Many people use sites like SpeedTest to check the download rate of their Internet connection but lots of these sites demand the Flash plugin – and you really should uninstall that for security reasons nowadays. While this situation is slowly changing (SpeedTest offers a non-Flash beta of its service, for example), the fact is you can speed test directly from your Mac without any need for a website or app.
The trick is to use the curl command, which is used to download files at the command line. Therefore, first you’ll need to open the Terminal window, which you’ll find in the Utilities folder of the Applications list within Finder.
You’ll also need a file to download, and ideally one located on a server that’s fast. Luckily the superb ThinkBroadband website offers a handful of demo files you can download solely for speed-testing purposes.
For example, the following single-line command will download a 200MB test file – copy and paste it into the Terminal window as one line:
curl -o /dev/null http://download.thinkbroadband.com/200MB.zip
Look at two headings in particular in the output. For your average download speed, look at the Average Dload heading. To see the peak download speed, which is to say the speed at which your Net connection maxes out, look for the highest value under the Current Speed heading. This will constantly change based on Internet congestion, your local hardware, and the server load.
Note that although the command downloads a file, it’s immediately deleted – it’s sent to /dev/null, which is like a black hole in your system down which data vanishes.
You haven’t got to download the whole file for the test and can quit when you’re satisfied by pressing Ctrl+C (that’s CTRL and not CMD!).
Don’t forget that for best results you should use a wired (Ethernet) connection to your router, to remove any potential slowdowns introduced by Wi-Fi.