Websites seem slow and downloads take forever. It’s frustrating, especially when you’re paying for high-speed internet.
First, make sure it’s not just you. When I’m not sure if slow speeds or timeouts are part of a bigger problem, I press Down Detector to see if others are reporting the same problem. Tap or click for a direct link and some other tips if a website won’t load.
If that’s not the problem, it could be a moocher. Yes, your neighbors or someone else could piggyback on your connection. Tap or click here to check what’s connected to your network.
There could be another culprit that you might not have thought of. Your internet service provider might limit your speed. Here’s a smart way to check out what’s going on behind the scenes. All you need is a virtual private network or VPN.
First things first: find the right VPN
A VPN creates a secure bridge between your device(s) and the internet, encrypting your online traffic against all forms of interference, eavesdropping and censorship.
Usually a free VPN will sell your data and collect everything – and I mean everything – you do while using it. And a free VPN will slow down your connection while collecting all your data. It’s free for a reason. You pay with your data, and boom, it starts. You get more spam, targeted ads, and maybe even more robocalls.
You want a VPN that doesn’t harvest or sell your information and that works across multiple devices. Above all, it should be easy to use. I use and recommend ExpressVPN, a sponsor of my national radio show.
Is your ISP throttling you?
Before activating your VPN, check your internet speed. You can google “speed test in your browser”, but I use Speedtest.net.
• Go to Speedtest.net and click “Go” in the middle of the screen. It will automatically detect test servers near your location.
• For the first test, use the server he chooses. Then you can try other servers in the country if you want.
• It will quickly tell you the ping, upload and download speed of your connection. Note this.
Now that you know your internet speed, activate your VPN. Run Speedtest.net again and compare speeds with and without active VPN.
In most cases, internet speeds will be a bit slower when connected to any VPN. A VPN hides the IP address that ISPs use to see who is online. Here’s the hint: if your internet speed is slower without an active VPN, your ISP is most likely throttling you.
I suggest doing some testing when you and your neighbors aren’t video conferencing or streaming. Avoid the morning when everyone is having meetings or the evening when we all kick off Netflix. Repeat this test several times over a few days to find an average.
If you find your speeds are much better with a VPN, call your ISP to find out what’s going on. They can speed up your connection in many cases without even making a home visit.
How to speed up your internet connection if you’re not throttled
If your speed test shows faster speeds without the VPN, it’s time to get to work improving your connection.
First, try updating your router firmware. You get additional features and new firmware improvements, and your router will receive critical security updates.
Usually, you have the option to check, review, download, and install new firmware for your router on its admin page. The exact steps depend on the make and model of your router, so check the router manufacturer’s support site for detailed instructions.
Not sure how to access your router’s admin settings to perform the update? Tap or click here to find the easiest way to find your router’s password and IP address.
This is just the beginning. Tap or click here for 9 more steps to speed up your Wi-Fi. I’ll show you how to spot interference, where to put your router, and more.
Bonus Tip: Stop Facebook Tracking, Secret Camera Trick & Why You See Ads When You Stream
In this podcast, I help three callers who are in difficult situations. One wants to protect her son from malicious players. Another wants expensive cameras at low prices. I share some technical tips you can use to save money and protect your privacy. I also have the scoop on a secret Facebook setting that stops tracking.
Check out my “Kim Komando Today” podcast on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcast player.
Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando”.
Discover all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For his daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit his website at Komando.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Is your ISP throttling your speed? How to check