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What do I need to upgrade my PC in preparation for Broadband?

Broadband Disconnects

Setting up Cable Broadband with a Router

ADSL Broadband Filters

Cable (DSL) Broadband USB Connection

The settings that cause the most trouble when modifying Internet Connections

Telephone Extensions and Broadband

SpeedTouch 330 ADSL Modem

Sky Broadband

Sky Netgear Router Password

BTHelpNotifier.exe error message

Orange Livebox

Switch off Sky Wireless

Use a Modem for Sky Broadband

Which is the most reliable Broadband supplier?

Connect an additional PC to cable broadband

Sky box kills broadband

Broadband keeps disconnecting

Setting up a PC to use with a Router

Setting up a Vista PC to use with a Router

Slow TalkTalk Broadband

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What do I need to upgrade my PC in preparation for Broadband?

Nothing - virtually every PC in current everyday use is more than capable of connecting to broadband.

If you have a free USB socket (it doesn’t have to be USB2) then you can connect to ADSL Broadband (ordinary phone line).

If you have a free USB or Network socket you can connect to Virgin Media Cable Broadband (previously NTL or Telewest).

Only a network socket and want to connect to ADSL? You can connect through an ADSL modem router.

If your PC doesn’t have any USB or network sockets then it’s probably very old, but could connect by the addition of a network card or a USB card or a Wireless card.

Broadband speed may be fast compared to dial-up internet speed, but compared to the internal speed of a PC it is trivial and any PC will support broadband. Unless it’s a museum piece!

So speed-wise you need nothing - but if you are going to use the internet to download masses of music files then you may need another hard drive to hold them all!

And if you are going to broadband you will need to step up your security with a firewall, antivirus program and antispyware program. ZoneAlarm, AVG and Windows Defender are all available to do those jobs for free.

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Broadband Disconnects

A client reported that a USB broadband modem performed well when browsing the internet but as soon as he attempted to download anything more than about 2MB it either disconnected immediately or sent the error message "Tapisrv has caused an error in rpcrt4.dll and will now close". A reboot was then required.

This error has many possible causes. Quite a lot of people have this problem, especially with Windows Me, but Microsoft has not documented a fix for it. Some cynics have suggested that you need to upgrade to another operating system.

There is another possible solution. Sometimes this problem can arise through incompatible settings for the TCP/IP configuration parameter called MaxMTU. By default, Windows uses a value of 1500 but PPoE, which is used by most ADSL modems, adds a little bit of overhead to each packet. Reducing the MaxMTU value to 1,400, for example, may cure the problem for you. Try using Tweak DUN from www.pattersondesigns.com/tweakdun to achieve this.

If this doesn't help, things get more complicated. The problem could be due to corruption in the Registry settings or the TAPI files.
It could be a buggy driver for your ADSL modem, bugs in the hardware software implementation of USB or bugs in Windows Me.
It could also be a hardware issue, either with a faulty USB modem or a computer that can't provide enough power to the USB port. Many USB modems take their power from the USB port and use close to the maximum power that the USB specification permits. Sometimes plugging the modem into another USB port or using a powered USB hub can cure this.

Replacing the USB ADSL modem with a standalone ADSL modem router, which connects to your PC by Ethernet, may be the best way to stop the problem, and will also allow you to connect a second PC. Get a wireless router and you may be able to share the cost of the connection with your neighbours!

Unfortunately, if you want to keep the USB modem, upgrading from Windows Me to XP may be your best solution. If you don't want to upgrade to Windows XP, which has greatly improved support for DSL modems, first look for newer drivers for your ADSL modem.

If that doesn't help, you might want to try installing a program called RASPPPOE from www.raspppoe.com. This provides a replacement for the standard Windows remote access software, which is where the error is.

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Setting up Cable Broadband with a Router

Don’t try to set up a new installation with the router connected between the cable modem and the PC.

A new installation has to be set-up and registered by running the set-up CD on a PC connected directly to the cable modem by an Ethernet or USB cable.

User names etc are requested by the set-up program.

