Finding bandwidth bottleneck

Bandwidth in our country is expensive and low quality. Recently one of our ISP launched the first "uncapped" or "unlimited" account options that are feasible for home users, I have a 4mbps ADSL line, which ran reliably at about 3mbps with my previous ISP. I signed up for a 512kbps uncapped account (shaped) and on my laptop, using the account I get about 400kbps download speeds from torrents, and can still surf the web, on my desktop PC using the account, I only get like 64kbps - 100kbps, and it takes like 5 min to open a webpage - if I close the torrent software, I get about 500kbps downloads, and can surf fine.
I'm at a loss as to how to go about troubleshooting the problem, looking at the speeds on my laptop, it seems like the problem is not with the ISP, but with my desktop PC. But from my desktop, the old capped accounts run fast, only the new uncapped account runs slow, and only when the torrent software is open.
I have ESET antivirus on my desktop (not on my laptop) which seems to filter the web traffic, I'm not sure if this could cause the bottleneck, it doesn't seem to scan the torrent traffic tho, only ports 80, 8080, 3128, 445 .etc
When the torrent software is downloading, I even struggle to open the web-admin page for the adsl router which is a local address.
I've tried disabling the ESET web scanning without any effect.
My first instinct was that it's the ISP's post shaping, but as I say, on my laptop I get very good reliable bandwidth can torrent, and surf simultaneously no problem
On my laptop I do run utorrent, and on my desktop bittorrent.
They're both running well, and free of malware.

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--  the account I get about 400kbps download speeds from torrents, and can still surf the web, on my desktop PC using the account, I only get like 64kbps - 100kbps, and it takes like 5 min to open a webpage - if I close the torrent software, I get about 500kbps downloads, and can surf fine.

This is not a consistent statement. You state when you disable your torrent software on the machine in which you get 64kbps you then reach 500kbps?

If this is the case, two things could be at play:

1) ISP Is locking down connections which use Torrents
2) Your torrents are hogging your bandwidth.

Also, try utorrent on your desktop.
utorrent allows for encrypted traffic, which may be throwing off the traffic shaping.

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but why does the notebook dont have trouble using the same account

are your machines at the same OS, same patchlevel, same torrent-version?

can you compare the hardwaresettings of your NICs?
mtu and stuff
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what are the specs on both machines? there are a few programs out there for torrents that use up alot of resources. If your laptop is a superior machine, it may explain the slowness of the desktop. webbster20 does know his torrent software, utorrent seems to use the least amount of resources when pitted against other torrent clients
StevenHookAuthor Commented:
My desktop is a single 2.8GHZ processor p4, 2 GB ram, running XP - it's quite old, but it works.
My laptop is a core 2 duo 1.8GHZ 4GB RAM, running Windows 7 - also a few years old, but newer than the PC.
Both completely up to date, I take good care of them. They don't have any custom network settings, on the same wireless LAN, same router (bridge mode), they authenticate with the ISPs - not the router.
I expect that the torrents will hog the bandwidth, but that should happen when they near the line speed limit, if the torrents are only running at 64 - 100kbps, I should have the other 200 - 300 kbps free to surf?
It is a shaped account, so I don't expect to get near 500kbsp torrents, but I think I should get more then 100kbps
I'm going to try utorrent on my PC, hopefully I can save my current downloads?

This is a common scenario for P2P users. There are many factors that contribute to this. One of the most overlooked is that Torrents use tons of connections and can overwhelm your router, your modem or the number of connections your ISP allows.
The reason you have different experiences between computers may be as simple as you hving different settings on your torrent Application. The new version of utorrent (2.0) is better at detecting your link speed and will recomend correct settings to use.
Install the newest utorrent and run the speed guide wizard. Use the recomended settings. See if that improves your experience.
Post back your results.
your desktop is quite a bit slower (hardware wise). I would use a very lightweight bittorrent client. Are you using Utorrent on the desktop already?
StevenHookAuthor Commented:
utorrent installed and all my torrents shifted across.
I'm still not getting the same speed as on the laptop. but at least I can surf while the torrents are downloading.
try to use the router as ppp-endpoint so your client has a little less work with this protocol.
please check the nic-hardware-settings. especailly mtu
in germany, many providers have their own connection-suite when you want to connect with your pc. these programms often crumble these settings.

