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People often have problems with slow transfer speeds over wireless.
  • The first thing you should understand is how speeds are measured and denoted. Speeds will be reported back in kilobits, kilobytes, megabits or megabytes per second. A common source of confusion is the difference between a bit and a byte. There are 8 bits in 1 byte, so if your transfer speeds are 12 megabits per second, you're really getting 1.5 megabytes per second (12 divided by 8). Some programs report back in bytes, some in bits, it's a matter of which program you're using.
  • The second thing you need to understand, is you will never get the full advertised speed on your wireless router. If the router says it is 54 megabits per second, you will likely only see half of that in real life situations. This is because of overhead and interference, which you can not get rid of. Even on 100 megabit wired connections, you will likely never see it's full capacity. Most people will see around 2-3 megabytes per second (18-24Mbps) on their 54Mbps (802.11g) router/AP's.
  • The third thing you need to do, is get a program that will tell you what your current transfer speeds are. You have lots of different options. One of the most commonly used programs on Windows is NetMeter. Windows XP even has its own built in speed monitor, but I prefer using a third-party program.
  • After you've done all of that, actually try transferring a file while running NetMeter, or another transfer speed monitoring program. See what speeds you're currently getting, so you know what you're working with. Make sure the file you are testing with is large enough for an accurate speed result.
Now you're ready to start troubleshooting slow wireless speeds.

First, make note of your original transfer speed as a reference. You don't want to go through troubleshooting without remembering if your new speed was better than the old.

Second, go into your router/AP's web-config and make sure it's set to "Auto Negotiate" connection speeds. Some routers are set out-of-the-box to only hand out connections at 1Mbps (I don't know why). Also, some of them randomly will change their auto-negotiation feature without user intervention.

Third, try locating possible devices interfering with your network. There are lots of different types of devices that could be interfering with your network. To list a few, a neighbor's wireless network, microwaves and cordless phones. To determine if any other wireless networks are in your area, download Netstumbler (or similar WiFi Sniffer for your OS) and run it. It will report any wireless networks in your area. If there are other networks, make note of what channel they are operating on. If it's operating on channel 6, and you're also on channel 6, you will likely see interference that could result in slow speeds and/or frequent disconnections from your network, so try changing the wireless channel on your network. If you have 2.4 GHz wireless phones in your home, try finding the option to change the wireless channel they operate on. Many 2.4 GHz phones give you this option to lessen interference, but some may still not have that option. The easiest way to tell your (or your neighbor's) wireless phone is interfering with your network is if when the phone rings, you lose connectivity to the wireless network. If yours is the definite cause of your interference, and you can't change the channel, try buying another phone. You can either get one of the newer phones that operate at more than 5 GHz, or go with some older models that operate at 900 MHz. As odd as it may sound, microwaves operate at frequencies very close to 2.4 GHz and can cause interference. Make sure you don't put your AP near a microwave (who puts AP's in their kitchen anyways ).

If you can't find any interfering devices in your area, try a different wireless card and/or AP. Either go to a friends house, or try buying another from the local store (then returning it after your testing is done). It's possible your original wireless card isn't very good and doesn't keep a very good link with the AP. It's just as likely your AP is the source of the problem because it has poor range. If you test with a different AP and your speeds are fixed, then you know the AP was the source of your problem. If you test with a different wireless card and your speeds have been fixed, then your wireless card was likely the problem child in your situation.

If you've tried a different wireless card and/or AP, and you still don't have acceptable speeds, try wiring your computer directly into the router. See what speeds it gets that way to make sure the computer isn't the problem. Some older computers may not be able to keep up with faster transfer rates because they can't process the data as fast as you're sending it.

If the computer isn't the problem, make sure you're not trying to get unrealistic speeds. You're not going to get perfect speeds all the time. Wireless is completely different from wired connections and it isn't perfect.

Another thing to take into consideration is what kind of encryption you are using. WEP supposedly takes away ~5-10% of speeds due to the encryption method used; WPA isn't as bad.

Also, try running some of the tweak tests here on DSLR (/tweaks ) along with DrTCP.

Make sure you're actually connecting to your network, not your neighbors. Change your SSID to something unique so you never get confused about which network is yours.

Also, use the search feature! It's the best tool on DSLR!. A simple search came up with these threads that talk about slow wireless speeds:
Slow speed, what is wrong?
How Much Speed Loss Due to Wireless Overhead?
Wireless Speed Vs Wired Speed
Question on download speed on wireless
Very slow speed on my network, need help
B vs G real world speed??
Wireless G slow connection..
How fast should it be?
How much will WEP slow down my network

Hopefully this helps someone.