Once the installation is up and running it is possible to insert a wireless router between the PC and modem, using Ethernet cable between modem and router and either Ethernet cable or wireless between router and PC(s).

Sometimes you will have to “spoof” the MAC address of the PC that the installation was set up with onto the router - see my tip: Broadband router not connecting to NTL

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ADSL Broadband Filters

When you sign up for broadband through a normal BT style telephone line (NOT cable broadband) you get both ordinary low frequency speech signals and high frequency broadband signals coming into your house through the original old telephone line.

Each device that you attach to the telephone line only wants one or the other of these. Your phones, fax machines and 56K dial-up modems want the low frequencies but broadband modems and modem routers want the high frequencies.

If any of them get both high and low frequencies you get problems - noises on the phones, drop outs on the modems, garbage on the faxes.

So EVERY device that you attach to the phone line should plug into a filter which then plugs into the (main or extension) phone socket.

ADSL filters have a (BT) plug on one side (to go into the phone socket) and two sockets on the other side. These two sockets on the filter are different. The larger (BT) socket is where the low frequencies come out, so use it for phones, faxes and dial-up modems. The smaller (RJ11) socket is where the high frequencies come out and is for ADSL Broadband modems and routers.

Problem 1 - If you connect two Broadband filters in series (one after the other) you shouldn’t get anything out of the smaller (RJ11) socket on the second one. (Think about it - the second filter is plugged into the low frequency socket of the first filter, so never gets any high frequencies, so nothing comes out of its small socket.

Problem 2 - some dial-up modems come with an American standard cable which has a small (RJ11) plug on each end. If you plug this into the smaller (RJ11) socket of a Broadband filter the modem will not work. You should plug it into an RJ11 to BT converter and then plug that into the larger (BT) socket.

Nightmare scenario -
Filter plugged into main phone socket
Extension lead plugged into that filter
Another filter plugged into the other end of the extension lead.
Modem (either dial-up or broadband) plugged into small (RJ11) socket on second filter.
Result...... should be complete failure of the modem to connect, but surprisingly some filters are so poor that they do allow some signal through, so sometimes you can get a connection - but it’s very unreliable.

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Cable (DSL) Broadband USB Connection

I went to install a wireless router in a cable broadband connected house. I was surprised to find that the current connection between the cable modem and the customers laptop was via a USB cable. (The customer’s laptop did not have an ethernet socket)

This made it difficult to configure the router because it only had ethernet connections for both modem and hard wired PCs. And the wireless was disabled by the default factory settings!

Luckily I had a PCMCIA ethernet card with me, so I was able to slip that in and connect the PC with cable whilst I switched on the wireless and configured the router. Then I pulled it out and put in the wireless card to complete the installation.

Not having digital cable in my area means that I don’t see many cable broadband setups, so I didn’t even realise that a USB connection was an option!

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The settings that cause the most trouble when modifying Internet Connections

“I think I’ve set it up all right, but it won’t connect”. How many times have I heard that?

Setting up an internet connection from scratch on a new PC (or a new installation of Windows) doesn’t usually cause many problems, but when people move from dial-up to broadband or from broadband to wireless broadband I often get a call.

This especially applies when introducing a secondhand PC into the set-up.

The settings that should be checked first are all in the same place:

Left click Start, then Control Panel then Network and Internet Connections then Internet Options.

The Internet Properties box will open.

Left click on the Connections tab then on the LAN Settings... button.

Ensure that NONE of the options are selected in this box (unless your ISP has specifically instructed otherwise).

Left click OK.

If this PC connects through a router, by wireless or through a cable modem, make sure that Never dial a connection is selected.

If this PC connects directly through a dial-up modem or an ADSL broadband modem, make sure that Always dial my default connection is selected. And check that the correct connection is flagged as the default.

Left click OK and close the Control Panel.

Now try to connect - I hope that has done it for you!

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Telephone Extensions and Broadband

Most people already have telephone extension sockets in the bedroom or study where they have their computer. So they plug their broadband modem into that socket.

Some try to follow the instructions but plug ADSL filters into each socket in such a way that they block the broadband signal getting to the modem.

