Improve your Internet connection speed by adjusting your MTU

Way back when the majority of people used 56K modems to access the Internet and I was writing my book on system performance, a favorite computer enthusiast’s tweak was the MTU.

Don’t make the mistake I made though, and assume MTU adjustments are just for people with modems. They aren’t. I just adjusted the MTU on two of my Windows boxes and the speed improvement was dramatic.
I’ve had to adjust the MTU on my Web server to deal with a weird connectivity issue some people were having, but it never occurred to me that my workstations would benefit from a similar adjustment.

Figuring out the optimal MTU and then digging out the place to make the change can be a difficult process. It’s much faster and easier to use a utility that does the job for you. Visit TinyApps, one of my all-time favorite web sites, and scroll down to “Other Network Tools.” There you’ll find TCP Optimizer. It’s a 400K download so it’ll go pretty fast. You’ll be able to download it and run it much faster than you’d be able to read about the process.

I like this tool because it’s small and you can just download and run it, without installing it or anything. When you’re done with it, you can keep it in case you think you might ever need it again, or you can just delete it and not have any leftover mung clogging up your PC.

The default settings for Windows assume an Ethernet connection, but they don’t take any overhead into account. If you have DSL and your ISP uses PPPoE authentication (which most do), that takes overhead. If you’re using a router to firewall your network and share your cable or DSL connection between multiple PCs (which you should do), that takes overhead.

That’s what makes a tool like this nice. It eliminates the trial and error. You run it, make the changes it says, and then you have a faster Internet connection. And it’s one more thing you can do when you think you need a faster computer. In this case, having the faster computer probably wouldn’t have made much difference at all.

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