Why Is My Broadband So Slow All of a Sudden?

By: Jake Mellor
Updated: October 6, 2021
Why is Broadband Slow

We’ve all had it happen. You’re going about your business – maybe you’re on a Zoom call, or downloading a movie, or playing a video game – when suddenly your internet stalls. 

The call crashes, the download stops, the video game enters an eternal refresh. Apps and websites load at a snail’s pace. Your browser keeps timing out. Every time this happens, you’re probably wondering: Why is my broadband so slow all of a sudden? 

Well, I have bad news and good news. The bad news is that there may indeed be something wrong with your internet connection or your device. The good news is that you can likely fix it quite quickly! 

In this article, I’ll walk you through all the different factors that might be affecting your internet speed and exactly how to solve each of them. 

Why Is My Internet Suddenly Slow?

So you’re having internet speed issues. Let’s explore the four main reasons your internet might be struggling: problems with your router, problems with users, problems with your device, or problems with external factors. 

I’ll explain why these issues occur and multiple solutions for fixing them.

Reason #1 - Problems With Your Router

When you catch yourself thinking, “Why is my WiFi so slow?” the most common culprit is your router. Here are the steps you should follow to test and solve router issues. 

Solution 1: Check Your Wiring

First of all, just make sure your router is wired correctly and plugged in. 

  • Check the back of your router. You should see a few cords. One connects your router to power, and one connects your router to an internet jack. If your router connects to an external modem, you’ll need to check all the cords to the modem as well. 

  • Test each of your router’s and modem’s cords to ensure that they are plugged in securely. Give a push on each to check how secure the connection is.

  • You should also check the end of the wires plugged into the power outlet or ethernet jack. Make sure that each of those cords is also tightly secured.

Note that as you check wires, you might accidentally loosen one. That’s completely fine. Just plug it back in securely and wait for about five minutes for your router to boot back up.

If any of the wires were loose, you’ve probably already solved the problem. But if your internet is still slow, it’s time to try the next solution.

Solution 2: Reset Your Router

Okay, I know this is the first thing the IT person always tells you – “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” But you’d be surprised how many of us forget this simple step. 

After making sure all the wires are connected, try resetting your router. Yes, it’s as simple as turning it off and back on again. 

Your router may be overheating after an extended period of use. The system might have memory leaks, which means that even after a program stops using memory, the memory space stays locked up. 

The system might also be out of sync with your Internet Service Provider (ISP). By resetting it, the router will reconnect to your ISP with a fresh connection.

Here’s what to do:

  • Unplug your router from all power sources.

  • Count out about 30 seconds to let everything power down inside the router. You can wait up to five minutes to give it plenty of time to cool down and fully reset.

  • Plug it back in.

  • Give your router a good five minutes to fully power back up. The lights on the router will slowly light up. On most routers, you should wait for a steady light next to the “online” button.

  • When your router is fully back online, try your internet again. 

Resetting your router is one of the most common solutions for a slow internet connection.

Solution 3: Get a Router Upgrade

If resetting the router doesn’t work, you may want to check if you need to upgrade your router. A router upgrade may be necessary, particularly if you download high-resolution videos or use your WiFi for gaming.

Sometimes a cheaper router won’t be able to keep up with the internet speeds you’re paying for. To find out if you need to get a new router, you need to compare the speed of your WiFi to the rate of your actual internet service. 

First, check your internet speed without the router. 

  • Plug your laptop or computer directly into your internet connection using your Ethernet cable. Note, you’ll need an adaptor cord for some devices.

  • Go to speedtest.net from your device and test your internet speed.

  • The level here is your actual service speed. I recommend running it a couple of times to ensure you’re getting a consistent and accurate read.

Next, check your WiFi speed through the router.

  • Plug the router back into your internet with the Ethernet cord.

  • When your router is back online, connect to WiFi via one of your devices. I recommend using a smartphone for this.

  • Go back to speedtest.net and try a few times from your WiFi-connected device.

If the second speed reading from WiFi is a lot slower than the one through your Ethernet-connected device, then you need to upgrade your router.

Solution 4: Try Moving Your Router

In a wirelessly connected world, it can seem like distance doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, it does. So does material. If your router is closed up in a closet or blocked by doors and walls, it might not cast as strong a signal. 

You might also be too far from your router. You should place your router in the area you use the most bandwidth, like a living room. If you’re too far from your router, the signal might be too weak. 

Try moving your router around to find the optimal spot for it to reach your devices.

Solution 5: Get a Router Extender/Repeater 

Even if you find the perfect spot for your router, you still might have trouble getting signals in more distant parts of your house or flat. For anyone wondering “Why is the internet so slow,” I recommend getting a router extender. 

A router extender can take the signals from your router and repeat them through your home. You’ll need to place it near enough to your router that it can still receive a signal. The extender will increase your internet strength in the area where you’ve placed it.

You should note, though, that an extender may reduce your overall internet speed because it draws some of the signal.

Solution 6: Get a Powerline Adapter

Another option if you can’t move your router is to get a Powerline or MoCA adapter. These little plugins turn a regular power outlet into an Ethernet outlet. You can find models that also provide WiFi. 

