How to Check Your Internet Connection's Speed

By David Weedmark

Several good services are available online to test your Internet connection speed, including those offered by McAfee, Speedtest.net and Telus. Most services give you a report of your download speed, which determines how quickly Web pages, videos and music load to your computer. The Speedtest.net service measures upload speed, which determines how quickly files are sent from your computer. This type of traffic includes files you upload to a website and emails you send. Upload speed is almost always slower than download speed. If you are using a wireless network, connect your computer directly to your router with an Ethernet cable. That way your test results reveal your actual Internet connection speed -- not the limitations of the Wi-Fi signal within your home or office.

McAfee Internet Connection Speedometer

Step 1

Open a new Web browser window and navigate to the McAfee Internet Connection Speedometer (link in Resources).

Step 2

Click the "Test Now" link at the bottom of the page. The page flashes once or twice as the service tests your download speed. The service sends a 150 KB file to your Web browser. If this date transfer takes less than one second, a second test with a larger file is performed.

Step 3

Look at the speedometer at the right side of the screen to see your Internet connection speed result. This test does not recognize speeds above 2Mbps.

Speedtest.net

Step 1

Open a new Web browser window and navigate to Speedtest.net (link in Resources). Wait for the user interface to load. A map appears showing your location based on your IP address. A triangle indicates your location. The dots indicate servers that can be used to send and receive data in order to test your connection speed. These usually include telecom companies, IT companies, colleges and universities. A world atlas is displayed beneath the map. Your IP address and the name of your Internet service provider appears in the bottom-right corner of the window.

Step 2

Zoom in or out of the map if desired by dragging the scroll bar on the left. You can drag the glowing rectangle in the atlas to move the map.

Step 3

Click the "Begin Test" button at the top of the map. The service automatically selects a server close to your location and begins three tests: ping, download and upload.

Step 4

Look at the "Ping" section in the upper-right corner of the screen to see how long it took your computer to send a ping to the server and receive a ping in return. A ping is a very small piece of data used to ensure a connection has been made between two computers. Think of a ping as roughly equivalent in function to a sonar ping, the signal a submarine sends to find ships and other objects that reflect sounds through the deep.

Step 5

Watch the speedometer in the middle of the screen as the server initiates a download speed test, downloading a small file to your Web browser. An icon of a person represents you, while a pyramid represents the server. The progress of the download is displayed between the two icons. Your Internet connection download speed is displayed at the top of the screen when the test is completed.

Step 6

Watch the speedometer and the icons again to watch your upload speed. The upload speed is displayed at the top of the screen when the test is finished.

Telus Speed Test

Step 1

Open a new Web browser window and navigate to the Telus Speed Test (link in Resources).

Step 2

Click the "Download Test File" button. Click "Save" in the resulting dialog box. Depending on your operating system and security settings, you may get a security warning for the file. Click "OK" or "Agree" in the security-warning dialog box.

Step 3

Look at the Transfer Rate section of the Progress Dialog Box to your Internet connection speed.

Tips & Warnings

  • Ensure no one else in your home is using a computer or Internet-enabled device when you are testing your Internet speed.
  • Speed tests are often slower than the advertised speeds offered by your service provider. Advertised speeds are generally the highest thresholds. Speed can be reduced by wiring in your home and connections on your street. Broadband service speeds can often be reduced if a lot of people in your area are online at the same time — like the first hour after students get home from school.
  • Be careful before assuming any test is indicative of your true speed. Selecting a server that is geographically close to you, like that offered by the Speedtest.net service, will ensure that your test results are not hampered by sending data over a long distance through many routers. The more equipment your signals have to travel through, the higher risk there is that data speed will be slowed by bad connections, old equipment or busy routers.