Why Is My Internet so Slow?
There's nothing more frustrating than an internet connection slower than molasses. Delayed audio during your video chats with the grandkids, sluggish vacation photo downloads, and a frozen or pixely screen while watching shows on Netflix can all be signs that your internet speed is not up to par. Plus, if connecting with friends and family online is your only option right now, slow internet can be interfering with valuable time with your loved ones.
We are going to break down a few common problems seniors run into with their internet connection. We’ll also outline quick and simple steps you can take to make your internet faster. I walked my grandma through these steps on her iPad, phone, and other devices to get her internet speeds in tip-top shape. It took us less than 30 minutes. With the guide below you'll be up to speed in no time too!
Check Your Router Placement
Did you know it matters where you place your router in your home? If you’re like us, it is easy to stick it wherever you have room, but it's best to be strategic with your router placement. Wi-Fi doesn’t travel as far as we might think; the concrete and walls in your home can weaken the signal. Here are some tips to keep in mind when finding a home for your router:
- Place your router in the room you want the fastest internet speed. For example, if you usually do your Zoom chats with family and friends in the home office, place the router there.
- Avoid placing your router in the kitchen. Some appliances, like microwaves, can be detrimental to the Wi-Fi signal.
- If you have a multi-level home, place your router on the center level. Avoid placing it on the below ground level, like in a basement.
- Don’t “hide” your router. Setting the router on a bookshelf or in a drawer weakens the signal. We know routers are an eyesore, but keeping them out in the open can make your internet faster.
How to Reset Your Router
If finding a new spot for your router doesn’t resolve your slow internet problems, it may be time to reset your router. Depending on your setup, you may also have a modem to complement your router. Some routers (like mine below) have the modems built-in, so it’s all one unit. Yours may be separated into two units. Follow the steps below to reset your router.
- Unplug your router from the wall outlet. If you have separate units, unplug both.
- Wait about one minute, making sure the devices have time to cool off and take a breather.
- Plug the device back into the outlet. If you have a separate modem and router, plug in the modem first, wait a minute or two, and then plug in the router.
It will take a few minutes before your Wi-Fi is rebooted and up and running. To test it out, open your web browser on your computer or tablet and try visiting your favorite website. As long as it loads correctly, then your Wi-Fi is up and running.
How to Clear Your Web Browser Data
Your web browser is the gateway to all of your favorite online activities, from checking Facebook to reading the news to Googling a new dinner recipe. You might not know it, but your browser also stores information to enhance your future browsing experience. This can slow down your browser if the storage gets too big. You can think about it like overstuffing a cardboard moving box that eventually breaks.
To lighten the load, you’ll want to clear your stored data. Microsoft Edge, Firefox, Safari, and Google Chrome have varying steps for clearing history. Below, we will show you how to clear your data if you use Google Chrome.
Step 1. Open a new Google Chrome window by clicking on the Google Chrome icon.
Step 2. Next, navigate to the vertical gray dots in the top right corner of the browser and click. Hover over “More Tools,” then click “Clear Browsing Data…”
Step 3. You'll see a window that looks like the one below. Select the amount of time you want to erase past data from. We recommend selecting “All time” for a complete and thorough clean up.
Step 4. Finally, click “Clear data,” and you're good to go!
Update Your Internet Browser
Ninety percent of internet users utilize Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Microsoft Edge.1 When tested, Safari is the fastest, but it is only available for Macs.2 If you have a PC, Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome will give you plenty of speed. If you're using an outdated internet browser, this could be causing pages to load slowly. Consider installing the latest version of one of the above browsers for faster web surfing.
Disconnect Devices While Not In Use
If your smartphone, tablet, laptop, smart TV, home security system, and Alexa are all connected to your internet at once you may be overloading your Wi-Fi connection. Some seniors opt for a lower speed internet package to save money on a fixed income, or simply because they don’t use the internet very much, which is just fine. But what we sometimes forget is that our wireless devices are connected to the internet even when we aren't using them. If you have multiple devices connected at once, and are experiencing sluggish internet speeds, consider disconnecting your devices when you’re not using them. Here’s how!
Disconnect a Mac Computer From Internet
Step 1. On a Mac computer, navigate to the top right corner and click the Wi-Fi icon. Then click “Turn Wi-Fi Off” or click the blue slider button next to the word “Wi-Fi.” (This will depend on your computer's current software.)
Step 2.The next time you want to use the internet, follow the same steps to turn it back on. The button will say “Turn Wi-Fi On.”
Disconnect iPhone or iPad from Internet
Step 1. Tap the Settings icon on your Apple device.
Step 2. Next, tap “Wi-Fi.”
Step 3. Then, tap the green button on the right side of the screen.
Step 4. The Wi-Fi on your iPhone or iPad is now disconnected. If you leave the Wi-Fi turned off on your iPhone, the device will use your data for an internet connection. So, you'll want to be aware of that if you have a limited data plan. To turn your Wi-Fi connection back on, follow the same steps, tapping the button in the above image again, so it turns green.
