WiFi speed test: Check your speed & troubleshoot problems

WiFi speed refers to how fast you can transfer data between the internet server and your device at any given time. This speed determines the kinds of activities you can do with your internet connection and also the number of devices you can connect simultaneously over WiFi. 

Today, the apps, videos and games we use on our smartphones and laptops are increasingly bandwidth-demanding, calling for faster WiFi. That is where a WiFi speed test comes into play. With a WiFi speed test, you can check the performance of your internet and know if your provider is delivering their advertised speeds.

When should you test your WiFi speed?

There are several scenarios where you should test the speed of your WiFi:

To verify if you are receiving the same download and upload speeds as advertised

A WiFi speed test helps you determine if your provider is offering the same speeds for which you are paying. Depending on the network infrastructure, your provider may limit the speeds in your area. In such cases, it might be better to opt for a lower speed plan rather than paying extra for a higher speed than your household can achieve. Note that WiFi speeds generally tend to be slower than wired broadband connections. The advertised speeds usually refer to wired connections only. 

Your WiFi is slower than usual

Have you been observing slower than normal WiFi speeds recently? Do web pages take an eternity to load and open on your laptop and computer? If yes, then this might be the perfect time to do a WiFi speed test.

When you want to check your router’s wireless speeds

With a WiFi speed test, you can also check if your router is delivering the same download and upload speeds for WiFi connections as per the specifications in your documentation. The test results will not only confirm your router’s specifications but will also help you determine a better location for the router in your home to optimize the WiFi speed and enjoy a hassle-free connection on multiple devices.

What does a WiFi speed test measure?

The test works on a simple premise: It downloads multiple chunks of data and adjusts their size as well as the total number of connections on the go. A speed test measures three essential elements:

Download speed

Download speed is a crucial element measured by the test. It helps you understand how fast you can download data to your devices, measured in megabits per second or Mbps. Whenever you’re loading a webpage or downloading and streaming media, you’re relying on download speed. Most of us spend far more time downloading data than uploading.

Upload speed

A speed test measures just how quickly you can upload data on the internet, such as for backing up your files to the cloud or uploading to YouTube. It is a good idea to cross-check the download and upload speeds from the test results to the quoted speed by the provider. This verification will help you gauge how well your WiFi is performing. 

Latency/Ping rate

Finally, the ping rate gauges a network’s latency. Latency is the travel time it takes for data to travel between the network and your device. If your connection has high latency, it will cause lags. That’s a nightmare for video chats or online gaming. You want the ping rate to be less than 150 milliseconds; anything more than that will result in lags. 

These three elements together determine the overall speed and performance of your WiFi.

How will a WiFi speed test help you?

Determine if your WiFi service provider is fulfilling its part of the bargain

The results of a WiFi speed test can help you understand if the speed levels are as promised by your service provider. If the test results show that the speeds are slower than advertised, the chances are that your provider either isn’t offering the advertised speeds in your area or that your household is not set up to take advantage of those speeds. In such cases, you can start determining if it’s your home setup causing the issue, or if not, switching to a lower speed plan and avoid spending unnecessarily. 

Find out if your router is delivering the same speeds across all your devices

If you are a busy household with multiple connected devices, you will likely require a long-range router that comes with the MU-MIMO feature to ensure similar speeds across all the streaming channels. Performing a simultaneous WiFi speed test on some of your devices will help you identify if your new router is living up to expectations.

How to take a WiFi speed test online

There are several websites and apps that can help you take a speed test. Whenever you sign up for a new internet connection, the very first thing you must do is conduct a WiFi speed test online. Here are the top five speed tests to consider:

Google Fiber Speed Test

Google Fiber Speed Test is probably one of the easiest ways to test your WiFi speed. It has a minimalist and clean user interface without any ads. Just click the “Play” button to start the test. Although the test is for Google Fiber internet, you can still use it to check the speed of any internet connection. 

NetSpot

NetSpot is a wireless auditor solution that can help you analyze your network security, wireless area coverage and network feasibility. It is also an excellent solution for troubleshooting problems related to network connectivity. NetSpot is free for personal use. There is also an enterprise version for businesses that comes with advanced features

Online Speedtest by Ookla

Ookla is another accurate global leader when it comes to performing WiFi speed tests online. With just a click, you can measure the network diagnostics and performance of your WiFi. This speed test is free for personal use and also performs a ping test. There is also an enterprise version that offers advanced tools and insights for managing networks efficiently in business organizations.

SpeedSmart

Another popular choice, SpeedSmart offers information about the upload and download speed in addition to the ping rate. SpeedSmart comes with advanced settings for iOS and Android. You can also save the results to keep track of the history of your WiFi’s performance. The test is super easy to use with zero pop-ups.

Fast

Finally, Fast is an easy-to-use WiFi speed test that you can use for free, compliments of Netflix. Use it to measure your connection’s download speed between your device and the Netflix servers. It has a super clean interface without any distracting ads. 

Tips for testing WiFi speed

Avoid testing using a VPN

Do not use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), data-saving app or proxy to test the speed of your WiFi. These settings can slow down your internet connection and create inaccurate results. 

Restart the device

It is crucial to reboot your system before a speed test. If you haven’t restarted your device in a while, there will be residual processes and programs running in the background. These processes can slow down the test and affect your ping rate. It is also a good idea to disable your antivirus program temporarily until you complete the test. 

Disconnect other devices

If you run a speed test on your laptop, it will measure the connectivity of your WiFi only on that device. So it’s essential to maximize that device’s bandwidth as much as possible. You can do that by disconnecting all other devices to prevent the network from slowing down. 

Run tests in multiple rooms

It is important to check your speeds in multiple areas of your home so you can compare the results. This helps you identify the zones with the worst connectivity so you can optimize the WiFi in those places

Test the speed when fewer people are using the WiFi

Do not perform a speed test on a busy WiFi connection where a lot of people are on Netflix or are downloading large files. The busier the WiFi at any given time, the slower the connection will be, thus affecting the speed test results. 

Test more than once

Finally, perform the speed test multiple times to confirm its accuracy. Speeds are volatile and can give you different results even if you do them within a matter of minutes in the same place. Multiple tests allow for maximum precision. 

How to improve your WiFi speed

There are several ways in which you can boost the speed of your WiFi to make it more reliable. 

Put your router in the right place

A router’s location in your house or office has a lot to do with its speed. For instance, do not place your router near appliances or metal objects that emit electromagnetic waves. It can disrupt the WiFi signal and create a dead zone. Ensure that the router is away from electrical wires and above the floor level. 

Get a stronger antenna

Standard WiFi routers come with weak and small antennas, which offer limited coverage typically restricted to a single room. If you are not too stuck on the size, consider getting a powerful antenna as it can significantly boost the range and performance of your router. A WiFi range extender can also improve coverage around your home. 

Update your router consistently

There are countless malware attacks today, costing individuals and businesses billions every year. Keeping your router updated can help you avoid this hassle and also optimize your WiFi speed. Routers that have old firmware perform significantly worse compared to ones that are updated.

Use a strong password

Finally, there are a lot of people who take advantage of their neighbors’ WiFi, even if they have their own. Naturally, the more people using your WiFi, the slower it will be. Create a strong password that others can’t crack. It will not only help you limit WiFi usage and optimize speed but will also keep your network secure.