How to Know if It’s Your Computer or Internet That’s Slow?

lady frustrated with slow lpatop

The explosion of the internet and software being offered as a service has drastically changed the way we use our computers on a daily basis. From email to spreadsheets, a lot of these tasks are being performed in the cloud, with a lot of users not being aware of it or knowing the difference between working locally or on the cloud.

If you’re like me and many other users out there, you may be working a lot on the cloud or your work may need good internet connectivity. These tasks include email, Teams or Zoom meetings, web research and sometimes even spreadsheets being handled on the cloud if Google Sheets or Office on the web is being used. These operations require reliable and fast internet connectivity.

Many times, this causes confusion among users when it comes to slowness. The majority will assume it is the computer that is slow. However, the actual problem may stem from a slow internet connection, a network connectivity issue, or in some cases a mix of all. In this article, we will present a few simple steps to help you determine where the problem truly lies.

Speed Test Your Internet Connection

The first step in isolating the problem is to test your internet connectivity, as this is simpler than digging into a computer’s performance issues.  A reliable internet connection should provide a test result of at least 25 MB/s download speed per household member. There are upload speeds, but we will mainly focus on download, as that is the more important factor in determining slowness on the internet.

To test, open up your browser (Chrome, Safari, Edge etc) and type in the address bar at the top or will automatically produce a download speed result, while will need you to simply click on the ‘Go’ button located on the main page.

internet speed test

If the speed is above 25 MB/s then most likely the slowness is caused by your computer and you can skip the rest of this entire section. Otherwise, read on. 

It is imperative to understand that internet speed is split into two major areas. One is the connection from your router to the internet provider, the other is the connection from your device to the router. When doing a test, both of these connections are involved.

We will separate these two areas into the ISP area (Internet Service Provider) and network area (your WiFi, switches and house cabling). As an analogy with a road system, where the city maintains local roads, while the province maintains highways, you are responsible for the city roads (network), while the ISP is responsible for the highways (internet). Knowing which side of things causes slow speeds will help you in reaching out to the right people to solve the problem, or maybe even solve it yourself. 

The delimitation between these areas is the modem/router provided by your ISP, which in most cases in the Calgary area is either Telus, Shaw or Xplornet. Everything else, like boosters, extenders or third-party routers are your own responsibility. Another important thing before we move on is knowing what kind of speeds you signed up for with your provider. If you do not know, simply call them or check one of your past bills. 

If you signed up for anything less than 25MB/s then it’s worth considering the internet speed as a possible culprit when performing tasks requiring an internet connection. Call your ISP or even the competition and sign up for better speeds if available in your area. If you’re on a larger plan than 25 MB/s and your speed test results are significantly lower than that, then we need to investigate further and see if this is a problem that your ISP should handle or yourself. 

Ideally, you want to plug in your testing device straight into the modem with a network cable and perform the test again. If that’s not possible, make sure you’re connected to the WiFi broadcasted by your ISP modem and not a third-party one, get as close as possible to the modem and perform the test again. 

Before you re-test, power cycle the modem and wait 5 minutes after it powers back on. If none of this helps and the speed test number is far lower than what your ISP should provide, then it’s time to call your ISP and take up the issue with them.

Networks can get fairly complex, even in residential homes nowadays. If you experience slowness on the internet and it proves to stem from your local network, then you may want to try a few things to resolve the issue yourself, before calling a professional. 

internet router

Reboot the router. If you use a third-party router like Asus, Netgear or Apple Time Capsule or Airport Extreme, do the same for those. You should also try powering off these third-party routers and try to connect straight to your ISP one. If you get an improvement, then you know it’s your third-party router that’s either misconfigured or interfering with something else like your ISP router. 

Old WiFi extenders and boosters can be huge bottlenecks as well. Remove them and consider the installation of a mesh network or access points throughout your household instead. With the increase of wireless devices used in a household, many can greatly benefit from such affordable solutions.

Test Your Computer For Performance Issues

If you went through the above steps and determined the internet speeds to be in check, then it’s safe to say that the slowness stems from your computer. If your system takes forever to start up, or if it freezes while you try to open up programs, then sure enough that’s not a slow internet connection issue causing it. Rather a software or worse, a hardware problem. 

In our article My Windows PC Is Running Slow, What Steps Can I Take to Fix it?  we explain in great detail what the main causes are for a computer to slow down and how you can eventually remediate.

Key Takeaways

Properly assessing and knowing where slowness comes from is an important first step in finding the proper solution and resources to address it. Don’t just spend money on a new computer yet if your system does not respond well to tasks that are performed on the internet. And don’t call a third-party company to solve internet speed issues, when they are the responsibility of your ISP. Also, no need to call your ISP numerous times and spend hours trying to solve local network issues. That is your responsibility.

Closely following the instructions above can help you persuade your internet provider into taking action, should an internet speed issue stem from their side. They can be difficult to deal with and convince them they are not delivering the speeds you are paying for unless you can prove you’ve done your part in the troubleshooting process. State that you have already diligently performed those tests and actions.

Should the slowness stem from either your local network or computer instead, and you do not feel comfortable or are unable to fix it yourself, EezITs computer technicians can help. We have the tools and experience to efficiently solve both PC/Mac and network problems. Contact us for more information or to book an appointment