12 Ways to Speed Up Your Internet without Paying a Dime

Why pay for faster speeds when you can make a few tweaks for increased performance?

Your internet plan determines your maximum speed, so there’s nothing you can do to increase that speed other than upgrade to a faster plan. But your connection might not be operating at its full potential, causing you to miss out on your max speeds. 

If your internet feels slower than a train of snails, we’ll show you how to improve your speed in 12 different ways across four categories: your network, your router, your devices, and your software.

Pro tip:

Run our internet speed test to see where your connection stands compared to your plan’s promised speeds.

Run the Speed Test

Speed up your network

Check your cable connections

All internet connections attach to a modem using a telephone, coaxial, or fiber-optic cable. These cables can cause internet slowdowns if they’re not properly tightened during the initial setup. Be sure all cables are firmly plugged in or tightened properly—possibly by using a tool that came bundled with your modem.

Also, check your cables for damage, as the slightest nick can break the wiring inside and slow your internet connection.

Pro tip:

We provide more on how to connect your router to your computer if you need additional help.

Reboot your network

These instructions power cycle your modem and router to clear out any processor and memory-related issues.

Step 1: Unplug your modem and your router from the wall outlet.

Step 2: Wait 30 seconds.

Step 3: Plug your modem back into the wall outlet.

Step 4: Wait for the modem to boot completely.

Step 5: Plug the router back into the wall outlet.

Pro tip:

If you have a wireless gateway (a router and modem combined), just unplug the power, wait 30 seconds, and plug it back into the outlet.

Speed up your router

Check for software updates

A router is a small computer that manages your home network. It runs software (firmware) you typically don’t see. Slowdowns can occur if there are issues with this software.

Access your router’s settings using a browser or mobile app, and verify that it’s running the latest firmware. If not, check for a new update or manually install firmware you can download from the manufacturer.

Adjust your router’s position

Placement plays an important factor in your wireless speed. Move your router to a different location—preferably in an open area—to see if your wireless speeds improve. TP-Link suggests that you set a router on a table 1.5 feet high, so it’s on the same level as the devices you use.1

Pro tip:

We list a few tips on the best place to set up your router so you can get the maximum range.

Also, adjust your router’s external antennas if present. They broadcast wireless connectivity in all directions but perpendicular to the antenna’s position. For example, if you have connectivity issues upstairs, make at least one antenna horizontal to see if the adjustment helps.

Change your Wi-Fi channel

NOTE: Change frequency bands first on your device to see if your connection improves before you attempt to change channels in the router.

The 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands split into channels. Most channels overlap, causing internet slowdowns. Those that don’t overlap yield the best performance and are typically selected by your router automatically. Here are the best channels:

2.4 GHz5 GHz
1
6
11
36
40
44
48
2.4 GHz1
6
11
5 GHz36
40
44
48

Alternatively, you may get a better lineup by installing a Wi-Fi analyzer app and scanning the area. Apple’s macOS and Microsoft Windows also provide built-in tools that show which channels local networks currently use so that you can adjust your router accordingly. Here’s how to check:

macOS

Step 1: Hold down the Option key and click on the Wi-Fi icon displayed on the menu bar.

Step 2: Select Open Wireless Diagnostics listed on the drop-down menu.

Step 3: Ignore the Windows Diagnostics window and instead click Window on the menu bar.

Step 4:  Select Scan on the drop-down list.

The Scan window appears on your screen and summarizes the best 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channels available to you. The results also show all available networks and the channels they use. 

Windows

Step 1: Right-click on the Start button and select Windows PowerShell on the Power User menu.

Step 2: Type netsh wlan show all and press the Enter key.

Step 3: Scroll down to the SHOW NETWORKS MODE=BSSID section. Here you will see a list of all wireless networks and the channels they use.

To change the channel on your router, you’ll need to enter its web or IP address in a browser and log in to its backend interface. You’ll likely see the setting toggled to “auto,” but generally, you can select any available channel on the pop-up list.

