How to Get the Most Accurate Results from Speed Tests

A graphic with a laptop conducting speed tests.Speed tests are a great way to ensure you are getting the right amount of bandwidth through your connection. However, many experts have found that speed tests are too often inaccurate. According to Lifewire, these inaccuracies are usually caused by an overlooked detail, like a poorly placed router or a full browser cache.

These tips can help you catch all the little details that might throw off your test so that you can get more accurate results.

How do speed tests work?

Before we dig in, let’s establish some foundational information. First, how does a speed test measure your bandwidth? When you initiate a speed test, packets of data are sent from your device to a local server, and then back again. This allows the speed test to measure your download, upload, and latency speeds.

All Speed Test Are Not Created Equal

It is estimated that flash-based speed tests are 40% less accurate than their HTML5 counterparts. Flash is a software owned by Adobe that developers use to build everything from video games to speed tests. HTML5 is the fifth version of HTML, a language (or code) used by programmers to build websites. HTML5 is unique because it allows programmers to create sophisticated multimedia experiences without the use of additional software, like Flash. Simply put, HTML5 speed tests cut out the middleman (Flash) and therefore remove the possible errors caused by its presence.

OTELCO recommends by Ookla. It is an HTML5 speed test, and the most commonly used. We will be using their seed test as an example later on in the post.

Get the Most Out of Your Connection with These Tips

Restart Your Modem and Devices

The first thing you always want to do when experiencing slow speeds is to restart your modem ( or modem router combo depending on your service). Restart your modem by unplugging it from the wall for 15-20 seconds. Then plug the modem back in and give it a few minutes to come back up.

While you are waiting, restart the device you will be using to conduct your seed test. When your device powers back on, do not open any new apps or windows. You don’t want anything other than the device you are using for testing to be taking up your bandwidth.

A blue and grey graphic of a router. An example of wear you should place your device by durring speed tests, if you cannot connect directly to your modem.

Remove Any Variables

Before you embark on your test, you need to eliminate any variables that could throw it off. When it comes to speed tests, these are the variables to look out for:

  • Wi-Fi: When conducting a speed test, the best results are achieved when your device is connected to your modem directly. Conducting a speed test over wi-fi will skew your results. If you are using a device that doesn’t have an ethernet port, a slightly lower speed is to be expected. However, conducting your test right beside your router will help.

Need Help Distinguishing between your router and modem? Click here!

  • Internet-Enabled Devices: For the best results, disconnect and power off any additional Internet-connected devices (cell phones, tablets, smart home devices). Your router is designed to disperse your bandwidth overall speed across multiple devices. So, even when idle, extra devices are eating up your bandwidth.
  • Unnecessary Applications: As we mentioned before, you want to make sure nothing is using additional bandwidth on the device you are using for your speed test. This goes double for any updates or downloads that might be happening behind the scenes. On a PC, you can ensure this by checking your Task Manager (hit control + alt + delete) and opening the “Networking” tab. With a Mac, you will need to go to your Activity Monitor and look under “Network.”
  • Clear Your Browser Cache: Lastly, make sure to clean your browser cache before you start a test, especially if you plan on running multiple tests. When a speed test sends data packets, it can often leave chunky files behind on your browser that, in turn, can slow it down. If you are unsure how to clear your cache, check out this guide on Lifewire.
  • Don’t count on just one test: Conducting multiple tests at different times of the day and the week and averaging the results is a good idea.  Plus the time of day information is valuable to your provider if you do see discrepancies and can help them troubleshoot issues on their network.

Choose the Server Closest to You

This last tip can vary depending on the test you are using. As we mentioned earlier, OTELCO recommends Ookla’ s and will be basing this example off their tool.

A speed test will automatically choose what it believes is the closest local server to your location. It will determine your location based on your IP address. However, this is an imperfect system. For many users in more rural states, and small towns, the speed test will choose a server that isn’t that close at all.

Luckily, many speed test websites, including, allow you to choose a server closer to you. Providing a server closer to you will give you a more accurate read because the data packets the speed test is sending won’t have to travel as far. On, you can just click “Change Server” and choose from the options that populate (see below).

Make Sure You Have the Speed You Need with OTELCO’s Speed Calculator

Still not seeing the correct speed?

If you are seeing speeds that are drastically different than what you are paying for, please reach out to OTELCO’s tech support team. They are available 24/7  through  Facebook messenger, our website’s chat feature, our contact form, and by phone at 833-683-5261.

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