Nervously waiting for a big report to upload to your boss or wondering when you can start watching the latest episode of your favorite show can be frustrating. Why does it take so long? Benchmarking your internet speed can be a good starting point to troubleshoot a slow connection, especially if you’re experiencing inconsistent service. Online tools measure the amount of data that can be transferred over your internet connection with reasonably accurate precision.
Performing a simple bandwidth test can let you know if you’re getting all the available bandwidth you purchase from your ISP. These tests can also indicate if your ISP is intentionally slowing your connection to control network traffic through a practice known as bandwidth throttling. Test your connection with a free test site to get a general idea of your upload and download speeds. Use multiple testing sites with different technologies to get a more accurate picture of how well your broadband pipes operate. A precise test can help figure out the source of your slow internet speeds.
How Does Bandwidth Testing Work?
Most bandwidth tests send simple electronic files to your computer and ask your computer to send them back right away, giving the testing site an idea of the speed of your overall connection. The testing site takes this initial information and then bombards your computer with as much data as it can over a short period, typically 10 seconds. After this set amount of time, the software calculates an accurate idea of the connection’s capacity.
Not every service uses the same approach. Choose a site that uses a protocol you trust and provides results you find helpful.
Our 2018 Top Bandwidth Testing Sites
SpeedOf.Me is one of the few testing sites that use HTML5 instead of plugins like Flash or Java. Bypassing plugins means more accurate testing results because there is no intermediary software to skew the data. SpeedOf.Me works on all browsers, allowing testing on computers and most devices, including iPads, iPhones and Android devices. This test picks the quickest, most reliable server of 80 available on five continents rather than the closest server.
This service allows test results to be shared via PDF or downloadable speed report and keeps a history of your most recent test results. Users wanting to save test results over time need to download results and store them locally. As far as testing protocol, SpeedOf.Me keeps sending test data until the connection takes longer than eight seconds to complete. Other tests stop the test earlier and extrapolate to get this level of detail. Although lacking a registration option to save data long-term, the ease of use and limited network knowledge required to use this tool make it a robust overall test.
Easy to use, TestMy.net is another testing service running on HTML5. The service is upfront about how its testing works, allowing you to test your internet connection with either one specific server or with multiple servers together. Either way, you’ll receive one final test result as an image, graph or text report.
Tests are run separately for download and upload speeds, so be sure to run them both for a complete picture of your broadband connection. One of TestMy.net’s most interesting features is the ability to compare your test results against other users on your ISP, city or country. If you like data and want to perform detailed comparisons, TestMy.net is a good choice for you.
Perhaps the most well-known test with a reputation for accuracy, Speedtest.net is fast and free. The software automatically routes your request to one of its numerous worldwide test locations based on your IP address. Because the company uses multiple test servers, results are more accurate than the output from tests with fewer servers.
Speedtest.net also comes in an app version that lets you check broadband connections on your Apple and Android devices. An ongoing record of your results comes in a shareable, graphic format. Speedtest.net is owned by Ookla, which provides technology to other internet-speed testing services.
Google Internet Speed Test
Google, in partnership with Measurement Lab (M-Lab), offers an internet speed test that takes about 30 seconds to run. M-Lab conducts its tests with servers that are off your ISP to mix inter-network traffic into the test, thereby mirroring most users’ actual browsing experience. This approach may produce lower bandwidth results than analysis using native ISP servers.
This test tries to upload and download as much data as it can in ten seconds over a single connection to a single server. Other tests may use multiple links, which can make troubleshooting specific network issues more difficult. Testers can view results in an analyzed graphical format or download the underlying raw data.
Bandwidth Place provides internet speed tests from 20 worldwide servers. Also using HTML5 technology, Bandwidth Place is a good option for verifying results with other more established and sophisticated testing services.
The primary differentiator of Speakeasy’s bandwidth test is that you can select the server location you wish to use for testing. If you’re looking for results in a specific geographic area, this service is a good option because it won’t automatically route you to the closest boxes. Ookla, the provider of Speedtest.net’s technology is also behind Speakeasy, so you can expect similar results.
Netflix offers a test that measures speed between your connection and its servers. Service-specific testing is up and coming. Although not useful for total bandwidth testing, service-specific comparisons can be helpful if you heavily rely on that service. Fast.com gets big points for ease-of-use; arrive at the website and the megabytes per second immediately start rolling on a simple, easy-to-read screen. Netflix offers the test as part of an ongoing effort to keep ISPs honest about download speeds.
CNET Internet Speed Test
The CNET Internet Speed Test is an older test that acts much like other Flash-based broadband testing sites. Because there is only one test server location and only download speeds are tested, this is not a very robust service. However, some users like the dashboard graphics, and if you’re looking for a basic download test to verify other tests you’ve completed, CNET may be a good option. Find this test on TestInternetSpeed.org’s website.
ISP-Specific Speed Tests
Your Internet Service Provider may offer an app or website to test your connection speeds. For example, GoogleFiber has an app that allows users to view rates in real time. If you suspect the speeds your ISP claims to provide are higher than you actually experience, you may not trust the tests. If this is the case, use the ISP test as one data point to compare to the results you gather on other sites. Look for the Ookla logo to see if your ISP’s analysis uses the technology of the industry leader.
Bandwidth Testing Tips
There are a few important steps to take before running diagnostics to ensure you’re getting the most accurate bandwidth test results possible.
- Dedicate Your Internet to Testing – Put down all your devices and computers while testing your bandwidth. This includes closing down windows, suspending automatic updates, turning off your phone’s WiFi and pausing TVs and other streaming services throughout your home.
- Restart Your Router and Modem – Routers and modems work together to coordinate connections to the internet for all your access points. These devices sort traffic throughout your home, and just like your computer or phone, a reset helps get them back to their original positions, especially if they have not been reset for a while.
- Restart Your Device – Like your router and modem, your device or computer should be restarted before running a bandwidth test. This clears up temporary memory and starts the trial with your hardware in a clean condition.
- Clear Browser Cache – Similar to a restart, clearing your browser’s cache allows the internet to flow to your test site unencumbered by temporary files stored in your browser. Clearing the cache should be done every time you initiate a new test to achieve the most accurate measurement possible. Clearing the cache does not apply to most app tests on portable devices.
HTML5 vs. Flash-Based Tests
Most new testing services are moving towards running their diagnostics on an HTML5 platform instead of Flash. Programs that run on Flash look good, but the browser plugin may interfere with the result’s accuracy. Sites using Flash try to correct their output by taking the test’s underlying draw on the broadband connection into account with an underlying algorithm. Using an HTML5 test eliminates the need for any such corrections.
The Right Speed Test for You
Bandwidth tests are not one-size-fits-all. Perhaps that’s why there are so many available. Accurate test results rely on clearing out hardware connections, minimizing internet noise and comparing results across different testing platforms. Bandwidth tests give you precise results at a particular time and between specific test servers. If you are concerned about your available bandwidth, run multiple tests across several testing services and at different times of the day. Track your results over time to identify trends and more accurately analyze your overall internet availability.