Internet Speed FAQ

How to Conduct an Accurate Internet Speed Test

[tel]
The purpose of an Internet speed test is to provide you with the most accurate reading of how your Internet connection is performing and giving you a sense for the overall wellness of your network. In order to achieve the most accurate speed results, you need to follow a set of important guidelines that will help you determine how fast your connection is working when it's under pressure.

Restart Your Modem and Router

Testing your network speed correctly will rely on a number of factors that affect the accuracy of your connection speed, like the placement of your equipment and how often you restart your modem and router. Modem and routers are like every other device you own; they need to shut down every once in a while in order to give you the best possible Internet connection, just like you would with your phone. Restarting your modem and router before running a speed test is the smartest thing you can do.  The modem and router work together to give you and your computer access to the Internet. Think about all the devices that connect to the Internet through your equipment at the same time: your phone, tablet, and game console are some of the most common ones, especially if there are multiple people in a household. When you have issues with speed, your connected devices start manifesting symptoms that let you know something might be wrong with your connection. For example, your Internet connection becomes sluggish when you're browsing online or you'll notice that your screen freezes often. Whether you were planning to run a speed test to see where you stand or you're looking to get additional information about your own Wi-Fi, it never hurts to restart your equipment and give it a fresh start; this includes any and all connected devices. Restarting your modem and router will help them return to a full working status in which they can maximize connection speeds. In turn, this will give you the most accurate results. For better accuracy, try not to open any unnecessary apps or windows before you run the speed test, as they will take up your bandwidth and you won't get accurate results.

Remove Any Variables

Clear Browser Caches

A speed test works by sending data from your device to a local server and back again to your device. This is what measures your download and upload speeds. When you don't clear your browser caches, the speed test is unable to run smoothly due to the chunky files left behind by data packets. These leftover files can slow down the browser and prevent your tests from successfully measuring the speed of your connection.

Use a Wired Connection Instead of Wi-Fi

While a Wi-Fi connection is convenient when you have multiple connected devices, it doesn't yield the best results if you're planning to check Internet speed. A Wi-Fi connection is often unreliable and the connection is weaker because of the way it travels through the air. Before you run the test, make sure you use a wired ethernet connection and connect directly to your modem. This method will provide you with the best speed test results and give you a better idea of what your plan speeds really are within your network.

Close Unnecessary Applications

During a speed test, it is crucial that nothing else is consuming bandwidth on your device so that the download and upload speeds are not affected; this includes applications and programs you may have open. Double check that you don't have multiple browsers open and that there aren't any updates going on behind the scenes, as this will surely affect your Internet speed test results when you first run the test.

Choose the Closest Server

When you're running a speed test, the test you're using will automatically choose the test server it believes you're closest to. However, the location the speed test uses is not always accurate - especially if you happen to live in a remote part of the country. In these cases, it's best to choose a test that will allow you to locate the nearest test server manually so that your results are not negatively affected by the distance when the data is transferred.

Interpreting Your Internet Speed Test Results

Running a speed test won't give you all the answers to your questions, but it will help you decide what you can do to improve Internet speed at home and strengthen your network connection, especially when it comes to download speeds. The best way to interpret Internet speed test results is to understand what the minimum standard is for download speeds and upload speeds; that way you can decipher whether you fall within the minimum guidelines. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the minimum speed for downloads should be 25Mbps. While the minimum speed for uploads should be 3Mbps. Once your Internet speed test is complete, the test will provide you with scores for upload speed, download speed, and ping speed, which are the primary measures in which your Wi-Fi speed will be tested on. The upload speed refers to the time it takes to send data to the server. The download speeds refer to the time it takes to pull data from the server. And ping refers to the time it takes between sending a request to the server and how long it takes the server to respond. Based on the scores of each one, you'll be able to figure out what your options are to improve the overall network efficiency.

Why Doesn't My Internet Speed Test Work?

Internet speed tests are not perfect, and even when you've made sure to use a wired connection and have already taken into account all the other components that could negatively affect your results within the network, it's possible that the speed test you're using needs troubleshooting.

