7 Ways to Keep Slow Internet From Ruining Your Life

06/30/2015 04:28 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2016

The Internet can do a lot of great things for you, but there are some times where it can burden your life. For example - it's not so fun when you're binge-watching Scandal and your Wi-Fi slows, sending your Netflix stream to a grinding halt. What's worse is when it's 1:00 a.m. before a term paper is due and your Internet goes out, leaving you without a way to research or even to save your paper on Google Drive. But beyond it all, what's absolutely embarrassing is when you're hosting the BBQ bash of the summer. The sun is down and the party is just about to kick into high gear around the bonfire when your Internet drops out, taking your Spotify playlist with it. Silence.

Don't live in fear of one of these frustrating scenarios. Take a look at common reasons Wi-Fi access slows down or shuts off completely - and how you can prevent this from happening to you.

1. It's not the Internet; it's the Wi-Fi.
If you're streaming music for your basement party and the router is upstairs, your Internet access could suffer. Try moving yourself or the router to another part of your house so the connection doesn't have to travel through walls and see if it improves. If you need internet access in an area with no Wi-Fi coverage, buy a booster or run an Ethernet connection to that area of your home.

2. Too many devices use your bandwidth.
Between a roommate's addiction to Xbox Live, his girlfriend's infatuation with streaming "Friends" on Netflix, and about eight mobile devices running on your home network, your Internet could be slowing down. Even if you don't use file-sharing services, you'd be surprised how quickly MBs add up with multiple devices on a home network. This easy-to-use interactive tool lets you see exactly how much Internet you need for your household.

3. You have a bad router.
When old routers die, they don't stop working. They just get slower and slower until you finally throw them through a window and then - oh, wait. That's not constructive. Before you ditch your router, try rebooting it. If that doesn't improve the speed, see if you can change Wi-Fi channels for better reception or boost the router's power. You can also test your Internet access through a hard-wired Ethernet connection or by plugging your computer directly into your modem.

4. File-sharing devices are eating up your bandwidth.
If you're using common connection speed hogs, like BitTorrent and Usenet, there is a way to troubleshoot and see if they're causing the problem. Go to your client of choice and limit download speeds. If this helps, you've found the problem and have a tough decision to make. You can either live with slower downloads or call your cable provider to purchase an internet package with more bandwidth.

5. Your DNS server has issues.
The Domain Name System (DNS) converts web addresses into IP addresses your computer can understand. Sometimes, you can eke a few more milliseconds out of your Internet connection by changing the DNS server.

6. Your Internet isn't slow - it's your computer.
Malware or viruses running in the background can slow your Internet connection. Run a virus and malware scan to make sure your machine is clean. You can also clear out your browser memory cache to help improve Internet speeds.

7. Your neighbors are stealing your Internet.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) typically provide security measures at multiple access points, so you can prevent the people down the street from slowing down your connection. To do this, lock your router with a strong password, enable WPA-encryption at your access point, change your SSID from the default name, and enable MAC address filtering. Not only will this keep strangers from stealing your Internet, it will help keep guests from accessing your network without your permission. Because the only thing worse than houseguests who don't leave are friends who stream BitTorrent over your Wi-Fi without telling you.

Is it time to call your provider?
If you've gone through all these steps and still have problems with your connection, it's possible something is wrong with the lines going to your house or in your modem. If this is the case, call your provider and have them come check on the issue. But trying out these tips first may be just the solution you need. Besides, they're a lot easier to do and will likely get you back to your "Scandal" binge instead of wasting time on hold with your ISPs customer service department.