Why Is My Download Speed So Slow? A Guide

A person using a laptop next to an internet modem wonders why their download speed is so slow.

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How often have you sat at your computer staring at a seemingly stuck file transfer, asking yourself: Why is my download speed so slow? Everybody’s been there, wondering whether that pdf you’re trying to download is going to take three minutes or three days.

So much of daily computer usage involves downloading something in some way or another, whether that’s watching a video, receiving a work document, or reading an email. This post discusses what counts as a slow download and the possible causes of reduced download speeds.

When a Download Is Considered Slow

The term “download” covers many computer tasks. A download means your computer is receiving data from the internet, but that can take many forms. Here are a few:

  • Opening a webpage in a browser
  • Receiving an email
  • Purchasing music files over the internet
  • Watching videos online
  • Opening documents like PDFs, photos, and others

What qualifies as a slow download, then? It’s completely relative and depends on the usual speed of the internet connection you’re used to. 

The current record for internet speed, for example, is a whopping 178 terabits per second, which would allow you to download the entire Netflix library in one second. That would make your current connection seem like a cause for frustration.

NASA scientists and researchers used to internet download speeds reaching 100 gigabytes per second would suffer mightily if they ever had to work with the speeds most people have in the U.S. Many basic computer users, in turn, would struggle to get through the day with the internet speeds in less-developed regions. 

The best measure, then, is what you’re used to. Take note when your downloads seem sluggish, and check out the list below to diagnose the possible cause. 

Possible Reasons Why Your Download Speed Is So Slow

Try not to get frustrated if you find yourself wondering, why is my download speed so slow. Several issues can affect speeds, and many of them are fixable. These include:

1. Internet Speed

rebooted Internet modem after it was inspected for slowed internet connection

The first thing you should be investigating when you have a slow download is the speed of the internet connection you’re on. The slower your internet connection, the slower information will make its way from the internet source to your computer or device.

My internet connection is usually reliable, you say, so why is my download so slow? Even if your internet connection is reliably fast, there are times when connection speeds fluctuate. A modem reboot can sometimes fix this: Try unplugging the power on the internet modem and waiting a few minutes before you reconnect. This reset can often restore your internet speeds.

You might also contact your internet service provider if the slow downloads persist to ask whether any connection issues exist in your area or whether you need a technician.

2. Overburdened Wi-Fi

Your download might be slow because there are too many devices using your Wi-Fi. This is common in smart homes but might also be the case when too many people are logged into the internet.

A metaphor can help you understand the problem: Visualize your Wi-Fi bandwidth as a highway and the data being sent and received as vehicles or cars. Too many devices can lead to a traffic jam and ultimately slower traffic. Disconnect unneeded devices to see if that lessens the burden on your Wi-Fi and fixes the problem. 

3. Size of the Download File

Sometimes the problem is that you’re downloading a huge file. The more information there is to transmit to your device, the longer the process should take.

4. Download Server Speed

The network provider can also set limits on the speed of your download. It’s good to understand any restrictions they impose on the internet connection you subscribe to.

Try to adapt your download activity to any limit your provider puts on your download speed. You may consider downloading one file at a time, for example, if the download cap is too low.

5. Computer Registry

Sometimes the cause is your computer, which could cause a download to be slow when it takes too long to read the processes. The Windows registry, for example, may be holding many unnecessary files, all of which the computer has to read before processing a download. 

This could turn a normally quick process into a frustratingly slow one. It can help to clean your registry regularly with a reliable cleaning tool, but that’s something you should do with caution.

6. Computer Virus

Another cause of slow download speeds is security issues. A computer virus or worm can cause slow performance, especially if hackers are using your computer’s system as a base for sending out spam, stealing your contacts, browsing websites, and delivering invasive malware through ads.

Follow the instructions provided by your antivirus to get rid of any malware you discover. You could also call in a professional to look over your laptops, desktops, and networking systems.

7. Too Many Running Programs

Downloading makes use of your computer’s processing memory, like every other process your computer performs. Too many files or programs taking up memory space can impair download speeds. Closing programs that aren’t actively in use gives your computer the requisite processing memory to handle your download quicker and more efficiently.

8. Too Many Files Downloading Simultaneously

Woman frustrated because her PC's download speed is so slow

Downloading too many files at once could bog down the system and cause things to slow down. Download one file at a time, or fewer files, to ensure things don’t slow down to a complete halt.

One or a combination of the above could be causing your lagging download speed. It’s best to keep your computer as unburdened as possible by stopping excessive connections and programs or just removing the general clutter of unneeded files. A digital file shredder is one tool that can help you keep your computer clean and performing at its best.

A Go-To Tool for Shredding Digital Files – Permanently

Your computer is often at fault when your download speeds are slow, and sometimes stored files are the issue. Shred Cube can permanently and securely delete files stored on your computer, so you never have to worry about them falling into the wrong hands.

Our USB-based device uses a drag-and-drop interface to eliminate unused and duplicate files across your devices. Contact our team today for more information about how digital file shredding can protect your information.

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