You pay for 10mb download and an upload speed of 512k (set this low to prevent you setting up your own server). How do you know that you are getting what they say you are? Why, run a a speed test, of course!

Before you run anything, bear in mind that there are variables:

  1. The incoming cable, especially if you are on DSL (the regular telephone line)
  2. The cable between modem and computer (and router if you use one)
  3. The router if used
  4. The network interface on your computer
  5. The amount of Internet traffic in the locality of both your installation and your ISP

So, you need to run a test more than once, and do it at different times. If, during any test run, you get very close to the speed that you agreed with your ISP, you have nothing to worry about. Your modem, patch cables, router and NIC are all good. Lower speeds at any other times will be down to item 5 in the above list. What you don’t want to do is panic if the speed on the first or second test is not good. Don’t start to change settings or cables needlessly, and use more than one test site. My favorites are and Speakeasy.

If you don’t get the speed expected, you are a cable user, and you have your own router between you and the modem, ensure that its firmware is the latest, and that the router is not aging. An example of an aging router is the D-Link 701, a router for which there has long been no support. If you can’t get firmware dated around 2006 or later, consider replacing whatever you have. There is also a good chance that the patch cables being used are getting old too, and incapable of fast throughput.

Consistently slow DSL speeds can be affected by an aging router and cables as much as cable Internet can, but if you are sure that they are ok, then you must be living too far away from the telephone exchange to which you are connected. The only way to improve the connection is to move closer to the exchange. DSL is ok for anything up to 3.5 miles, and is exceptional at 500 yards (how far I lived from my exchange last time I was DSL connected).

Home Network

Network Interface Cards are rated by throughput. Really old ones will only manage 10mb through them but, if yours doesn’t predate Windows 98, there is a very good chance that it is of the 10/100 type. This means that data can be transferred between two computers on a home network way faster that they can transfer stuff from a server on the other end of an Internet connection. If you are lucky enough to have Fiber Optic in your area, the difference is not quite as great but, for the longest time, 10mb was as good as it got.

Old routers may have the same limitation of 10mb too, so check yours out. Run the cable test if your router has the option in its tools setup. Newer routers have been available in 54mb and 108mb guise, and now even 1000mb. Check the box when you buy. Routers capable of 1000mb will be expensive.

I would think that all integrated NIC’s are 10/100, and some of the latest are 1000mb capable too, but if you are using a 3rd party NIC for any reason, use SIW software to check it out. It is also easy to tell a 10mb card from a 100mb type. Look at the slot contacts on the card. If the contacts are evenly spaced on both sides, it is a 10/100 type. If there are uneven gaps, it is only a 10mb type.

In general

Whatever you use, it will only ever be as good as the slowest part of the connection. P2P users will know all about downloading at slow speeds. Just as your upload speed may be way lower than your download capability, the same applies to computers users who are sharing on a similar connection. Slow speed is more apparent if your P2P utility has only found one download source from a computer with 512k or less output.