Reason #2 - Too Much User Traffic

If your router isn’t the problem, it may be a user issue. And by “user issue,” I mean users plural! Too many users on one router can cause traffic just like it does on the road.

On rare occasions, your ISP might be overloaded during hectic hours of internet usage. However, ISPs usually have a backup for internet “rush hour.”  You might want to check your provider’s service notifications to see if it’s a particularly busy time. The only solution is to wait.

However, here are a few things you can do if your internet is too crowded.

Solution 1: Limit User Bandwidth or Remove Devices

If you have several family members or flatmates sharing one WiFi network, you might experience a slowdown. If more than one person is using high levels of bandwidth – like streaming movies, video games, or video calls – your internet will probably struggle to keep up. 

You can take a few steps to try to combat this:

  • Choose to limit some user’s bandwidth. Parents may choose to restrict the bandwidth available to their kids. Some routers allow you to go into the settings and allocate bandwidth to specific devices by enabling the QoS (Quality of Service) feature.

  • Remove the devices that consume more data. If your TV sucks up data, turn it off while you need to run a Zoom call. 

  • Share the internet! In a home with many people sharing the internet, you may want to schedule around each other so that no one needs excessive bandwidth at the same time as someone else.

Solution 2: Change Your WiFi Password

You may be suffering from what people call “piggybacking.” Piggybacking is when someone uses another person’s internet without the owner’s permission. 

For example, an unknown neighbour might be connecting to your WiFi without your knowledge and playing video games or downloading movies! If you don’t have a strong password or don’t have a password at all, someone may have gotten access to your WiFi.

The solution to this is super simple – just reset your password. Yes, you’ll have to log in again on all your devices, but it’s a small price to pay to knock out any piggybackers. 

Reason #3 - Your Device is the Culprit

Okay, let’s say you’ve tried everyone above, and your internet is still so slow. It’s time to examine your specific devices – laptops, smartphones, desktop computer, video game consoles, smart TVs, etc. Your devices could be slowing the internet down in several ways. 

Here’s what you can do.

Solution 1: Close Background Programs

Your device may be working too hard to run too many programs. In this case, the slowdown isn’t caused by your internet connection, but rather by your device’s processing speeds. 

Sometimes you have programs or apps running in the background that you don’t even realise are open and slowing you down. Take these steps to close out unnecessary programs and processes.

  • On a smartphone, close out any open apps you aren’t actively using. 

  • On a Mac, press “command” + “option” + “esc.” A box will pop up showing all open programs. Select any you don’t need to be running, and force quit.

  • On a PC, press “control” + “alt” + “delete.” A box will pop up. Select “Task Manager.” A box will pop up showing all open programs. Select any you don’t need to be running and quit.

Solution 2: Check For Malware

When most people ask “Why is my internet so slow all of a sudden,” their first thought is usually the same.

A virus!

While there are several other causes of slow internet, malware might indeed be the issue. You should already have reputable antivirus software on your computer. If you don’t, it’s time to get one.

Use your antivirus software to run a scan for any unsavoury programs locking into your system. It may be able to identify and boot out whatever is causing your internet issue.

I recommend using antivirus software that runs real-time scans, so you don’t have to worry about malware impacting your performance or privacy.

Solution 3: Update Network Drivers

In very basic terms, your network driver is the part of your computer that talks to the internet network. It’s the part that tells you what networks are available, when you’re connected, and if you’re having connectivity issues. 

If you’re having trouble with internet speeds, you may have an outdated network driver. Since it isn’t updated, it isn’t prompting your network for the highest speeds available. 

To check for driver updates, follow the steps below.

Your Mac should automatically be updating your driver with regular OS updates. Make sure your settings allow your Mac to update automatically.

On a Mac:

  • To check for updates, click the apple icon in the top left of your screen.

  • Select “System Preferences.”

  • Select “Software Update.”

  • Your Mac will check for updates and give you the option to update now or later.

On a PC:

  • Go to your Control Panel or search for “Device Manager” in your search bar.

  • Look for “Network Adapters” in the dropdown menu. 

  • Expand these and then right-click on each driver and select “Update Driver Software.”

Solution 4: Turn Off Power Save Mode

You’re probably familiar with the power save mode on your smartphone or laptop. Your device will usually notify you when you’re low on battery and give you the option to go into a power-saving mode.

Power save mode is a great way to extend the battery life of your device – but the downside is that some of its functionality will dim a bit. That includes your connectivity. Sometimes in power saver mode, your network adapter won’t be working at its best. 

On an iPhone:

  • Go to Settings and then select “Battery.”

  • Toggle “Low Power Mode” to Off.

On an Android:

  • Pull down your Notification Shade.

  • Tap “Turn off Battery saver.”

On a Mac:

  • Click on the apple icon in the top left of your screen.

  • Select “System Preferences.”

  • Click “Energy Saver.”

On a PC:

  • Open your Control Panel.

  • Select “System and Security.”

  • Select “Power Options.”

  • When you see your plan, click “Change Plan Settings.”

  • In the box that opens, click “Change Advanced Power Settings.”

