Slow internet and the culprit – Entourage

Brief summary – entourage slowed down my internet and I could not find a post about this anywhere online.  I hope this helps.  If you don’t want to read the story, scroll to the bottom.

Over the past week, for a reason unbeknownst to me, my internet slowed to a crawl.  By slowed to a crawl, I meant that speedtest.net was showing 999 ping and approximately 200kbps up and 20kbps down — i.e. my Internet was nearly unusable.

I should note that this occurred just after I lectured my parents on the slowly dying need for any specific OS such as Windows Vista or Mac OSX.  I told them that the OS of the future was a web browser and all one would need was access to the an internet connection.  Then my internet…broke.

My first reaction — blame Comcast (my internet provider).  I recently moved and the place where I was using internet has notoriously terrible service.  At my old place, my internet (also from Comcast) was extremely fast and worked without major issues.  My new place — terrible.  I called Comcast cust support and the rep did a few checks and said that I was achieiving 75% data packet loss.  He sounded impressed and admitted that this was “unacceptable.”  I couldn’t agree more.  A technician is on the way.

I now realize that my knee-jerk “blame it on comcast” reaction might have been just that — knee jerk.  I am now at my parent’s place for the holidays.  I started up my computer here and after about 30 seconds, the internet speed dropped from acceptable but not great 1.5Mbps speeds  with 299 ping to 999 ping and the same slow speeds I had at home.  My parent’s confirmed that their internet usually worked well and this new “speed” was not common.

Could my computer somehow be corrupting an internet connection?  Personally, I have never heard of such a thing occurring.  Unless a person was using ungodly amounts of down and upstream data, they should never experience dramatic drops in speed. However, I was experiencing just that epidemic and my computer was clearly somehow at fault (the moment I shut down my computer was the same moment that my parent’s internet sped right back up).   Whoa…stop the presses.  What was going on?

I did a few searches and decided that I had one of three problems: 1. major spyware, 2. my computer was part of a botnet, 3. my computer was doing something that it should not.  Since I have a Mac and keep everything password protected, I felt fairly confident that number 1 was not too realistic.    I dont know much about #2  but thought that it could be possible (although the Mac thing made me wary).  #3 was the most likely.

Unfortunately, I consider myself fairly tech savvy.  I keep my computer clean.  I maintain it (and everyone else’s computers & technological gadgets).  What could be the culprit?

Like any sleuth, I set out to find the problem.  I ran Applejack to clean up everything (caches, etc).  I went through every process in the activity monitor to make sure I knew what it did.  Unfortunately, the problem persisted.

Next step, trial and error with my programs.  Which two do I use most often?  1. Firefox, 2. Entourage.  They usually run all the time, at the same time.  I turned on FF.  Speed was good.  I turned off FF and turned on Entourage.  Speed dropped — FAST.

Success [sort of] — problem identified.  Somehow and for some reason, Entourage was slow my internet to a snail’s pace.  My internet was slow.

Fix — my Entourage has two email accounts — 1. gmail, 2. hotmail.  Gmail was storing thousands of my messages on my hard drive.  I liked my set up even though it took up a lot of disk space.  I was also desperate to fix the problem.  I didnt need those messages on my hard drive.  I did need fast (i.e. usable) internet.

For those who have yet to do this — IN ENTOURAGE, LOCK YOUR SETTINGS TO SAVE ALL THE EMAILS IN THE GMAIL FOLDERS AND NOT LOCALLY.  To do this, go to entourage, account settings, choose gmail, go to the advanced tab, for all of the special folders, choose the [Gmail] folder.  Do the same for the deleted items folder.

My internet is now fast[er] and usable.  My hard drive has a lot more space.  Problem, thankfully, solved.

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