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Internet Speed Test: What It Is and Why You Should Do It

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Even though we are now entering the 5G era, many people are still not able to enjoy the internet without constant buffering even with a broadband connection. Why? Because they are not getting the internet speeds they pay for. What’s worse, they don’t even know how to test internet speed to come up with concrete evidence that things are not as they should be.

What Is an Internet Speed Test?

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding internet speed tests. Many people don’t know what internet speed tests are good for, and those who do know often don’t fully understand what influences them.

Most internet speed tests online test the following three connection metrics:

  • Ping (latency): Ping is the amount of delay it takes to send information from one point to the next. Ping test is performed by measuring the time it takes data packets to travel from the internet to the user’s computer. Ping is typically tested multiple times, with the lowest value finally determining the result.

  • Download speed: Download speed is the rate at which data packets are transferred from the Internet to the user's computer. Most internet speed test online applications establish multiple simultaneous connections to make the final result more accurate.

  • Upload speed: Upload speed is the rate at which data packets are transferred from the user's computer to a remote server. Just like when testing download speed, multiple connections are typically established to increase the accuracy of the test.

Ping is not too important when browsing the web or downloading files from the internet, but it’s critical when streaming audio and video or playing games. Your download speed doesn’t determine just how long it takes you to download files, but also how long it takes websites to load because every website is really just a collection of various assets which must be downloaded for the website to load correctly.

Why Should I Test My Internet Speed?

In a perfect world, your internet connection would always be at its top speed, and you would never experience any slowdowns and connectivity issues. Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a world. However, we do live in a world where increasingly many activities depend on a fast internet connection, and where internet service providers often promise one thing and deliver something completely different.

Here are our top three reasons why you should regularly test your internet speed:

  1. Get what you’re paying for: Internet service providers fiercely compete for customers, and their marketing departments are known for promising more than they can deliver. Even if you select a reputable internet service provider, you might end up experiencing local connectivity issues. By performing an internet speed test, you can ensure that you’re getting what you’re paying for and have concrete evidence in case you’re not.
  2. Select the best internet service provider: It’s very easy for internet service providers to promise fast internet speeds and low latency without guaranteeing anything. Often, they bury the real minimum download and upload speed deep in a novel-length contract, which most customers won’t ever read in its entirety. By using an internet speed test during a free one-month trial of an internet connection, you can easily evaluate whether the service lives up to its promises and choose a different one if it doesn’t.
  3. Optimize your network: Most importantly, you should perform regular internet speed tests using the best internet speed test services listed further down in this article to learn more about your network so you can optimize it for top performance. Just because you’re able to achieve your maximum download and upload speed in the living room doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to achieve it in, let’s say, the kitchen.

Recommended Internet Speed by Activity

In 2007, the average internet connection speed in the United States was just 3.6 Mbps. Ten years later, the average internet connection speed was 18.75 Mbps, that’s an increase of 420 percent in a single decade.

Despite the fact that the average internet connection speed is increasing at a steady rate, many people are still experiencing problems with browsing, downloading, streaming, and online gaming because all these activities have become significantly more bandwidth-intensive as well. Here’s our up-to-date list of recommended internet speeds by activity:

  • Email: To send and receive email messages with attachments without a lot of delay, you need a download and upload speed of at least 1 Mbps.
  • Web browsing: The average web page now has nearly 2 MB, so a download speed of 5 Mbps is recommended for comfortable web browsing. Unless you want to share a lot of multimedia content online, your upload speed doesn’t matter too much.
  • Music streaming: Spotify, one of the largest music streaming services in the world, recommends at least 512 kbps / 512 kbps internet connection for streaming music in 320 kbps quality.
  • Vdeo streaming: Netflix recommends at least 5 Mbps for HD video streaming and 25 Mbps for 4K video streaming. Other video streaming services recommend similar internet speeds. Keep in mind that their recommendations don’t take into account situation when multiple people sharing the same internet connection stream at the same time.
  • Online gaming: Most online games are extremely well-optimized when it comes to the among of bandwidth they require. For example, one of the most popular AAA online shooters today, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare uses only 512 kbps / 512 kbps. What’s far more important is ping, which ideally shouldn’t exceed 50 ms.

Best Online Internet Speed Tests

When you type “websites to test my internet speed” into Google, you will get many results. Right at the top should be Speedtest by Ookla. This free web service provides free analysis of internet access performance metrics, and it was founded by Ookla in 2006.

Since then, Speedtest by Ookla has become the most frequently recommended internet speed test in the world, and over 21 billion speed tests have been completed by its users so far.
Speedtest by Ookla

To test internet speed using Speedtest by Ookla, all you have to do is open the service in your favorite web browser, close all applications that connect to the internet, make sure that nobody else on your network is downloading or uploading, and click the prominent “Go” button. The test takes just a few seconds to complete, and all results are conveniently displayed right there on the test page.

Another highly rated speed test internet users can turn to is Fast.com. With this test, no user input is required. All you have to do is open the test in your web browser, and it will automatically begin as soon as it loads.


By default, Fast.com displays only your internet speed, but you can click on the “Show more info” button to see your latency, upload speed, and other useful information.

Of course, not every internet speed test Google knows about is guaranteed to be accurate, and even popular internet speed tests like Speedtest by Ookla or Fast.com may occasionally display misleading results. That’s why we recommend you always use multiple internet speed tests and calculate the average latency, download speed, and upload speed yourself.

What Influences Internet Speed?

The main thing that influences your internet speed is your online activity. You might be surprised by just how much of your bandwidth can even a single high-definition online video take, not leaving much for browsing the web or downloading files from the internet.

The same can be said about the online activity of other people who are on the same network as you. Unless you are lucky enough to have a fiber optic connection, you can’t reasonably expect to play online games without any lag when several other people on your network are in the middle of a Netflix binge.

When it comes to wireless connections, the placement and configuration play an important role. Unless you use a software tool for wireless network assessment, scanning, and surveys like NetSpot to verify that your wireless router can cover all parts of your home with a strong and stable wireless signal, you may run into dead zones.

WiFi speed test app runs on a MacBook (macOS 10.10+) or any laptop (Windows 7/8/10) with a standard 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless network adapter.
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NetSpot can also help you determine the most optimal wireless channel for your wireless router. Especially in densely populated urban areas, it’s common for multiple wireless routers to operate on the same wireless channel, which leads to severe interference and poor internet speeds.

All you need to use NetSpot is a MacBook running Mac OS X 10.10+ or any laptop with Windows 7/8/10 on board. NetSpot can be downloaded for free, and even regular internet users with no expert knowledge of how networks operate can use it with ease.
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Best WiFi speed test app for macOS and Windows


Internet speed tests are indispensable tools that every single internet user should add to his or her toolbox. Modern web-based internet speed tests are easy to use, and they provide instant and accurate results. Equipped with the results of multiple internet speed tests, you can contact your internet service provider and demand the internet speeds you pay for.

Alternatively, you can use a software tool for wireless network assessment, scanning, and surveys like NetSpot to improve your internet speeds yourself.

WiFi speed test app runs on a MacBook (macOS 10.10+) or any laptop (Windows 7/8/10) with a standard 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless network adapter.
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Wi-Fi Site Surveys, Analysis, Troubleshooting runs on a MacBook (macOS 10.10+) or any laptop (Windows 7/8/10) with a standard 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless network adapter.