Learning how to check your internet speed can come in handy if you want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth after splurging on a fiber connection. Knowing your true download and upload speeds can also be useful if your favorite streaming platform is lagging and you need to make your case to a representative of your internet service provider (ISP).
Luckily, doing an internet speed check is easy. There are many apps and websites you can use for free, and some even let you schedule network speed tests so you can identify patterns and know if you’re actually getting what you’ve paid for.
Why does internet speed fluctuate?
Before running an internet speed test, you should know that there’s a variety of factors that can impact your WiFi speed.
Time of day
The internet experiences the most traffic between the hours of 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. when a lot of people are back home after work, probably gaming, streaming their favorite shows, and browsing the web. ISPs have a limited amount of bandwidth so they struggle to meet customer demand during these peak hours, causing a log jam that results in slower speeds. This means that to get a true picture of your max bandwidth, you should check your internet speed during off peak hours.
While virtual private networks are great for making you anonymous on the web, the trade-off is a slower connection. To get an accurate reading, don’t forget to disable your VPN before running an internet speed test.
If you share your WiFi with a lot of people and a bunch of them are streaming movies, on video calls, or gaming, an internet speed test won’t produce accurate results. Wait until your network is seeing minimal use before you check it.
How to check your internet speed
There are several sites you can use to do an internet speed test. Most work by measuring how long it takes your network to upload and download sample files from a specified host.
Fast.com certainly lives up to its name by running an internet speed test automatically—zero clicks needed.
On a browser
1. Go to Fast.com and the internet speed test will begin automatically. There’s no need to click on anything at all.
2. In less than 10 seconds, Fast.com tells you how speedy your internet connection is.
On a phone
1. Choose what you want to measure. If you want to test your network speed, turn off your WiFi connection; if you want to test your WiFi speed, turn it on.
2. Open the Fast app and the speed test will immediately begin. After a few seconds, the app will tell you your internet download speed. Click on the Show more info if you wish to see your upload speed.
Ookla Speed Test
The Ookla site is one of the better known ways to run an internet speed test and it works on both desktop computers and mobile devices.
On a browser
1. Open your browser and head to the Ookla website. You don’t need to create an account to perform an internet speed test, but if you do, Ookla will keep a history of your results and display them in a graph. This data can be useful to compare your network’s performance over time. To create an account click Log in in the upper right corner of your screen.
2. On the site you’ll immediately see your IP and the location of one of your ISP’s servers the site chooses by default. To get the most accurate reading, you should always check your internet speed using the host that is geographically closest to you. If the one Ookla chose for you is not it, you can click on Change Server to select a different one. You might also want to run multiple tests with a variety of hosts to get a complete picture of your internet speed.
3. Once you’re satisfied with your server selection. Click on the large GO button in the middle of the screen.
4. Ookla begins with a download test (how long it takes your device to save a copy of a file on the selected server) followed by an upload test (how long it takes your device to send a file to the server).
While this is taking place, you’ll see a speedometer in the middle of the screen showing you how fast your connection is. The test takes about 30 seconds, after which the site will show your download and upload speeds. If you see a huge discrepancy between what you’re paying for and the network speeds you’re actually getting, you should contact your ISP to see if there’s a problem with your modem or router.
On your phone
You can also use the Ookla site to check the internet speed of your smartphone’s data connection.
2. By default, the internet speed test will check the WiFi network if you’re connected to one. If you want to know how fast your phone’s data connection is, turn off the WiFi connection on your device.
To do so on an iPhone, go to Settings, then Wi-Fi, and tap the toggle button at the top of the screen to turn it off. On Android, tap Settings, Network & internet, and Internet. Tap the switch next to WiFi to turn it off.
3. Unlike the browser version of Ookla, the mobile app doesn’t allow you to change the server location, so all you have left to do is hit the a GO button in the middle of the screen to check your internet speed test.
4. The app will display the current download and upload speeds as it runs the test, and give you a final report once it’s done.
Google’s internet speed test works with the company’s Measurement Lab, which seeks to provide “the largest collection of open Internet performance data on the planet”. This network speed test will not allow you to choose different hosts or create a record of your results, but it’s one of the easiest to use. This is in no small part because you don’t even need to remember its name.
1. On a desktop browser or the mobile Google app, type in Speed test into your Google search bar.
2. As a result, Google will show you its internet speed test, with an explanation of what it entails. Before starting the test, take note of the privacy disclosure in the window, which explains that M-Lab will receive your IP address, which they will publish on their site along with all the results of tests done by them. This doesn’t include any other information about you.
3. If you’re comfortable with Google’s rules, click the blue Run speed test button. A small window will open and the speed test will begin. It takes about 30 seconds to get your results, including upload and download speeds.
If you want to understand your internet speed test within a context, then TestMy.Net is a great option. In addition to giving you your download and upload speeds, this site also tells you what the average speed is for the chosen host and for specific geographic locations, like your city, your country, and the rest of the world. This allows you to see how your connection ranks among various groups of users, helping you to determine if your internet speed is keeping up with the Joneses, topping them, or lagging behind.
TestMy.Net will also allow you to schedule automatic speed tests for set intervals, so you can look at how your Internet connection speeds change over a set period of time.
1. On a mobile or desktop browser, go to testmy.net and choose between one of three different network speed test options: Download speed test, Upload speed test, and Automatic speed test. You can tweak different settings depending on which one you choose.
Download speed test / Upload speed test: When clicking either of these options, you’ll be able to choose between doing a regular internet speed test (click Test my download Speed or Test my upload Speed) or a Manual test size. The latter will let you choose the specific amount of data you want to upload or download during the test, which is great for if you’re trying to figure out if hauling larger amounts of data slows down your overall download speed.
Automatic speed test: Automated tests will let you check your internet speed over time or even in different places within your home. Choose this option and you’ll be able to use the drop-down menus in the middle of the screen to set the total number of tests you want to conduct and how often you want to run them—you can set them up to be as frequent as every five minutes or up to once every 24 hours. The drop-down menus on the right let you to select minimum and maximum download and upload sizes, helpful if you’re trying to determine if your internet speed changes depending on the size of the file you’re trying to send or receive. Meanwhile, the menu on the left lets you label the location of your device during the test, which is useful if you want to see how your network speed changes depending on where you are in your home.
2. Once you’ve chosen your options, select the blue button in the middle of the screen to start the test.
Q: Why don’t I get the connection speed my ISP advertises?
While most internet service providers attach data speeds to their tiered high speed subscription plans, it’s likely that you’ll rarely achieve that speed. In fact, most customers only receive a fraction of that advertised speed mainly due to the fact that internet companies are constantly trying to serve a lot of customers, resulting in significant network congestion. There’s also a host of factors in your home that can slow that speed down, including your router, modem, and VPNs. There’s a lot you can do to boost your WiFi speed, but if that doesn’t work, then it’s time to call your ISP.
Q: What is a good internet speed?
According to the Federal Trade Commission, anything above 25 Mbps is considered a good internet speed, as it’ll be able to support online gaming, TV and music streaming, and web browsing for a single device. However, if you have multiple people living in your household and simultaneously performing the tasks above, you’ll need a faster speed of around 100 Mbps to avoid issues.