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Beginner's Guide to Testing and Improving Connection Speeds
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Old 20-10-2009, 15:01   #1
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Beginner's Guide to Testing and Improving Connection Speeds

Having read through a few posts, a lot of people seem to be complaining of 'slow' connections.

I'd just like to give people a bit of info on how to actually test your connection speed and throughput - this is not by any means a definitive guide, just things to take into consideration before calling your ISP - at least you'll have a better idea where the problem is if you do this. it's a lot better to call your tech support and say 'there appears to be packet loss between my ADSL router and it's gateway, please can you do a line check to see if erros are building up on the circuit' rather than 'YOU FIX, YOU FIX NOW OR I'M GOING TO CARPHONE WAREHOUSE / TISCALI / BT etcetce' (who by the way are all basically the same network :/ )



Testing

fist thing - If you have any networking equipment ie, switches, routers, servers. you need to take these out of the equation and plug a computer into your modem /adsl router with an ethernet cable.

you do this for a couple of reasons - you need a benchmark to compare testing through your network against, your ISP's mostly don't support you kit, and things break - i know it's hard to believe but routers, cables, switches etcetcetc eventually stop working (if they didn't ever break you wouldn't see outages - that would make my life a lot easier ) . once you have your benchmark of how much throughput you can put across your connection, you can then work out if you have an issue with internal equipment or not.

Speed tests sites aren't reliable ways to test your kit - the most reliable thing to do is find a site that has large files to download, and servers with lots of bandwidth - google 'Linux iso' for example and find a host that is relatively close to your location

I've personally found that filefront are able to max out my 20 meg connection - I use the site myself to download mods for games, and you don't need to sign up to use them

try and download 3 or four files at the same time. The point is to saturate your connection and see how much your modem / router can handle. the important thing is the transfer rate here is an idea of maximum (ish) transfer rates

2 meg connection - 250Kilobyte p/s
10 meg - 1.1 Megabyte p/s
20 meg - 2.2 Megabyte p/s
50 meg - 5 - 6 Megabyte p/s (although I haven't actually used one of these yet and haven't had anyone confirm that they were actually able to download at their max rate)

You also need to try and make sure there isn't any other traffic going over your connections this will skew your testing - It's a good idea to go into start> run> MSconfig> startup> disable all to switch of any unnecessary background software, as a lot of things 'autoupdate' these days - If you machine has been off for a while you bandwidth could be getting used by everything you have ever installed trying to update all at the same time....




why is it slow?

The next major thing to consider is what actually causes a slow connection.

the main things are packet loss, network utilization, and the settings / capabilities of the equipment being tested (including everything from your PC up to the site you are connecting to). although you can't do much to investigate network problems at home. However you can check for packet loss, and you can change settings on your machine to improve things

As a tech you need to test one thing at a time and find out what the weak link is, then swap it or fix it. This is what you will need to do with your kit - this includes software!!, not just hardware


Programs like Win MTR ( http://winmtr.sourceforge.net/ ) are very useful to find out where packet loss is occurring.

win MTR traces the route to the specified destination (I would use you ISP's DNS servers) and then pings each hop on the way continuously.

you can use the results from running this to see if their is packet loss occurring at specific points on the route - The most important point being between your computer and whatever it's plugged into - and the hop from your gateway (modem / adsl router ) to it's gateway (UBR / BT exchange) these are the points that are likely to have packet loss if there is a problem, and more importantly you can maybe get fixed.

packet loss usually indicates a poor connection between two devices, such as a loose or damaged cable or port, or the device you are pinging is to busy to respond, remember icmp traffic is very low priority so packet loss when pinging a busy server is expected.

if you see packet loss, then at least you have an idea of where the problem is and can investigate - basic things like swapping cables and re-seating connections is always a good place to start. With ADSL there are a number of things you can swap, including the microfilters and socket you are plugging them into

If you don't get any indication of packet loss, you now know that all your equipment seems to be working ok (again, i mean all the equipment from the nic card on your pc, all the way to the site you are pinging) - so now you need to check settings on the equipment you are testing.



Useful tips and tools

TCP optimizer ( http://www.speedguide.net/downloads.php ) is a small program that essentially makes changes to the registry on your machine - the most useful things are the TCP window size (im not going to explain this, please google it) and the number of connections your browser can make simultaneously. THIS CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE!!

