Speed up a slow home connection by checking for WiFi-guzzling apps

Speed up your home network by cutting off data-hogging apps.
hand holding a smartphone showing an internet speed test to check any home wifi congestion.
Some of your apps might be taking up way more bandwidth than they need to. Đức Trịnh / Unsplash

There are all kinds of ways to speed up your WiFi at home: You can pay for a faster broadband package, upgrade your network’s hardware, or move your router into another room.

But you can also get faster downloads and uploads on your home WiFi by identifying which apps are hogging all of your bandwidth and using them more sparingly. It’s easy to do and you can go about it on your phone, tablet, or laptop.

Checking WiFi hogging apps on Android

To find out how much bandwidth your apps are using on Android phones and tablets, open up Settings, choose Apps, and then See all. You can’t sort apps based on how much WiFi they’re using, but you’ll be able to check up on them individually. Tap on a specific program and then go to Cellular data and Wi-Fi to see how much data they’ve accessed over both types of connection.

[Related: How to boost your WiFi speed]

By default, you’ll only see the last month of usage, but at the top of the screen, you’ll be able to change the time range to see statistics from a specific moment up to four months before the current date.

Android allows a number of third-party apps to dig into data usage in more detail. One of the best we’ve come across is GlassWire Data Usage Monitor, which will alert you about tools using a lot of bandwidth, and show you charts with the source and the amount of data your apps have accessed in the last 24 hours. GlassWire is free to use, but you can pay $5 a year to see more stats from further back in time.

Prevent apps from using all your WiFi on iOS and iPadOS

It’s trickier to figure out how much WiFi your apps are using on an iPhone or iPad. You can tap Cellular Data from Settings to see which apps are the biggest data hogs when you’re not using a WiFi network. While this feature won’t show you the apps using up all your bandwidth at home, they’re likely to be the same ones eating up your data plan.

Unfortunately, third-party apps for iOS and iPadOS aren’t allowed to monitor WiFi usage for individual apps, but they can tell you about WiFi usage overall. Network Utility is a fine example, giving you a breakdown of how much data your Apple devices have downloaded over both WiFi and cellular networks since they last restarted. This monitoring is free, but you can pay a one-off $2 upgrade to remove the ads and get a variety of more advanced network diagnostic tools.

With the limitations on Apple’s phones and tablets, you’re going to need to do some detective work to identify apps using a lot of bandwidth. For example, you can cross-check overall data usage on Network Utility with your screen time stats and which took most of it (Screen Time in Settings can give you more information on this). That way, if WiFi usage shoots up for a particular day and you’ve been using a particular app a lot, for example, then you’ll know that it’s a data-hungry one.

Find the Windows apps taking up all of your bandwidth

On a Windows computer, right-click on a blank area of the taskbar and choose Task Manager, then open the Processes tab to see all of the apps currently running on your system. As well as showing the demands on the computer processor, memory, and disk, you can also see which apps are using up most bandwidth.

Switch to the App history tab to see these statistics over the last month—excessive network usage is marked with a darker shade of blue, but you can also click Network to sort the apps based on how much of your precious WiFi they’re using up.

You can get a similar set of readings from Windows Settings by choosing Network & internet, then clicking the Data usage link next to your WiFi connection. You’ll see app data usage for the last 30 days, with the biggest bandwidth hoggers at the top of the list.

Learn which macOS apps are taking up all of your WiFi

When it comes to macOS, the Activity Monitor utility will reveal everything you need to know about the network usage of specific apps. Launch it with a search in Spotlight (Cmd+Space) or from the Utilities folder in Finder. Once the app is open, go to the Network tab and you’ll see all the apps that are currently running and the amounts of data they’re sending and receiving.

The stats update in real time, which should help you to spot which programs are taking up all of your WiFi. However, it won’t show data usage for apps that aren’t currently open, and there’s no way to access any historical logs of network activity on macOS.

You’ll get more or less the same information with a third-party utility, like the $10 iStats Menu. This app sits in the menu bar and provides diagnostic information on your system, but will only show the current state of your network, so no long-term breakdown of how much internet activity particular apps are responsible for.

How to spot WiFi-hogging apps on other devices

There may well be other devices and apps connected to your WiFi network, but it’s not quite as straightforward to figure out how much of it they’re using up. Your best option is to look for any apps supplied by your router manufacturer or internet service provider, which may list bandwidth usage by device.

[Related: Boost your connection by checking your Wi-Fi strength from any device]

If you’ve got an Eero router, for example, the accompanying apps for Android and iOS give you a breakdown of which devices are connected, how much WiFi they’re currently using, and how much data they’ve downloaded in the past. It’s not an app-by-app breakdown, but it can be helpful.

If you notice your PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X is currently using up a lot of bandwidth, for example, you can check which apps or games they are running. For reference, other devices such as smart home gadgets shouldn’t be taking up much of your WiFi connection at all.