Cable Modem Tweaking Guide

Cable Modem Tweaking Guide

10:27 05 November in How-to

Ahh broadband, every gamer’s dream.. I’m sure you have seen all the ads on TV or heard them on the radio: “Cable modems are up to 100x faster than your conventional dial-up.” “It’s instant, its faster video, its richer graphics, better sound.” Blah blah blah. So you finally decided to fork over the cash (or nag your parents => ) to get a cable modem installed. The big day arrived finally ( I had a 2-month wait for the first setup I got.) And you got it all installed and BOOM!! (Hehe) you fell off your seat because of the speed. Page which seemed to take forever, took seconds, downloads were near instant, and your gaming most importantly of all was smooth and awesome. This is why all those lpb’s are so good.

But all good things must come to an end. As I’m sure lots of you have experienced, slowdowns became common. As more and more people signed up, it got slower. Your 100kb/s downloads slowly became 20 or even 10.. Pings began to soar higher and higher.. You start to thirst for something faster. You have begun to regress into your modem state again. You feel the need for speed.

What happened?

This is a question that I’m sure many ponder. Well there are many reasons, but the most common would be local traffic and Internet traffic period. Local traffic is the biggest speed cap that plagues cable modems. Cable modems work on a network/grid that connects to a T3 router running at 15 Megabits per second. Each area is a grid (a few blocks). Depending on where you live, you could have a busy grid, or a not so busy one. My grid for example, isn’t really that busy; so I get a lot of speed. But others may not get much speed at all because there are lots of people signed up in their area using up a percentage of that T3′s resources, causing it to slow down. This is the biggest fallback of cable Internet technology. The problem lies with the cable companies to upgrade their equipment to meet the needs of the consumer. There isn’t much you can do besides maybe write angry letters. =)

Then there’s Internet traffic. You can’t help that either. Your best bet if you really need the speed is to pick a time where not as many people are on. I know that’s hard because the whole world is connected, but if you use it at 12 am, you really do notice a difference.

Your computer’s performance does affect your Internet performance as well. If your computer isn’t running the best, neither will your Internet. After a format, it goes much better for me. Tweak your computer! Keep that computer clean!

What can I do

Unlike old fashioned modems, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to increase the speed of your cable connection. There are tweaks that make enough of a difference though. One of the single most important ones is tweaking the way your Cable connection sends the data/packets back and forth. You may have heard of things like MTU, RWin, TTL, MaxMSS, and more. If you have no clue what they are or what they do, I have made some short definitions:

MTU: Maximum Transmission Unit; MTU is the largest packet of data that can be sent at one time on the network. Raising it will allow to send more at once, but also can cause fragmentation of that data if the size requirement is not met.

RWIN: Receive Window; Kind of like MTU, RWIN is how large the packets coming to you should be. Once again, if it’s too large, it can cause fragmentation of the data.

TTL: Time to Live; TTL is simply how long the server will wait for a packet to be transmitted before it kills it.

MSS: Max segment guide; This is the largest size of a TCP send that Winsock will accept. This is set automatically though, so don’t fret this.

If you are new to this whole thing, there are a plethora of great programs out there that will automatically set the best values for your connection. There are also a bunch of great ‘patches’ created by which will do the same thing. For starting I would suggest either a program or patch, it doesn’t really matter since they both do just about the same thing. Some of the most popular programs are:

Intelli Dial-Up
Smartalec Smartplay
(Thanks Tweakfiles!)

But if a fancy program doesn’t float your boat, there are the alternative speedguide patches which come in Windows 95, 98 and 2000 flavors. If you are using windows 98, use the file. You can get them here.

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