February 2001--If you are fortunate enough to have a
broadband connection (DSL, Cable, Satellite, etc.), you may wonder
how you can rate your real world connection speed and if thereís
more that can be gained. You may also be concerned about security.
Miscreants might not consider looking at a dial-up connection
because of the speed and because dialup connections arenít usually
used on networks. This month we look at some things that can be done
to check your connection and next month methods available to make
that connection more secure.
Getting From Here to There
Before we get into the details, thereís an important point to
note: any speed test is heavily dependent on the remote site as well
as the overall traffic passing back and forth on the Internet. You
can run the same test multiple times and get vastly different
results. Keeping this in mind you can monitor the results and learn
how your individual connection responds. For example, trying to
access the Super Bowl web site while the game is on will be slower
than accessing the site during the World Series. Also the method
your ISP uses to get to a specific site can be a factor as the more
hops or connections the packets take to get from here to there may
create extra delays. The web is no different than anything else with
finite available resources.
test is a place to start. This link is actually two web pages:
the one you initially access and the other that sends a known amount
of data across the link and times the event. Based on the amount of
time used, the page then determines how fast your connection is. In
a perfect world, this is a great idea, but remember this is the
Internet and can vary depending on when they happen. I suggest
running this test multiple times, at different times of day to
develop an average reading for your own connection. Do be aware that
the server is a bit off the beaten path of terms of the Internet and
you may get very low speeds depending on where you're located and
your ISP's peering arrangements.
DSLReports is the
next stop. Itís another speed test, with multiple sites to test
against. This can help with quickly establishing a baseline average.
This site will report both your upload and download speeds. Many
systems put a cap on the upload speed because most traffic is
downloading from a remote server to your computer. If you have ever
wondered just how fast your upload speed is, this is the test you
mybc.com is another
testing site. Here you can set what size file you wish to test. Most
times this wonít make much of a difference, but I have heard reports
where connections seem to "fall over" at times. This test may help
determine if thatís happening to you.
Keep a diary on your results, either in a spreadsheet, notepad or
even a piece of paper and prepare to make some notes as now we
descend into tweaking madness. That may sound like a joke, but Iíve
found that any time I start squeezing Windows there is rarely a one
size fits all solution and finding the best setting involves a lot
of trial and error with, of course, the obligatory reboot in between
Make the Tweaks
OK, youíve run the tests; averaged more numbers than a baseball
scout and are looking for more. Now what? Windows defaults to using
settings that work fine for a dial-up modem but arenít optimized for
a faster connection. Some settings exist that, if changed properly,
can improve your results. The trick is finding these items and
changing them properly. Warning: these settings are found in the
Windows Registry, which makes some folks cringe. While itís true
that making random changes to the Registry without paying attention
could render your system unbootable Iíve never had a problem with
the speed tweaks other than hurting my results. Good notes of what
youíve changed will help you back out any bad results. Regardless,
always back up your registry before making any changes.
DSLReports is the
place to start for a semi-automatic registry change method. Click a
button and watch the reports. You have a choice of just the facts,
or lots of details. Mysterious things like MTU and RWIN are checked.
If youíre not familiar with those terms or if youíre just curious,
scroll down on the page. The main configuration options are listed,
together with an explanation of what they mean. There are also
Registry files you can download to make some changes as well as a
downloadable program to access other Registry entries. This method
works, but it requires some level of knowledge and care. Making the
wrong settings can be worse than leaving everything alone.
makes the whole process a lot easier. You download a small program
then install and run it. Click a few buttons and the program
automatically tests your connection and suggests the optimal
settings based on the test results. Click a couple of buttons and
re-boot to reflect the changes and youíre done. It doesnít get much
easier than this. If youíre running a broadband connection, I highly
recommend this program. It also includes methods of testing your
connection and can be set to test in the background, which is great
for determining your baseline average.
Or if you like to do your registry tweaks manually check out
SpeedGuide.net for a full
rundown on registry changes both common and obscure.
The Bottom Line
You may find this results in a lot of work, but if you run a
broadband connection with the standard Windows settings chances are
good youíre going to see a huge benefit for the trouble.
Next month weíll discuss the safety issues of a full-time
connection and steps you can take to do something about it.
Until next month stay connected.