Slow downloads are one of those annoying little problems in life where we just want them to hurry up already.
If it’s taking forever for something as small as a movie or song to load from Spotify, then you’re going to get frustrated pretty quickly.
And when you’ve got other stuff like work to do, you don’t really need anything getting slowed down by some dumb video streaming app.
There could also be more serious issues here than simple slowness — if you keep seeing “internet congestion” messages every few minutes (or even seconds), this means your Internet Service Provider has been hit with loads of data coming through their servers at once which causes temporary slowdown until they deal with it. This kind of thing happens often during peak times, but can happen whenever traffic goes up.
In short: Slowdowns aren’t always due to bad apps. Here’s how to troubleshoot why your PC slows down while downloading…
Is your internet connection to blame?
This probably won’t apply to everyone who reads this article, but I’ll go ahead and address it anyway because chances are good that at least someone reading this will experience what I’m referring to.
People tend to assume that sluggish downloads are caused by poor Wi-Fi reception, but this isn’t actually true. If you’ve ever experienced Wi-Fi signal dropouts, you know that sometimes it doesn’t matter whether your router was set up properly or not. In fact, most people think nothing of using crappy wireless connections without a second thought.
The same phenomenon applies to slower speeds when connected via cable rather than Wi-Fi. The problem is actually entirely within your home network and is likely related to either having too much data flowing across your LAN cables/routers at once or simply overloading the server itself.
It sounds complicated but basically, if you notice your downloads are slower when connected via Ethernet vs. Wi-Fi, it’s almost certainly because your router can’t handle the amount of data traveling between your devices and the service provider’s servers. So try reducing the number of services and applications running on your machine, especially ones that stream media content such as Netflix or Hulu & try reducing the number of devices connected to the Wifi.
Also take note of potential settings changes made by ISPs, particularly regarding Quality of Services (QoS) features. These allow providers to prioritize certain kinds of data over others. For example, maybe you live somewhere far away from your usual office, and thus would prefer to use the company’s high-speed fiber-optic line instead of its regular DSL lines. In order to make sure these preferences translate into actual performance, QOS rules must be enabled on both ends: yours and the companies.
Did you install any software recently that might be slowing down your system?
Sometimes new software installations themselves can wreak havoc on our computer’s ability to run smoothly.
A recent study found that users tended to suffer slowdowns after installing new programs, though no clear reason was given. But before you blindly uninstall everything, first see if updating existing applications helps improve your overall system performance.
You can find out yourself by visiting Task Manager under Control Panel & Administrative Tools & Performance Monitor. Then click the Processes tab. Find whatever process is consuming the majority of your CPU power and right-click it, select Properties. Scroll down to Startup impact and see if anything seems excessive compared to normal usage.
Or look up what processes are eating up memory space. Click the Memory tab. Highlight each entry individually and press Ctrl+W to bring up the search field. Type “process name” + “memory” and choose the relevant result. Right-click that said process and choose End task to kill it completely. Repeat this step with the top culprits, making sure to close only the windows shown above 50% and lower. Once done, reboot your PC. See if that improves matters.
Are there too many programs open on your desktop?
Desktop clutter can definitely affect your downloads. Try closing unnecessary background programs and cleaning up icons on your Start menu using File Explorer. Also, unchecking Show active window previews option under System Preferences -& Display -& Window List allows you to hide inactive programs from view. Doing this makes it easier to spot large folders such as Downloads or Documents since you now have to scroll horizontally past dozens of minimized icons.
Do you have malware installed?
Malware can be a big source of slowdown, especially ad-related trackers that constantly bombard us with ads and popups. Luckily, there are tools available that help scan for malicious software — and yes, sometimes viruses can still slip onto PCs despite antivirus protection.
To test, type CMD into your start screen search bar and select Run as administrator. Enter sfc /scannow and press enter.
Wait for the command prompt to finish scanning your drive(s); if any infections were discovered, follow the prompts to fix them manually. Don’t worry, neither SFC nor MalwareBytes remove infected items automatically. On the contrary, doing so can lead to worse results.
Is Windows Update causing trouble?
Windows updates are important, but sometimes they can negatively affect performance — usually due to driver conflicts. Even minor updates can trigger major headaches. That’s why Microsoft recommends waiting two days after critical updates before applying non-critical patches.
But hey, let’s say you feel compelled to update right now and can’t wait. Just remember that if you did indeed receive a critical update, rebooting your device afterward shouldn’t hurt. However, if you haven’t yet received it, hold off. You never know what else could come along later.
So what’s wrong if you updated today?
First, check if Windows thinks drivers are outdated. Press Win + X and choose Device Manager. Expand Network adapters section and double-check that your adapter shows Status as Not Connected. Now, right-click that icon and choose Update Driver Software…. Choose Browse my computer for driver software…, navigate to the folder containing your new drivers, and double-click the setup file named SetupDiag.exe.
Once downloaded, run the resulting executable and select Troubleshooting toolbox.
Under the Hardware Support category, choose Diagnostic Tests. After choosing appropriate tests, click the Next button and let Diags analyze your hardware.
When it finishes, it should show detailed information on detected faults. Keep a copy of this text and send it to whoever provided you with the faulty drivers. Hopefully, they’ll replace them ASAP. Otherwise, you’ll have to dig deeper.
One last tip: Make sure you didn’t accidentally disable automatic driver installation. Go to Settings -& Update & Security -& Activation Lock -& Additional Options and enable Turn on automated driver installation. Otherwise, you’ll have to manually install drivers after each upgrade.
Have you tried opening another browser?
Browser extensions are great for enhancing browsing experiences, but sometimes they can end up getting in the way of smooth operations. There’s a chance extension developers had this situation in mind when creating their products, hence allowing you to turn off individual addons.
First, check which browsers you typically use. Open Chrome or Firefox tabs simultaneously and perform subsequent actions such as clicking links or scrolling pages. Do the same with multiple tabs in Opera or Edge. If none of them lag behind, proceed to disable add-on functionality one by one. One of the easiest ways to do this is by pressing Alt + F1 keys together. Another method involves finding the respective options inside Extensions panel located at chrome://extensions/, firefox://addons/ or opera://extensions/. Check back to determine if any improvements occurred afterward.
How about installing an alternate anti-virus program?
As long as your security suite works properly, deleting unwanted programs and replacing antivirus suites shouldn’t pose significant delays. Nevertheless, if you’d like to give Avira a shot, that’s perfectly fine. All you need to do is visit avast! website, sign in with your account credentials, and click Download. Select Installer (.EXE), and save the installer anywhere on your hard drive. Restart your PC, and voila! Installed.
Note: If you plan to switch to Avast permanently, you should read reviews of various free alternatives to Avast Pro Antivirus.
It’s time to restart!
Restarting your computer is always recommended after performing any major change such as installing a new operating system. Sometimes restarts alone can solve otherwise unsolvable problems.
Try booting up your device again and repeat steps 1-7 if necessary. Or better yet, restart directly into Safe Mode using F5 key combination. This boots your system normally, except that it prevents third-party modules from loading upon startup (including virus scanners). From there, you can continue troubleshooting as needed.
John has been a gamer since the early age of 7, playing a huge variety of single-player games, and MMOs, and even participating in LAN Tournaments for FPS games such as Counter-Strike Global Offensive. Ever since he found his passion in gaming & in technology in general, he has continuously increased his knowledge in software, programming & hardware and is now working at TechReviewTeam helping readers, answering questions, writing articles & reviews for the team.