The filter at the modem end of the extension is not a problem - it just plugs into the extension socket and then the ADSL modem is plugged into the small socket on the filter and any ordinary phone is plugged into the larger (BT) socket on the filter.

But the filter at the “main socket” end of the extension can be fitted wrongly because usually there is a “doubler” or “tripler” adaptor in the main socket (so that a phone can be used whilst the extension remains plugged in).

The filter should go between the phone and the doubler - NOT between the socket and the doubler.

Further details in the tip: ADSL Broadband Filters

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SpeedTouch 330 ADSL Modem

When connected properly to a live broadband connection there should be two steady green lights on the modem.

If the left hand green light is steady and the right hand green light is flashing then there is nothing wrong with the PC but the modem cannot see a live broadband connection. That could be because:

1. the phone line is not actually connected to the modem

2. the ADSL filter is fitted wrongly so that it is blocking the broadband frequencies instead of passing them.

3. the line is not connected to broadband at the exchange

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Sky Broadband

Sky’s free broadband package is, like all the others, not really free. You can only get it if you subscribe to Sky TV for a start, and that is hardly free. 

And you usually have to pay an activation fee - but for that you don’t get a basic modem, you get a Wireless Modem Router, which is worth about 50.

Sky have the modified the firmware in the router and your router is configured to only connect to your Sky login (and vice versa). The wireless channel and security settings are also pre-configured into the router and are printed on a label on the side of the router.

So all you have to do is connect it to the phone line and the thing is up and running. No set up required.

Curiously Sky say that you need a PC running Windows 2000 or later to use their broadband. But any PC running any Operating System could be connected, providing the PC has a network card that is configured correctly. The broadband connection is controlled by the router, not the PC, so why specify a minimum PC OS?

I know from experience that you can set up Sky Broadband on Windows 98 and Windows ME and the only thing that won’t work will be the installation CD - which you don’t need anyway because all the settings are in the router!

What the installation CD does do (if you can run it) is set up your Sky email address and give you the opportunity to change your password. But you can set up the email yourself with the help of the following tips on this site:

E-mail settings for SKY broadband

Additional Sky E-mail Addresses

How to set up a new e-mail account in Outlook Express

How to set-up Outlook Express to send and receive e-mail from a previous ISP

And you can change your Sky password by going to:

http://www.sky.com/portal/site/skycom/mysky

In fact, I wouldn’t run the installation CD at all, whatever your Windows version, because it will rebrand Internet Explorer and Outlook Express and subject you to “recommendations” for all things Sky. Well they’ve got to make a living!

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Sky Netgear Router Password

You don’t really need to access the setup pages of the Sky Broadband Wireless Modem Router because there’s not a lot that you can change.

However, here is the information:

URL:       http://192.168.0.1

User name:  admin

Password:   sky

(The default settings for an ordinary (non Sky) Netgear Router are the same as above with the exception of the password which is: password)

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BTHelpNotifier.exe error message

“The procedure entry point GetProcessImageFileName W could not be located in the dynamic link library PSAPI.DLL”

The above error message may occur on startup for BT Broadband users who have installed Internet Explorer 7.

The solution is to do a search for all files named psapi.dll and then rename them all to psapi.old except for the version in c:\windows\system32 (even if it’s an earlier version than the others). When doing the search, remember to go to More advanced options and check Search system folders, Search hidden files and folders, and Search subfolders.

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Orange Livebox

The Orange (Wanadoo) Livebox used to be notorious - if you could get it to work wirelessly with your laptop or PC then you were one of the lucky ones.

It connected fine to broadband and via ethernet cable to PCs, but wireless connections were something of a black art.

But the latest version of the Livebox is much improved. It doesn’t have a choice of Wireless security options - it uses WEP and a fixed security code which is printed on the bottom of the unit.

My advice is:

Copy and paste the security code from the Livebox set-up page to a text file on a flash drive and then copy and paste it from the text file into your laptop when it asks for the code.
Remember to press the “pairing” button (button No.1) on the Livebox before trying to connect wirelessly. When the Livebox is in “pairing” mode the wireless light (the one at the end) on the top of the box will flash regularly.