if you have an mtu that is too big, your packets need to be fragmented. that costs cpu-time and bandwith.
Good to hear. I was hoping the speed guide in utorrent would fix the surfing issue. As for the speed, that could be a few things. Shaping is always a bit slower and if they are using shaping thay are likely "Shaping" torrent ttraffic as well. You can try enabling the encryption feature in utorrent and see if that helps a bit. It should thwart any p2p specific shaping going on at the ISP end.
StevenHookAuthor Commented:
now after some time, I can't really surf anymore - have to pause the torrents to refresh a page.
My MTU on my wireless adapter is 1512. I can't really let the router authenticate cos it's shared amongst a few people in the house, and we all have our own accounts. They don't use much, I use it mostly, they use about 500MB per month together, I use several GB. but their accounts are each 4mbps capable accounts where the unlimited one is only 512. the line is 4mbps, so I figure my downloading doesn't slow them down.
Try enabling encryption in utorrent.

Off the top of my head I cannot remember. At work currently so I know i will not be able to grab any ref. pages.
here in germany the advised mtu for pppoe connections is 1492.
check with your isp what setting is optimal
when you send to large packets, each packet is fragmented into pieces
What do you have for a router? Is it supplied by your ISP? You can try tuning the settings down a bit in utorrent. Whatever the numbers are in bandwidth>number of connections cut them in half.
Once it stops breaking your surfing, slowly bring the numbers back up.

StevenHookAuthor Commented:
I think it's something on the wifi settings, because when utorrent is downloading, it even takes long to open web admin for local printers and the router on the LAN
1500 is standard. 1492 is often used if you have some sort of encapsulation on your connection which may be the case. 1512 is high and could be causing issues. You could also check your other PC and compare the settings.
"I think it's something on the wifi settings, because when utorrent is downloading, it even takes long to open web admin for local printers and the router on the LAN"
This is common if your bandwith settings are too high in utorrent as suggested in my previous post. The torrent app opens too many connections and overwhelms your router preventing new connections for occuring. The torrents continue to download because they are already open but new connections to the web or to the router itself have to wait, possibly until they time out all together.

yes, thats right. standard in germany is pppoe. so need to have some spare to add the pppoe-header and still have a ethernet-frame that is max 1500 large
Those peer counts appear High, which reminds me. I just moved from an area with 22mbps to 6, I'm gonna have to adjust mine as well.

Stupid Linux distros being spacey.
StevenHookAuthor Commented:
so I changed my MTU to 1492 (and reinstalled my wifi adapter drivers from windows update)
And set my max number of connections in utorrent to 20
It's taking much longer for utorrent to "gain momentum" the download speed has dropped a lot
My upload speed is not a lot higher than my download speed (lol)
But I am able to at least able to surf. I will try increase my max global connections till it breaks

1492 may still not be the correct value for you.
check faq or supportwebsite of your isp
StevenHookAuthor Commented:
hm - they don't list any technical stuff like that but I have emailed them.
I am getting a reasonable speed now - and still able to surf - I think fiddling with the max connections and the MTU really helped.
StevenHookAuthor Commented:
I also think the Billion 400G is a cheapass router - I think previously I had the 700 or something like that - gave me much less hassles.
StevenHookAuthor Commented:
I'm getting about 200kbps now and still able to surf - can't get my download speed higher, maybe that's the shaping limit.
I'm not getting higher than 200kbps on my laptop either anymore. (for torrents)
the max connection performance depends on the hardware.
the router is probably doing NAT, which needs CPU and memory to NAT and reNAT every tcp-session. a better router may do his part to solve your problem, but i dont know the billion.
Definitely the router will make a world of difference. But finding the right settings to match your router is just as important. The thing with a better router is that you will be able to raise your max connections higher and potetially get a faster download speed before it craps out.  
StevenHookAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all the help!
I'll try share fairly with the points.
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