Finding out the speed of your Wi-Fi is more difficult than it should be. This is partly because if you search for “test Wi-Fi speed” on Google, you tend to find apps and websites (such as speedtest.net that tell you how fast your broadband is, which isn’t the question you’re trying to answer.
Technically, these tests do use your Wi-Fi as part of the connection to the internet – if you run the test on a device connected via Wi-Fi, that is – but they end up reporting the speed of the slowest part of the connection, which is usually your broadband. That means they don’t tell you how fast your home Wi-Fi is.
For example, if your broadband download speed is 70Mbps but your home Wi-Fi tops out at 600Mbps, such an app will say your connection speed is 70Mbps.
Conversely, if you have gigabit broadband with a download speed of 900Mbps, but your router’s Wi-Fi maxes out at 500Mbps, a broadband speed-testing app will tell you that your broadband speed is 500Mbps, which it isn’t.
Also, if you turn off Wi-Fi on your phone, apps such as SpeedTest will measure the speed of your mobile broadband (4G or 5G) connection instead.
To be clear, Wi-Fi is the connection between your device (a phone, laptop, games console, Firestick or something else) and your router. Broadband is the connection between your router and the internet.
Jim Martin / Foundry
So how do you test Wi-Fi speed? Fortunately, there are a couple of free app that can do the job.
Testing the speed is useful for several reasons:
- It tells you the speed of Wi-Fi on a particular device
- It tells you how fast your Wi-Fi is at various places in your home so you can identify problems and fix them
- It can tell you whether or not Wi-Fi is the cause of a slow or non-working internet connection
How to test Wi-Fi speed with an app
As mentioned, there are loads of apps which claim to test Wi-Fi speed. We haven’t tested them all, but we have tried plenty which only told us our broadband speed. If you want to know those numbers, here’s how to check your internet speed.
Testing your Wi-Fi speed means finding out how quick is the connection speed between your router and your phone, or whichever device you use to run the test.
One free Android app which can do this is WiFi Speed Test by Zoltan Pallagi. It will also test your internet speed if you want it to. Unfortunately, it’s only available for Android, not iOS. If you have an iPhone, then install Wi-Fi SweetSpots which works in a similar way, and also lets you see average speed over time.
Before starting the test, make sure your phone is connected to the Wi-Fi network you want to test. That might sound obvious, but you may want to test both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks if your router broadcasts them as separate networks.
And in case you didn’t know, the fastest speeds are available on 5GHz but if you’re quite far from your router, you’ll find 2.4GHz will give you a more reliable, usable connection.
Do bear in mind that your phone might be the limiting factor when running the test, as it depends upon its Wi-Fi specs. Ideally, your phone should match or exceed the speed your router is capable of, otherwise you’ll hit your phone’s limit and you still won’t know how fast your Wi-Fi is.
On an Android phone, launch the WiFi Speed Test app and swipe right to the testing screen. You should see two toggle switches towards the bottom: WiFi test and Internet test.
Turn the Internet test off, and then tap the START button at the top. The test takes 10 seconds and you’ll see the ‘speedo’ change as the test runs.
You can repeat the test in different rooms, or at different distances from your router to compare speeds. Results are saved so you can view them later under the TEST RESULTS tab.
It isn’t the prettiest app, but it gets the job done.
This app will also tell you another useful thing: the Wi-Fi signal strength at any location in your home. Just walk around and see the signal strength change. Here’s what you need to know about the dBm figures so you understand what they mean, as well as how to check signal strength on an iPhone.
How fast should my Wi-Fi be?
This might take a little research. The ‘AX1800’ number you might see on your router’s box isn’t the answer. Whatever number you see is the combined total (in Mbps – megabits per second) of the various frequencies, but it’s not the number you’d get in the real world. It’s really designed to help you compare one router’s performance to another, but in truth it’s not that useful.
What you need to know is the speed it offers on each band – 2.4GHz, 5GHz and – if it supports it – 6GHz.
Even those numbers are theoretical maximums and you should expect a lower speed in the real world once things like walls, floors, doors and windows and interference from other devices are factored in.
Also, speeds drop as you get further away from your router.
However, as long as the speed you see when you test your Wi-Fi is faster than your internet connection speed, then your Wi-Fi won’t be causing any problems. If it is slower than your broadband in any room, or perhaps the garden, you may want to consider upgrading your router or buying a mesh Wi-Fi system to fix that problem.
Streaming HD video from the internet usually requires a minimum of about 2.5Mbps, and that jumps to about 40Mbps for UHD (4K). For more details, see what are good upload and download speeds?
Even old-school 802.11n Wi-Fi should be quicker than 40Mbps, and more modern 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) routers should give you between around 200 and 600Mbps. Don’t forget that your speed will be limited by the slowest device, be that your phone or your router.
So even if you’re right next to your router when you run the test, which is where you’ll get the fastest speed, it will be limited if your phone has only 802.11n Wi-Fi but your router is a newer Wi-Fi 6 device.
If you’re wondering how that compares to megabytes per second, just divide your result by 8, which converts from megabits to megabytes.
How can I test Wi-Fi speed in Windows?
If you don’t have an Android phone or you specifically want to test your laptop’s Wi-Fi speed, then type Control Panel into the Windows search bar.
Click on Control Panel then go to Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center > Change adapter settings.
Double-click on the Wi-Fi connection from the list (it should be obvious which one it is) and in the window which opens you’ll see a field called Speed. The figure next to this will fluctuate, but should be a good indicator of how fast the connection is to your router.
For a more precise test, have a second laptop or PC connected to your router with a network cable and copy a file from your laptop to the PC, timing how long it takes. You’ll need to enable sharing in order to ‘see’ the other PC or laptop from the laptop you want to test. This is under Network and Sharing Center > Advanced sharing settings.
We typically use a 500MB video file to test with, and if you want to be more scientific then rather than use Windows File Explorer to copy the file, use a command prompt and the xcopy command.
Now use the exact file size in MB and divide it by the number of seconds that the file took to copy and you have your Wi-Fi speed in MB/s. Multiply it by eight to get the figure in megabits per second.
For example: 500 ÷ 24 = 20.83 MB/s. 20.83 x 8 = 166.7Mb/s.
You might also like to know how to test your laptop battery.