  • Set the settings to “Maximum Performance.”

Solution 5: Clear Your Browser Cache

This one is similar to the background programs. Much like your device’s internal processors, your web browser might be getting bogged down in processing and memory. 

Your cache is the stored memories from all the websites you’ve visited. Your cache is protected data that help your browsing experience feel more seamless. 

Do you know when you start typing the name of a website you regularly visit, and your browser auto-fills for you? That’s thanks to your cache. 

But your cache can get full, and it takes up memory. You should clear out your cache on a semiregular basis, even if your internet speeds are fine. It’s similar to closing out the apps on your smartphone in terms of just clearing out processing space. 

To clear your browser cache in Google Chrome:

  • Open Chrome.

  • Click on the three-dot “More” menu in the upper right-hand corner.

  • Hover over “More Tools.”

  • Select “Clear Browsing Data.”

  • You can select a time frame or “All Time.” I recommend going for “All Time” if you want to improve internet speed.

  • Check the boxes for “Cookies and Other Site Data” and “Cached Images and Files.”

  • Click “Clear Data.”

To clear your browser cache on Safari:

  • In the Safari app, select “History.”

  • Select “Clear History.”

  • Select the time range you would like to clear.

  • Click “Clear History.”

Reason #4 - External Factors

Often, slow internet has nothing at all to do with your own devices or users. Sometimes it’s an external factor. 

Some of these you obviously can’t control. But I’ll walk you through the steps for what you can do for the most common problems.

Solution 1: Check Your VPN Connection

If you have a VPN – a virtual private network – protecting your activity online, you might experience a slightly slower connection. 

By encrypting your information and hiding your location, VPNs add a few steps to any online interaction. However, VPNs shouldn’t reduce your internet speeds noticeably.

If you have a slow VPN, the problem might be the location of your server. You can check your VPN to make sure that it is connected to a server near you. 

Most VPNs will do this automatically, but you might have the option to choose. The distance between your device and the location of the server can impact speeds. 

In general, a VPN shouldn’t cause issues, but it’s always worth checking.

Solution 2: Check Other Appliances in Your Home

Some appliances, like baby monitors or even microwaves, can interrupt your WiFi. 

How? Well, they work on the same frequencies as your WiFi. The signals those devices send can block your bandwidth. Think of it like cars trying to cross an intersection without traffic lights.

Try turning those extra devices off to solve this issue and see if it affects your internet speeds. 

Usually, you can solve these minor issues by keeping your router and these other devices away from each other. Don’t keep your router next to a microwave, and don’t put your baby monitor right next to your router. 

Remember that doors and walls can also affect your router, so try to keep it in free and clear space!

Solution 3: Change Your Router Channel

WiFi signal divides into separate channels, kind of like lanes in a road. If your channel – or traffic lane – is really crowded, you’re going to go at a slower speed. 

If your router connects to a channel that has a lot of other routers connected, as well, you might be able to blame this for your slow internet. 

To fix this issue, you’ll need to try out another channel. This solution is a pretty advanced option, so only try this out if you’re pretty comfortable making adjustments to your settings.

Here’s how to log into your router and switch channels.

  • Open your web browser.

  • Type your router’s IP address into the web address bar and hit enter.

  • If you get a warning, click on the option that says “Advanced” and “Proceed.”

  • Enter your username and password.

  • Open “Wireless Settings.”

  • From the “Channels” menu, select the channel you want.

  • Select “Apply” or “Save.”

Your router will probably reboot. Give it about five minutes, and then check your connection.

Solution 4: Check Service in Your Area

We live in an increasingly virtual world, but the real world can crash into the virtual world at any time! A downed tree or power outage could easily affect your internet speeds. Your ISP depends on servers and power to keep your internet going, and sometimes service is just down.

You should be able to look up a status for your specific internet provider easily. Just open your web browser’s search function, type in the name of your ISP, and add “service down” or “service status.” 

You can also call your provider if you want to troubleshoot issues with a human being on the other end. They may be able to tell you exactly why the service is down and give you an estimate for how soon it might be functioning again. 

Often, the only thing you can do if the service is down is to wait it out. 

Solution 5: Get a Better Internet Plan

If all else has failed and you still have slow internet, it might be time to upgrade your internet plan. 

Internet Service Providers typically have what’s called a “data cap” on their various service plans. Depending on how much you pay per month, they will slow down your service when you’ve used too much data. 

You can check your monthly billing statement and read the fine print to see what your data cap might be. Sometimes the slowdown will happen in error when you haven’t maxed out your data yet, so always call to let your provider know you’re experiencing problems. 

However, if you continue exceeding your data cap each month, it might be time to upgrade to a more expensive – and expansive – plan. 

Final Thoughts

No matter what devices you use or what activities you do online, you’ve probably had the moment where you’re suddenly yelling: “Why is my broadband so slow all of a sudden?!” 

And yes, several factors could be contributing to your broadband slowing down all of a sudden. But there are also several solutions. 

Whether it’s your router, device, users, ISP, or some other external factor, you can take some simple steps to get your internet back up to speed. Use my tips and tricks above, and you’ll be back surfing in no time.