How to Check the Speed of an Internet Connection Using a Mac

There is a common misconception among many Mac users that, because they don’t use a Microsoft computer, they’re simply locked out of the Internet’s most common speed testing tools. That just isn’t the case, though, as virtually all of the speed testing websites available online are created using Flash. Adobe, the company that develops and distributes Flash, makes the platform available for all operating systems and computers of all kinds, virtually assuring that speed testing websites will be available to Mac users.

Even though these websites are cross-platform, many Mac users may not be aware of exactly how to use them, and how they work once they’ve begun testing a connection’s overall performance. To fully understand a connection’s performance, merits, and drawbacks, Mac users should make sure they understand how a speed test works and what each of its results means.

Getting Started: How to Initiate a Speed Test Using a Mac

The first step toward verifying a broadband connection’s speed is to simply initiate a test using one of the major speed test websites online. These sites come form both private and government sources, and they all provide roughly the same information. Generally, there are a few leaders in this space:

- SpeedTest.Net is the leading private speed test company online, with a Flash-based browser application that can measure latency, upload speed, and download speed. The company’s popularity is so great that it recent released applications for iOS, Android, and other smartphone devices to test mobile connections as well.

- Broadband.Gov is maintained by the Federal Communications Commission and offers a look at upload and download speeds, latency, and jitters. Generally, “jitters” refers to the connection’s margin of error when downloading and uploading a large file.

- DSLReports.com offers an industry-leading speed test that measures latency, download speeds, and upload speeds. The website is a leading source of news, reviews, and subscriber discussion, and uses its results to compare and contrast the major cable and telephone broadband providers around the world.

Once a speed test website has been chosen, simply enter its URL into the browser address bar and wait for the site to load. Once loading is complete, the Flash-based application will appear with a button that will read “Start” or “Begin.” All it takes to begin a speed test is a click of that button. From there, everything else is automated. The application will automatically download and upload files on its own, measuring factors like jitters and latency as the test proceeds.

After the test is finished, the application will provide a summary of the results. This will show the maximum throughput for uploads and downloads, a well as the latency of the connection. Latency is defined as the gap of time between when the downloaded file is requested by the browser, and when it actually begins to download for the purposes of testing. In the case of the Broadband.Gov test, “jitters” will also be measured. This will show the connection’s maximum speed, its minimum speed, and its average throughput.

Factors that Might Impact the Outcome of a Mac Speed Test

Speed tests are a great way to get a general idea of a connection’s performance, but they’re not always the most accurate way to judge whether a cable company’s speeds are living up to their marketing materials and promotional campaigns. This discrepancy can happen for a number of common reasons.

Perhaps the most common reason is that users are downloading a file in the background while pursuing a speed test from one of the websites mentioned above. An ongoing download will limit the broadband available to the speed test application, reducing the accuracy of its overall reading. It can also have negative effects on things like upload speed and latency, depending on the nature of the download.

In other cases, peak internet usage hours may slow down an internet connection by a slight percentage. This happens in most communities when people get home from work and begin checking social networks, streaming high definition videos, and chatting with friends. For the best idea of a connection speed, test it at various times of the day.

With the great websites mentioned above, and a keen understanding of how speed tests work, consumers everywhere can test their connection and make sure that it’s performing in line with their expectations.

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