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Internet speed very unpredictable

Posted on 2014-12-08
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Last Modified: 2014-12-13
Hi, I have noticed for the past few weeks that my internet speed was very unpredictable.  Many times I would get timed out before I could open a page so I had Comcast come out and they installed a new cable to the house as well as a new modem.  The installer tested the speed in SAFE MODE and he got 51 Mbps down and 10 up.  That is what I am suppose to get under my plan.
Problem is that when he re-tested it under normal startup, he got 12 down and 5 up.  He said the problem now is with my computer.  Something in my computer is slowing things down big time (only with regards the internet).  How can I do a diagnostic on my own to see if I can find the culprit?  I'm not familiar with the technicalities of the operating system so I am thinking more along the lines of temporarily shutting down programs to see if its one of the programs.  Also, how can I go into safe mode so that I don't do any damage?  Thanks
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Question by:camtz
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12 Comments
 
LVL 49

Expert Comment

by:dbrunton
ID: 40487363
Quite likely you have applications installed on your computer that are hogging the bandwidth.

Do you get popups on your computer appearing over your browser pages?

Do you have applications installed made by Mindspark?

Do you have games installed made by Wild Tangent?

Do you have music finding applications installed such as iMesh?
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LVL 96

Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 40487444
I'd first ask if you're sure it's your computer.  Cable companies seem to like to blame you and make you convince them it's not them before they actually help.

I would say it's more likely that you either have other devices on your network hogging bandwidth or wireless interference.

In my opinion, you need to specify fare more - go through these questions and answer them and we can better help you track down your problem.
1. Are you using a router?  Which one (exact model)
2. Do you get poor speeds when connected with a cable or wireless?  Does using one over the other result in faster speeds?
3. Disconnect ALL other computers from your router/wireless (turn off wireless and/or change the password).  Then test speeds with ONLY your ONE computer connected.  Is it better?
4. Can you attach another computer - ask a friend to bring a laptop if you don't have one - then test yours and make sure your speeds are as "poor" as they have been, then swap out your computer for the other computer - Do the speeds get better?  If so, put yours back, are the speeds bad again?
5. Try to run a speed test from under a linux Live CD of Ubuntu or other linux distribution - this will eliminate the operating system as the cause of the problem - or confirm it's the cause of the problem.

If you have wireless enabled, even with a password, it's POSSIBLE that others have "hacked" it and are stealing your bandwidth.  Change the password to it.

It's also possible there's interference from other wireless signals, including portable phones, microwaves, and other wireless access points.  Wireless connections RARELY (basically NEVER) achieve the advertised speeds.  My wireless is 2.4GHz based N, but I only manage about 8 Mbit when connected wirelessly, in part to due to wireless interference from at least a DOZEN other access points near me.  (consider switching to a 5 GHz wireless access point - you might need a USB based adapter for some computers).
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LVL 50

Expert Comment

by:jcimarron
ID: 40487561
camtz--
Since the download speed difference occurs depending whether in safe or normal mode, this strongly suggests some program(s) or service(s) are slowing things in normal mode.
Run Process Explorer to determine if you can see any unexpected programs or if you have a very large number of programs running that you are not using.  Turn those off.
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896653
Process Explorer is a stronger version of msconfig (System Configuration Utility).

Have you scanned for virus and malware?

"Also, how can I go into safe mode so that I don't do any damage?"  
I do not know what concern you have.  Do the recommended procedures in normal mode.
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LVL 23

Expert Comment

by:Danny Child
ID: 40487653
If all you've done is 2 tests, one in safe mode and one not, I wouldn't assume that this was 100%.  I think you need to test further in Safe Mode.
Here's how to use it:
http://www.7tutorials.com/what-safe-mode-how-boot-safe-mode

 - Take the option for Safe Mode With Networking...! or it'll be ***really*** slow ;-]

I'd also try several different speed test sites - not just the one provided by your carrier, as they can exaggerate a bit.

Also, test at different times of the day - both at peak hours - normally weekday evenings, and at quiet times - either very late at night (gone midnight) or mid morning, in the week.  Keep a log of the results.

This should help you pinpoint whether your PC or connection is the cause (and whether the connection fluctuates, as well - normally a sign that the carrier has over-stretched their network).
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LVL 23

Expert Comment

by:Danny Child
ID: 40487657
oh - power off your router, and leave it like that for a minute or so before doing each test.
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LVL 50

Accepted Solution

by:
jcimarron earned 2000 total points
ID: 40487790
camtz----
"What is Safe Mode in Windows?
When entering Safe Mode, Windows basically only loads the barest essentials needed to function (a minimal set of drivers and services). You won't have access to anything but the core programs and functions of Windows, which doesn't include the drivers for your networking devices - meaning you usually cannot access the internet while in the standard Safe Mode. ... Remember that Safe Mode will not load any third-party services or programs that were supposed to run at startup"
That is the basic difference between Safe Mode and Normal Mode.

That is why, in http:#a40487561 , I suggested "Since the download speed difference occurs depending whether in safe or normal mode, this strongly suggests some program(s) or service(s) are slowing things in normal mode."

Source of first quote above
http://www.7tutorials.com/what-safe-mode-how-boot-safe-mode
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LVL 4

Expert Comment

by:hulsebosch
ID: 40487896
Please note that most anti virus programs also work in safe mode.
Its a good idea to turn this off while testing (and only while testing speed)
You would be surprised how much speed your Anti virus can cost, depending on the brand and settings.
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Author Comment

by:camtz
ID: 40487971
You have given me a lot to work on and I really appreciate it,  I can see that it will be a few days before I have something to report and hopefully we will figure this out.  Please read my initial comments again.  I believe I said that when the tech ran the test in safe mode, he got great numbers 51 down and 10 up but that all changed when he ran it under normal startup.  By the way, I do not do games nor download music or any of those things on the computer.  I basically use it for work. Thanks again, I'm going to print this out  and I'll be back.
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LVL 92

Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 40488296
i would test with another pc first - to be sure it is the pc
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Author Comment

by:camtz
ID: 40497608
GREAT NEWS!!!!! After many of your suggestions and frankly not seeing any improvements, I had Comcast come out again and it turned out that the modem was bad.  This was their second bad modem.  Then installed a brand new one right out of the box and now I'm averaging 48 Mb down and 12 Up.  In cleaning out my computer I managed to delete about seven GB of temporary files, cookies and who knows what else.  Anyway, everything is working well now and thank you all once again.  I really don't know how to distribute the points on this so don't get your feelings hurt.
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Author Closing Comment

by:camtz
ID: 40497610
Many thanks
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LVL 50

Expert Comment

by:jcimarron
ID: 40498046
camtz--
Thanks for telling us the fix.
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