Wireless networking speeds?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by kat.hayes, Aug 15, 2017.

  1. kat.hayes macrumors 6502a

    Oct 10, 2011
    I'd like to be able to wirelessly transfer large folders of photos/videos from my MBP to my iMac quickly. I'm currently transferring a 4.23GB folder and it is taking 30 minutes. I pay for 100MBPs cable internet and I am using an Airport Extreme AC.

    1. What determines networking speeds?
    2. Is there anything I can do to improve the speeds?
    3. Does distance from the Extreme to my Macs make any difference when transferring between Macs?

  2. jlseattle macrumors 6502


    Jan 9, 2007
    Seattle WA
    Ok, multiple factors impact speed:

    1. The speed of the internet you are paying for has nothing to do with it if you are transferring files directly from one computer to another.
    2. If you are using drop box or icloud than the internet speed may impact your downloads and uploads.
    3. The speed of your wireless router will affect how fast files transfer.
    4. The speed of the processors in each machine will impact speed.
    5. The speed of the hard drives will impact speed.
    6. The amount of RAM (where the files are put temporarily as they are saved to the hard drive) will impact the speed.
    What I would do:

    1. Connect the computers directly to each other via a cable
    2. Put one in target disk mode (so you can see it's hard drive) and copy the files from one computer to another.
    Instructions on target disk mode:

  3. kat.hayes thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 10, 2011
    Does using Airdrop and wireless networking result in the same speed? Is one faster vs. the other?

  4. jlseattle macrumors 6502


    Jan 9, 2007
    Seattle WA
    I don't know. Negligible since they are doing the same thing. If you want to get the optimum speed connection you need to do target disk mode via a cable.
  5. techwarrior macrumors 6502a


    Jul 30, 2009
    Wi-Fi speeds are influenced by a number of factors. 2.4GHz bands are more likely to suffer contention from neighbors and things like Microwave ovens, wireless phones, even bluetooth and 2.4Ghz wireless mouse and keyboard. USB3 also tends to interfere with 2.4Ghz signals.

    Your cable internet speed only impacts speeds for content transferred over the internet (a Mac at work and at home), but has no impact on two local Macs.

    You can improve speeds typically by using the 5Ghz bands instead of 2.4. If your WiFi SSID is the same for both bands, try using a different SSID for 5Ghz (i.e. NETWORK vs NETWORK5G) and then "forget the 2.4Ghz WiFi SSID on both Macs. But, 5Ghz suffers from distance envy compared to 2.4, so keep the two Macs relatively close to the AC router when doing large xfers. If both bands use the same SSID, you can't really control which frequency the Mac will use, it will try to use the "best" signal, but often that is 2.4 due to the longer distance it covers.

    2.4 can transfer at up to 450Mbps, generally more like 150Mbps. 5Ghz can transfer at up to 1.3Gbps, typically 800Mbps.

    Since 5Ghz has shorter range, the distance from the router will impact speeds. But, being too close can also cause issues. Same room, 5-10 feet from the router is probably the sweet spot. Also, make sure the router is not too close to other electronic devices that can interfere.

    If you have a good USB3 drive, you can always copy to that, then from it to the other Mac and the speeds will tend to be much faster than WiFi.

    Or, if you have spare 1Gbps Ethernet ports, you can connect both Macs to Ethernet and do the copy. Ethernet is generally less likely to fluctuate in speeds. If you go Ethernet route, turn WiFi off or set the service priority to Ethernet before WiFi in Mac Network Settings. To do this, click the Gear Icon below your list of Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth PAN, Thunderbolt Bridge, etc. Then, select "Set Service Order" and drag Ethernet above Wi-Fi in the list.
  6. Flynnstone macrumors 65816


    Feb 25, 2003
    Cold beer land
    What tech warrior says but "typically" to "if you're lucky" for Wifi speeds.

    A Link speed or reported speed is not throughput rate. A 1300mbps link rate doesn't mean you up to 1300 mbps throughput rate. Think about 1/2 for the throughput rate, if you're lucky.

