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Patrick Marshall and Seattle tech users tackle the marvels and frustrations of software, hardware, devices and the online world.

Wi-Fi Network Speed

Postby Old Blevins on Sun Nov 28, 2010 8:14 pm

I've run into an oddity on my Wi-Fi network and am hoping someone can point me in the right direction.

I have an older router (some details on all hardware below) with IEEE 802.11b Wi-Fi. I've avoided
upgrading it for a faster protocol because I was under the impression that my Wi-Fi network speeds were already faster than my Comcast broadband speed. Ookla measures my download speed at 5 Mbits/sec and I gather my Wi-Fi 802.11b protocol has a capacity of about 11 Mbits/sec. Since we don't do a lot of inter-computer file transfers, I didn't see much advantage of going to a faster network protocol. Here's where I
fell down the rabbit hole, and I'm hoping someone can help me find my way back out.

I decided to do a real-world test of speeds by downloading a 100 MB file. It took almost exactly 2 minutes to download it to my desktop computer - which seemed about right to me. Then I timed how long it took to transfer it over our Wi-Fi network from my desktop to my wife's computer and also to our laptop. I did this one at a time and each time the transfer took about 6 minutes. I did this after rebooting both my desktop and the laptop to make sure the test wasn't affected by other running programs. (I didn't reboot my wife's computer because she had a
webpage open for shopping) At first I thought my Wi-Fi network must be slower than I originally had thought. But then it occurred to me - when I initially downloaded the file to my desktop, it was coming over the Wi-Fi network since none of my computers is directly plugged into the router. All are connected by Wi-Fi only. Now I'm trying to figure out:

1) why my initial download speed is so much faster than the speed of transferring the same file to other computers on this network, and
2) if my internet connection speed would benefit from a router upgrade to the newer 802.11n (or at least 802.11g) protocol.

Here's some info on my systems:

Desktop computer: Dell XPS 410 with Vista Home Premium (32 bit) and a Realtek RTL8187 wireless 802.11g USB 2 Network Adapter.

Wife's computer: HP Pavilion a356c with Windows XP and a Netgear WG311 802.11g wireless PCI adapter.

Laptop computer: HP Pavilion dv5020us Notebook with Windows XP and a built-in 802.11b/g adapter.

Router: Motorola SBG1000 with IEEE 802.11b Wi-Fi. Signal strength between the router and all three computers is good - all are relatively close to the router.

Broadband connection: Comcast Xfinity

Somewhat oddly, Ookla shows my laptop download speed as 6 Mbits/sec. The fact that my desktop seems slightly slower doesn't really bother me, but the tests seem to suggest that my network connections are good on
both computers. So why the slower transfer speeds across computers?

Thanks for any information anyone can give me or suggestions on how I might
diagnose what's going on.
 
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Re: Wi-Fi Network Speed

Postby patrickmarshall on Mon Nov 29, 2010 8:37 am

First things first. Yes, the slowest part of the loop is going to be your bottleneck. But I'd double check the speed you think you're getting from Comcast. I'm not even sure if they still over service as slow as 5mbps.

That said, rated transmission speeds are generally much higher than actual speeds. You're only going to get 11mbps speeds out of 802.11b under ideal conditions, which rarely if ever exist in the real world.

What's more 802.11b is especially susceptible to interference from a variety of electronic devices, including microwave ovens and other household appliances. Distance between the wireless router and the client adapter can also greatly affect performance. And bear in mind that 802.11n offers double the reach of 802.11b.

So I'm not surprised that you're getting much slower performance that you thought with your wireless network. I'd definitley look into updating your wireless router.
 
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Re: Wi-Fi Network Speed

Postby hibernian on Wed Jan 26, 2011 5:02 pm

Hiya OldBlevins...

When you downloaded the 100M file initially you were using the wi-fi lan connection and the wired wan connection (a theoretical 11M wi-fi and whatever Comcast is giving you). Your reported download time of about 2 mins gives you about 6M actual download speed.

When you downloaded the 100M file from your desktop PC to your other computers you were using the wi-fi connection from the desktop to the router AND the wi-fi connection from the other computer to the router. With your wireless router you are SHARING the theoretical 11M connection which will considerably slow your download speeds.

If you downloaded the 100M file using one of your other computers directly from the internet then you should have results similar to the one you first did. It won't be exactly the same because as Patrick said, 802.11b is very susceptible to interference and conditions in your home will vary according to the time of day and electrical noise in your area.
 
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Re: Wi-Fi Network Speed

Postby Speedball on Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:31 pm

Just for fun, try removing the variables. Try running the Comcast speed test from all three machines (http://speedtest.comcast.net).

As someone else indicated in the thread, you're sharing bandwidth with the wireless router (all machines share the same road -- they don't get their own highway). When you run the speed test, be sure that only the machine where the test is being run is generating network traffic (I'd go so far as to power off the other boxes). Also, select the Comcast hub nearest to where you are. If you're in Seattle and go for a hub in Florida, you won't get an accurate test.

A modem and router restart may not be a bad idea, either.

If you can swing it, I'd recommend upgrading your router and wireless cards to "n" technology.
 
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Re: Wi-Fi Network Speed

Postby Kathy Jones on Fri Apr 15, 2011 9:20 am

I like Wi-Fi network! Because this is really enjoying when I using Wi-Fi! Thank you for the post and great topics to sharing us!
 
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Re: Wi-Fi Network Speed

Postby VogelCS on Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:38 pm

On some slower DSL packages, an older 802.11b router would be faster than the overall, again as another poster mentioned, in a perfect world. The new N spec, though, includes many speed enhancements which help in cases of interference and can be a very handy upgrade for many. I recommend one of the basic models for my clients, the Netgear N150. That model runs under $40 and works quite well in most cases. The "faster" ones such as an N300 are generally of little value to most folks, though.
 
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Re: Wi-Fi Network Speed

Postby royixx on Wed Jun 05, 2013 4:44 pm

Wi-Fi today is everywhere because of our growing technology.-royixx
 
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Re: Wi-Fi Network Speed

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Re: Wi-Fi Network Speed

Postby Thomasbuckley123 on Fri Apr 14, 2017 5:44 am

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Re: Wi-Fi Network Speed

Postby WilfredZhuang on Fri Apr 28, 2017 12:06 am

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