10 Tips To Work Smart When You Get Hit With A Slow Internet Connection

Mihir Patkar 14-02-2014

You think it’s the kind of thing that happens to other people, but sometimes, calamity befalls us. Sometimes, the gods are cruel and they take away your life force. Yes, one day, we will all have to deal with a slow internet connection.


Drama aside, it’s not an uncommon scenario. You might be at a coffee shop with too many people logged onto the Wi-Fi and the limited bandwidth isn’t enough to keep everyone running. Or, like me, you might just live in India. But hey, with a little ingenuity, you can still get your work done and sneak in some entertainment even on those low speeds.

Check for a faster connection around you

The absolute first thing to do when you have a slow connection is to search for a better one. The Web is full of kind strangers who have uploaded information about Wi-Fi hotspots in areas across the world, many of them free.


People often share which venues have a Wi-Fi hotspot on FourSquare. Some will even include a password. The good news is that you don’t need the FourSquare app to find this out. On iOS, 4sqwifi gets the job done. On a desktop browser, you can just head to and search for “Free Wi-Fi”, “Wi-Fi hotspot” and “Wi-Fi” in that order. Just browse the map and find what’s best for you.

If you’re in the US and Canada or some of the major European countries, OpenWifiSpots is a pretty great resource too.


Switch to the fastest DNS

The DNS (Domain Name Server), in simple terms, is the technology that lets you type “” to go to Google instead of typing an IP address. And you can change the DNS on your device so that you have the fastest resolution for URL-to-IP. For this, Namebench is the best tool Find the Fastest DNS to Optimize Your Internet Speed Other DNS servers can be faster than your ISP's DNS servers. Find the best DNS settings for your connection with these tools. Read More  and it works on Windows, Mac and Linux.


If you’re on Windows, you might want to take a look at DNS Jumper (our DNS Jumper review DNS Jumper - Hop From One DNS Service To Another, Quickly [Windows] Switch from one DNS server to another quickly. DNS Jumper is a portable Windows app with a long list of built-in DNS services, and you can even add your own. Do so and you can... Read More ) to quickly switch between different DNS services. It’s easier to use than Namebench and updates the fastest server in real-time for you to change in a click.

Switch off data downloads



When you don’t have a slow connection, there are lots of things running in the background that you may not even know about. I’d recommend checking with NetLimiter for Windows and Little Snitch (our Little Snitch review Which Apps Are Using Your Internet Connection? Find Out With Little Snitch [Mac OS X] We've shown you how to enable the included firewall in OS X, but it's quite limited. It allows you to block traffic on a per-app basis, but beyond that there's not a lot of configuration... Read More ) for Mac OS X. These will show which software is accessing the Internet—like torrent downloads, Twitter apps or even Windows update—and you can shut them down manually.

Switch off auto-refresh

It’s also important to check your web browser for tabs that have elements which auto-refresh, like Facebook or Twitter. Depending on your browser, head to the extensions and search for “suspend tab”, “stop auto refresh” and “stop auto reload”—there are plenty of choices and most of them will get the job done, so pick the one with the best rating and go with it. But whatever you do, make sure you stop every tab that is set to auto-refresh.

Disable Google Instant


Google Instant is of immense help in regular computing, but it works by using bandwidth. And when bandwidth is precious, you need to disable it. Ann’s got a full guide on how to permanently disable Google Instant and Google Suggest How To Permanently Disable Google Instant & Google Suggest Read More .


Switch to HTML View on Gmail

Also, when you go to load up your Gmail, chances are you will see a slow loading bar. Look at the bottom-right of the screen, where you will see “Load basic HTML”. Click that and you’ll get a leaner, faster Gmail.

