How to Properly Check Your Internet Speed

If there is one thing that is consistently taken for granted by the majority of people, it’s internet speed. When it’s fast, we never give it a second thought. When it’s slow, we’re pulling our hair out. The question is what can you do about it? Unplug the router and plug it back in? It’s not a bad suggestion. After all, it worked in South Park.

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It’s not uncommon for virtually everyone to experience some slow down in internet speed at one point or another. However if you are suffering from frequent slowdowns or interruptions, you’re going to want to find out the root cause of the problem. The very first thing that you should do if you’re experiencing slow network performance is to check your internet speed. Fortunately, there are a variety of web-based tools that will accurately test it.

As we mentioned earlier, it’s not uncommon for everyone to experience some type of slow down occasionally. This is why it is important to test your internet speed at various times, on different days. This may seem like a bit of a hassle, but if you’re interested in getting the most accurate results, this is the way to do it.

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Think of it this way. Let’s say you come to the conclusion that you’re not achieving the sort of speeds you’re paying for. Your internet service provider probably isn’t going to admit this. Furthermore, it’s more than likely that they’ll simply brush you off and hope you forget about it. However, if you confront them with hard evidence, let’s just say they’ll have a hard time refuting the facts.

The best time to conduct these tests is when Internet traffic is heavy. Identify when you most commonly experience bottlenecking. Chances are it’s after work, at night or on the weekends, when everyone is streaming videos or playing online games. You’ll definitely want to run these tests during those times, but feel free to run them at odd times as well. Remember, variety is the spice of life!

Testing your internet speed is really easy. In fact, the hardest part is simply remembering to collect the data. Fortunately, the tools you need to test your internet speed are free and easy to use. All of the tools featured on this list are web-based. This means you don’t even have to worry about downloading and installing software!

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Fast.com is a bare-bones web-based tool designed and maintained by Netflix. While it doesn’t feature some of the bells and whistles of the other tools on this list, it is by far the easiest to use and understand. To use the Netflix-powered internet speed diagnostic tool, simply point your browser to Fast.com. That’s it. Once the page loads, you don’t have to do anything. There are no buttons to click and no agreements to consent to. All you have to do is wait approximately sixty seconds for the tool to deliver your results. When it’s finished, it will display your download speed in Mbps.

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If you want a little more info, simply click the “Show more info” button underneath your results. This will display additional info like your upload speed and latency.

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At first glance, Speedtest by Ookla is very similar to Fast.com. To the untrained eye, most would assume that the only real difference is purely aesthetic. However, Speedtest does have a few slight differences. First of all, Speedtest displays both your download and upload speed by default. The Speedtest tool also allows you to change the server. By default, Speedtest finds the optimal server based on your ISP and location. However, if you want to change the server for whatever reason, the option is there.

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This Network Diagnostic Tool is handy for novices, but it’s really meant for network researchers. It functions similarly to all of the other tools on this list and will display your network’s upload and download speed. Where M-Lab’s tool differs is in the detailed information it provides about your network.

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Granted, this information might as well be in another language if you’re not a network researcher. That being said, if you can make heads or tails of it, it could help you solve even the most mysterious network issues.

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The Internet speed test provided by Testmy.net is one of the most comprehensive on this list. In addition to one-off manual testing of download and upload speed, this one has a unique feature not found in any of the others. Testmy.net has an automatic speed test that will test the speed of your network over a period of time without you having to lift a finger. All you need to do is set it and forget it! Users can set the intervals of testing from every five minutes to once every twenty-four hours. Furthermore, they can determine how many times they want the test to run, from five times to fifty times.

How do you test your internet speed? Do you have a favorite diagnostic tool? Let us know in the comments!

18 comments

  1. It is probably a good idea to use a few tests from different sites, than to depend on just one site. My ISP upgraded my DSL from 5Mbps to 20, since then have found Fast.com to give low speed tests compared to speedtest and mlab. Before upgrade fast and speedtest were about the same.

  2. Shouldn’t the speed results be in the same ballpark? I got the following results:

    Speedtest.com:
    Download speed – 45.02
    Upload speed – 22.80

    Testmy.net:
    Download speed – 23.10
    Upload speed – 6.30

    Measurement Lab:
    Download speed – 32.92
    Upload Speed – 26.47

    As you can see, the numbers are all over the place. All tests were run within a 10 minutes span.

    • This is where the server comes into play. For example, if you have Spectrum and live in St Louis, you should be doing your speed test from Spectrum’s server in Olivette, MO, not from AT&T’s server in Kansas City, MO. You want to use your own ISP’s server as well as the closest server to you. If you test off another ISP’s server, then you’re running your internet connection from your ISP’s server to another ISP’s server, then to you, which slows things down.

      Ex. I did a test from AT&T’s KC server and got 38 ping, 25DL, and 12UL, then I tested from Spectrum in Olivette, MO and got 15 ping, 60DL, and 12UL.

  3. There are way too many variables between a host and the Internet that could introduce latency that a simple tool like the ones listed above would be insufficient and would lead to innacurate readings. For example, this makes no distinction between wired and wireless speed test. The headline is misleading.

  4. The four speed test sites give significantly different download results, from a low of 9 Mbps to a high of 152 Mbps. How do I know which one is accurate?? All were taken within minutes of each other.

  5. The best test should be your providers speed test. Example, the spectrum website speed test will test to a local server on their Network. If that test is pulling the speed you pay for there is nothing the provider can do to help any speed issues you see using other speed test sites.

  6. I find Speedtest.net has always given me the most reliable results, google just launched their own ‘speed test’ tool though I tend to find the results from that a little poor – maybe it’s more US-Centric.

    You’ve said speed tests should be run at peak times (typically 1800-2200, with a real peak between 2000-2200) which is fair.

    You don’t mention that a speed test shouldn’t be run on the WiFi (unless your aim is to identify the WiFi as the weak link)
    Also it’s worth noting that running a speed test while you’ve got Netflix caning it at 25Mbps on another machine isn’t going to give an accurate result. You should disconnect all other devices from the router then run a speed test from a single machine hard-wired to the router.

    Also if you have a decent router you should be able to log in and see how much data your using, and (ideally) your sync-speed to your ISP (the theoretical maximum speed your internet can achieve).

    I run tech support for a (very) small wireless ISP and I can spend a lot of time explaining how speed tests work.

  7. The one thing I learned about testing your Internet speed was to use a server that’s closest to where I live. Because the further away the server is from where you are the slower the result is gonna be if that makes sense.

    • As John pointed out above, you should test the same server that you use mast often to access the Internet, which may not be the closest one to you.

      One of the ways to speed up your Internet is to use a third party DNS server, such as Google’s, rather than your ISP’s. Third party DNS servers probably are not located closer to you than your ISP’S servers.

  8. I don’t particularly enjoy reading aries like this for the simple reason that it paints ISP’s as the bad guy.

    Not all ISP wil just brush it off and hope you forget, some are very committed to help their customers in any way possible.

    Half the time someone complains about internet speed is when something else in the buidling is already using most of the speed… But sure.. Label the ISP as the bad guy… If one or two ISP are bad then they must all be right?

  9. Indeed dangerously misleading for those seeking to understand how speed testing on the internet works.

    Great to see some of the expert minds on the comments. Ryan Lynch, these guys really get it.

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