How to check your WiFi speed
Whenever we connect to the Internet through WiFi, most of us don’t stop to think about whether we’re getting the best speeds possible. This thought only crosses our minds when we experience some lag or buffering while streaming, a page that takes way too long to load, a patchy video call, or that dreaded “Connected, No Internet” error message.
But even before experiencing any of these frustrating issues, it’s best to keep up with the overall health of your WiFi. Are you actually getting the speeds you are paying for? Or are you simply getting by with a fraction of your broadband plan instead?
To find out if you’re getting the most out of your broadband plan, start by checking your WiFi speed. You can do this on your mobile phone by browsing to a reputable third-party speed test website like Ookla and initiating the test.
You can also check your WiFi speed directly on computer. Here’s how:
- Windows computer
Right click the WiFi icon at the bottom left of your screen > click Open Network and Sharing Center > click on the WiFi connection you want to check > your WiFi speed will be displayed in Mbps (Megabits per second).
- Apple computer
Hold the Option key and click the WiFi icon on the top right of your screen > a pop up menu will dispay information about your corrent network, including your WiFi speed, which will be displayed as Tx Rate in Mbps.
When you’re checking your WiFi speed directly from your computer, remember that it is displayed in Mbps (Megabits per second) and not MBps (Megabytes per second). Megabits (Mb) are 8 times Megabytes (MB) – for instance, if your computer displays your WiFi speed as 500 megabits per second (Mbps), that would be the equivalent of 500 divided by 8, which is 62.5 megabytes per second(MBps). This is important because your broadband plan likely displays the speed tier you purchased in megabytesper second (MBps).
Now that you know your WiFi speed, check to see if it’s within the range you were promised in the broadband plan you purchased. If it is slower than the minimum speeds that your service provider advertised, you should definitely take some steps to boost your WiFi signal.
Ways to boost Wi-Fi signal
While your slow WiFi speeds could be your service provider’s fault, it could also be due to other reasons, such as the device you’re using to connect or your WiFi router itself. This is true if you have a wired router for a fixed broadband plan or a pocket WiFi for a SIM plan or mobile broadband plan.
In many cases, older devices and routers can really slow down your WiFi speeds, but we’ll give you some tips to try and boost your signal before complaining to your telco:
- Connect your computer directly to your WiFi router using an ethernet cable. You should get the best signal possible by doing this, so be sure to run a speed test when connected and compare it to your wireless tests and plan details.
- Place your WiFi router in an open space. WiFi is wireless, so it needs room for its signals to travel without too many obstructions. Find an open, elevated area for your router and check your WiFi speeds to see if it improves. Also, position your device close to your router, and then slowly move further and further away while checking the speeds. This can really help you determine if your slow WiFi speed is due to your router being placed too far from your device.
- Create a strong WiFi password to keep others from connecting to your network. Because WiFi signals are wireless, they are a favorite for hackers. Criminals can use your WiFi connection to commit crimes, or anyone close by could just use your WiFi connection to stream and surf the net. Whenever you have multiple devices connected to your WiFi, they take up bandwidth space and slow your speeds down. Setting up a strong password will ensure you alone can use your WiFi, which in turn could boost your speed and signal.
- Optimize your WiFi settings to boost its signal and speeds. Start by updating your router’s firmware to the latest version – this can make a huge difference in your WiFi signal and speeds. Next, find out the least congested channel and connect to that. Most routers are set to channel 6 by default, so choosing a less crowded option could boost your speed and signal. You can use third party tools like Wi-Fi Analyzer or Wi-Fi Scanner to find out the best available channels for your router to connect.
If these tips don’t make any difference to your WiFi signal and speeds, then you might want to purchase a new router if yours is old or outdated. Newer routers with technologies like WiFi 6 could give you 3 times more speed than previous generations.
And if you’re mostly concerned about your WiFi signal and not your speeds, then consider getting devices that boost those signals.
Devices that can be used to boost WiFi signal
If your WiFi signal is weak, then you might just need a WiFi repeater, booster, or extender. These devices might be different if you boil down all the technicalities, but they mostly perform the same function – boost your WiFi signal so that you can connect freely even when you are far from your router.
WiFi boosters typically refer to both repeaters and extenders – a catch-all phrase, sort of. If you’d like to get a strong signal upstairs, for example, while your router is downstairs, a repeater and/or extender could rebroadcast that signal from downstairs (your router’s location) to upstairs (your location). By extending and boosting your signal, your WiFi speeds will also increase when you are farther away from your router.
We’ve written an article about WiFi boosters, repeaters, and extenders to give you all the insight you need to decide which is best suited for you, so take some time to read through it and learn how to boost your WiFi signal.
The problem with speeding up your WiFi is that there are so many things which can go wrong with it, so diagnosing and then fixing the problem can be difficult.
An internet speed check app or website will give you the basic tool to help establish the speed you’re getting and compare it to the published expectation that your service provider told you that you should expect.
The next thing to check is the most obvious: Is anyone in your house downloading a large file (for instance, your teenage kids, if any) or streaming video (for example, Netflix) across the network. Depending on the broadband plan you’re on, either one of those instances could give you a slow connection.