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Few problems in the world of technology are as frustrating as having a slow internet connection. That’s been true for years, but especially now that millions of people are working or taking classes from home.
If your internet has been slow, spotty, inconsistent, or unresponsive, there are plenty of ways to fix it. Rather than focus on quick fixes, all of our suggestions are designed to solve this problem permanently. We’ve taken home size, the number of devices that need a connection, and even geography into account.
Whether you need faster internet for regular video calls with your team, or streaming the latest Disney+ shows in HD, these hacks will help out big time.
1. Upgrade To A Better Internet Plan
The easiest way to get faster internet is to upgrade from a lower tier plan to a better one. Your options will be limited by where you live, but check your ISP (internet service provider’s) website to see if there’s an opportunity to upgrade.
I’ve been a Verizion Fios customer in New York City for several years, and I’ve been automatically upgraded to better speeds every couple of years. This tactic may be difficult if you’re in the middle of a multi-year contract. If that’s the case, see when the contract is up, or if your ISP will waive an upgrade fee.
If you’re unsure how fast your speed needs to be, I recommend using Netflix’s recommended bandwidth chart, which has the best real-world information. Here are the internet speeds the service says you should have for different levels of streaming quality.
- 3.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for SD quality
- 5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for HD quality
- 25 Megabits per second – Recommended for Ultra HD quality
To check your current internet speed, use Fast.com, a free resource that will tell you your current download and upload speeds in under a minute. If the number it gives you is far lower than the internet plan you’re paying for, it may be time to call your ISP to file a complaint.
2. Replace Your Old Cable Modem
If you’ve upgraded to a faster internet connection, but have an old cable modem, that may be the bottleneck preventing you from getting the right speed.
You can get a new router from your ISP, but many charge a monthly fee (or one-time flat fee) to use their hardware. You can get around that restriction by supplying your own cable modem. This one from ARRIS works with many — but not all — popular ISPs, and requires no additional software or monthly payments to work.
It offers speeds of up to 1Gbps (1000Mbps), but does not have a WiFi router built into it. Many ISP-supplied cable modems can perform both tasks, this one cannot. If your ISP allows you to use a third-party cable modem, this one from ARRIS can provide very fast speeds, and may pay for itself in about a year depending on your ISP’s router rental fees.
3. Use a 4G WiFi Hotspot
If you live in an area with limited high speed internet options from an ISP, your best bet is to rely on a 4G WiFi hotspot instead.
This device works like a smartphone: Insert a 4G microchip, pay for a data plan, and the modem will create a WiFi network from the data it receives from a cellular satellite. You can use a 4G chip from any of the major U.S. cell carriers (Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile), so do some research on which one works best in your area. Some smartphone plans include a WiFi hotspot mode, but that’ll burn your battery very quickly.
This LTE WiFi hotspot from Netgear offers speeds of up to 150mbps, enough to stream 4K video from Netflix. The speed you actually get will depend on the strength of your connection, which can vary based on your location.
The benefit of using a WiFi hotspot instead of a traditional ISP is that you can take your internet connection anywhere you go. Again, the speeds you get will vary, but this flexibility is a nice perk. One factor to consider is that some cellular network plans have monthly data limits, and can charge you overage fees if you exceed your allotment.
That said, managing your data usage is a lot better than dealing with a slow Internet connection, and may not even be an issue depending on the data plan you choose.
4. Get a More Powerful WiFi Router
If you have a fast at-home Internet connection, but aren’t getting the speeds you’re supposed to have, the problem may be your WiFi router.
Eero’s router can create a network up to 1,500 square feet. at speeds of up to 550mbps. If you have a larger home, or want even faster speeds, you can get a multi-pack of Eero routers, which will connect to one another to create an even bigger network. We’ve had the opportunity to test Eero’s routers for ourselves, and have always been impressed. Its hardware is easy to set up, and you can troubleshoot problems in its well-designed app.
For the best performance, it’s important to disable the WiFi connection on the cable modem provided by your ISP. Having two competing WiFi networks can greatly reduce your speed. The settings for your ISP’s router are typically found on its website, just log into your online account.
A fast WiFi router can only do so much if you have a slow Internet plan, but at the very least it can make your network larger, eliminating dead zones.
5. Switch From WiFi to an Ethernet Adapter and Cable
As great as WiFi is, it’ll never be as fast as plugging your device directly into your cable modem or router with an Ethernet cable.
Some gadgets, like your TV, game console, and full-sized media streamer, may have built-in Ethernet ports, but that’s not the case for many modern laptops. If you need faster speeds on your computer, we recommend getting a USB-C to Ethernet adapter.
This one from Anker offers speeds of up to 1Gbps (1000Mbps). If your computer doesn’t have USB-C ports, don’t worry, this Ethernet adapter can be plugged into a standard USB-A port. Using an Ethernet cable is a lot less convenient than using WiFi, but the bump in speed may be worth the hassle. At the very least you can set up a wired connection in your home office or workspace, and rely on WiFi the rest of the time.
Another accessory you’ll need if you want to create a wired connection from your modem or router to a gadget is a good Ethernet cable. We recommend going with one from Cable Matters based on our personal experience with the company. A 25foot cable costs just $9.99, and the quality of the cord and connectors can’t be beat.