Make sure you’re getting the right speeds
Connect a laptop or computer directly to your modem with an Ethernet cable. Turn off your router, and shut down any other internet-using programs on your device. If you have a modem router or gateway, you may have to log in to your device’s online interface to turn off Wi-Fi and routing functions by putting it into bridge mode. Run a speed test to check the baseline internet speeds your home is getting.
Compare your modem speed test result with your initial result and your internet plan’s advertised speeds. If your speed drastically improved from your initial test, the issue is probably somewhere with your router. But if your speeds are a lot slower than you should be getting, your internet service provider (ISP) may be at fault. We’ll walk you through what to do in both scenarios.
If you find your speed results line up with the speeds you should be getting from your ISP, the slow speeds you’re experiencing are probably caused by network overload. You may need to upgrade to a faster internet plan to keep up with your household’s internet use.
Not sure how much speed you need to keep your internet connection from slowing down? Get a personalized internet speed recommendation to make sure your internet connection can keep up with what you and your household do online with our How Much Speed Do You Need? Tool.
What to do if your internet is slow because of your ISP
Before you call your provider, double-check that all cables and wires are connected securely and inspect your equipment for signs of damage. If everything looks fine, turn your modem off, wait for a minute, and turn it back on. Sometimes your device just needs a quick reset.
Call your ISP’s customer service and explain that you’re getting slower speeds than you pay for. It might help if you have a backlog of data that shows a trend of slower-than-promised speeds, which you can collect by taking several speed tests at different times of day for several days.
The customer service agent may tell you that there’s an outage in your area or run a modem reset on their end, which could fix your problem—especially if you use your own equipment instead of leasing from your ISP. If it’s an outage, you just have to wait to see if it gets better soon.
If you run through all your provider’s tips and still aren’t getting the right speeds, it may be time for an upgrade.
Of course, the problem could also be with your modem itself. If you rent your equipment from your ISP, you can request a new gateway that will hopefully work better for you (and may have updated specs, depending on when you got your rental device). If you don’t rent equipment from your provider, check out our guide to the best modem and router combos.
Some internet services are better than others. Read our report on the fastest internet providers in the US to see which ISPs perform the best.
What to do if your internet is slow because of your router
After you confirm you’re getting the correct speed test results from your modem, turn your router back on, connect your testing device to the router with an Ethernet cable, and run another speed test. If you have a modem and router combo, turn off bridge mode.
You may need to upgrade your router
If you don’t get comparable results at this step, there could be a few things wrong with your router.
- It may need a software update.
- It may have broken ports.
- It may be outdated and just not up to the task anymore.
Log in to your router’s online interface to check for software or firmware updates and see if that helps. We also suggest trying different LAN ports with your Ethernet cable in case one isn’t working correctly, and factory resetting your router to see if either of those help. If nothing’s working, get yourself a new router.
Upgrade your router with a model that can support the fastest speeds. Check out the best gigabit routers to make sure your equipment doesn’t slow you down.
Troubleshoot your network
If you’re still getting consistent speed test results when connected to your router via Ethernet, your speed issue is most likely caused by something in your Wi-Fi network. Slow Wi-Fi can come from all sorts of things, including physical obstructions like walls, signal interference, or even outdated devices.
For an in-depth network troubleshooting walkthrough, check out reasons for slow internet and how to fix them.
Author - Rebecca Lee Armstrong
Rebecca is a natural techie and the friend you turn to when your Wi-Fi randomly stops working. Since graduating from the University of Evansville with a degree in creative writing, Rebecca has leveraged her tech savvy to write hundreds of data-driven tech product and service reviews. In addition to HighSpeedInternet.com, her work has been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ and iMore.
Editor - Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has edited for HighSpeedInternet.com for three years, working with smart writers to revise everything from internet reviews to reports on your state’s favorite Netflix show. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span (buffering kills). With a degree in English and editing and five years working with online content, it’s safe to say she likes words on the internet. She is most likely to be seen wearing Birkenstocks and hanging out with a bouncy goldendoodle named Dobby, who is a literal fur angel sent to Earth.