I have known a Livebox that would connect fine to one laptop but not to another - although both laptops would connect quite happily with another wireless router.

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Switch off Sky Wireless

“I have Sky Broadband but have an aversion to having my wireless router pumping out microwaves 24/7”

I don’t think that the wireless from a Netgear router will cook anything, but for security purposes it is wise to switch off the wireless part of the router if you do not need to use it.

Open your internet browser,
Type http://192.168.0.1 into the address bar and hit enter
Logon name is admin, password is sky (unless you have changed them)
Left click on Wireless Settings and untick "Enable wireless access point"
Left click on Apply
Job done!

A similar procedure is possible on other makes and models of wireless router - the details will be different but I haven’t come across one yet that doesn’t have an option to switch off the wireless.

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Use a Modem for Sky Broadband

Sky provide a Wireless Modem Router to their broadband customers and don’t want them to use any other method to connect to their service. (This makes their online support easier.) They also don’t want you to be able to use the router that they provide with any other broadband service. So they preconfigure the router with your personal username and password to connect to only their service.

New Sky customers receive a Sagem Router but older customers will have a Netgear Router.

But if you don’t want or need to use the Sky router it might be possible to use an old broadband modem (Speedtouch and Sagem are the commonest) instead - providing that you know the username and password for your broadband connection. This used to be the same as the Sky e-mail username and password but recent customers are now not told their username and password for the broadband connection, instead they are given a username and password only for Sky e-mail and this will not work for the broadband connection.

If on your welcome letter you have a username ending in @sky.com then you can use a modem instead, but if not then you cannot because they won’t tell you the broadband username and password.

So if you know your Sky broadband username and password then read on:

The modem drivers are probably already installed if this is your old modem, but if not, install them.
Connect the modem
Set up a new internet connection using the modem and the Sky logon as follows:

    Start, (Settings), Control Panel, (Network and Internet Connections), Internet Options
    Connections, Add, Dial-up to private network, Next
    Phone number: 0 (that's zero, not letter O)
    Type a name that you want for this connection, Finish
    Enter User name and Password, (check that no boxes are ticked on this page)
    Left click Properties
    Check that it has selected the Broadband modem, if not select it,
    OK, OK,
    Check that your new connection is the default and that "Always dial my default connection" is selected,
    OK

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Which is the most reliable Broadband supplier?

In the beginning there was BT. And BT put in a lot of effort to achieve the near 100% coverage of broadband that exists today.

But BT were obliged to rent out their broadband equipment and connections to other ISPs at a rate that allowed the other ISPs to make a profit (providing that they didn’t have to spend a lot extra on customer support).

So other ISPs entered the market and undercut BT’s prices whilst using BT’s equipment.

This situation is still predominant today although other ISPs are now allowed to install their own equipment and connections to the internet within BT’s telephone exchanges.

So it is probable that, whichever broadband ISP you sign up with, you will be actually using the same BT equipment and BT connection! (The ISPs just rent
the line from BT)

Although the big ISPs are rapidly installing their own equipment it is impossible to find out which ISPs have equipment in which exchanges - the situation is changing every day. 

And if one ISP does put equipment in your local exchange they may very well rent out connections to other ISPs. There are about a dozen "large" ISPs and no way will there ever be a dozen different sets of broadband equipment in every exchange.

So surveys as to which is the most reliable ISP are a load of rubbish - no-one really knows whose equipment they are using, only who they are paying.

Now customer service is a different matter - that is purely down to the ISP that you are registered with.

The cable between your house and the telephone exchange belongs to BT and is maintained by BT. Even if you get your phone service and broadband from other suppliers, BT still own the "final mile". So if you get a fault with your phone/broadband and that fault is in the cable, then your phone or broadband supplier have to pay BT to find the fault and repair it. And if you were BT, whose customers would you look after first?

So if you are running a business and your phone/broadband connection is "mission critical" then I reluctantly have to recommend that you use BT for everything. One point of contact, one company, no-one else to blame. That's why TalkTalk have so many problems - they aren't prepared to pay BT to sort out the line faults.