Why Am I Seeing "Latency Test Error"?

It's not entirely uncommon for you to get the message "Latency Test Error" at the end of a speed test. The reason this happens sometimes is because the server is probably down. Speed tests rely on the connection they have between your device and the local server. While speed tests sporadically contact local servers to make they're working properly, the system doesn't always realize right away when a server is down. If this ever happens and your test is inconclusive, fill out a support ticket on the testing website and try to connect to a different server to complete the test.

Why Does the Download Test Work But Not the Upload Test?

In order for the test to give you an accurate measure of your Internet speed, it needs to be able to measure both the upload speed and the download speed. However, every once in a while you'll find that while the download speeds test fine, the upload speeds don't. A common reason this happens with upload tests is because there is an anti-virus program or firewall that's intercepting the test traffic in your home network. Normally, if the firewall was properly installed, it shouldn't interfere with the test, but it does happen every so often. You can try to momentarily disable the software while you're running the test and activate it again once the device completes the test. If all fails, restart your modem and router. It's possible that they're experiencing temporary connection issues that are showing up through the uploads.

Why Aren't There Any Servers in My Area?

If you don't see a server available to connect to for the test, the firewall on your computer is more than likely blocking you from getting access to a server. The easiest fix for this is to temporarily disable the firewall until your speed is measured.

Is My Internet Speed Fast Enough?

The speed of your Internet connection is measured in Megabits per second (Mbps). The FCC has set guidelines for what the minimum speeds should be for you to connect to the Internet and have decent quality. Anything that surpasses the Mbps count that the FCC set as a minimum standard will improve the quality of your service, increase performance, and give you better download and upload speeds. If your Internet speed goes over 50 Mbps, then your device speed is fast enough for common activities like browsing, streaming, and online gaming.

How Is Internet Speed Calculated?

You can measure Internet speed in bits per second, or bps. For users that have dial-up, they can expect their modem to reach speeds of up to 64 kilobits per second (Kbps), or 64 thousand bps.

How Are Internet Speeds Calculated for Broadband Connections?

Broadband connections are measured in megabits per second, or Mbps. A connection with decent quality usually has a speed of over 50 Mbps.

How Is Upload Speed and Download Speed Measured?

Much like the Internet speed for broadband connections, upload speeds and download speeds are also measured in Mbps. However, the speeds for uploads and downloads vary depending on the time of day people connect to the Internet or when there are too many devices connected at the same time. Remember, upload speed refers to the time it takes to send data to a server. Download speed refers to the time it takes to pull said data from the server.

How Much Internet Speed Do I Need?

How much speed you need really depends on what you expect from your Internet during certain activities. For example, if you like online gaming, you should aim for a device speed of at least 50 Mbps, that way you'll be less likely to experience latency. If you are not into online gaming, but you spend a lot of time streaming movies or hopping on video calls, then a download speed of over 25 Mbps. In general, an upload speed that's over 10 Mbps and a download speed that's over 50 Mbps is sufficient for most connections.

Why Run An Internet Speed Test?

Running a speed test on your computer or devices is always a good idea because it allows you to stay on top of your Internet's performance, and make sure that your speed is up to par with what you expect from your Internet plan. Aside from that, if you ever experience latency on your devices or you notice that your Internet service is less than stellar, a speed test can help you figure out if there's something wrong on your end that could be negatively affecting performance or if there's a problem with your Internet service provider.

How Does an Internet Speed Test Work?

In order for a speed test to work, there are multiple factors that determine its ability to successfully complete the test.

Server Location

No matter what program you use to conduct the test,  the first thing that it will do will be to determine your location and find the closest test server to your device. Once it locates one, it will then send a ping (simple signal) to test communication, signal strength, and figure out how fast the roundtrip takes.

Download Test

Once the ping is complete, the test will see how fast your computer is able to process a download by downloading a small amount of data and seeing how long it takes to grab the fragment of data and how much bandwidth it's consuming. The main idea here is to strain your network and see how much it can handle during the download.

