How To Test Your Broadband Internet Speed

How to test your actual broadband internet speed – find out if your internet connection is really to blame for slow web surfing. In our computer repair business we often see people complaining their internet is very slow. There are many reasons why it could appear slow so you should test your actual internet speed to see if there is some other reason for the apparent slowness.

How To Test Your Internet Speed – The simplest way to test it is via the Speedtest website – you will need Adobe Flash Player installed on your computer but you very likely have it already. If not, or you need to upgrade it (recommended), follow our article on Flash first.

To ensure more accurate results, close all programs that may be using the internet except your web browser and ensure you have no other open tabs/windows in your browser that may use the internet in the background.

Go to the Speedtest website – you will see a map of your country and a ‘Begin Test’ button – click the button to start the test. Do not use the internet or open any other programs whilst the test is running – it should only take a minute.

When completed the results show the Ping time in milliseconds (ms) plus the Download and Upload Speed in Mbps. Take note of these 3 figures. Run this test several times and at different times of the day to work out your average figures – taking the average allows for temporary slow downs of the internet at peak times or if the test site itself is particularly busy.

What Do The Figures Mean?

Ping Time – Ping measurement is the time it takes to complete a round trip from your computer to the destination website (in this case Speedtest.net) and back again. The lower the Ping time in ms the better – a low Ping time is particularly useful for online gaming. A high ping time is also known as ‘lag’ – there is a higher time delay which may adversely impact games E.g. in the worst case you might be shot in a game before you even had chance to see your opponent!

Although important in gaming, Ping time is not as much of an issue in general web browsing and downloading – a few extra milliseconds in requests to load websites in your browser is not noticeable. A Ping time of 50ms or less is very good, 100ms or less is ok, 1000ms or less is slow and may cause a lag in games but should not be a problem for web browsing (unless your download speed is very low).

Download Speed – The higher the speed in Mbps the better. Download speed is crucial in determining how fast your computer can access information and display webpages or download emails, video, pictures etc from the internet. For broadband via the telephone line up to 20 Mbps is considered good. For cable broadband up to 50 Mbps or higher is quite possible.

The majority of websites will display pretty quickly even with as low as 0.5 Mbps but obviously the more websites you try to open at the same time the longer it will take. However, sites with streaming video (e.g. Youtube) and online telephony (e.g. Skype) or downloads of music/films and other large files will need (or benefit from) much higher values.

As a guide, Skype recommend 0.5 Mbps minimum for talking on Skype and 2Mbps minimum for video chat with a webcam. Watching videos on Youtube requires about 2 Mbps minimum to play videos smoothly without stop/starting a lot – although the higher the better to allow for times when Youtube is itself slow due to the high number of users.

Upload Speed – The higher the speed in Mbps the better. Uploads are usually much lower than download speeds which makes sense because most people download far more data than they upload. Upload of less than 1 Mbps are quite common – a higher speed is only of real benefit if you regularly upload large files to the internet E.g. if you upload your own videos to Youtube the process may be 4 times quicker if your upload is 2 Mbps rather than 0.5 Mbps.

My Download Speed Is Very Low – If your download is very low and you think it should be much higher for your location and/or method of broadband, you should consider if your modem/router is very old and whether a new one would help. For general connection issues, discuss with your broadband provider to see if they can fix or upgrade your connection.

My Download Speed Is High But The Internet Is Still Slow – Usually this is because your whole computer is running very slowly so is unable to load websites quickly – particularly ones with lots of pictures or videos embedded in them. Opening programs may also take a long time and starting/shutting down your computer will be very slow. To fix this see our article on how to speed up a slow computer.

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