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Slow Wi-Fi? Check for thieves and bandwidth bandits

Slow Wi-Fi? Check for thieves and bandwidth bandits
© Czanner | Dreamstime

Imagine this; you're home relaxing on a nice quiet evening, ready to stream the next episode of your favorite show. Snacks are in hand, you've got your comfy outfit on and everything seems to be perfect.

But when you fire up Netflix, the video keeps pausing and giving you the buffering message. That is super annoying and can ruin a perfectly good evening.

It doesn't end there. In the following days, you notice the internet is crawling at a snail's pace, no matter which gadget you're using. Whether you're streaming video or just surfing the internet on your computer or tablet, websites are taking forever to load.

The problem could be with your service provider or maybe your router is running slow and a simple reboot could fix it. Or, it might be something a bit more devious. Someone could be stealing your internet, taking valuable bandwidth and leaving your gadgets almost nonfunctional.

That's why you need to know how to check for thieves and bandwidth bandits.

How to check if someone is stealing your internet

Start by taking stock of your network. Log in to your router and check the section that shows what gadgets are connected to it. Check your router's manual for instructions on logging in. If you can't find your manual, download a digital copy here.

If you want an easier solution, you can grab the aptly named Wireless Network Watcher. This free program gives you a list of gadgets connected to your Wi-Fi network. You can quickly fire it up whenever you want to check or just leave it open.

Once you have the list of connected gadgets, identify the ones that belong to you. Your computer should show up in the list using its name, for example. Your tablet or smartphone should have the manufacturer name in there somewhere.

If you can't make heads or tails of the list, simply turn off each gadget one by one - or just disable the gadget's Wi-Fi - to figure out what is what. I suggest writing it down for future reference.

When you find a gadget connected to the network that doesn't belong to you, you know you have a culprit.

You might need to check back a few times if the internet slowdown is random. The culprit might only be using your internet infrequently.

How to secure your Wi-Fi

Even if you spot a rogue connection, you won't be able to tell who it is. Well, not unless you want to barge into your neighbors' houses to check their gadgets' names and MAC addresses. For the record, I don't recommend doing that.

Fortunately, it doesn't matter. Encrypting your Wi-Fi network will usually be enough to keep intruders out. Click here to learn how to secure your Wi-Fi against intruders.

In fact, you should secure your Wi-Fi network no matter what. There are too many horror stories of criminals or predators using someone else's Wi-Fi in hacking attacks or trading illegal images. As the owner of the Wi-Fi, you're going to have to straighten things out with the police, and it won't be fun.

If your network is already encrypted, and someone still got on, you should change your password immediately. Then keep an eye on things to see if they manage to get on again.

If they do, it's possible they got into your router and set up a backdoor. Reset your router to factory settings - check your manual for instructions - then set it up again from scratch. That means changing the default password, enabling encryption, picking a new SSID and turning off any remote management features.

Note: If you change your encryption password, you will need to update the password on all your gadgets.

How to speed up slow Wi-Fi

If you go through these steps and don't see an unauthorized connection to your Wi-Fi and your internet is still slow, then you'll need to do more troubleshooting.

Test your internet speed to see if it matches what you're paying for. Try running it a few times both plugged directly into the router and over Wi-Fi.

If your Wi-Fi speed is much slower than your internet speed, you might need to upgrade your router. It could just be bogged down with all your gadgets.

Otherwise, call your internet provider and see what the story is. You might be due for a modem upgrade or there could be another problem on the line.

Now that your internet is back up to speed, learn how to calibrate your PC monitor for the best picture possible

How sharp is the image on your PC monitor? If you haven't tweaked the default settings, you're probably not getting the best picture possible. And, different functions call for different settings. If you're a graphic designer, video editor, or someone who just likes to watch DVDs, here are some calibrating tips to get the sharpest image on your screen.

Click here for step-by-step instructions.

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