Seeing the ‘computer is offline’ message is the worst, especially when you’re trying to watch your favourite Netflix show but it keeps cutting out Everything’s connected, you’ve put the right password in – what on earth could be going wrong?
Before you hurl your laptop out the window, there are a few ways to tackle a sluggish internet connection. A weak or non-existent WiFi signal could be down to the router’s position or there could be underlying computer hardware issues. Fortunately, we’ve pulled together this guide to help diagnose the cause of your slow connection and get your broadband back up to full speed.
First thing’s first, you need to know for sure there’s a problem with your WiFi speed. It’s easy to check, simply type into Google internet speed test. A handy box will appear that asks you to ‘run speed test.’ Press the blue button in the bottom right corner and you’ll soon know for sure how fast your internet is.
Before you read on – make sure your chosen broadband package is meant to be fast. If you’ve selected a basic deal, it might be unrealistic to expect speeds of more than 8Mbps, for example.
The next thing to understand is why your internet isn’t as speedy as it should be. There are multiple causes – and it’s not necessarily because of your provider or package.
This shouldn’t happen if your provider manages traffic effectively, but it’s possible that multiple users are downloading huge files at peak times (7-11pm). As a result, your broadband speed could suffer.
Be sure to clear your browser’s cache at regular intervals; temporary files can pile up and slow your internet right down.
Check you’re using the latest version of your preferred browser – it may have been updated recently, which could explain the slow connection.
Likewise, your provider may have upgraded its equipment, especially if you’ve had the same router for years. You may be entitled to a free upgrade, which could cure an ailing internet connection. Call your provider for more information.
Your provider may be performing maintenance due to bad weather or a problem with the network. Ideally, you'll know about this, you should have been alerted about any planned maintenance in your area.
This could slow your broadband right down. Instead, connect your router directly to the main telephone socket with the shortest possible distance between them.
If you've been trying to get onto a specific site and it's just not loading, a faulty connection could be the reason. To reset your router, turn it off, wait 30 seconds, then turn it back on again. Hopefully this will solve the loading problem.
If you haven't applied a password to your WiFi, the neighbours or anyone nearby could be using it for free. Don't let them – they could be slowing down your connection.
Thankfully, most providers will automatically give you a router complete with password protection. If it's not set up, or you've turned it off, turn it on as soon as possible. To do this simply:
The strength of your broadband signal can be affected by the layout of your house, not to mention thick walls and doors. If your internet is slow or patchy, try moving your router to a different spot – preferably as high up as possible.
And for optimum coverage, pop it in the middle of the house if you can. The worst place to put your router? In a cupboard – routers get claustrophobic, you know!
In a word, yes. There could be plenty of internet-sapping applications on your laptop or desktop, so now's the time to clear them up.
Your broadband speed is easily nudged downwards by the likes of updates, virus scans, pop-ups, Hangouts, Skype and a gazillion open website tabs. Try closing anything you're not using, including streaming services like 4oD and Spotify.
Finally, navigate to your browser's options menu and delete old files. We also recommend clearing your browser history for optimum running speeds.
To give your WiFi a boost, consider buying a powerline adapter. These devices strengthen the signal in your home by using the electricity in your house.
Powerline adaptors are especially useful for rooms that WiFi can't reach or where you can barely get a signal.
Your broadband will likely take a hit if you're watching a smart TV, or streaming through Google Chromecast or Apple TV, as well as surfing on your tablet and mobile at the same time. We know it's a tough ask, but try limiting multi-device use if you're finding the WiFi speed is dipping.
Routers use radio signals that other electrical goods can interrupt; as a result, your broadband can suffer. Avoid a wobbly signal by positioning your router as far as possible from electrical appliances like fridges, microwaves, fairy lights and baby monitors, as these are the most likely to cause problems.
If you've tried all the suggestions above and your WiFi is still dodgy, then you might want to switch broadband provider.
Before you sign on the dotted line, though, ask your next provider what speed to expect – you'll then have the right to cancel if it doesn't deliver.
And for the fastest possible option, your best bet is fibre-optic broadband, if it's available in your area. You can read all about it in our fibre-optic guide.