Rejuvenate Your PC (Part 4)

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Ensure your network and the internet is set up to deliver maximum speed with our handy tips

Your PC is almost certainly connected to the internet or another network, but is it giving you the best possible performance? In this final section, we’ll examine ways to speed up everything from video streaming to file sharing and web browsing.

Start by making sure your network connection is as fast as it can be. Are all your devices on a wireless network? Consider switching to a wired connection either directly into your router or via a HomePlug network (, which allows you to extend your network through the electrical wiring in your home. If you’re tempted by a HomePlug network, 200Mbps plugs offer better performance than wireless in the far corners of your home, but consider paying a bit more for 500Mbps plugs if you want to stream full HD video over your network. Prices start from about $32 per plug (you’ll need at least two) from specialist retailer Faculty-X (

Improve wireless signal

Ensure your network and the internet is set up to deliver maximum speed with our handy tips

Ensure your network and the internet is set up to deliver maximum speed with our handy tips

The latest wireless N routers are much faster and more powerful than older 802.11g equipment, but you can improve performance even with older kit. First, make sure the channel your wireless network transmits on is as free from interference as possible with the help of the inSSIDer tool and our guide on p64 of issue 74. This will help you pick a channel that doesn’t interfere with your neighbors’ network, improving the strength and range of your own.

If issues persist, take a close look at your cordless phone, microwave and any other wireless equipment that could be interfering with your signal. Try to keep them as far away from your router as possible, and be prepared for interference with specific devices sited too close to them say a minimum of 10 feet, even if they’re in different rooms. The guide also reveals some other clever tweaks to boost performance switching off support for older 802.11b wireless devices in your router’s configuration utility can speed things up, for example.

Assign static IP addresses

By default, your devices are assigned IP addresses by your router to identify them on the network. It’s not a low process, but it can affect mobile devices if you frequently disconnect and reconnect them. Assigning static IP addresses to all your networked devices also allows you to switch off the DHCP features of your router, which acts to prevent unauthorized use of your network. Aside from security issues, this can also slow down your connection further.

You’ll need to consult each device’s instructions separately if you want to add static IP addresses to mobile phones and tablets, but you’ll find instructions for Windows XP PCs at If you’re running Windows Vista or later, though, just follow the step-by-step guide below.

Test your connection

Benchmark your internet connection when it’s quiet to see what speeds you should be aiming for

Benchmark your internet connection when it’s quiet to see what speeds you should be aiming for

Knowing how fat your internet connection actually is helps you manage your expectations, but by benchmarking it at different times of the day and week, you can find ‘quiet’ spots where performance is best, allowing you to reserve those times for more bandwidth-intensive operations such as video streaming.

You can benchmark your internet connection at Make sure your PC is the only one connected to the internet, and then close all internet-enabled apps like SkyDrive and Spotify. Run the test three times to take an average speed, and remember that upload speeds are slower than download times. Also remember that if you’re connected wirelessly, the speed of your Wi-Fi network may lead to slower figures.

Prioritise internet usage

If certain programs choke your internet connection, see if you can persuade them to scale back

If certain programs choke your internet connection, see if you can persuade them to scale back

With everyone in your home sharing an internet connection, it can become bogged down. QoS (quality of service) is a setting used by some internet providers to prioritize competing tasks for network bandwidth, so less important tasks like collection email don’t lead to your video stuttering for example.

QoS support can also be found in some routers, letting you balance competing bandwidth demands between services such as Skype and Netflix. Techies might be interested in exploring a free open source firmware upgrade for called DD-WRT ( that can add QoS support to certain routers, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

If your issue is with one PC, you may be able to tweak the settings of individual applications to prevent them overstepping their bounds. In BitTorrent, for example, you’d select ‘Options >Preferences’, choose ‘Bandwidth’ and enter maximum figures for upload and download speeds. Take the figures you obtained from in megabits per second (Mbps), then convert it to kilobytes per second (KB/s) by first dividing it by eight and then multiplying it by 1,024. Finally, multiply both figures by 0.75 to get 75 per cent of your total bandwidth, and enter these to stop BitTorrent bringing your connection to a halt.

Spare your PC

Many modern network hard drives can do more than simply store files. If your PC is struggling as a BitTorrent client or acting as an FTP server for sharing files online, check to see if your network drive can take on those tasks for itself. It won’t speed up your internet connection, but it’ll free up resources on your PC, and could help cut energy bills should you want to download a large file overnight.

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