9 Things That Might Be Slowing Down Your Home Wi-Fi Network
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Your Wi-Fi is slowing down, but why? With so many wireless devices in our homes now, even little flaws can take a toll on performance. In this guide, we’ll take a look at common issues, why your Wi-Fi might be slow, and how to solve them.

1. Too Many Devices (Internet of Things)

Alexa and Deebot 901

IP cameras, Google Home Minis, smart bulbs, smart plugs… our homes are increasingly filled with Internet of Things devices, each of which sits on the Wi-Fi network with its own IP address.

While your average light bulb isn’t going to send or receive a large amount of data, older routers simply weren’t designed to handle that many registered Wi-Fi devices at once. Past a certain point, you’ll start experiencing dropouts. Having too many devices on the Wi-Fi will slow it down.

Solution: Consider how old your router is, and if you can afford to upgrade to a newer model. I recommend Ubiquiti UniFi as the best for a high capacity scalable Wi-Fi, though it is expensive. For smaller homes, Ubiquiti AmpliFi AmpliFi HD: The Best Home Wi-Fi System On The Market AmpliFi HD: The Best Home Wi-Fi System On The Market Beautifully designed, easy to use, performant and reliable, the AmpliFi HD has everything you need for no nonsense home Wi-Fi. Read More is a more budget-friendly option.

If you’re planning on blanketing your home in smart sensors, use Z-Wave where possible. It operates at a different frequency to Wi-Fi, so it won’t cause interference.

2. Wireless Network Range and Signal Penetration

Where you place your Wi-Fi router is the single most important factor affecting the speed of your home Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi routers transmit both a 2.4Ghz signal (often referred to as b/g/n), and 5Ghz (ac). The 5GHz network is faster. So why not just disable the 2.4GHz network? Simple: the 2.4GHz signal can go through walls and other solid objects easier. A thick concrete floor or wall will stop the 5Ghz network entirely.

You don’t need to worry about the technical differences, just understand that wireless speeds are impacted by solid objects, so the more things in between your device and your router, the worse your network will perform.

Solution: Read our guide to getting the best Wi-Fi coverage and reposition the router as best you can.

Sometimes it may not be possible to move the router due to the incoming fiber optic or phone line connection. Consider running an Ethernet cable to elsewhere in the house to use another router for Wi-Fi.

3. Too Many Users

9 Things That Might Be Slowing Down Your Home Wi-Fi Network slow network router qos config

Your internet connection is only so fast, and that speed is shared with every other user in the house and all of their devices.

As well as the obvious things like computers, phones, and tablets, you’ll also find Smart TVs, game consoles, media streaming sticks, smart home hubs–all of which may be sending or receiving information at a particular point in time.

You may be surfing the web on your tablet, while your Xbox is grabbing the latest DLC content, Windows is updating, and the set-top box is streaming an on-demand movie.

All these activities consume a little of your total available bandwidth. And it’s not just when you’re actively using them: updates can occur silently in the background.

Solution: If there’s a particular application or type of activity you want to make sure is always performing its best, look into enabling Quality of Service. This setting of your router “ropes off” a certain amount of throughput for either a particular device or a specific activity. Learn more about Quality of Service settings How to Fix Gaming & Video Lag With an Easy Router Tweak How to Fix Gaming & Video Lag With an Easy Router Tweak Tired of network lag when other people are watching videos and downloading torrents? Here's how to reclaim your network performance without any third-party tools. Read More .

4. Old Network Cables

9 Things That Might Be Slowing Down Your Home Wi-Fi Network cat5e cable cut backIf your computer is plugged directly into your router, or if you’re lucky enough to have Ethernet cabling throughout the house, it’s worth checking the cabling.

While electrical cabling might last for 50 years or more, network cabling has undergone several important upgrades that affect the speed it can carry data.

The easiest way to check is to look at the cable. You should see a Cat number specification somewhere:

  • Cat-5 is the oldest and slowest network cable still in use. Performance is limited to 100 Mbps.
  • Cat-5e is the most commonly used network cables today; supports Gigabit Ethernet (1,000 Mbps).
  • Cat-6/6a is fastest network cabling in common usage and supports up to 10 Gigabit (10,000 Mbs).

