Many Internet service providers brag that they offer the fastest speeds for browsing, but often the speeds they advertise aren't anything like the speeds you actually get. Fortunately there are ways of checking what speed you are actually getting.
Things You Will Need
Before you test your internet connection speed, you should first run an anti-virus scan. If you have a lot of viruses and spyware clogging up your computer, then the internet speed that you will actually be able to use will be a lot slower. This is because many viruses will use a portion of your bandwidth for themselves, reducing the speed at which other programs run.
Next you should check to make sure that no other programs are using the internet to update. Most programs will notify you if they are about to connect to the internet for any reason, although some wont, so checking is always a good idea. Often peer to peer and subscription based programs will connect when they are started automatically, and often run in the background without people knowing.
If you are sharing a connection with other computers, either through a wireless network or through being connected to the same modem, then you should make sure that only one computer is connected when testing. This is because other computers sharing the connection will reduce the speed of your connection, and will give you a falsely low reading.
Next connect with your usual browser and search for free internet speed tests in a search engine and pick one. There are many different tests, although some will try to get you to sign up for things or download software and should be avoided for simplicity of use. A couple of the better ones I have used are in the resources section below.
Most tests will start automatically, and will tell you both an upload and download speed. Some also offer a ping rate and further technical information, although usually the Mega bytes per second or MB/s is the most useful.
A good way to quantify your speed it so look at a sliding scale of internet speeds. On paper at least the speed of an Ethernet connection is 10 Mb/s. A cable modem connection is 4 Mb/s and a T4 connection is 274 Mb/s. However usually most peoples internet connections wont actually reach these kinds of speeds, often due to dubious advertising by internet service providers and a whole host of other local affectations.Internet speeds are often controlled by where you live, and what kind of infastructure the internet servuce providers have there. Many rural areas for example might have to pay more for faster internet then people in cities.