Most broadband faults ARE with the local loop - just look at those wires and connections that have been corroding away up poles or down in damp holes for years and years.

Obviously the above does not apply to folk that get their phone, broadband and TV from Virgin Media (NTL/Telewest). They have nice new coaxial cable as their local loop.

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Connect an additional PC to cable broadband

There are three ways of connecting an additional PC (or PCs) to cable broadband.

1. With a Wireless Router. This is the most versatile (and expensive) way. It allows you to connect 4 PCs with network cables and over a hundred wirelessly. It is relatively easy to set up, but you may have to “spoof” the MAC address - see Setting up Cable Broadband with a Router.

2. With an Ad Hoc wireless network. You will need a wireless adaptor in every PC and they can only connect to broadband when the main PC is connected and running - see Ad Hoc (peer to peer) Wireless Networks.

3. Using an additional network adaptor and a crossover network cable. This is the cheapest and easiest way to connect one additional PC to your cable broadband. At the time of writing it is possible to buy the above two items for less than 5.00 from Ebuyer. But you will have to pay postage on top.

    Switch your PC off, open the side and install the PCI network adaptor into an empty PCI slot. Put the side back on, reconnect any cables that you may have disconnected and boot up the PC. When it looks for drivers for the new adaptor put in the CD that came with the adaptor and it should install OK.

    Open Network Connections and you should see your original Local Area Connection saying “Connected, Firewalled”, and your new Local Area Connection which should have a red cross on it and say “Network cable unplugged”.

    Left click to highlight the original “Connected” connection and then left click on “Set up a home or small office network”. Work through the Wizard, selecting “Ignore disconnected network hardware” and selecting “This computer connects directly to the internet. The other computers on my network connect to the internet through this computer”.

    When you reach the end of the Wizard (it takes a few minutes to set things up at the end) then your original connection should say that it is “Connected, Shared, Firewalled”. Now connect the crossover network cable between the new adaptor and your other computer. Within a few seconds the other computer should report that is connected and you can test its internet connection.

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Sky box kills broadband

My client wanted written professional confirmation that his ISP had failed to connect his new ADSL broadband - so he called me. Presumably he was preparing a case against them!

But I had to disappoint him. When I tested at his master phone socket, with all extensions disconnected, his broadband was there. But it went off when the extensions were reconnected.

The culprit was his Sky TV box - it was connected to a phone extension socket without a filter and even when not making a call it was stopping the broadband.

He protested that he didn’t think it needed a filter because he never used the phone connection. That’s usually true for an ordinary phone that’s not used, but the modem inside a Sky box must have some circuitry that kills broadband.

That’s why, if you complain about your broadband, the ISPs will always tell you to plug your broadband modem/router into the master phone socket with all extensions disconnected. They need to eliminate the variety of devices that you might have plugged into extensions.

(But that doesn’t explain why TalkTalk have been known to tell people to plug their PC into the master socket and leave it running 24/7 for a week whilst they “test the line”. That is just a malicious way of getting angry customers off their back for a week.)

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Broadband keeps disconnecting

My client’s PC kept disconnecting and then immediately reconnecting to broadband every few minutes.

She knew it was doing this because every time it reconnected the MSN advert box came up.

The fault was not with the broadband or with MSN - it was caused by Outlook Express.

Outlook Express had been set to check for new e-mail every 2 minutes (Tools, Options..., General, Check for new messages every XX minutes).

That’s not a problem, but it had also been set to disconnect from the internet after checking for e-mail (Tools, Options..., Connection, tick the box “Hang up after sending and receiving”

So every two minutes Outlook Express was checking for e-mail and then closing the broadband connection. MSN messenger (which wants to be permanently connected) was then reconnecting the broadband and displaying it’s annoying pop-up.

So, easy solution: open Outlook Express, left click through: Tools, Options..., Connection, and UNTICK the box “Hang up after sending and receiving”.

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Setting up a PC to use with a Router

A router is unlike most other computer peripherals - it does not come with drivers that need to be installed on the connected computers. (Unless it can be connected by USB - very unusual.) 