If Cat-5 cable is used on your computers or as the backbone of your network, your Ethernet cable may be slowing down the Wi-Fi. Network cables can also be quite delicate. Use a cable tester to ensure each of the eight wires inside the cable is still connected to the other end.

Solution: Replace any Cat-5 rated or broken cabling you find with Cat-5e or Cat-6 rated cables.

5. You’re Using Powerline or Wi-Fi Extenders

9 Things That Might Be Slowing Down Your Home Wi-Fi Network devolo powerline
Powerline devices are often more trouble than they’re worth.

Many people think that an easy solution to Wi-Fi woes is to buy an extender: a little box that plugs into your power socket and repeats the Wi-Fi signal to another part of the house. Some even use Powerline technology, adapters that allow you to send network signals through power outlets.

But in my experience, these devices fail to tackle the root of the problem, and often just make things worse by adding interference.

Solution: If you have an extensive home and your Wi-Fi just can’t reach everywhere, consider a mesh Wi-Fi system The 6 Best Mesh Wi-Fi Networks for Your Home The 6 Best Mesh Wi-Fi Networks for Your Home If you've been suffering Wi-Fi dead zones around the house, then one of these mesh Wi-Fi networks may be just what you need. Read More .

6. Your Wi-Fi Channel Is Heavily Congested

Wifi Analyzer on Android shows some interesting results
One of the benefits of living in the middle of nowhere is that there are usually no other networks. In this case, I can see a device I’m testing is broadcasting its own hidden Wi-Fi, and is interfering with my home network!

For those in urban areas, particular apartment blocks, you may be surrounded by hundreds of Wi-Fi networks. Unfortunately, they all take a little of the available frequency bandwidth.

Solution: You could try to change the channel number How to Pick the Best Wi-Fi Channel for Your Router How to Pick the Best Wi-Fi Channel for Your Router What's the best Wi-Fi channel for your router and how do you change it? We answer these questions and more in this quick guide. Read More , but modern routers are smart enough to pick the best channel anyway. If you’re using devices that could be plugged in using Ethernet instead of using Wi-Fi, that will enable better use of what little bandwidth you do have.

7. Your ISP’s DNS Server Is Slow

DNS speed test
Not all DNS servers are made equal, yet these are fundamental to your internet connection

Regardless of what internet package you’re paying for, they all use a domain name system (DNS). DNS is used every time you type a web address into your browser: it’s like a phonebook that translates between the human-readable web domain, and the physical IP of the server it’s located on. By default, you’re using the DNS server provided by your ISP, but it’s often slow and unreliable.

Solution: You can change your DNS server Why Changing DNS Settings Increases Your Internet Speed Why Changing DNS Settings Increases Your Internet Speed Changing your DNS settings is one of those minor tweaks that can have big returns on day-to-day internet speeds. Read More to something a lot faster, and it’s better for your privacy too How Cloudflare DNS Helps Solve 4 Big DNS Privacy Risks How Cloudflare DNS Helps Solve 4 Big DNS Privacy Risks Cloudflare has released a free new security tool. Here's how Cloudflare DNS helps improves security, privacy, and even speed. Read More . This can give you a small but easy speed boost to all your web browsing activities.

8. Your ISP May Be Throttling You

Download Express VPN for Mac
One way to get around ISP throttling is to use a VPN to mask your activity.

It’s unlikely unless you’re a heavy user, but many ISPs will deliberately slow down your internet if it detects usage of filesharing applications or once you reach a certain threshold. This is more common on mobile data connections than home broadband but does still happen.

You should have a good idea of what your typical internet speed is and check it regularly. If you find it’s significantly reduced and no faults are being reported by your ISP, you may be being throttled, or subject to “bandwidth shaping”. Check your terms and conditions, or for the existence of a “fair use policy”.

