It can be frustrating to know you have an Internet plan with fast speeds and still suffer from lag or a slow browsing experience. If things seem to be operating as advertised but you’re still having speed issues, what could be causing them?
Well, computers—like cars, appliances, and even humans—need maintenance. Basic computer maintenance is as important as changing the oil in your car, and it improves performance just as much. It encompasses software as well as hardware maintenance, but it’s all more simple than it sounds.
What we think of as Internet speed is actually bandwidth. Bandwidth is measured in how much data can be transferred each second; the “speed” comes from larger amounts of data being moved. Websites, games, and other applications load quickly because the data on them is being received at a high rate on a wide band.
You can get faster Internet from PC maintenance because it improves how your computer processes incoming data. This includes maintaining and managing the physical components as well as the data and programs on your PC.
Computer hardware refers to all of the physical devices associated with your PC:
Some of this hardware can settle and come loose simply from normal wear and tear, which illustrates the importance of PC maintenance. How hardware works can influence your Internet speeds.
Your computer’s processor is like its brain. It handles all the tasks your computer is running—from the “conscious” tasks, like your open programs, to background tasks, like your Internet connection. Processor speeds have risen with the demands of evolving programs, but a processor can still be overwhelmed.
One thing that can slow down Internet speed is having too many open programs or browser windows at once. Some websites use a lot of data, and if these are open at the same time as a lot of programs, it can make your download speeds seem slow. Your computer’s task manager can tell you what programs and apps are taking up your processor speed.
Another way your processor can affect your computer network is if it is overheating. There are numerous fans inside your computer that occasionally need to be cleaned to run their best. These keep your processor at a certain temperature range. Cleaning dust from your fans with canned air every few months is vital to the overall health of your computer. It also ensures your PC is making the most of your bandwidth.
Your modem is a device that translates data being uploaded or downloaded into the websites you see on your screen. Your router is hardware that allows multiple computers to be plugged into it for Internet service. Most Internet providers lease a combination modem/router for a small fee, or you can purchase your own. They connect to your PC using Ethernet cables.
One of the most common causes of slow Internet is worn out or loose Ethernet cables. When maintaining your computer, it’s a good idea to make sure your cables are firmly plugged in. If they need to be replaced, they can be found at office-supply and big-box stores, and they are as simple to install as any other plug. Sometimes, all it takes to speed up your Internet is replacing a worn Ethernet cable.
There are a lot of devices that connect to your Internet using WiFi, or wireless Internet. Printers and scanners use WiFi to connect to your computer network. Cell phones, tablets and laptops use wireless to connect to the Internet. Gaming consoles are almost exclusively using the Internet to deliver content for video games.
However, all your smart devices also use WiFi—from light bulbs to thermostats to the function on your TV or cable box that allows you to watch Netflix. Taking an inventory of all your WiFi devices is an important part of PC maintenance for two reasons: if you know how much data your WiFi devices are using, you will know how much Internet speed you need, but you will also know if someone else is using a device to “borrow” your WiFi.
Computer software refers to the programs and apps on your hardware. As these programs add to or improve their functions, updates occur and can be downloaded from the Internet. Updates are another way PC maintenance and Internet speed are linked. There are a few types of updates that can help you keep faster speeds online.
Every so often, your operating system gives you a notice that you have updates to install. Many updates adjust your operating system to improve your network connection. You can view these in the control panel and even tell your computer to download them automatically or manually.
Your computer probably has other devices connected to it, like a graphics card, a printer, or a mouse. Drivers are software inside these devices that keep them communicating with your computer. Your operating system usually has a way of checking for driver updates, and some drivers can affect your Internet connection. Failing to update a graphics card driver, for example, can affect how you view websites or play games.
One benefit of leasing a modem/router from your Internet service provider (ISP) is that they update the device periodically themselves. However, if you own your modem/router or your Internet seems slow, checking for a driver is another way you can improve Internet speed with PC maintenance.
When you connect your computer to the Internet, you are assigned an IP address, your personal identification online. As you visit websites and make online accounts, you accumulate a cache of places you’ve visited and cookies that associate your IP address with your account. Your cache and cookies add up and can eventually slow down your browsing experience. Your operating system and your browser’s settings menu should have an option to clear your cache and cookies.
Protecting your computer from viruses and malware, or malicious programs, should be a priority no matter how much you use the Internet. Malware comes in many forms and can be attached to almost any download. A virus is a specific type of malware that spreads via email, shared files, or downloads. Malware or a virus can slow down your Internet connection by transferring data to the malware’s originator or by inserting ads and unwanted apps into your browsing experience.
The best way to combat viruses and malware is with good PC security. Antivirus software can be purchased from the developer but is sometimes included in Internet plans or as an add-on. These programs scan other programs for malware and update to learn what new tricks hackers have unleashed on the Internet. A solid password on your home Internet network and all your accounts can also keep malware from invading your PC and your Internet connection.
When you sign up for your Internet plan, you expect it to deliver fast speeds. To get the most out of your speed means keeping your computer clean and healthy so it works at its best. Most computer maintenance is very simple, but keeping up with it can make your Internet connection perform like you’re an IT pro!