Internet Speed Test: 10 ways to test and boost your speed

Didn't get a good internet speed score? Maybe your device is just a late-ency bloomer and, with the right help, is really capable of scoring closer to that 100Mbps ideal test-taking score.

You can easily improve your internet speed results through hardware and software optimizations, meaning your beloved PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet hasn't flunked out just yet.

The best part is you don't have to rely on your internet service provider and sit on hold for an hour in order to make any of these changes. They can occur right in your home, on your time.

AC Dual Band Gigabit Router

There's a good chance your current router is still chugging along on the popular 2.4GHz band and the outdated 802.11g standard. The 2.4GHz band's popularity is part of its problem. Everything from baby monitors to microwaves emit a power signal that causes electromagnetic interference.

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The appropriately named Nighthawk AC1900

The cleaner 5GHz band and newer 802.11ac standard can free your gadgets from interference and instantly improve your internet speed score. The fastest we've found is the Neatgear Nighthawk AC1900 Smart Wi-Fi Router, model number R7000. It's the company's follow-up to also-impressive Netgear R6300 router we reviewed last year.

With specs that include simultaneous 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, wireless speeds of a combined 600Mpbs and 1300 Mbps (hence the AC1900 name) and a 1GHz dual core processor inside, this Netgear router is as packed to the gills as it is extremely bulky.

Of course, when it comes to uncompromised wireless router speeds, we prefer functionality over fashion, and the antenna-laden Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 certainly meets the criteria.

Cat5e Ethernet cable

Long ago, we were all laying cable across rooms, under carpets and into the backs of computer rigs. That changed when laptops and wireless routers became the norm and tech-driven tripping injuries began to drop in correlation.

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Cat5 and Cat5e are still better than wireless connections

It may be a retro look, but digging out your old Cat5 or, better yet, Cat5e cables is the best solution to maximizing your internet speed. There's zero chance of unpredictable interference by hardwiring into a gadget that contains an Ethernet port.

If anything, uncoiling a Cat5e cable temporarily just to test out your internet speed through a cable vs its wireless performance is recommended. It may come down to the wireless router, and you'll be able to factor that in or out through a trusty Ethernet connection.

Ethernet to USB or Thunderbolt

The thinnest of Mac and Windows laptops don't contain Ethernet ports because - believe it or not - the connection's cube-shaped dimensions are just too big. This is true of the MacBook Air, new MacBook Pro Retina and even the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon on the Windows side.

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Ethernet to Thunberbolt is better for Macs, but it takes up a precious port

You have two options to remedy the shock of not having a hardwired connection. An Ethernet to USB adapter can be purchased to add that missing RJ-45 connector. The one sold by Apple is only USB 2.0, but it still provides 10/100BASE-T performance.

The alternative is upgrading to the Apple-specific Ethernet to Thunderbolt adapter. It's the same size as the USB version, but raises the internet speed cap to with gigabit ethernet performance. All you would need is access to Google Fiber to take advantage of those speeds.

The only downside to the Ethernet to Thunderbolt adapter is that it takes up the precious Thunderbolt slot. The MacBook Air only comes with one of these connections, so extending a laptop screen to an external display (or using it for second monitor) is impossible while hardwired into this port.

Wireless extender

Owning a home that's too big for a single router's wireless range is an enviable first-world problem. Luckily, there are solutions that meet every budget if you're completely out of range or the speed is noticeably slower in rooms that are too distant from the router.

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Look for these to be called extenders or repeaters

All of the major wireless router players put out range extenders including Belkin, Netgear, D-Link and Amped Wireless. Some companies refer to them as "repeaters," but they all do the same thing: amplify internet speeds.

By positioning an 802.11ac WiFi range extender at the edge of your router's wireless reach, you can easily boost internet speeds to your entire house and maybe even a neighbor's house if you really wanted to.

Software upgrades

Hardware is more fun to install, but sometimes increasing your internet speed test results is simply a matter of upgrading your computer or router's software.

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Is your neighbor trying to connect to your router? Find out

Netgear Genie, for example, can help you upgrade your router's firmware, which users often neglect to do out of ignorance. This router software also provides a convenient Network Map that can warn you if your neighbor is syphoning off your internet connection.

Best of all, while Netgear Genie comes bundled with the company's line of routers, it also works with non-Netgear routers.

Another often neglected upgrade is virus protection software if you're on a PC or Android device. Viruses can slow down your computer and something like Norton Internet Security can bring your internet speed back to its full potential. It can also rid you of dealing with popular ransomware like CryptoLocker that can encrypt files until money is paid to an overseas bank account.