optimizing registry and browser settings for download speed

I have a cable modem, with download speeds approaching 4.5 MB/sec (as tested using http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest).  This performance was measured using a Time Warner tech rep's laptop connected directly to the cable modem.

When my laptop is connected, however, performance is approximately 400 KB/sec (less than one-tenth that of the cable guy's).  Nothing else is in the path (no network router, no extra cables, no docking station, etc.).

What can be negatively affecting my download performance?  Upload performance is about as expected (approx. 300 KB/sec).

I'm not looking for a download manager... I'm looking for browser or registry settings that can positively impact my performance.

For example, the PC Pitstop website mentions the following registry settings that can affect performance:

Maximum Transfer Unit(MTU) The maximum packet size that is sent and received over the internet.
TCP Receiving Window Size The amount of data that is received before confirmation.
Default Time to Live The length of time the data is kept before being discarded.
Automatic MTU Detection Allows your system to identify the MTU size.
Blackhole Detection Checks if connected systems supports Automatic MTU discovery.
Large TCP Windows Support for larger amounts of data before confirmation of received.
Fast retransmission and recovery Allows for a fast transaction recovery after lost packets.
Selective Acknowledgements Allows for recovery without re-sending existing data after lost packets.
Number of Allowed Simultaneous HTTP Connections Number of open connections to a single web site at one time.

If any or all of these can have a big impact, what should such a setting be?

Are there possibly any IE security settings or other options that can have a big performance impact?  Most of my settings are the default, by the way.

Setup Details: Dell Inspiron 600m; Broadcom 570x Gigabit LAN card; Windows XP SP2; McAfee VirusScan and Personal Firewall Plus; PGP; AIM Triton; MSN Messenger; Internet Explorer 6.029

If I disable/close all of my applications but IE, the performance remains the same.  So I really suspect the issue has to do with the OS or the browser.

Any ideas?
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You are actually downloading just fine. It is the conversion from 4.5 MegaBit to 400 KiloByte/sec.  In the best environment at 4.5 Mb you should be getting around 576 KB/sec so your 400 is not far off and what I would consider "acceptable"

I use this converter program to help me convert these types of numbers: http://joshmadison.net/software/convert/
Here is another one that you can use to convert your speed. http://www.askmarvin.ca/calculator.html

Try using this test. It will show you your speed in both Megabits and KiloBytes: http://www.dslreports.com/stest?loc=3
What Eagle6990 said is exactly correct. In order to get that extra 176KB/sec, you can try downloading at off peak hours since cable modems use a shared pipe. The improvement may be only marginal, an extra 30 or so KB/sec, but you may be able to max out your connection.

The tricky thing here is the capitalization of the abbreviations. Mb is Megabit not MegaByte, and 4.5Mb/sec is a long long way from 4.5MB/sec.

Real world performance of cable modems is generally pretty close to what you're experiencing. My Comcast service tells me I'm supposed to get 16Mb/sec downloads, but during peak hours I usually max out at around 13.5 or 14Mb/sec. If I download late at night then I can get pretty close to the full amount that I'm supposed to get.
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KSymmersAuthor Commented:
I may have been sloppy in my units, but the problem is very real.

Here's the URL to my speed test: http://www.dslreports.com/speedtests/392406;280620;e6fd001f865aabf6c5ca7977188fa550;3.0;www.dslreports.com/1144876033

As you can see, my download speed is 383 kbps or 47.9 KB/sec.  "That is 89.3% worse than an average user on rr.com".  My upload speed is 274 kbps or 34.2 KB/sec.  "That is 33.3% worse than an average user on rr.com".

So my download performance remains about 1/10 of what it should be.

Is the speakeasy test showing you a similar speed? The site that you linked to is giving me about half what the Speakeasy test is giving me which is the only reason I ask.

Have you updated your NIC's drivers?

Can you plug your laptop into someone else's cable connection to determine if there is an issue with your NIC?
KSymmersAuthor Commented:
The speakeasy test gave me 444 kbps down and 336 kbps up... so very much on the same wavelength.

Regarding drivers, I recently moved to a larger hard drive on this laptop, so I downloaded the latest NIC driver from the Dell website for this internal NIC.  I encounter about the same speeds when using my wireless LAN card.  I recently replaced that card, and experienced the same issue with the older card, too.  So I'm guessing it's not the NIC.

Connecting to another cable modem is a great idea.  I'll see if a neighbor has one I can try.

In the mean time, I'm also trying the "tweaks" application on DSL Reports (http://www.dslreports.com/tweaks).  But that's a 13 step evaluation process, and that's going to take some time (I have to relax firewalls to allow pings, etc.).

Interestingly, I have another Dell Inspiron 300m... brand new, with no additional software added beyond what comes in the box.  It's encountering the same issue, and it has a different NIC, a different wireless mini-PCI card, and a different anti-virus/firewall application.  Perhaps it's something common to this model of Dell, or how they set the OS and browser by default.
If you get the same issue on a neighbour's modem, I'd say that it's a 300m issue, but I have no idea what it would be.

If you get better speeds on the other modem, I'd say powercycle your modem and router if you have one. If that doesn't help, call your ISP and ask them to check your line strength.

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KSymmersAuthor Commented:
I meant a 600m, but I get the point.

The DSL Reports Tweaks application provided this report: http://www.broadbandreports.com/tweakr/block:3d96c7e?service=cable&speed=5000&os=winXP&via=normal

Not sure what all this means, so I'll have to do some probing.  That's why I was trying to get some expertise on registry and other related settings.

I already tried the ISP route.  That's how I know the problem is limited to the computer, since a Time Warner Road Runner tech came by this afternoon and connected his laptop directly to my cable modem and got download speeds approaching 4600 kbps.  I simply took the same cable and connected it directly to my laptop, and got the speeds around 450 kbps.  Definitely a laptop, OS, or browser issue....
KSymmersAuthor Commented:
Well, after about 20 hours of troubleshooting, here's what I learned:

1) the cable between the cable modem and the wireless router probably has an intermittent fault.  Yesterday, I was experiencing the 1/10 performance when compared to the ISP rep's computer.  After a lot of plugging and unplugging, I ended up replacing the cable and connecting the laptop directly to the cable modem again.  This time, download speeds were 4812 kbps!  Eureka!!!

2) using the new cable, and connecting to the wireless router, performance went in the toilet again.  This time, Netgear determined the router was defective, and is sending a replacement (model WPN824, if anyone's interested).

3) I had an older Netgear router lying around (model WGR614v4), and plugged it between the cable modem and the laptop... back to 4500+ mbps!  Helping to prove the defective WPN824 was really defective.  I ended up upgrading the firmware, which gave me more wireless capabilities to boot (from WEP to WPA, for example).

I'm quite pleased.  Thanks for your help, Robbie and Eagle.
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