August 05, 2004

Things to Make Your Broadband Zing!

Here are some tips, sites, and programs to help you test and optimize your broadband connection speed:

Broadband speed test sites:

While there are many such test sites, the perhaps the best place to find them is at Broadband Reports' Speed Tests page. Here you'll find a nice long list of free test sites around the world. You'll generally get the most reliable results by choosing a server that is closest to you geographically. Some of these sites' tests run a Java applet, so you'll need to turn on Java in your browser if it's not already enabled.

Broadband speed test software:

Alternatively, download and install Dan Elwell's Broadband Speed Test. It will run a series of ping, download, and packet loss tests to a variety of servers around the world. Then it generates a nice report for you. Alas, this program couldn't get out past my corporate proxy server, but it worked just fine on my home network.
Optimize Windows' Network Settings for Your Broadband Connection:
Depending on your Internet connection (dial-up, DSL, cable, etc.), your current Windows settings may seriously impede your speed and cause other connection problems. For instance, a common problem is that the MTU (Maximum Transmission Unit, or packet size) value generally needs to be set to 576 for dial-up, 1492 for DSL, or 1500 for cable or regular Ethernet networks.

Here's an easy way to optimize these settings:

  1. Before proceeding, if this is a corporate or firm PC, check with your IT department first. They probably have already optimized your settings, and you won't endear yourself to them by mucking it up. The following is intended for home PCs only:

  2. Test your broadband speed a few times to get an average baseline measurement (see above).

  3. Download, install, and run CyberTweak, a fantastic free program that will make these Windows registry changes automatically for you based upon your broadband connection type.

    • As a precaution, I strongly recommend that you back up your registry before using any program like CyberTweak (there's a lot of these programs available online).

    • An alternative is that when you first run CyberTweak, do NOT choose your connection type in the first screen, but instead manually scroll to the right, through the screens, to observe and document your current settings before making or committing any changes. Then you'll have your original baseline settings.

    • Now go back to the first screen and select your Internet connection type and apply the changes. You must reboot before the changes will take effect in Windows.

  4. Re-test your broadband speed a few times to get a new average measurement. If it's better, you're done. If it's worse, you can re-run CyberTweak and either restore your prior settings or tweak them further. Don't forget to reboot after each set of changes before re-testing.

To give you an idea of the difference CyberTweak made for me: On a PC previously optimized for dial-up (i.e., MTU was set to 576), my download speed was a mere 300 kbps. After selecting "cable" in CyberTweak and rebooting, my download speed tested between 1.8 to 2.0 mbps per second. No other changes were made in between. Moral of the story: Size does matter!

Topic(s):   Trick or Treat
Posted by Jeff Beard