How Does an Internet Speed Test Work?

by Contributor

What is the Test?

An Internet speed test is a tool offered for free by multiple websites that tests the speed of your Internet connection. You can use the results to compare the speeds you're getting with the speeds you've been promised in your Internet contract (be it with a DSL, cable or dial-Up company). Each test you run gives you information regarding the speed of both your uploads and downloads. Many of these tests also provide comparison data for other customers of the same company within the region, so you can get an idea of whether your speeds are up to par with what everyone else is getting.

Performing the Test

To perform the Internet speed test, the website will first choose a server based as close to you as possible. By choosing the shortest path between you and one of these servers, the host of the test can cut down on auxiliary noise and other factors that could produce unreliable results. Once this is done, the program will use your computer to both send and receive packets of data to and from the server. It does this for a specific amount of time, then measures how much of the data went through. This gives you an idea of how fast your connection is. In order to get the clearest, best results, many companies recommend that you manually choose a server to "bounce" off, then test your speeds against the same server each time you run the test. This way, you can cut back on the amount of uncertainty in the various test methods.

Nothing to Download

Few Internet speed tests require you to download anything to run the program, other than the latest version of Flash. These tests usually use Flash to display the results in the quickest manner possible. Other than that, everything is browser-based, so you don't have to worry about purchasing anything or keeping any unwanted programs on your computer's hard drive.