Solution: If this is happening to you, sadly your options are limited. Either curtail your activity or see if there’s another provider that doesn’t have the same draconian limits. If you’re being throttled because your ISP has automatically detected the use of filesharing apps, use a VPN to hide your internet activity The Best VPN Services The Best VPN Services We've compiled a list of what we consider to be the best Virtual Private Network (VPN) service providers, grouped by premium, free, and torrent-friendly. Read More .

9. Problematic Devices or Wireless Clients

Nintendo Switch
This innocent looking device has been known to take down entire networks with a flood of broadcast messages.

“There may be devices in your wired network which might limit your in-home connectivity.”

If you’re getting this error on your router, you may have a device plugged in that’s acting up, either by broadcasting too many times or causing a race condition to occur in the router. It can often bring your entire network down, but looks like a normal case of internet outage. This was reported for the Nintendo Switch.

Solution: Unplug devices and turn off wireless clients until you find the culprit, then contact the manufacturer for assistance.

Make Sure Your Network Keeps Up With Your Devices

While it’s advisable to plan your network, you never really know what devices you’ll add in the future. At first just using the wireless router provided by your ISP may be enough to access the web. But continue to think about your needs as you add more and different devices, and learn the basics of home networking Everything You Need to Know About Home Networking Everything You Need to Know About Home Networking Setting up a home network is not as hard as you think it is. Read More . You should also know what to do if your computer slows down when you’re connected to the internet If Your Computer Slows Down When Connected to the Internet, Try This If Your Computer Slows Down When Connected to the Internet, Try This Finding that your computer slows down when connected to the internet? Here are common reasons and fixes for this. Read More .

Image Credit: ginasanders/Depositphotos

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  1. Tim Norris
    March 30, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Hi
    When my internet router and connection is busy, the whole of my home network, 3 PCs and 2 iPads, slows down to a halt even though everything works through a good quality switch. Does anyone know how can I isolate the problem or separate the two elements - internet and LAN? Thanks Tim

    • James Bruce
      March 30, 2017 at 10:02 am

      It sounds like your router is the problem - probably one provided by your ISP. Consider replacing it by buying an actual router, then use the one provided by your ISP as just the internet connection (don't use it to serve Wifi). You may be able to switch it into what's called "modem mode", which will shut down it's ehternet ports and everything else other than just the internet.

      • Tim Norris
        March 30, 2017 at 10:10 am

        Hi James
        Thank you for your quick response. The router is a Cisco enterprise level router with no wifi and only has one link into the switch I do not manage it, it is managed by the ISP who are quite competent and they use NAting to map my fixed public addresses to my internal addresses - 192.168....... I loaded Wireshark yesterday to capture traffic and see what is happening. I am gradually blocking ip addresses connecting to my server using IPSec, and it does seem to be having an effect.
        Keep well, and thank you again. Warmest regards Tim

  2. snickie
    August 24, 2016 at 11:02 am

    When I test my internet speed with a cable on LAN I get 97/97 Mbit/s (download/upload). I get exactly the same with WiFi at a distance of 30 feet and a thick concrete wall between my laptop a my router.
    This article is outdated, WiFi works very well today.
    Btw, my internet is announced at 100/100 Mbit/s.

    • James Bruce
      March 30, 2017 at 10:04 am

      Your wall isn't thick enough to be a problem. Come visit my house, where meter thick solid stone walls do present a problem to Wifi. The fundamental laws of physics haven't changed, and no, you should still shouldn't be running lots of devices off of Wifi if you have a choice. It does get congested, and it does suffer interference from other household devices and other networks.

  3. Bathrasher
    January 3, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    ... I wish 100mbs was even an option.

  4. Troy
    January 27, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    So, if I have a 10/100 router connected to a 10/100 switch which is then connected to all my computers, would simply upgrading the switch alone to a gigabit bring my computers on the network up to gigabit speeds (providing the computers have gigabit cards)?

    • James Bruce
      January 27, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      Your cabling would need to be up to scratch too, but yes, with gigabit ethernet cards in each machine, decent cabling, and gigabit switch, your computers would be communicating to each other at gigabit speeds. Obviously, this wouldn't affect your internet speed, but streaming and file transfers between devices would be significantly improved.

