How to Test Your Internet Speed

If you’ve ever wondered how fast your internet really is, or you suspect you may not be getting the speed you paid for from your ISP, there are ways that you can test your internet speed with decent-or-better accuracy. Even if you don’t consider yourself a tech-savvy person.

When you subscribe to an internet service, you’re normally allotted a certain speed for your connection. These are the maximum upload and download speeds that you can use with your account. Depending on where you live and what type of service you have, this could range from 56k (dialup) to 1Gbps (Gigabit) or faster. Throttled internet speed test from Charter

According to some data from 2016, the average internet speed in the United States is around 54Mbps for download speeds and 18Mbps for upload speeds. While these speeds are more than sufficient for casual to moderate internet usage, not everybody is fortunate enough to have access to high speed internet such as this. Especially if you’re limited to 10Mbps internet or slower, it’s important that you’re getting close to advertised speeds or else you may notice internet slow downs.

Test your internet speed with online speed tests

There are a huge number of different sites that you can use to test your internet speed. There’s unlikely any single site that will provide absolute accuracy for your ISP connection speed, but by testing at several reputable sites, you can get a good idea of just how fast, or how slow, your ISP is for you.

Popular online speed test sites

Online speed test results screenshot

Speed test results can vary quite a bit, which is why it’s important to test more than once, and/or test from multiple different speed test sites.

What speed tests really are

A speed test is a snapshot of your internet connection’s speed to one specific site on the internet at one moment in time. It’s a single point of data in a much-larger picture. Speed tests are often used, incorrectly, as absolutes, both by ISPs with their customers and customers with their ISPs. ISPs really should know better, though customers may not. Which, this is why I even included this part – to explain the limits of the value of speed test results.

Don’t get me wrong: speed tests can paint a very clear picture as to whether your internet service is working at the advertised level or not. However, that picture cannot be clear by simply running a one-time speed test. Unless you have the capability of testing to where your ISP sends your internet traffic out of their network, then you have to rely on multiple speed tests to give you the most-accurate picture of the speed you’re getting from your ISP.

Getting the most-accurate speed test results

While some of these aren’t really practical for everybody, here are some things you can do to ensure your speed test results are as accurate as possible.

  • Stop using the internet – If somebody or something is using the internet while you’re trying to run a speed test, it’ll probably affect the results. The slower your internet package is, the more important this step becomes.
  • Don’t test on WiFi – Unfortunately, there can be quite a bit of loss of speed when you’re using your router’s WiFi. If at all possible, you should run speed tests from a computer or laptop that is plugged into your router with a cat5 cable. That I’m aware of, no ISP supports speed problems on a customer’s WiFi network.
  • Don’t test on an overloaded / under-powered computer Some speed tests sites use flash, and that can be problematic for older PCs, or computers with outdated software and/or lower-end hardware. In these cases, it can be hard to tell if the slowness is due to the ISP or the computer trying to run the tests.

Important consideration before running speed tests

If you have limited data through your ISP, it’s probably best not to perform speed tests, or do it very sparingly. Each speed test you run will use up some of your data. How much data is used for each speed test can differ and it depends on the site and how they calculate speed.

If your internet is too slow – call your ISP

If you suspect problems with your internet, especially if your speed tests don’t match up to your ISP’s advertised speed, never assume that it’s “just slow, that’s how it is”. Call your ISP. Sure, it might be that your internet is as fast as it can get in your area. However, it could be that there’s a problem somewhere and it won’t be discovered until somebody calls in about it.

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