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Broadband speed calculator: estimate a download time

a whimsical illustration of a person in a bright purple top looking distressed over a slow loading bar on a laptop

Trying to work out a game download time? Or are you considering a broadband upgrade and want to see how much faster your internet speed could be compared to what you’re currently getting?

In this guide, you can use a download time calculator to get an estimate of how long a transfer will take. You can also learn more about downloading, uploading and improving your Wi-Fi speed for a faster download time.

Broadband speed calculator and download time estimate in Mbps

Enter the speed of your broadband connection and an example file size using the calculator below to find out the amount of time a download will take.

Make sure you enter the size of the file in bytes, then the speed of your broadband connection in bits (this will likely be megabits, so you'll need to choose 'Mbit per second'). The time will be automatically calculated as you enter these, and you can click the drop-down menu to switch between seconds, minutes, or hours.

Download Time Calculator

If you're unsure of your current broadband connection speed, you can use our free speed test.

You can also enter a time and file size to estimate the speed of a broadband connection or a time and speed to get the size of a file.

How does a download time calculator work?

The equation for calculating download time is:

  • File Size in bytes / (Download Speed in bits / 8) = Time

For example:

  • 50MB / (10Mb/8) = 40 seconds

If this confuses you, then don’t worry. It’s much simpler to use the download time calculator above, especially when you get into the hundreds or thousands of megabytes.

What's the difference between bits and bytes?

Bits and bytes are both units of data, but they’re used in different ways for broadband.

Data transfer speed is measured in 'bps' (bits per second).

Most broadband speeds will be shown as megabits per second (Mbps, Mb/s, or Mb), though kilobits (Kbps, Kb/s, Kbit or Kb) and gigabits (Gbps, Gb/s, Gbit or Gb) are also pretty common. Whether a provider uses 'bps', 'b/s', 'b' or 'bit' doesn’t matter; they all essentially mean the same thing.

Bytes are used to indicate the amount of data or capacity, like the size of a file or a hard drive's storage space.

There are 8 bits to every byte. So, a 1 megabit internet connection can transfer 1 megabyte every 8 seconds.

Upper and lower case is used to differentiate between them; small b for bits (Kb, Mb, Gb), big B for bytes (KB, MB, GB).

If you want to find out more, you can read our separate guide to bits and bytes.

How to make games download faster

The fastest type of internet that's readily available as a home broadband option is 'ultrafast broadband'. This is a form of fibre that’s supposed to cover connections of 300Mb+, but is sometimes used to refer to speeds of 100Mb+. You can get ultrafast through Virgin Media and other internet service providers (ISPs) that offer full fibre broadband.

Here are some of the top ultrafast broadband deals on offer at the moment. Take a note of the speed.

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What broadband download speed do I need?

Your broadband speed needs will depend on what you plan to do when you're online, and how many people share your home network connection.

Frequent large file downloads or uploads are much easier with fast internet. Being signed up to a faster broadband package can have a big effect on your estimated download time.

Even a cheap entry-level fibre deal will significantly reduce download times compared to a basic package.

Video streaming will also benefit from faster broadband speeds. A speedier connection will let you stream in high-quality HD. Without it, you may find viewing is often interrupted.

Think about how many people will be sharing the connection. Every device you add will reduce the available bandwidth and cause things to slow down.

A broadband connection with an average speed of 10Mb can struggle to cope even with fairly light usage if more than one person is online at a time.

Fibre internet is essential for shared or family homes. As a rough guide, make sure you have 10Mb per person, plus another 10Mb for every person who’ll be either downloading or streaming.

We recommend a minimum of 35Mb fibre optic broadband for everyone, even if you’re the only person using the internet. With this speed, you can easily stream HD video and download files in a reasonable time. And there are plenty of cheap fibre deals available.

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What's the best download speed for gaming?

The best download speed for gaming is 300Mb+. Though you don’t need speeds that high just to play games, it’s definitely helpful for downloading games and if you’re going to be hosting or broadcasting games on Twitch.