If you go on a site with lots of small pictures (shopping sites ladies ) then your browser will download 2 pictures at a time and move on to the next as one finishes. Considering most people have a 2 megabit connection, and the images are usually quite small, you connection can handle a lot more than this - you can change this to 10 at a time using tcp optimizer, which can make a huge difference to the perceived amount of time it takes to view a web site.



other things to consider are the maximum throughput on the kit you are using, some ports on switches and routers are rated at 10 meg, rather than 100 meg - so if you have a 20 meg connection you will NEVER get more than 10 meg through that port. This also goes for the network card on your PC - for some reason older cards are set at 10 meg, try going into your hardware settings to check the speed the card is set to.



anything that interferes with the traffic being sent to and from your machine, ie antivirus / firewall software on your machine AND your routers / modems can affect the maximum throughput (if you have slow machine running antivirus software that inspects every packet coming through, your computer might not be able to handle the traffic being thrown at it. hit ctrl+alt+delete and watch the little green graph that indicates CPU usage when downloading large files) try turning them off temporarily and re-testing you might be surprised at the difference.

the antivirus / firewall software I personally use is Comodo. It works well and is free - you can't get much better than that.



If you've done all this and STILL get low throughput - then you may be on a busy / broken part of the network. Here's the part where you call your ISP and ask them to do some checks - at least this time you will have a whole load of info available to prove your kit is working fine



A handy tip for ADSL is to plug your microfilter into the master socket of your BT line - If you take the face off your main socket usually there are two places to plug your phone into and there is a piece of electronic euqipment between the two (i can't remember what it is tbh) however some people have reported 20% increase in speed when using the master socket, rather than the normal one. (google it though, I haven't looked into this for ages)


what makes you such an expert?

I'm not, and I don't consider myself to be either. I just wanted to help people get a better idea of what they are talking about before they start shouting and some poor bloke in India who is reading a script (have you tried switching it off and on again? YEEEEESSSSSAAAARGGGH STOP ASKING ME THAT!!!)

the programs I have put in this post I use myself at home, I'm sure there are lots of others out there that do the same, it's just these are free and work, so that's why i recommend them. Most of the info I have put on here is coming from general experience and of course testing at home. If you think anything on this post is wrong, or too complicated, or pointless, let me know and I will do my best to update this in edit 3.

If you would like me to try and help in your own personal plight, feel free to message me and I'll see if I can help, although I've been lurking on the boards recently, so it might be easier to just start a thread - at least that way if I can't help someone else probably can


I'd also like to say that if you do decide to do anything I have suggested on this, you do so at your own risk. I have spent most of my life taking computers apart and rebuilding them, and have several years experience as a tech so I am confident if I break something I can fix it. I also keep a back up of my machine on an old hard disk, so i can just copy it across if i kill it =)
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Old 20-10-2009, 15:23   #2
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re: Beginner's Guide to Testing and Improving Connection Speeds

50 meg - 5 - 6 Megabyte p/s (although I haven't actually used one of these yet and haven't had anyone confirm that they were actually able to download at their max rate).... I am on 50 meg and i get between 5 - 6 Megabytes normally on newsgroups but i dont use torrents btw
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Old 29-11-2009, 21:50   #3
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Testing and Improving Connection Speeds

Thanks Bomber for the very useful and informative post,especially the part about background programs,they seem to creep up on me over time.
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Old 01-12-2009, 23:35   #4
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Testing and Improving Connection Speeds

When i had the 50mb modem on test the max i used to get was around 5.6mb/s so it was capable of reaching speeds of well over 5mb on some sites.

Dont forget tho people TCP OPTIMIZER WONT! work for Windows Vista or Windows 7.
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Old 01-12-2009, 23:57   #5
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Testing and Improving Connection Speeds

Assuming my config is typical, VM 50M connections are actually set at 50.54 Mbps, which with overheads works out at almost exactly 6.0 MB/s.
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Old 03-12-2009, 12:05   #6
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Testing and Improving Connection Speeds

Quote:
Originally Posted by Welshchris View Post
When i had the 50mb modem on test the max i used to get was around 5.6mb/s so it was capable of reaching speeds of well over 5mb on some sites.

Dont forget tho people TCP OPTIMIZER WONT! work for Windows Vista or Windows 7.
There's probably something out there for Vista / 7 I wouldn't know as I run XP and haven't looked into it

these OS's automatically change things like MTU / tcp window size automatically, I don't know if it changes the maximum number of multiple connections automatically.

