My Proxy Setting Is Making My Internet Slow

by Josh Fredman

When you browse the Web without a proxy, your computer communicates directly with each website you visit. Using a proxy turns this one-step process into a three-step one. Instead of your computer communicating directly with a website, it communicates with the proxy server, which in turn communicates with the website, and finally it shares the website's information with you. More steps means more time, so, all else being equal, using a proxy will always slow down your browsing speeds. It's just a question of how much, and that varies depending on the proxy server you use.

Identifying Potential Causes

Any number of problems can slow down your proxy service. Sometimes proxy servers get too many users at once, which overloads the server and slows down everyone's performance. This is especially common with free public proxy servers. Another type of slowdown occurs when the proxy's own Internet connection has a low bandwidth. Lower bandwidth for the proxy means longer loading times for you. This is common with proxies in foreign countries that have a poor Internet infrastructure. A third cause of slow proxy performance is geographical remoteness. Imagine that you're in the U.S., using a proxy in Australia to visit a website in Europe. That means your Web request has to cross an ocean several times, with an inevitable performance slowdown. A fourth type of slowdown has to do with anonymous proxies. If you use an anonymous proxy, it has to spend extra time stripping out your identifying characteristics from the data that it sends between you and the websites you visit. A fifth possibility is that your proxy, or a website you have visited, installed malware on your computer and is slowing your Internet down by using up your system's resources. If you think this might be the culprit, run a thorough virus scan.

Finding Another Proxy

Good proxy servers operating in good conditions won't slow you down by much. You'll still feel like you're having a broadband experience comparable to what you would get from not using any proxy. If this isn't the case for you -- if the proxy you use consistently slows you down so much that you're twiddling your thumbs and making cups of coffee while your Web pages load -- then it's probably time to consider switching to another proxy. There are thousands of proxy servers out there. Some are free. Some make you pay but offer added benefits like guaranteed bandwidth, no ads and better security. Choose a proxy server that meets your needs and is as geographically close to you as is feasible.

Disabling Your Proxy

The prospect of anonymity can be quite a comfort. After all, most people if given the choice would say they prefer to make it harder for others to snoop on them. However, most of the time you don't really need the extra privacy of a Web proxy. Unless you have a good reason to keep using a proxy, you can immediately improve your Web performance simply by disabling your proxy and reverting to direct Internet usage. Depending on the kind of proxy setup you have, you can do this either from your Web browser's proxy settings panel, from the proxy's own control panel or from the Windows Internet options panel.

Using a Different Browser

Here's a twist: Sometimes a proxy can actually speed up your Internet performance. The catch is that this is a different type of proxy. Instead of anonymizing you, these performance-boosting proxies focus on optimizing Web pages before they send them to you. Here's how it works: If your Internet is slow mainly because of deficiencies on your own end, such as a low-bandwidth Internet connection, then a performance-boosting proxy can give you a better result by downloading the Web pages you want to see, streamlining and compressing those pages so that they don't hold as much data, then sending the shrunken versions to you for a faster download than you would get if you tried to download the original pages. There's a caveat, however, in that you'll probably have to use a different Web browser.

About the Author

Josh Fredman is a freelance pen-for-hire and Web developer living in Seattle. He attended the University of Washington, studying engineering, and worked in logistics, health care and newspapers before deciding to go to work for himself.

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