Why is My WiFi So Slow: Tracking Down the Culprits

Why is My WiFi So Slow

Pages that take forever to load can test your patience. Sluggish WiFi speeds can become even more frustrating when you’re trying to do time-sensitive work. It may be tempting to call your internet service provider and vent to a representative about the issue. But, before you do that, here are some of the most common reasons why your WiFi is so slow, and how you can fix them.

You’re Using the Wrong Spectrum Band

Wireless networks use two main frequency bands: 2.4 GHz (gigahertz) and 5 GHz. These frequency bands affect how far and how fast data can travel over WiFi. The 2.4 GHz band gives you slower speeds at a longer range, while the 5 GHz band gives you faster speeds at a shorter range.

So, if you want the fastest WiFi speeds, you should always use the 5 GHz band. However, the more devices you have on one band, the slower your WiFi will be. So, you should reserve the 5 GHz band for your most important devices, such as your laptop.

To find out more about the difference between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, check out our article here.

You can only use both frequency bands if you have a dual-band router. This type of router will let you have two different WiFi networks – one for each band. You can set up these different networks to each have their own name and password.

To find out if your router supports both WiFi bands, you have to log in to your router’s settings page. Then make sure both your bands are turned on. From here, you can also find the name and password for your 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks.

dual band router settings

If you want to know how to log in to your router’s settings page, check out our step-by-step guide here.

You’re Using the Wrong WiFi Channel

Each WiFi frequency band is broken up into several “channels,” which are used to send and receive wireless data. The 2.4 GHz band has three non-overlapping channels to choose from, while the 5 GHz band has up to 24 non-overlapping channels.

You can think of channels like lanes on a highway, and each WiFi-connected device in your area is like a car in those lanes. If you and your neighbors are all using the same WiFi channel for all your devices, it can cause a traffic jam. So, to speed up your WiFi, you should use the least congested channel.

If you are using the 2.4 GHz band, you have 11 channels to choose from. However, you should only choose channels 1, 6, or 11 because they are the only channels that don’t overlap with each other. And, since most routers use channel 6 by default, you might want to use channels 1 or 11.

WiFi analyzer

If you are using the 5 GHz band, there are lots of different channels to choose from. However, the most popular channels are usually 36, 40, 44, and 48. If you want to find the best channel to use, you can use a wireless analyzer app like NetSpot, which is free for Windows and Mac users.

You can change your WiFi channel by accessing your router’s settings page. Then go to the frequency band and change the channel from auto to another channel. This might be different, depending on your router.

how to change your WiFi channel

If you want to know more about how to change the WiFi channel on your router, check out our step-by-step guide here.

wifi-install

You Have Too Many Bandwidth-Heavy Activities

Bandwidth refers to the maximum amount of data that can be sent over a network at any given time. That means every time someone on your network makes a video call, streams a movie, or downloads a large file, it could slow your WiFi down.

To find out which activities are taking up lots of bandwidth on your Windows computer, open the Task Manager. You can do this by right-clicking on your Taskbar at the bottom of your screen. Then select Task Manager from the pop-up list.

Once the Task Manager opens, you can sort your activities by how much bandwidth they are using by clicking on the header of the Network column. If you find any activities that are taking up too much bandwidth, you can select them and click End Task.

task manager high bandwidth

If you are using a Mac, you can use the Activity Monitor to find bandwidth-heavy activities. You can do this by going to the Applications folder and opening the Utilities folder. Then open the Activity Monitor and select the Network tab at the top of the window.

You can either sort by bytes (data) or packets sent or received to find the most bandwidth-heavy applications. Then you can stop any processes by clicking the “X” at the top of the window.

activity monitor bandwidth heavy activities

Your Router is Out of Date

One of the easiest ways to fix your slow WiFi connection is to change out your old router. As a general rule, newer routers will provide better WiFi speeds than older ones. This is because older routers are not usually able to work with newer WiFi standards.

If you do get a new router, try to find one that supports 802.11ac (also known as Wireless AC or WiFi 5) technology. You can usually find this label on the box when you buy the router. This will allow you to have WiFi speeds of over 1 Gbps (gigabit per second), at least theoretically.

If you can’t find a Wireless AC router, you should at least find one that supports 802.11n (also known as WiFi 4) technology. These routers support theoretical WiFi speeds of up to 600 Mbps.

And, if you’re willing to wait, you can get a router that supports 802.11ax (also known as WiFi 6) technology. These routers will be able to support speeds of over 10 Gbps. However, this standard is not fully developed yet, and the current routers that support WiFi 6 are still very expensive.

If you’re looking for a new router, check out our list of the best WiFi routers of 2020 here.

HT-blog-ad-nestWifi

You Router Is in the Wrong Place

If you have a new router, but you’re still experiencing WiFi “dead zones,” you might want to move your router. Since the signals from your router travel in an outward radius, you will have better coverage if you place your router in a central location rather than in a corner.

WiFi map location slow
Mapping WiFi signal strength based on a router’s location. (Image Source: Jason Cole)

WiFi signals travel vertically and horizontally. This means it’s a good idea to have your router in an elevated position, like the top of a bookshelf or mounted on a wall. However, water and metal objects block WiFi signals, so make sure to place your router away from refrigerators and fish tanks. Finding the ideal router positioning takes trial and error, so check your WiFi signal strength in different areas before picking your router’s final location.

If you want to know more about the best place to put your router, check out our article here.

Your Network Drivers are Outdated

In order to connect to the internet, your computer uses a network adapter, which is supported by network drivers. These network drivers allow your computer’s hardware and software programs to interact with one another.

Windows Update automatically pushes the latest version of network drivers to your system. However, there may be times when these network adapter drivers go missing, go out of date, or become incompatible with your current system. This can cause your WiFi to slow down.

If you’re a Windows 10 user, you can manually update your network driver by opening the Windows search box (the magnifying glass icon in the bottom-left corner of your screen). Then type Device Manager into the search bar and click Open. In the Device Manager menu, right-click on the network adapter you want to update and choose Update Driver.

update Driver wifi speed test

If you have a Mac, Apple will handle all the system and driver updates for you. To make sure your drivers are up to date, click the Apple icon in the top-left corner of your screen and select System Preferences. Then select Software Update and click Update Now. If you don’t see this option, it means your Mac is up to date.

Mac software Update

If you want to find out how slow your WiFi is, you can easily perform a WiFi speed test from your computer or smartphone. Here’s how:

wifi-boosters

How to Test Your WiFi Speed

  1. Open a web browser. For the best results, you should only have one browser tab open. It is also important to close all of your other applications on the device and turn off any other devices that are using WiFi. This includes any smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, game consoles, and smart home devices.
  2. Then visit hellotech.com/speed. This is a site where you can run a speed test on your computer, iPhone, or Android devices for free.
  3. Next, click Go and wait for the WiFi speed test to finish. This test will show you the upload and download speed of your internet connection, as well as the ping and jitter. (You can find out more about what the WiFi speed test results mean by clicking the infographic below.
  4. Finally, repeat the test. In order to make sure your speed test is accurate, you want to repeat the test in different parts of your home at different times of the day. Your WiFi speeds might get faster or slower, depending on interference from other nearby networks, congestion on your internet service provider’s network, and more.
How to test your Wifi speed

Once you know why your WiFi is so slow, check out our previous article to find out how to boost your WiFi signal.

HT wifi info cover

Click Here to take the speed test.

This article has been updated with more accurate information. 

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