Prioritize traffic

One way to increase your speed is to prioritize specific internet traffic over other types using your router’s Quality of Service tool. You can allot more bandwidth to streaming services like Netflix and HBO Max and less bandwidth to specific devices and less demanding applications. 

To change your Quality of Service settings, log in to your router using a browser or mobile app.

Pro tip:

Is your internet connection working just fine, but you want faster speeds from your plan? Enter your zip code below to see if there are faster plans available in your area.

Speed up your device connections

Reconnect Wi-Fi

If you experience internet slowdowns on wireless devices, try turning off Wi-Fi first before rebooting the entire network. This way, you’re not disrupting everyone else if the problem is with your specific device.

Smartphones and tablets

Step 1: Tap on the Wi-Fi icon in the Control Center (iOS, iPadOS) or Quick Settings panel (Android).

Step 2: Tap it again to turn Wi-Fi back on.

Windows 10

On notebooks, the Wi-Fi toggle is usually assigned to a function key, like F2 or F8—you’ll see a Wi-Fi icon printed above the function number.

Step 1: Right-click on the Wi-Fi icon displayed on the taskbar and select Open Network & Internet Settings.

Step 2: Select Wi-Fi listed on the left.

Step 3: Click on the toggle displayed under Wi-Fi, so it reads Off.

Step 4: Wait a few moments and click the toggle on again, so it reads On.

macOS

Step 1: Click on the Wi-Fi icon displayed to the right on the menu bar.

Step 2: Select Turn Wi-Fi Off on the drop-down menu.

Step 3: Wait a few moments, and then select Turn Wi-Fi On.

Use a wired connection

If you experience internet slowdowns using a wireless connection, try using an Ethernet cable instead. You can purchase a USB or Lightning adapter if your device doesn’t have an Ethernet port. They’re great for devices like the iPad Pro and 2-in-1 PCs but not ideal for smartphones.

Pro tip:

Which connection is better: wired or wireless? We pit Ethernet against Wi-Fi to see which is right for your applications.

Switch to a better frequency band

Modern routers broadcast connections on two frequency bands.

The 2.4 GHz band has a longer range than 5 GHz but transmits data at a lower rate. All wireless devices use 2.4GHz, making it a very crowded space.

The 5 GHz band has a shorter range but a faster data rate. It’s more prone to slowdowns due to obstacles like walls and furniture, but it’s not as crowded.

Many routers broadcast internet connectivity using a different name for each band. Be sure to switch from one band to the other to see if your internet speed improves. If your router broadcasts only one name, you typically cannot manually change bands unless it provides an option to disable band steering.

Power cycle your devices

If a network reboot doesn’t speed up your internet connection, you may need to shut down your devices instead and then restart. This option cuts off power to the motherboard and RAM, clearing out all the conflicting junk.

Pro tip:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines broadband as internet access with a minimum of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds. You may need a better plan if your connection is much slower than that. Enter your zip code below to see what’s available in your area.

Clean up your software

Clean out your browser

One way to speed up your internet is to clear out all the junk in your browser: cookies, cache, and even browser history. Browser extensions and add-ons can impact performance, too, as they require additional processing power over your tabs.

Pro tip:

We provide a list of the fastest browsers available today so you can get the most out of your internet plan’s speed.

Check for updates

Software and driver updates are a high priority for operating systems like Windows and macOS. If these platforms are not performing optimally, your internet will feel like treading through mud.

Web browsers are no exception—they, too, require continuous updates. These updates are typically applied automatically and require you to restart the browser to complete. If your browser doesn’t update automatically, you’ll need to do so manually.

Pro tip:

Check out the best internet browsers for security that help block malicious ads and web code.

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Sources

  1. TP-Link, “How to Place Your Wireless Router for Optimal Reception and Performance?” June 22, 2021. Accessed August 5, 2021.

Author -

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.

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