It is a computer in its own right and once set up it will carry on doing its job with or without any computers connected to it. (Not much point in that, but it does).

But although there are no drivers to install on your computer there are some settings on your PC that you need to check.

    1. Make sure that your computer does not try to connect with a previous dial up or broadband modem connection:
    Left click Start, then Control Panel then Network and Internet Connections then Internet Options.
    The Internet Properties box will open.
    Left click on the Connections tab.
    Select “Never dial a connection”.
    Left click OK.

    2. Make sure that your computer is not set up to use a proxy server or automatic configuration script:
    Left click Start, then Control Panel then Network and Internet Connections then Internet Options.
    The Internet Properties box will open.
    Left click on the Connections tab then on the LAN Settings... button.
    Ensure that NONE of the options are selected in this box.
    Left click OK then left click OK again.

    3. Check that your network adaptor is not set to use a fixed IP address or DNS server:
    (Note that you need to do this using an Administrator account, not a Limited User account.)
    Left click Start, then Control Panel then Network and Internet Connections then Network Connections.
    The Network Connections box will open.
    Double left click on the connection that you will be using to connect to the router (Local Area Connection or Wireless Connection).
    The Connection Status box will open.
    Left click on the Properties button, then on Internet Protocol (TCP/IP).
    Left click on the next Properties button, and select “Obtain an IP address automatically” and “Obtain DNS Server address automatically”.
    Left click OK, OK, Close.

Having checked the above, proceed to follow the manufacturers instructions to set up the router. 

Most router setup CDs do not check and change the above settings. (Hence I get frequent calls!)

You should make the above checks on every computer that you want to connect to the router - by cable or by wireless.

And although the details are different you need to check the same things on any Mac or Linux computers that you connect.

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Setting up a Vista PC to use with a Router

Comments are as the above tip, but replace the detailed instructions for checking settings with these:

    1. Make sure that your computer does not try to connect with a previous dial up or broadband modem connection:
    Left click Start, then Control Panel then Network and Internet then Internet Options.
    The Internet Properties box will open.
    Left click on the Connections tab.
    Select “Never dial a connection”.
    Left click OK and then Continue in the Windows needs your permission to continue box.

    2. Make sure that your computer is not set up to use a proxy server or automatic configuration script:
    Left click Start, then Control Panel then Network and Internet then Internet Options.
    The Internet Properties box will open.
    Left click on the Connections tab then on the LAN Settings... button.
    Ensure that NONE of the options are selected in this box. Left click OK, then OK again and then Continue in the Windows needs your permission to continue box.

    3. Check that your network adaptor is not set to use a fixed IP address or DNS server:
    Left click Start, then Control Panel then Network and Internet then Network and Sharing Center.
    The Network and Sharing Center box will open.
    Left click the View Status link at the right of the connection that you will be using to connect to the router (Local Area Connection or Wireless Connection).
    The Connection Status box will open.
    Left click on the Properties button and then on Continue in the Windows needs your permission to continue box.
    The Connection Properties box will open.
    Left click on Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) then left click on the next Properties button, and select “Obtain an IP address automatically” and “Obtain DNS Server address automatically”. Left click OK.
    Repeat for Internet Protocol Version 6 (TCP/IPv6).
    Left click Close, then Close again.

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Slow TalkTalk Broadband

MTU stands for Maximum Transmission Unit and defines the maximum size in bytes of a data packet that can be transferred over a network. If you try to send data packets that are larger than the MTU you will experience problems ranging from slow performance through to failed website loading

The MTU for ethernet and Cable broadband is 1500, but for ADSL internet connections it can vary between Internet Service Providers.

The TalkTalk broadband network has an MTU of 1432 bytes and their routers should be automatically setup to that figure.

However, if you are suffering a slow TalkTalk broadband connection TalkTalk themselves recommend that you change the MTU to 1431. This can dramatically increase speed (eg 440kb/s was increased to 6000kb/s!).

(I’m guessing, but if the MTU is 1432, and the bytes are numbered from 0 then the 1432nd byte will be number 1431........?)

For safety it is probably wise to set your router to an MTU of 1400 - then it should work with any ISP.

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