Disconnect Windows Computer from Internet
Step 1. Navigate to the bottom right corner of the screen and click on the wireless icon.
Step 2. Click “Disconnect” from the network you’re currently using.3
Step 3. Follow the same steps to reconnect when you’re ready to use the internet again. The screen above will say “Connect.”
Purchase a Wi-Fi Extender
Wi-Fi extenders are little devices that can make all the difference in your internet speed. The signal booster plugs into a wall outlet, providing a stronger and faster connection where you need it in your home. Usually less than $150, a Wi-Fi extender is an affordable and easy way to make your internet faster. Think of it as a middle man between your Wi-Fi router and your devices. The extender takes the signal from your router and rebroadcasts it, establishing a more reliable connection to your devices. Here are a few of our favorite Wi-Fi extenders for seniors.
Linksys RE7000 Max-Stream™ AC1900+ Wi-Fi Extender
Able to extend the range of your Wi-Fi signal up to 2,500 sq. ft., this easy to install Wi-Fi extender is an excellent choice for seniors looking for faster internet. It is compatible with all Wi-Fi routers, so you won’t have to worry about whether it will work with yours or not. The device is fairly priced for a compact, convenient extender, so it won't put a major dent in the wallet.4
TP-Link RE650 AC2600 W-iFi Range Extender
With four antennas, this little guy looks like he might take flight! Though it isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing extender, the quad-antenna design gets the job done. We love that TP-Link offers a two-year warranty and 24/7 technical support to answer any questions you have in the setup process or down the road. This highly compatible extender is also highly affordable.5
Get Rid of Malware or Viruses on Your Computer
Hopefully, this isn’t the case for you, but malware or a computer virus may be the culprit of your slow internet. Just like a virus in the human body, a computer virus infects your device, slows it down, and can make things go wrong. Some signs your computer may have a virus include:
- Files and applications take a long time to load
- You see frequent and unusual pop-up windows
- Emails are sent from your account that you’re unaware of
- Unknown programs are being downloaded and run on your device
- Your computer is frequently crashing
To diagnose the issue for free, you can download antivirus software from companies like Avast at Avast.com. Here's how.
Step 1. Click the “Download” button on the Avast.com homepage.
Step 2. After it is finished downloading, click on the file located in the bottom left corner of your screen.
Step 3. Next, you'll need to click “Yes” to give the app permission to install on your computer.
Step 4. Avast will begin installing on your computer, and you will see a screen that looks like the one shown below.
Step 5. Click “Install” when prompted.
Step 6. Once Avast has finished installing, you'll see the following screen. Click “Continue.”
Step 7. Select “Run Smart Scan” to detect viruses, ransomware, and other threats on your computer.
Step 8. Avast will show you the scan results and give suggestions on how to resolve any threats. In the future, Avast will warn you about unsafe websites as well as block viruses and other malware.
Though there are some decent, free malware and antivirus software out there (like the one we mentioned above), no program is going to catch every virus or suspicious activity on your computer. Just like we cultivate healthy habits to keep our bodies free from illness, there are everyday habits you can adopt to keep your devices free from viruses and malware.
- Only download software from trusted sources like the Apple and Microsoft websites.
- Don't click on email attachments or links unless you recognize the sender's email and what the attachments are.
- Make sure your passwords are secure, different for various logins, and include numbers and special characters.
- If you have a Facebook account, beware of suspicious links sent to you via Messenger. Only click on it if you know what it is. If you’re unsure, contact the person who messaged you by phone or another platform to verify what they sent you before clicking the link.
Scam Alert: Americans over the age of 60 are five times more likely to fall victim to a tech support scam.6 Beware of virus pop-ups on your computer posing as “Microsoft” or “Apple” support. Calling the phone number on a pop-up window can lead to a scam. If you need tech support, use a separate device to look up a trusted number or call a loved one for help.
Negotiate with Your Internet Provider for Better Speeds
If you try the above solutions and are still experiencing slow internet, there is another way to get faster internet: talk to your provider. They may be able to give you additional suggestions and explain what your options are for upgrading. We know it isn’t a great feeling to shell out more money for faster internet, but if the slow speed is bothering you, it may be time to take the leap.
Ask your representative if they offer senior discounts or veteran discounts if you were in the service. Also, before you call, browse online and see if your provider is running any special deals. You can mention the deals to the representative and ask them to honor them.
If All Else Fails, Change Your Internet Provider
If you upgrade your speed and it is too expensive or still does not meet your needs, we suggest changing your internet provider. Spectrum offers high speeds at a low cost and without a long-term contract. Xfinity is another great option; if you’re considering bundling your internet and cable service, they have some fantastic deals. You’ll want to do some research to see which internet providers service your area.