    Use a program like Wifi Explorer to see how much "congestion" that your computers "see".
    If you live on a farm with nothing in site then the Wifi should fairly clear. If you live in an apartment complex, there could be huge amounts of "Wifi interference".
    Also, if your network uses the same channels as a neighbor, contention will be an issue.
    Also on the Mac , Wifi Explore can't see all inference. If the BSSID is not transmitted , it can't see those.
    It can't see Bluetooth devices, wireless phones etc.

    For consistent high speed, use a cable.
  7. kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    I've used Air Drop to transfer a 5GB file, albeit in a corporate network with 802.11ac. It was awhile ago, but took perhaps 5-10 minutes. This was between two late model MBPs, with SSDs. In my 2009 MP, I measured the internal disk speed (disk to disk over the internal SATA bus, with 7200RPM 1TB drives) at a sustained 3GB/min. As stated above, there are lots of variables. But 30 min for 4+ GB's seems pretty slow to me.
    How far are each of the devices from the router, and are there big objects (refrigerator/furnace/concrete walls) in the way? Wi-fi signal optimization can be an art ...
  8. imaccooper macrumors regular


    May 29, 2014
    North Carolina
    1. A lot of things will contribute but we can sum it up quickly if I make a few assumptions about your conditions. Your ISP is sending x amount of speed to a local transmitter (typically within a mile or 2 of your location). Everyone within that radius is feeding off of that transmitter. If you try to connect at 3 am when no one else is on that network, you are likely to get 75-100% of your paid speed (all other factors not withstanding). If you are connecting in the evening at 7pm when half of the neighborhood is streaming Netflix, you are likely not getting that 100mb you are paying for. I just picked random times, but hopefully you get the idea that your neighbors that have the same service as you affect your speeds.

    Other things that contribute to speed some of which have been mentioned, distance from router (covered in number 3) wirelesss interference, devices you are using and other less consequential stuff. As far as wireless interference, wifi uses different frequencies and channels to broadcast signal. You can use the built in wifi analyser on your Mac to determine the best channel (read least congested channel) for your location. Side note: this will change over time as new neighbors come in with new wireless signals so rescanning every so often is a good idea. The other factor could be the devices you are using. If they are a few years old then they likely do not have AC wifi so even though your router is broadcasting AC all you are using is N. A related point, if any device on your network is old then your whole network will slow down to the speed of that device to make it compatible. You can circumvent this by using two different ssids and put the older devices on 2.4 and then reserve your 5ghz channel for ac devices only.

    Some other things that will effect your speed and could be corrected by moving the router location or the offending item. Phone signal close to your wifi, cell phone or cordless landline . Microwaves (yes they really do especially the 2.4ghz channel). Bluetooth close to the router. Wireless signals of any kind (smart light switches/bulbs, sound bars, etc.).

    2. The things above will be big gains for wifi performance. If you are more interested in getting files transferred quickly then here are a couple suggestions. Using airdrop on a relatively fast local network will be superior to sending files to the cloud and then bringing them back. Your upload speed is probably 5-10 mb at best so there is a lot of slow down there. AirDrop will work over local network so it will eliminate the upload time.

    May not be feasible or of interest to you but You could put all of this information in a cloud storage client (Dropbox, iCloud, onedrive, etc). It won't help for this time but if your files are already in the cloud then you can look at them on both devices at all times.

    Ultimately, the other posters are correct, a cable solution will be superior for large file transfer given these conditions. USB cable between the device, external USB 3 drive or thunderbolt will all be good. If you have a cat 5e cable or better and literally plug device to device, then you should theoretically get 1gbs transfer (it won't go that fast but it will be good speed).

    3. Yes. Your router is likely putting out two channels a 2.4 ghz and a 5 ghz. 5 is superior in speed and quality, but it lacks in coverage and penetration. If you are more than one wall or maybe 30-40 ft away from your router, you will start to notice your signal getting worse. That is not to say you need to switch at that range, but you will start to notice it there if you check speeds. My main suggestion here is to be close by your router on the 5ghz channel to maximize wireless speed. Obviously this does not matter if you choose a wired solution, but if you choose wireless then it will help your performance.

    There is a lot of things here so I hope at least a few of these things will give you some ideas on improving your speed in general and also help with your file transfers.

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