Upload Test

The same thing will happen during the upload, except in reverse. Instead of downloading data, the speed test will upload data from your computer and calculate the speeds throughout the process. The testing occurs during a specific time frame so that the program can accurately measure how quickly your home network can upload data at a time.

Can I Increase the Speed of my Internet?

Yes, you can. There are a number of tips you can try to boost your current device speed. The speed of your Internet depends on various factors, like the equipment you have, where you position the equipment, and whether someone is stealing your bandwidth. Connecting to the Internet through an ethernet cable can also increase the speed in certain instances. If all those factors check out and there is nothing wrong with them, it may be time to call your Internet service provider and upgrade your plan to increase speeds.

Upgrading Equipment

Most service providers let you rent equipment from them as part of your service plan; this usually means that you get the most up to date routers and modems as part of your home network. However, if you happen to own your equipment or you've been stuck with the same equipment for over five years, replacing it can make a huge difference.

Positioning the Router

Where you position your equipment can significantly enhance signal strength and improve Internet speeds on your devices. If you want to make sure you're maximizing your router's potential, it's best to place it somewhere in the middle of your home so that it's equally distanced from all corners. This will allow your network to distribute evenly and reduce latency issues when you're connected to the Internet. Doing this will greatly improve speeds within your network.

Make Sure Nobody Is Stealing Your Bandwidth

If you notice that your connected devices are experiencing high latency issues and a lot less speed than normal, it's possible somebody is using up your Wi-Fi and leaving you with very slow speeds. Make sure that you safely secure your network with strong passwords and personalized settings. Always check to see what devices are connected to your network. If there are some that you don't recognize, change the password immediately to kick them out. This should return your speeds back to normal. 

Are Internet Speed Tests Accurate?

Yes and no. A lot of factors affect the results you get from a test; some of them being the site that you're using, the number of devices connected, and whether or not you're using a wired ethernet connection. A speed test is meant to be used as a barometer and not as an exact measure of how fast your computer is actually able to process data. It's important to compare results to your contract with your service provider and see where the device speed might differ.

Can Internet Speed Test Results Vary?

Absolutely. For the best results, experts recommend you perform multiple tests so that you can get an average speed for download and upload speeds. Try to run the test whenever there are no other devices or multiple connections on your network, as these could contribute to latency issues while data is transferred during the testing phase. Make sure the only device that's on your Wi-Fi while you're conducting the test is your computer. All other devices should be disconnected or turned off.

What Can Affect Your Speed Test Results?

Multiple factors affect your device speed results. Some of the most common ones are:
  • Number of devices connected to your Wi-Fi.
  • Conducting video calls or online gaming while you're testing the speed.
  • The browser that you use while you run the test.
  • The location of the server.
 

Speed Test Terms: Understanding Internet Jargon

Download

The transmission of a file from one computer to another over a network.

Bandwidth

It's the maximum rate of data that can transfer across a network.

Bits

A basic unit of information in digital communications.

Bytes

Bytes are a unit of measurement equal to eight bits.

Transfer Rate

A transfer rate is what is a standard metric that calculates the speed at which information travels from one location to another.

Kbps

Acronym for kilobits per second.

Mbps

Acronym for Megabits per second.

Gbps

Acronym for billions of bits per second.

Throughput

The amount of a product a company can produce and deliver to a client during a specific time frame.

Ping

Ping is a network that is used to test reachability of a host.

Packet Loss

Common occurrence that happens when data fails to reach its final destination.

Latency

Latency is a delay in reaction between the time you request your computer to perform a task and the time it takes for it to respond.

Mbps Breakdown

  • 1-2 Mbps: listen to online radio.
  • 2-10 Mbps: video call, online gaming, watch Netflix.
  • 10-25 Mbps: stream Netflix and Youtube at 1080p, less latency issues
  • 25+ Mbps: stream videos in HDR or 4K, video calls, adding multiple connections
  • 50+ Mbps: video calls, download new games, connect multiple devices, access websites faster