Many thanks to Bill See Profile for this faq entry.

A feedback answer 12/06/2008:

I am a network admin and reading this and changing the channel fixed my issue right away and my Internet connection is so much faster.

A feedback answer 3/19/2009:

Was having issues @ home. changed the channel and voila, my laptop is as fast as my desktop yet again. Thanks for the help!

Feedback received on this FAQ entry:
  • Thans a lot! The "change channel" tip works so great. I do have a lot of networks atound my appartment.

    2013-11-02 20:13:18

  • Thunderstorms. Last night we had severe thunderstorms in the region. My main computer which is wired to the modem was getting a connection speed of about 20 MBps which is normal. My laptop was only getting a speed of about .5 to .8 Mbps which is incredibly slow!! After the storms had left the area the laptop connection speed went back up to 20Mbps as normal. The distance between the laptop and the modem is only about 6 metres. I suspect the weather was affecting the transmission speed.

    2013-02-21 17:40:33

  • My ATT internet speed was slow (1.5 Mbps out of a possible 6.0 Mbps), so ATT tech support determined my router needed replacing with a new ATT $80 Modem-Router, which was wrong (I didn't need a new $80 Modem-Router). The problem was solved with 3 easy Free Steps by myself after looking online: (1) physically move the modem and router at least 2 feet apart to get rid of interference. This immediately doubled my speed to 3.14 Mbps; (2) Updated my Router firmware for free from the manufacturer's website. This increased my speed further to 3.5 Mbps; (3) Run the free program TCP Optimizer, which brought my internet speed up to 5.21 Mbps (out of a possible 6.0). The acceptable range is 3.5 to 6.0 Mbps. These 3 free easy steps quadrupled my wireless internet speed! Hope this helps others.

    2012-09-04 10:00:02

  • Check your Router settings, I found I had a built in Firewall set to "On", turn it "Off" making sure your PC has adequate Firewall protection. This has made a huge speed improvement, no more "insufficient bandwidth" messages.

    2012-03-16 12:55:42

  • Thank you!!! I was scanning the internet for 2 days! Just needet to change Channel form 6 to 10 and my speed increased from 250 kb/s to 2.5 mb/s! Thank you guys!!!

    2012-03-07 16:26:20

  • I just got an upgrade to my Internet bandwidth, and my wirelessly-connected devices all suddenly received a vastly decreased Speedtest rating of 0.50 Mbps. After scouring help fora and my router's settings, in another test, Speedtest happened to change the test server from a nearby location to the neighboring big city, and my rating went sky high. Why the closest test server suddenly slowed down to almost a dead stop, and only over my wireless network, is escaping me. To sum up, after messing with a bunch of possible solutions and having none of them come through, it turns out I was receiving a false rating based on my formerly trusted Speedtest test server.

    2012-01-21 18:37:13

  • I am not able to install NETMETER on my lenovo laptop -L410 & showing access violation . Plz help

    2011-12-26 10:42:05

  • always a great site, and thanks for this absolutely great page. Recently got Wireless Broadband, zoooooooms faster on my hardwired PC to WBR2310 router and their modem. BUT my wireless conn laptop (only one room and one wall away) croaks along so slow, I piggyback off a 9% signal of the neighbors ONE MILE|AWAY. Can't seem to tweak my Ptera / wireless conn to the laptop enough, pages time out all the time, the wall between the rooms is not made of steel, just two sheets of 1/2" reg.drywall. Any help is soooooooo appreciated. Have fought this for four months. Even hard-wired the wireless conn.laptop to the route and slide cable under the door and over the door, no change.

    2011-12-15 12:59:32

  • Thank you very very much. i did have a download of about 30kbps now its closer to 80kbps which i know is still slow but way better. i only had to change the channel it was on from 6 to 10, i don't know if there is a good channel that isnt 6, but i will leave it how it is :)

    2011-11-12 22:33:47

  • Thanks so much! I went into the router admin and found a setting in QoS that needed changing. The wireless connection went from about 1.5mbps to 25mbps!!! I appreciate it.

    2011-10-15 13:27:45

  • Many many thanks. I looked at other networks in the area, changed channel to avoid them all and updated the firmware. I now have a fast (reported 144Mbps up from 1Mbps) wireless connection that is stable too!

    2011-05-10 09:36:41

  • Same problem as the others. I didn't even think about the channel interference. Thanks for a much faster connection!

    2011-03-28 12:41:22

Expand got feedback?

by No_Strings See Profile
last modified: 2010-11-25 21:28:26