Switch on Opera Off-Road Mode

Opera Off-Road Mode

The latest Opera 15 is a great Chrome-like browser Opera 15 Is A Faster, Simpler Chrome, And Here Are 3 Great Reasons To Try It It may seem ridiculous now, but when I was younger, I forked over a great wad of cash for Opera, a revolutionary web browser from Norway. I took it home, excited at finally being able... Read More and it’s got one cool feature: Opera Off-Road Mode. It is similar to the older Opera Turbo feature. Enabling that will make Opera lower the quality of every image on every page, in turn loading the page faster. You can still right-click and ask for a full-res image when you want it. To switch it on, click on the Opera button and choose the option as in the screenshot.

No need for mobile sites, stick with Opera Off-Road

One common advice I’ve heard is to change your desktop browser’s User Agent to mobile mode so that you are automatically served mobile websites instead of desktop ones. But while this advice made sense in the past, it doesn’t now. I monitored different websites using Opera Off-Road Mode and loading their mobile versions on Chrome and Firefox. Since so many sites now come with a responsive design that’s made for mobile, tablet or desktop, the images are actually bigger than what Opera Off-Road Mode serves. TL;DR: don’t switch to mobile websites, use Opera Off-Road Mode instead.


Install Adblock Plus

While we recommend saying no to ad-block extensions, when you’re stuck with low speeds, you need to get Adblock Plus for your browser to stop all those ads How To Block Annoying Ads in Firefox Read More and other unwanted elements from loading. It’s also a good idea to disable Flash with FlashControl How to Stop Flash From Loading Automatically With FlashControl [Chrome] You can easily disable Flash in Chrome. But FlashControl gives you more hands-on control. FlashControl is a Chrome extension that uses blacklists and whitelists for selectively blocking and unblocking Flash content. As the extensions defines... Read More  or Flashblock.

Enable YouTube Feather


Look, a video isn’t going to run well on a slow connection, so it’s best not to fire up YouTube. But if you absolutely must watch one, you should first enable YouTube Feather Beta to speed up YouTube Tired of Buffering? 3 Ways to Speed Up YouTube If YouTube is being slow, here are a few tips that may help solve your issues. Read More . This strips away all the unnecessary elements of the video-sharing site like comments, extended suggestions, video info, etc. and gives it a barebones look that’s much faster to load. It also uses the advanced web techniques for faster loading.

Share your tips

I employed all of the above over the past few weeks when I was stuck with a slow connection. I also found it helpful to keep a task list of all the things I’d need to do on a faster connection (like video uploads, downloading large files) and work around those in a regular work day. At the end of it, I’d fire up 3G or go to a fast Wi-Fi hotspot and finish all of those tasks.

I’m sure you have tips to share from your experience of being on a slow internet connection, and that’s what the comments are for!

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  1. Anonymous
    February 19, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Could also tether your phone's data connection -- unless you don't get network in your house either... like me :(

  2. pceasies
    February 17, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    Also, don't clear your browser cache. The longer you leave it, the more items it should save and the more potential for your computer to already have a copy of a file when you visit a website (thus saving you from downloading it).

    • Mike Merritt
      April 5, 2014 at 9:16 pm

      Firefox re-sets it's cache every time that it crashes, or you shut off without closing it properly ; so I save a spare copy of a good cache and slip it back in if I realize that the cache is starting over again from scratch. Use "about:cache" in the address box to see your cache's current size.

  3. Jonathan Sand.
    February 16, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    or buy a RDP, is very fast in slow connection =). perfect inestable connection

    RDP work in UDP

  4. Mike Merritt
    February 15, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    Don't let software "auto-update" - nothing slows you down more than to have, say, Firefox decide to "update" you to their latest, greatest new version - right in the middle of you doing research for your homework.
    Don't allow Dropbox to run all the time or it'll suck bandwidth uploading intermediate copies of documents that you're working on.
    Use FileHippo to check for needed software updates and do them during quiet hours.

  5. Aditya D
    February 15, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    For Windows users disable the QoS Packet Scheduler which reserves 20% bandwidth. The disable is only useful only when the Scheduler Task is running though.

  6. mathieu
    February 14, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    take a pen :-)