Having fast internet download speeds is crucial for many common computing tasks today. Whether you’re downloading large files, streaming high-resolution videos, or playing online games, having a fast connection can make a huge difference in your experience!
In this guide, we’ll cover all the ways you can optimize your PC and home network to speed up downloads.
Check Your Internet Plan
The first thing to look at is your internet subscription plan. Most broadband plans will advertise a maximum download speed, usually in Mbps (Megabits per second). Comparing this to your actual speeds can give you an idea if your ISP is delivering what you’re paying for.
Run speed tests at different times of day to get an average reading. Websites like Speedtest.net can measure your download bandwidth. If your average speeds fall significantly lower than the advertised rates, contact your ISP. Throttling during peak traffic times can also cause slower speeds. Consider upgrading to a higher tier plan if available. Fiber optic and cable plans will offer faster maximum speeds than DSL.
Upgrading your modem and router can also help maximize your plan’s capabilities. Newer models support faster technologies like DOCSIS 3.1 and WiFi 6. Your ISP should be able to suggest compatible models when you upgrade your plan.
Check Connection Type and Cables
The type of internet connection and hardware setup can impact speeds. Wired Ethernet connections are much faster than WiFi. If downloading large files, try using Ethernet cables to connect devices directly to your router whenever possible.
For WiFi, the latest standard is WiFi 6 (802.11ax). Upgrade routers and devices that still use older standards like 802.11ac and 802.11n. Wireless speeds degrade over longer distances so keep routers centrally located. Reduce interference by keeping a clear line of sight between devices and routers. Avoid placing routers near appliances that emit electromagnetic interference.
Inspect ethernet cables for any damage or loose connectors. CAT 5e and CAT 6 cables can deliver faster Gigabit speeds over longer distances than older CAT 5 versions. Upgrade cabling if needed.
Update Network Adapters and Drivers
Outdated network drivers can bottleneck internet speeds. Update your operating system and firmware for Ethernet adapters and wireless cards. This ensures optimal performance with the latest standards.
On Windows, browse to Device Manager, open Network Adapters and update all drivers. Manually visit your Ethernet and WiFi adapter manufacturer websites to download the newest drivers. On Linux, use a packet manager like apt, rpm or pacman to update networking packages.
Tweak Your Router
Your router’s settings can also be configured for faster downloads:
– Set up a separate guest network to avoid overload on main network.
– If using WiFi, pick a less congested channel like 1, 6 or 11. Avoid auto channel selection.
– Enable the fastest wireless specs supported like 802.11ac or ax. Disable slower legacy modes.
– Set wireless mode to 802.11n/ac/ax only instead of mixed modes for maximum throughput.
– Adjust MTU size. 1500 is default but some providers use 9000. Check with your ISP.
– Enable QoS to prioritize bandwidth for downloads and streaming.
– Replace stock router if speeds don’t improve. Buy a high-end gaming or mesh system router.
Many routers have bandwidth monitoring tools and QoS settings accessed through administrative interfaces. Log in and explore options to optimize for faster downloading.
Some malware and programs can throttle your bandwidth without you realizing it. Perform malware scans with antivirus software and check for any unknown or suspicious programs running in the background.
Monitoring your internet speeds over days can reveal patterns of throttling. Run a continuous bandwidth monitor and take note if speeds drop at particular times of day. Problems may indicate a bandwidth hog on your network. Turn devices off one at a time and test if speed improves to isolate the culprit.
Configure your router’s QoS settings to always prioritize your device’s bandwidth for faster downloads. Limit bandwidth for other devices if needed.
Test Disk Speeds
Slow disk speeds on your PC is another bottleneck for downloads. Data has to be written from the internet to your hard drive or SSD. Test disk speeds with CrystalDiskMark or ATTO Disk Benchmark. Compare scores with your drive’s advertised specs.
Defragmenting your hard drive can help speed up disk performance. Also check your drive’s S.M.A.R.T. data for excessive read/write errors or bad sectors. Consider upgrading to a solid state drive (SSD) for faster speeds if your disk is aged or damaged.
For external drives, use the fastest interface like USB 3.0 or USB-C. USB 2.0 is much slower. Connect the drive directly rather than through a hub when downloading large files. If transferring to a flash drive, get one rated for high read/write speeds.
Checking Temp Files and Caches
Web browsers and download managers can cache internet files to help speed up future downloads. This cache can sometimes get bloated over time, slowing things down.
Clear your browser cache and cookies to delete unnecessary junk. In Chrome, go to Settings > Privacy and security > Clear browsing data. Check cached images and files.
Download managers may save completed files in a temp folder. Empty the temp folder to delete cached files you may no longer need. In uTorrent, go to Options > Preferences > Directories to find the temp directory location.
Adjust Computer Settings
Some Windows settings can also help increase internet download speeds:
Disable background updates for apps like OneDrive while downloading files. Pause updates in Windows Update settings.
Turn off search indexing on any secondary drives you download files to.
Disable SuperFetch and SysMain in Services. They can interrupt downloads.
Set Power Options to High Performance mode for faster speeds.
Also ensure your network adapter settings take full advantage of your internet speeds:
Set adapter Properties > Configure > Advanced > Speed & Duplex to Auto Negotiation or higher values.
Jumbo Frames may help on Gigabit networks. Set to 9000 on router and network adapters.
Enable Receive Side Scaling (RSS) to multi-thread incoming data across CPUs.
Tweaking these adapter settings can reduce CPU bottlenecking when downloading at full speeds. Test changes to verify improvements before keeping settings.
Choose Faster Servers
The remote server you’re downloading from can also impact speeds. Compare downloading the same file from different websites. Testing at different times of day can account for server traffic loads.
Using a download manager with multi-threading can improve throughput from slower servers. Managers like uGet and aria2 split files into parts for faster parallel downloads.
CDNs have local download servers distributed globally. Connecting to a geographically closer server will provide lower latency. Some browsers and download managers can select the fastest CDN server automatically.
Premium subscriptions like Xbox Live, Spotify and Netflix allow access to higher performance servers. These deliver content at maximum speeds and are worthwhile for heavy media users.
Avoid Peak Times and Data Caps
Internet speeds often slow down at peak usage times as overall traffic increases. Late nights and early mornings tend to have less congestion so plan big downloads during off-peak hours if possible.
Data caps may also throttle your connection speeds as you reach the limit. Monitor usage through your ISP account portal. Consider upgrading to an unlimited data plan if needed for large monthly downloads. Alternatively set downloads to pause after reaching a certain data threshold until the billing cycle resets.
Get a Faster Connection
If your internet infrastructure cannot support faster speeds, upgrading your broadband plan may be the only option. As a final resort, compare plans from multiple ISPs in your area. Websites like speedtest.net allow filtering results by geographic location to see which providers offer the fastest performance near you.
Consider switching to fiber optic, coaxial cable, or fixed wireless plans boasting download rates of 100Mbps and higher. These newer broadband technologies leave older DSL in the dust when it comes to fast downloads. If fiber or cable internet is available in your area, the investment is well worth it for heavy downloaders.