Question : My broadband Internet connection seems to be slower than advertised and is noticeably pokey at certain times. What might be causing this slowness, and how I can find out how fast my connection really is?
Answer : Many factors can affect your speed, like general Internet congestion, slow Web sites, the number of other users on the provider’s network or your computer’s own network settings. If you are using a wireless connection, weak signals or interference from microwave ovens and cordless phones could also be slowing things down.
But Internet service providers also advertise higher connection speeds than what you might possibly expect to get in regular use. Many providers give you faster speeds to download data than you get for uploading files to the Internet, but there are ways to test both your download and upload speeds.
One of the best ways to check is to use a Web site that offers to test your connection speed, typically by sending a small bit of data between the site and your computer and clocking the transfer time. There are several such sites around the Web that can be found with a quick search for “Internet connection speed.” Two options are www.speedtest.net, which displays an animation of a speedometer, and the page of broadband tests and tools at www.dslreports.com/tools.
Your I.S.P. may also have its own tools you can use to check your connection before you contact the company to report speed or connection issues.
If you use those little desktop
programs known as widgets or gadgets,
you can usually find a few at your
favorite widget site that test your
network speed — like the Speed Test
sidebar gadget for Windows Vista (free
to download at
www.widgipedia.com). Utilities like
the MenuMeters tool for Mac OS X (www.ragingmenace.com/software/menumeters)
also give you speed and other
information about your computer, like
current memory usage.