What Controls Internet Speed on Your Computer?
By Robert Sloan
The speed with which you are able to browse the Internet, view videos, or perform other online-related tasks is determined by a combination of your computer's attributes and your Internet service. Any activity you perform on the Internet uses a variety of your computer's resources. Using the Internet encompasses devices like routers, modems, network cards, processors, RAM and the hard drive. Some of these you can control, change and tweak. However, others you have no control over besides choosing a different Internet provider.
Internet Service Provider
The factor that has the most impact on the Internet speed of your computer is the connection provided by your Internet service provider. If you have a broadband connection, you will enjoy faster speeds compared to someone that is on a dial-up or ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) connection. Broadband connections like cable, DSL and fiber optics have speeds from 1.5 Mbps to 100 Mbps. Dial-up providers typically reach a maximum of around 56 Kpbs and ISDN is usually between 128 Kbps and 256 Kbps.
Network Interface Card
The type of network interface card on your computer can cause another bottleneck in Internet speed. While most network interface cards can handle simple web browsing, some can be overtaxed if performing multiple networking functions. This can severely limit the Internet speed you get from your computer.
Network cards are available in a range of speeds. Typically they come in the format 10/100 or Gigabit. 10/100 means the card can function on networks running 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps. Gigabit network cards can handle network speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second.
Random Acccess Memory
The random access memory, or RAM, in your computer can have an impact on your computer's Internet speed. RAM is virtual memory, which influences the speed of your application usage. A computer with a low amount of RAM will have a more difficult time loading web pages. This is more noticeable if you have several applications open while using the Internet.
Obviously, the more RAM you have the better. A 32-bit operating system can usually handle up to 3.5 MB of RAM, and 64-bit operating system can handle RAM over 4 MB.
Budget will play a part in how much RAM you add to your computer, but having at least 2 MB of RAM is a good practice.
The processor speed of your computer can also have an impact on the speed of your Internet activities. A more powerful processor can use and load more applications at a more rapid rate; a slower processor can handle less. Further, if you are doing something on the Internet that requires calculations or any kind of dynamic data, it can prove to be even more taxing to a slower processor.
Again, budget will play a part in your processor choice. If you can at least obtain a 1 Ghz processor it will help remove the processor as a bottleneck to your Internet speed.
- "Upgrading & Fixing PCs for dummies?"; Andy Rathbone; 2007
- "Upgrading and Repairing PCs?"; Scott Mueller; 2003
- "New Perspectives: Computer Concepts 2010?"; June Jamrich Parsons; 2010
Robert Sloan is an IT and Web marketing consultant with more than 15 years in the industry. Robert has a B.S. degree in journalism and political science from Texas A&M University, and has been writing for the Web for about five years.