Anyone care to inform the rest of us, and let us know if you can modify these settings
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Old 30-01-2010, 11:20   #7
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Testing and Improving Connection Speeds

I was going to post that the London Server at speedtest.net consistently shows 50-52 meg on a wired connection -non of their other servers seem up to the job, but my wireless speeds do fluctuate - sometimes droping below 30 meg (it's a hard life) but that's a problem with wireless.
Just checked my wireless and got
I know the mods don't like speed test websites but the London server of speedtest.net is a good place to start.
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Old 30-01-2010, 11:24   #8
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Testing and Improving Connection Speeds

It's not that we don't like them, just that a speedtest site is purely dependant on the connection between you and the site.

That's why VM recommends the downloading of multiple files from thier local games demo server as there's no internet traffic to compete with and it gives you a lot more reliable figure
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Old 30-01-2010, 11:40   #9
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Testing and Improving Connection Speeds

Downloading files will give more reliable results and I suppose people only complain after having already used speedtest sites. Speedtest sites are a lot easier so are always my first port of call but, like you say, there are other factors involved so if they report slow results then downloads are the way to go.
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Old 30-01-2010, 11:44   #10
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Testing and Improving Connection Speeds

It's not about downloading files (how do you think the speedtests work) it's about where you download the files from. The VM games server is on a direct link to your connection and not via a 3rd party routing. By using that server you are testing your connection to VM using multiple connections, where as using speedtest sites you are not only testing your connection to VM but also the route to the speedtest server and the capability of the server itself over a single connection.
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Old 27-03-2010, 21:31   #11
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Testing and Improving Connection Speeds

For those not 'in the know' the Virgin Media games server is here:
http://gamefiles.virginmedia.com/blueyondergames/

ifhsetup.exe in the b5ifh folder is a good size to test a 20 meg connection. Select save when prompted.
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Old 02-09-2010, 22:36   #12
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Cool disappointing download speeds

Hi,
I have just bought a new PC and am comparing the download/upload speeds with the old one.
The new PC has 3G RAM, the old PC, which takes ages to boot-up, 0.5G RAM.
Both are running XP Pro and are in the same room and both connected wirelessly via a Dlink DIR-615 router (supplied by VM) to a modem downstairs. The old PC is fitted with a Belkin PCI card, the new one with a ZyXel PCI card plus Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller (I have no idea what the latter does).

Puzzle 1: The old PC connects to the Internet almost immediately on boot-up, the new one can take up to 15 minutes to finally establish connection. When connected, they do not drop out. Any suggestions?

Puzzle 2: When I connect to the usual speedcheckers (BBSpeedchecker, ThinkBB, etc) the old PC is invariably faster to D/L, but not U/L, than the new one, e.g. old:8.8M, 458K, new:4.2M, 472k ... a big disappointment. Has anyone any suggestions?

How reliable are these data?

I haven't had the lid off the new PC yet, but should I bin the (Chinese) ZyXel and install the Belkin in the new PC?

Any suggestions most gratefully received.
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Old 02-09-2010, 23:29   #13
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Re: disappointing download speeds

Quote:
Originally Posted by HJBbradders View Post
Hi,
I have just bought a new PC and am comparing the download/upload speeds with the old one.
The new PC has 3G RAM, the old PC, which takes ages to boot-up, 0.5G RAM.
Both are running XP Pro and are in the same room and both connected wirelessly via a Dlink DIR-615 router (supplied by VM) to a modem downstairs. The old PC is fitted with a Belkin PCI card, the new one with a ZyXel PCI card plus Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller (I have no idea what the latter does).

Puzzle 1: The old PC connects to the Internet almost immediately on boot-up, the new one can take up to 15 minutes to finally establish connection. When connected, they do not drop out. Any suggestions?

Puzzle 2: When I connect to the usual speedcheckers (BBSpeedchecker, ThinkBB, etc) the old PC is invariably faster to D/L, but not U/L, than the new one, e.g. old:8.8M, 458K, new:4.2M, 472k ... a big disappointment. Has anyone any suggestions?

How reliable are these data?

I haven't had the lid off the new PC yet, but should I bin the (Chinese) ZyXel and install the Belkin in the new PC?

Any suggestions most gratefully received.
You are more likely to get help in the networking section rather than a sticky thread.
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Old 13-04-2011, 22:41   #14
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Thumbs down Re: Beginner's Guide to Testing and Improving Connection Speeds

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bandit127 View Post
For those not 'in the know' the Virgin Media games server is here:
http://gamefiles.virginmedia.com/blueyondergames/

ifhsetup.exe in the b5ifh folder is a good size to test a 20 meg connection. Select save when prompted.
Link is dead, bit like the 'Superhub' I just got installed!!!
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Old 14-04-2011, 10:09   #15
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Testing and Improving Connection Speeds

The link is not dead as it has just worked for me here right now.
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