Ultrafast broadband will mean that you’ll be able to game whilst other people in your house browse the internet or stream on their own devices.

Seeing as gaming now requires so much downloading, even if you have a physical disc, it's likely you'll still be required to download updates.

If you need more information on what broadband you should be after as a gamer, you can check out our gaming broadband guide.

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Can I use a download calculator to check my upload time speed?

Calculating the time of an upload is the same as working out a download time, except you’ll most likely have to change the speed.

Most broadband services have a slower upload speed in favour of quicker downloads, as more people are likely to be downloading than uploading. This is known as asymmetrical broadband. Some broadband is symmetrical, which means it has the same download and upload speed, but this is rarer.

You can use our broadband speed test to find out your current upload speed.

Why are my downloads and uploads taking longer than calculated?

The calculator shows the time it will take to transfer files at any given speed. But this isn’t necessarily going to be consistent. Speeds can fluctuate even during a transfer, and the performance of your broadband will change throughout the day depending on network traffic.

The speed can also be restricted by the connection of the server sending or receiving data. If a server is busy, you’ll find that speeds are reduced as a result. Even if your broadband connection appears to be working normally.

How to get faster download speeds

If your downloads are slower than expected, here are a few things you can do to improve the speed.

  • Switch off other devices and software on your Wi-Fi
    Other devices sharing your broadband may be impacting the speed by reducing the available bandwidth. If you switch off anything you don’t need, you’ll free up more bandwidth.
  • Download from a different server
    Occasionally, a slow download is caused by the server sending you the file rather than your broadband connection. So try getting the file from another site. If possible, choose a server close to your location, as this can be quicker.
  • Save big downloads for off-peak hours
    Broadband networks can slow down during peak hours, typically 8am to midnight. Wait until late at night or early in the morning, and you might find the transfer is completed much sooner.
  • Use a wired network connection
    Wired networks can be faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi. If you're having problems, connect your devices directly to the broadband router with wired, Ethernet cable if you need faster speeds. We especially recommend this to gamers.

Boost your Wi-Fi signal
If a network cable isn’t an option, there are ways you can improve Wi-Fi signal strength to get better speeds. Wi-Fi extenders are a cheap way to boost the signal in areas of your home where the network is weak. You should also ensure that the Wi-Fi router is in a central location in your home. Make sure it isn’t close to any walls or appliances, as they may block the signal, especially fridges, microwaves, or cordless phones.

For more help with this, read our guides:

  • 'Where's the best place to put a Wi-Fi router?'
  • 'How to use a router as a Wi-Fi extender'
  • Reboot the Wi-Fi router
    If your broadband is unusually slow, and you’ve eliminated other causes, try switching it off and on. Often, restarting your router to reconnect it to the network will improve broadband performance. This will disconnect every device on your Wi-Fi network while it reboots, so check with everyone in your home first.
  • Upgrade your broadband
    If there's no way to improve your current broadband service, it may be time to consider upgrading to a faster package.

Here are a few of the best deals going at the moment.

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These are just a few of the offers available. Enter your address into the Broadband Genie deals checker, or the box below, to see what else you could get in your area:

Broadband Genie deals checker

Expert Summary

Our download speed calculator is a useful tool for many reasons. Whether you think your internet speed has dropped, you want to complain to your provider about speed, or you just want to know how long it’ll take to download something particular.

If you're struggling with poor Wi-Fi speed, try resetting your router and turning off other devices that might be using it. If that doesn’t help, then you can complain to your provider, provided the speeds are lower than you were told when you signed up.

For those of you who wish to switch after testing your download speed, we recommend you go with fibre broadband. For the fastest speeds, you can get ultrafast broadband. But even going for a package that's slightly faster than you currently have could make the world of difference – you don't always have to go for an expensive deal.

Meet the author:


Matt has been working with Broadband Genie since 2009. A lifelong tech enthusiast, he has 20 years of experience writing about technology for print and online.

Specialist subject: The technicalities of broadband

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