      Your cabling needs to be Cat5E or Cat6, not just Cat5. It should say on the cable which it is.

    • Troy
      January 27, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      Thanks Bruce.
      I constructed all my wires using cat5e several years ago, so I should be good there.
      I'll need to add a gigabit net card to my HTPC, my old Bimbows PC, and the NAS I'm looking to build. But providing I do that, and get a new gigabit switch, I should be good on my LAN side even though my router is still 10/100?

    • James Bruce
      January 27, 2015 at 5:29 pm

      Is there anything plugged into your router other than the switch? If not, you're good. The connection between your switch and router will only be used for internet and management traffic, so 100 is fine there. The switch is smart enough to know not to redirect anything to the router if it's intended recipient is another machine plugged into itself.

    • Troy
      January 27, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      My layout is: Internet(satellite) > into modem > into 10/100 router > (1)cat5e to 8 port switch > (2~6)cat5e to various machines.

      Would be great if my only expense is a switch and a couple net cards!

  5. Nikhil Pandey
    February 11, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Look at my internet speed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-iBkUp3mK4

  6. babu vhora
    January 28, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Thank you....

  7. ELIZABETH G.F.
    January 10, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    yes.

  8. Eli
    December 20, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    for wifi analysis - I found that wif analyzer is much more convenient than wifi scanner

  9. Anonymous
    December 19, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    Good article, very informative on the subject! Looks like I have some tweaking to do myself.

  10. Brandon Brown
    December 19, 2012 at 1:09 am

    Some very useful information here. I feel a weekend project coming...

  11. Alan
    December 18, 2012 at 4:47 am

    i have a fluke DTX1800 if anyone wants cable test results.....

    • JB
      May 10, 2019 at 5:50 pm

      I have a DSP4000 sitting on a shelf. I'll let it go cheap.

  12. Alan
    December 18, 2012 at 4:44 am

    WIFI = Slow even the 5Ghz 'N' 300 mpbs stuff. light use only other than that, Avoid like the plague.
    Best for home = 1gbps to the desktop via CAT6 and a good Gigabit switch.
    Depending on the length of the cable runs you can get 1gbps connections over Cat5 and Cat5e. not the best tho.

    Ultimate = 10Gbps fibre to the desktop (i haven't seen it used in home setups tho)

  13. Walter Askew
    December 18, 2012 at 12:15 am

    Now you've given me a lot of work to do, but at least you told me what to do and how. Thanks.

  14. Igor Rizvi?
    December 17, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Thats true about old cables.i switched to a new cable (odl one was old for about at least 3 years) and i got slightly increas in speeds...

  15. LovesFLSun
    December 17, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    The bottleneck will always be the internet connection.

    • muotechguy
      December 18, 2012 at 9:06 am

      That's not true. A slow wifi can easily be eclipsed by some of the faster net connections.

  16. Gerald Huber
    December 17, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    nice article. you forgot one thing that slows down a network. Kid playing Call of Duty.

    • muotechguy
      December 18, 2012 at 9:05 am

      Hehe. I always wondered how much bandwidth gaming actually used. Acording to some tests, COD clients actually only use about 5-10k/s, which is quite remarkable really. The host can expect to have about 20X that since they receive everyone else's info, but still. Less than you might think!

  17. Scott Macmillan
    December 17, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    This was a real help.I wasn't aware of the network interface card.

  18. Jorge Andrade
    December 17, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    thanks for the info. beeing trying to enance my home network for awile, this is going to help

  19. Mac Witty
    December 17, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Thanks, will check this when I'm home to see if I can get better speed

  20. Mike McClure
    December 16, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    Could you please tell me where you found the information that states that Category 5 cable is incapable of running Gigabit Ethernet?

    Not only does that conflict with the Category 5 Wikipedia article, but I'm also using Cat 5 on several 1000baseT network links and it seems to work just fine.

    • Jose Paolo Gonzales Otico
      December 17, 2012 at 1:17 am

      I'm actually interested to know too since it does conflict with the Wiki article.

