12 megabytes or 20

Found out I’m paying an extra 10 dollars per month to up my “internet speed” from 12 to 20 megabytes. I’m a total turn the faucet man when it comes to computers. Don’t know about the pipes, don’t really want to know. All I do is email, read the newspapers, look at YouTube once in a while, and look in on here. No gaming and such. My computer runs spotty as is. Sometimes fast, other times slow. Drives me crazy sometimes.

I don’t know what 12 or 20 megabytes means, other than 12 is bigger than 20. I do however know that 120 extra dollars a year is bigger than no extra dollars.

What I really want to know is: Is this extra 120 bucks a year worth it?

Think that only applies to things like shotguns.

12 or 20 megabytes isn’t a speed the same way that 12 or 20 miles isn’t a speed. I assume what they are offering you is 1.2 megabytes per second or 2.0 megabytes per second. If all you’re doing is reading your email and some news sites, I wouldn’t pay the extra $120 per year. Even at 2.0 mb/s you’re still likely going to have to pause a youtube video and let if load before you play it. But if you don’t watch them that often, it won’t be a big deal. You just start it downloading and do something else for 30 seconds.

What is your actual speed? You can test it at sites like:


To get an accurate result make sure you’re not downloading or streaming as you do it.

Then see what speed you are getting.

I get 6.0 from my DSL which in reality is about 5.1 in the test sites. But this is very good for anything I want to do.

But if you’re into gaming or want to watch streaming the bigger the better.

Also make sure your ISP doesn’t throttle or impose caps as that can effect you as well

If you mostly do email and text sites like you say, you could get by with a 56K dial-up modem. I wouldn’t pay a nickel for anything over the minimum speed of your DSL.

I think you mean 20 megabits per second. Firstly a bit is 1/8 of a byte, and as Joey P said, it’s a speed, not an amount of data. 20 megabits per second is fast. My house only gets about 7, and it’s shared among 5 people. The only reason you’d want that speed is if you download stuff (as in big stuff, like movies or programs). If not, you don’t need it and even 12 is plenty.

I’m running on 3mbps, and it’s plenty for concurrent non-HD streaming from two computers, or HD for one.

My real speed is around 5Mbps. And that is sufficient to stream a Netflix movie to the TV while three computers are attached doing browsing and the like. But if someone is doing a large download (like say a large game from Steam) it isn’t enough to stream Netflix at the same time.

So my guess is unless you are doing several bandwidth intensive things at the same time 12Mbps is more than sufficient for you.

I have been working with setting different friends, family, and a couple of nonprofit orgs with broadband over the past year…

Unless you are a heavy downloader, you will never notice the difference between 12 and 20.
As has been said by others, typical home cablemodems produce somewhere around 7, and this is quite sufficient for video Skype, watching Netflix, and other seemingly bandwidth-intensive things.

I recently went to 25/25 service (25mbs downl/25mbs up) and love it, but in my case I have teenagers who are hogging bandwidth, my wife is always watching Netflix, and I still am able to do what I want at high speed. When considering your speed, remember that most services provide asymmetric bandwidth; the download speed is sometimes several times faster than the upload speed. This shows up especially when you do video chat.

On the lower end of the spectrum, My sister-in-law uses DSL and has around 1mbs and has been getting along well with that, though her network has a distinct lack of zip.

I have an aunt who just signed up with Clear and they gave her a cool home modem that uses 4G cell phone service (if available) to give her around 6mbs down and 700kbs up.
Her service is advertised as $35/mo; there is nothing to install in the house. The device is both a modem and a wireless router; no wires at all.
The down side is that video Skype is grotty for the person she is talking to (i.e. me), because her upload speed is so low.

Stick with 12mbs if you are happy with it. If you are a light bandwidth user and want to go totally cheap, Clear seems good if it is in your area. DSL can be cheaper, but it is slow enough for you to really notice it.

Yes, shotguns. That’s what I was thinking about. And pipes.

So I tested my speed at those sites as suggested - thanks. It said my download speed was about 20 and upload about 3.5. Based on what you all have said, that’s quite a bit for download. More than I need. You guys just saved me 120 dollars! Thanks a million.

Here’s some more questions:

Does the actual speed vary with the amount of traffic out in the ether, or just the traffic on your particular modem? When I tested my speed, I did it several times one after the other and it varried between about 20 and 24. No one else is on my modem, so why the difference?

If my modem is so zippy, why does my computer not infrequently slow to a crawl or even standstill, when, say, I’m just trying to open an email or text web page? Then other times it’s so quick it gets where I’m going practically before I even know where that is. Seems to vary randomly between these two ends of the spectrum. I have suspected this might be due to some deficiency in my computer. It has 1 gb of memory (? - pipes). I’ve been told that’s not enough this day and age and should buy more. Looked into that at BestBuy. Would cost about 200 dollars to get another 1 gb installed. So I was told. Not today. But that explanation didn’t make complete sense to me either. my understanding is that more memory will allow you to do more things at once while maintaining an exceptable level of performance. Say, run more programs at once. But I only ever run one program at a time, as far as I know. Still the variation. What gives?

Not so much out in the ether, but it does depend on how fast the other computer’s connection is, and how many people are contacting it at once. For example, the SDMB would often be slow in the past because the server computer’s connection wasn’t fast enough to handle all the users. That’s why they eventually upgraded to a faster connection.

(They also had other problems with the computer itself being slow, but that’s another topic.)

all the traffic between you and the test site location affects the result. the time of day, distance, path between you and the test site all have an effect.

your computer does a lot of things which can take time. hard drive activity, video processing and security functions can all take time and sometimes take some time if it gets snagged.

