Network connection speed (geeks say bandwidth) - are you getting all the speed you pay for? Probably not...

What can you do to make your internet access faster ?.

You start your computer, you open your browser and connect to your favorite  web site, and wait, and wait, and after some time the page actually starts to load. Whoa! What is going on?

Your internet bandwidth  is to low or it is in need of optimization.?

So how do you go about optimizing your network connection speed (bandwidth)?

Bandwidth optimization:

Well there are some things you can do but first there are some things you need to know about networking, some acronyms and jargon (geek / nerd stuff) that need to be explained.

  • NIC - Network Interface Card the network adapter in your computer.
  • MTU - Maximum Transmission Unit - Each packet is made up of different parts depending on the protocol, header, sequence, data, trailer just as a sample. To keep the packet from becoming too large and parts being lost between the sending and receiving NIC's a control was created to minimize the loss of data it specifies the maximum size for the packet. Thus the MTU size may be calculated by sending data to a test NIC and gauging the time for the reply to return and how much of the data was received and how much was lost.
  • Link speed - The speed that the NIC connects to another NIC measured in Bits per second - such as 100 Mega Bits Per Second 100 MBPS
  • Duplex - Duplex setting is either full or half. Half means the NIC will transmit a network packet and wait for a reply. Full means the NIC will transmit and receive at the same time.
  • Packet - A packet is the format of the data that is sent across the network, depending on the Network Protocol the packet will be of different sizes. 
  • TCP Receive Window - The amount of data the NIC will receive in to it's buffer before sending it on to the computer or transmitting it to the network. Be careful with modifying this parameter setting it too high or too low will cause packet loss.
  • ISP - Internet Service Provider
  • Ping - Packet Inter-Network Groper, a small program that sends out a standard packet (this packet is uniform for all computers/operating systems) the packet is received and a reply is sent back to the sending computer. The ping program tests the time it takes to get the packet to the receiving computer and back, how many times the packet has to be routed from one device to another (hops) and how long the packet has before the network drops it, TTL (Time To Live).
  • Ack - Acknowledge this is a signal from the receiving NIC, it will send Ack back to the sending NIC and if it receives a bad packet it will send a no-Ack at which time the sending NIC will transmit the packet again. If you are getting a large amount of no-Ack messages then there is a hardware problem between your NIC and the receiving NIC. I would suggest starting with the wiring from your NIC and work outward.
  • TTL - Time To Live, how long the network will keep the packet before dropping it. If you suspect the service you want to connect to is a long ways away from you (do a ping and look at the hops and the TTL) then you may want to increase the TTL and decrease the MTU/Packet for transmission to that site.
  • Hops - Each time a packet is received and then transmitted between the sending NIC and the receiving NIC is called a hop. The device does not decode the data only the header then forwards the packet on.
  • IP - Internet Protocol this is a numerical address assigned to your NIC either automatically or statically.

Network connection speed setup:

Now lets see what we can do to speed up your connect speed and get that page to download faster.

Network connection speed optimization comes in two parts, your network card in your computer and your router if you have one.

Network connection speed for your network interface card (NIC) you need to know what the speed and duplex are set for. To find them you got to My Network Places, right click and select properties.

  • Once you open the properties right click on your network card and select properties, when the properties page opens go to the network card at the top and click the 'Advanced' button.

  • When the page opens look in the left had box, you are looking for 'Link speed' and 'Duplex' you want to change those two properties to '100' and 'Full duplex'.

  • Now days all routers, cable/DSL modems, and switches are set at 100/full as default. Any thing less will cause the  connection to be intermittent, that is the connection will drop then reconnect thus causing the your browser to look like it is setting there not doing anything or it will come back with a time out error. It isn't the browser or the web site you are connecting to it is your network.

Can't understand the Geek?
Then you need this!
Network connection speed for the router you can go in to the settings (if this is a home router) and check the 'link speed/duplex' it should be 100/full. (There may not be a setting in any options on newer routers).

The other thing you can do in the router settings is set the MTU, the optimum setting should be 1500 for the MTU although it could be higher or lower depending on your network connection to your ISP. You can run a test with this program - Use the TCPOptimizer to check you network connection speed.

Note: The TCPOptimizer program will work from behind a firewall but not with a proxy server. If you have Windows Firewall Service you could disable the service while running the tests, just don't open your browser or connect to anywhere while testing.

If you are behind a corporate firewall or have a home router with firewall turned on use the router settings to do your testing. Use the 'Gateway' IP for the test. If your network uses a proxy server to go through the firewall then you can only test settings on your side of the proxy server, again use the 'Gateway' IP address to do your tests. The program will error out but the test will see the MTU for your NIC.

If you are connected directly to a Cable/DSL modem you can not modify the settings, nor can you see the speed/duplex setting. If you find with your testing that the MTU is wrong you will have to contact your service provider to get the modem settings changed or a new modem.

By changing the MTU and the TCP Receive Window you will see a boost in speed. As I pointed out in the definitions section modifying the TCP Receive Window may cause more problems. Do not modify this setting unless it is the last thing you can do to stop the dropped packets causing the connection to appear to be slow.

The only thing left that will speed up your connection is the 'Bandwidth' that your are getting from your ISP. Bandwidth is calculated in BPS - Bits Per Second.

If you are on dial up the maximum you can send/receive is 56,000 (56K) Bit Per Second.

If you are on Cable or DSL then the game changes, you can get from 64 KBPS up to 20 Giga Bits Per Second (above 10 GBPS range is very expensive and normally only large corporations have this type of connection) for the home user or small business the speed will be in the range of 128 KBPS to 10 GBPS (these are US specifications only other countries will be different).


You can use these network connection speed terms to baffle your friends and talk to geeks, however your friends may call you a geek... :)

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