    • James Bruce
      December 17, 2012 at 9:02 am

      Hmm, good question. In my experience, none of *my* cat5 cables have ever successfully supported 1000baseT - switches and routers only ever let them go to 100. In theory, they *can* support it, but only if (a) all four pairs are wired (some cat5 cables only had 2 pairs wired since those are all thats needed). (b) the run is short enough, and (c) the interference is not too high or the cable is of good enough quality.

      Made to spec, I believe you're correct in saying cat5 should be able to support gigabit. In reality, I've found they don't. I guess it will vary, but for most home users it will be easy to check - just look at the switch lights and see the speed it has auto-negotiated. Obviously, if the cat-5 cable you have supports gigabit, no need to upgrade it. Sorry for the confusion, and thank you for commenting on that bit.

      • Mike McClure
        December 17, 2012 at 12:08 pm

        Sorry to nitpick, but even a Category 5e or Category 6 cable won't work on 1000baseT if all four pairs are not connected. It also might not work if it is poorly made, damaged, or interference is really high. But that has nothing to do with the type of cable.

        Your article makes it sound like a Category 5 cable will *never* work.

  21. Achraf Almouloudi
    December 16, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    If you want to setup a home storage using your old PC it is better to make sure it has a faster drive or SSD if possible or you'll suffer when transferring files.

  22. Charles Klug
    December 16, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Keep in mind that if you have a DIY NAS your hard disks could be the limitiing factor instead of the CPU. I turned a old 3.2GHz P4 into a FreeNAS machine and learned that my 2TB Seagate HDD was the limiting factor. The HDD only spun at 5200RPM and only went up to 30MB/s transfer. I bought a new network card, updated router firmware and monitored the NAS CPU load. Granted 30MB/s is a great improvement over 12MB/s with 10/100 router.

    • James Bruce
      December 17, 2012 at 9:02 am

      Good point; I guess in this case a striped RAID would help.

      • Charles Klug
        December 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm

        Or if you set up a ZFS Pool which can be safer than a RAID but the RAM needed (1GB RAM for Every TB of HDD) would be beyond using an old computer.

  23. Nicola De Ieso
    December 16, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    Thanks for these tips. I use cables cat-5e.

  24. Jason Papapanagiotakis
    December 16, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    Nice overview, still need to find a way to make things work in my house, cant stream a 3D movie yet..!

  25. Doc
    December 16, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    "Wireless internet is very convenient, but also incredibly unreliable and slow. With home Internet speeds of 50MB and higher now commonplace, a wifi connection will never be able to make full use of that." Where are you getting 50MB? That's 400Mbits/sec (Capital B is "bytes," not "bits.")
    I've got one of the higher RoadRunner packages, and it's only 15Mb/s peak, with lots of sites markedly slower because of bottlenecks. With 802.11n giving me a shared speed of 150Mb/s, there's no way I can saturate my Internet connection with WiFi.

    "Fixed computers and devices should always be cabled where possible to minimize wifi traffic; obviously if you don’t own your home it’s difficult to drill holes in walls and such, but would a cable around the edge of your rooom really be such an eyesore?"

    Unless you're on Gigabit Ethernet (and gigabit routers are still a good deal more expensive than their 10/100 brethren), *and* you're moving gigabytes of files from PC to PC, then your WiFi connection should be more than sufficient...and yes, I've got Cat5 cables hooked where I don't have room (or sufficient cards) for WiFi...I've yet to find a low-profile WiFi card for my mini-PC home media server. And *yes,* they're an eyesore.

  26. jasray
    December 16, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    What I typically find is the customer's wireless card is outdated. I rarely see tech sites recommend installing/upgrading a wireless card or using something such as the Alfa antenna and driver on the laptop/desktop needing faster performance.

    Even with DDWRT installed on a router with increased output performance, I've yet to see a dramatic change in connection speeds or reliability in the connection until the adapter card was changed.

  27. MP H
    December 16, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Good read - Easy for new home networkers to understand...

  28. Alex Slutsky
    December 16, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Thanks for the info, will try some of those on the home router.