I meant to cover this part, too, but I clicked submit instead of preview:

You’ve got the basic understanding down. But do realize that you can still use more than 1 gig using just one program, if the program needs that type of memory. But, from what you said, I don’t think that’s the case here.

While I know most people recommend at least 2 gigs for Windows 7, I think it unlikely that your computer would have come with Windows 7. The cost you mention for the memory is high, which implies an older computer. If you are running Windows XP, then 1 gig is plenty for webbrowsing.

Weird changes in functionality sounds more like a software problem, perhaps even malware. Are you running a good antivirus? It could also be a problem with your modem, network card, or even ISP. If you have cable Internet, the ISP might not be properly set up to keep somone else on your block from using all the bandwidth. (Cable is often set up with multiple households sharing the same line.)

For small changes, yes. But is it really common to lose 4Mbps? Those speed testing websites are usually designed to try and make the shortest trip possible. I’ve never had them vary by more than a few hundred kbps.

OK, since you all have been so helpful, saving me 120 dollars, which I really appreciate, I have another question: All the time I get these message boxes popping up and they stay up in front of everything else until I click “OK” or close them by clicking the upper right hand X, after which they go away for a random time, then pop up again without fail.

One is titled “Just-In-Time Deugging” and it says:

An exception ‘Runtime Error’ has occurred in Script.
However, no debuggers are registered that can debug this exception. Unable to JIT debug.

What does this mean? What should I do about it?

It means you suffer from Windows-itis, the terrible condition that afflicts those who try to use computers like televisions, thinking them to be simple appliances designed for the average user. They’re not. They’re machines of evil designed by antisocial engineers to punish the rest of the world for not being smart enough. Unfortunately, most PCs aren’t that foolproof, and using them for extended periods of time doing perfectly normally things usually results in them getting slower and slower and less and less stable over time as more and more malware and pointless toolbars get installed.

You could go to a computer store and either get it cleaned out, or perhaps back up your data and get the computer completely reformatted and reinstalled… or just get a Mac. An iPad would be an even better choice for simplicity’s sake.

I’d actually guess that you are still using Internet Explorer 6. It is probably also the reason why your computer randomly slows down.

If this is the case, you need to upgrade. There are now three browsers that people tend to use: Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 3.6 and Chrome (9, but it doesn’t really matter.) For your use, I’d probably recommend Chrome. It will update itself automatically, so this sort of thing won’t happen again. And it won’t uninstall IE6, so you can still use that while you are getting used to Chrome

I do concur with one thing that Reply said. If you don’t know a lot about computers, you probably need to get your computer cleaned out. There’s probably a lot of software junk, and perhaps malware. You should be able to find someone who would do this for much less than $100 you would spend on memory (which really wouldn’t fix your problem.)

I assume that, if you don’t want to spend $100 on memory, you do not want to be told to go buy a Mac or iPad. But a good computer person can make your PC be just as user friendly.

Believe me, my parents know practically nothing about computers, and they are fine with what I set up for them.

I’ve been seriously considering getting an iMac. I’ve pretty much come to the end of my tolerance with MS BS. i have a Dell Inspiron 1501 running Windows Vista and I really feel like I got swindled hard. I don’t know if an iMac would be better, but it can’t be worse.

It has gotten to the point that I can’t even look at my own photos anymore. Everytime I try, and I haven’t for sometime because I know what will happen, the thing bogs down and it takes about 30 seconds to go from pic to pic. I get frustrated really fast and this turns what should be one of life’s joys into an agonizing ordeal. And then I can’t help but think that this “technology” has actually taken me backwards, because if I’d taken my photos the old fashioned way at least I could flip through the prints. Now I can’t even see them.

Everyone I talk to just “explains” it by saying Vista sucks. Maybe I should upgrade to Windows 7, but I’m very reluctant to dump more into what really seems like a sinking ship. That’s why I don’t really want to buy more memory either. I’ve tried these anti-Malware programs and so forth, but they just seem to gum things up in their own way. For example, the MS website suggested I download microsoft Security Essentials, so I did. It fixed some problems, but now it sits there and automatically “updates” itself, which slows everything to a standstill when it happens and fills up my harddrive. I now have only a few hundred megabytes of free space. If it’s really updating things that will help me, OK. But I suspect most of the time it’s adding little do dads to programs that I never would use, like chat crap and all that.

There’s just so much about these things I don’t get, and it’s hard to find answers in plain English.

that is true. Windows can be made to work. a correct setup and avoidance of some parts that cause slow points and it can be OK. i’ve set up computers using Windows 95, 98, 2000, XP, Vista and 7 for old folks that have zero computer ability.

Vista has some issues that upgrades and setup will help.

applications that are included with Windows can be slow. images is one area for that. use Irfanview which is a fast and versatile image viewer.

Mikenboom, I get from this thread that you’re running Vista on a machine with 1 GB RAM and only a few hundreds MB of free space on your hard drive. With these specs, it’s no great wonder that your box is running slow, since Vista is known as a resource hog. It certainly would help to free up some HDD space and add at least 1 GB of RAM (if that really would cost you 200 bucks, then don’t even think about it, but I doubt that a machine that runs Vista needs some kind of ancient RAM which is that expensive, but I’m too lazy to check it). Given your self admitted computer illiteracy, it’s probable that you’ve caught some malware to boot that slows down the box even more.

If you happen to know somebody with a good grasp on computers, I’d recommend to let the PC be checked by them.