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How to speed up your broadband for free

Wondering how to speed up your broadband? Sometimes you can make your connection faster with a few simple tweaks to your home network set up, or by troubleshooting minor issues. That being said, if you follow the steps in this guide and your broadband is not faster, it may be time for a better service!

By on May 09, 2014 at 10:18 AM
How to speed up your broadband for free


If you're constantly staring at your router and mentally screaming 'make my internet go faster!' Then you need our handy guide to speeding up your broadband. While slow internet can be frustrating, the good news is that sometimes the issue is something really simple that you can iron out in a matter of minutes. If all else fails you can switch to a faster service, but first why not try these free tips on making your broadband go faster? Alternatively, have a peek at Ofcom's broadband speeds FAQ for some useful info on what sort of speeds you should be expecting.

Why is my internet so slow?

Here's something that not everyone knows - the speed of your broadband service isn't just dependent on your ISP and the package you've signed up for. There are lots of reasons why your internet might be acting up, and Masterchef isn't loading on iPlayer.

Reasons for slow broadband:

  • Temporary service interruptions. When your ISP is performing maintenance, there is an issue with the network or bad weather is interrupting the signal. If this is the case, a notice should be displayed on your ISP's website and you should be able to find out when the network is expected to return to normal by telephoning your ISP
  • Downloading large files at peak times. Most ISPs apply traffic management policies, which prevent users from downloading lots of content at times when everyone in the local area is trying to read their emails or catch up with Facebook, between 7 and 11pm. By metering out the speeds, ISPs can ensure everyone is able to access the service
  • Using an extension cable to connect your Router to your telephone socket. Don't do it, unless you have to. Make sure your router is connected to your main telephone socket instead of any ancilary ones, and make sure that there is the shortest distance possible between the router and the socket
  • Using out of date web browsers. Make sure that you are using the latest version of your preferred web browser, in case any speed-improving updates have been released
  • Cache-clogging data. Go ahead and clear your web browser's cache regularly, removing the temporary browsing files that can mount up and slow down your browsing experience
  • Connection issues. If you're having trouble loading a particular website, try flushing your DNS settings: Type CMD into the 'run' box of your startup bar, then type 'ipconfig flushdns'. This effectively resets your internet connection and can prevent some loading issues
  • Old hardware. If you've had the same router and digital set top box for a really long time, your ISP has probably upgraded and is offering better hardware to new customers. You could be entitled to a free hardware upgrade, which could improve your speeds dramatically. Give your ISP a call and explain you're having internet speed issues, roughly when your hardware was issued, and ask if they would be able to provide new equipment

Know your maximum broadband speed

Before you start worrying about a problem with your service, check the maximum internet speeds for your broadband package. If you signed up to a basic broadband deal with speeds up to 8Mbps, it's unrealistic to expect fast internet. If you see a huge discrepancy between your 'up to' and 'actual' speeds, there's an issue to be resolved.

Test your current broadband speeds


Are your actual speeds nowhere near the advertised "up to" speeds for your package? There are some practical steps you can take to speed up your broadband for free, and the good news is they're pretty simple. Here's what to try:

Reset your router, flush DNS settings, clear your web browser's cache

These steps effectively reset your connection and clear up any glitches. Turn your router, set top box and laptop's Wi-Fi receiver off, wait for 30 seconds, then turn them back on again. Follow the steps above to flush your DNS settings, and clear your web browser's cache using the tools option under settings.

Update your web browser and your antivirus software

An expired antivirus software stops updating its library which leaves your machine susceptible to newly created malware, spyware, Trojans and other nasty viruses. These can slow down your computer generally, and in some cases may be using your bandwidth to download or upload additional data. Always make sure that your computer is protected and that your antivirus programme is up to date. In addition, an old unregistered antivirus programme can start swallowing your precious bandwidth as it will keep trying to update itself in circles until you manually delete it or re-install it.

Move your router closer to your telephone socket and connect any devices you can via ethernet instead of wirelessly. If your router is currently connected to an extension cord or a secondary telephone socket, move it to be within easy reach of your main telephone socket.

Take control of your start up programmes

Do you know which programmes are running every time you start up your computer, updating themselves and sending data to the web? You'd be surprised about how many programmes set themselves by default to automatically run when you start up your computer - Java and iTunes are two of the most frustrating culprits. You can use a free registry cleaner programme to analyse what's running when you log onto your PC, and to tell programmes to stop starting up by themselves.

Don't allow download managers to run constantly in the background

If you use download managers to organise files you are receiving from websites, make sure that you turn them off after completing all of your downloads. This prevents them from constantly sending and receiving information, freeing up bandwidth.

Set a password for your router

If you don't set a password for your wireless router, anyone could access it and leech your bandwidth, causing your internet speeds to slow to a crawl. Even worse, an unsecured wireless network is vulnerable to attacks from hackers who may access it to retrieve your personal information or perform illegal activities. Make sure your password is complex enough that it can't be guessed, with upper case, lower case and numerical characters.


Change the channel on your wireless router

Wireless networks operate on different channels, and when lots of nearby networks are all using the same one (i.e. your neighbours) this can cause interference and slow your connection. In some cases, you can manually change the channel on your router to the least busy, but this is quite a technical process and many modern routers actually do this automatically. Our first recommendation is to check your router manual for information on how the router channel is set up. If you want to go ahead and make a change, follow this detailed tutorial from How to Geek. Be warned though, this stuff gets technical so make sure you put your reading glasses on.

Use microfilters

A microfilter is a small plastic device which looks a bit like a telephone adapter and you can pick one up from any decent electrical store for a few pounds. It allows your broadband connection to run smoothly alongside your home phone service without interfering with one another. This is why they are sometimes called signal splitters. Not using microfilters may result in unusually slow broadband and noise when calling. All the equipment you have that runs via the phone system (i.e. telephones, faxes) should be connected using a microfilter.

Check if electrical equipment is interfering with your wireless internet speeds

It might sound silly but it's worth knowing that other electrical equipment such as microwaves or even Christmas tree lights can interfere with wireless signals. Try switching them off when you are browsing, or if that's not possible - try keeping your router as far as you can from them.

Hopefully by now your broadband is working better and your internet speeds have improved, but if not, give our Switching Support experts a call and they'll happily find the fastest broadband deal available in your local area, then organise everything to switch you over - even installation.

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