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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.

Fast.com

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.

You can also simply type “internet speed test” into Google and tap or click the Run Speed Test button to instantly measure the speed of your internet connection. Google’s speed test is powered by Measurement Lab (M-Lab), the largest open source internet measurement effort in the world. You can expect it to transfer around 40 MB of data and take less than 30 minutes to complete.

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

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.
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Best WiFi speed test app for macOS and Windows

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.

How to Increase My Internet Speed?

If you’re not satisfied with your current internet speed, we have good news for you: there’s a lot you can do to increase it. Let’s take a look at 10 simple things you can do to enjoy the internet without endless loading times, constant buffering, and other annoyances.

1. Get a New Router

You wouldn’t expect a budget computer to play the latest video games or run professional applications, and you shouldn’t expect a budget router to deliver stable internet speeds and cover a large area with a strong WiFi signal.

A new router can cost anywhere between $30 and $300, but there’s no reason to spend a large sum of money on an expensive router if you don’t have a use for its features. Instead, shop for the best value and select a router that can provide the required coverage and capacity without costing an arm and a leg.

Get a New Router

Of course, you can always keep your old router and use it to create another WiFi network to reinforce an area of a signal weakness.

2. Update Your Router Firmware

Modern routers are basically small computers created with a specific purpose in mind. And just like personal computers, they receive updates that fix bugs, improve performance, and close security holes. While some routers update themselves automatically (usually at night when nobody’s on the internet), most older routers and many new ones don’t.

Keep Your Router Updated

To update your router, you need to access its administrator interface by following your brand’s instructions. Once there, go to Settings and look for a firmware update option. The update itself likely won’t take more than just a couple of minutes, but you will have to restart your router to install it, so keep that in mind and don’t update your router while downloading a large file from the internet or expecting an important Skype call.

3. Change Your WiFi Password

Do you have a lot of neighbors or live in a heavily trafficked area, especially near a school or playground? If so, you should probably change your WiFi password because you might be unknowingly sharing your internet connection with the whole neighborhood.

For a WiFi password to be secure, it must be at least eight digits long and impossible to find in the dictionary. If you have trouble remembering weird symbols and special characters, don’t be afraid to use a long passphrase instead.

Change Your WiFi Password

Just remember that even the longest, most random password won’t be able to protect your WiFi network unless you secure it with at least Wi-Fi Protected Access 2, or WPA2 for short. If your WiFi router doesn’t support this security method, we highly recommend you get a new one.

4. Find a Better Place for Your Router

A poorly chosen spot for your WiFi router is guaranteed to negatively affect your internet speed. You should always place your router away from large obstacles and RF-emitting devices, such as wireless security cameras, cordless phones, microwave ovens, and so on. Because WiFi routers transmit in all directions, it makes sense to position your router approximately in the middle of the area you want to cover with a WiFi signal.

Select a Good Place for Your Router

A wireless network analyzer like NetSpot can help you discover areas of signal weakness and determine the optimal place for your router. You can use it to create a signal strength heatmap so that you can see at a glance where you likely won’t be able to achieve the maximum internet speed.

5. Set Up a WiFi Range Extender

A WiFi range extender is a handy device that can expand the reach of your WiFi network by repeating the wireless signal from your router. Most WiFi range extenders are fairly inexpensive, costing between $20 and $100.

Extender

To install a WiFi range extender, you simply plug it into a wall outlet and use a companion smartphone app to connect it to your existing WiFi network. Some WiFi range extenders can even help you find the ideal installation location, which is typically about halfway between your router and the area with a poor WiFi signal.

6. Use a Wired Connection

If the device you want to connect to the internet is close enough to your WiFi router, you can easily achieve the best internet speed possible by connecting it using a wired Ethernet connection.

Use a Wired Connection

In fact, Ethernet connections can be up to 100 meters long, but you’re probably not keen on paying a large sum of money for a massive spool of cable Ethernet cable just to connect your computer or smart TV to the internet.

7. Switch to a Different WiFi Channel

In North America, the 2.4 GHz band is divided into 11 channels. You can think of these channels as lines on the highway. To achieve the best internet speed possible, you want to select a channel that’s used by the smallest number of WiFi networks. The problem is that only three of the 11 channels are non-overlapping, which means that the data packets that travel on them can’t bump into each other.

Switch to a Different WiFi Channel

If you’re not sure which WiFi channel to use, you can easily collect information about surrounding WiFi networks using NetSpot, including their channel, and use this information to locate your busiest and least occupied channels.

8. Take Advantage of the 5 GHz Band

Most WiFi routers these days support two separate bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 5 GHz band tends to be far less congested than the 2.4 GHz band, so you should take advantage of it whenever possible, especially because it’s capable of transmitting data at faster speeds. Its only downside is the fact that it can’t penetrate solid objects, such as walls and furniture, nearly as well as the 2.4 GHz band.

Switch to 5 GHz

Since the 5 GHz band has up to 23 non-overlapping channels, co-channel interference is rarely a problem, even in densely populated urban areas. To benefit from the 5 GHz band, you need to make sure that your wireless devices support it otherwise, you would be broadcasting it for no reason.

9. Get a New Antenna for Your WiFi Router

Does your router have a removable external antenna? Then you can increase your WiFi speed by replacing it with a high-gain antenna. You can purchase a new WiFi antenna on Amazon or eBay for around $10, and installing it is as easy as removing the original antenna and screwing in the new one.

Get a Stronger Antenna

If your router doesn’t have an external antenna, you might still be able to connect one to it by disconnecting its internal antenna and using a pigtail to SMA adaptor cable.

10. Find a Different Internet Service Provider

Truth be told, you might not always be able to improve your internet speed using the tips above. The problem could be your internet service provider and its inability to live up to its promises. In such a case, your only option is to find a different internet service provider.

Find a Different Internet Service Provider

Conclusion

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.

SO, WE RECOMMEND
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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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