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Do you have a full house that is working, playing, streaming and watching the news at the same time? If you are experiencing delays, the problem may be with you. Before you call your ISP, try these easy router troubleshooting solutions to get back online.
Maintaining a good internet connection is more important than ever with the rise of smart home devices, online gaming platforms, and video streaming services. If you’re having trouble downloading music or experiencing latency while playing League of Legends, it’s likely that the problem is with you and not your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Please review our troubleshooting techniques for your Internet connection before calling your cable company for a service call.
How to do it
Try another device or website
Start with the obvious: does the problem only occur on one device or on all of your devices? If your computer is having trouble, see if your tablet or someone else’s laptop can connect to the Internet. If the issue only occurs on one device, you can safely narrow the issue down to that particular machine.
If a specific website doesn’t load, try another site. If you can visit other websites without problems, the problem is probably with the website you are trying to visit, and you will have to wait for them to fix things on their end. Try typing the website address at downforeveryoneorjustme.com or downdetector.com to see if there is a known outage.
If there is no known outage, it could be a problem with your browser’s cache. You may want to try visiting the site in a private browsing window or from a different browser to see if that fixes the connection issue. And clear your browser’s cache and cookies.
Check Wi-Fi settings
Check the Wi-Fi signal icon in the lower right corner of Windows and the upper right corner of macOS. Click the icon and make sure you are connected to the correct SSID with the correct password. If not, you may be connecting to the wrong network by default. Windows users can change the priority of the connection or right-click on a network and select To forget. On a Mac, open System Preferences > Network > Advanced and uncheck unwanted networks in the Auto-Join column.
If you’re connected to the correct network and still have a problem, Windows can help you diagnose the problem. Right-click on the network icon in the system tray and select Solve problems to run the Windows network diagnostic routine. This can sometimes correct common problems by resetting the adapter.
You can also check your network adapter settings at Network and shared resources in Control Panel to make sure the adapter is using the correct gateway address and other settings.
Check your internet package
If your internet is working, but slower than expected, go to a site like Speedtest.net and run a speed test. You will get a number in megabits per second that indicates the speed your computer is actually experiencing. From there, go to your ISP’s website and check your bill.
If the number on your bill is the same as your speed test, then you’re getting the correct speeds you pay for. If that feels too slow, you’ll need to upgrade to something faster. If your speed test is significantly slower than the speed you pay for, then you really have problems and should continue troubleshooting.
Scan for viruses
Sometimes your Internet connection can be affected by malicious code on your computer. Scan for spyware, viruses, and malware, all of which can have a significant impact on web browsing speed and overall system performance. Windows comes with Windows Defender built-in, which can get the job done very well, but there are plenty of free and paid utilities available as well.
Bypass your DNS server
When you enter a website into your browser, your computer looks up the IP address of that website using a domain name system (DNS) server. Occasionally these servers can have problems, making it difficult to visit websites using their friendly domain names (such as PCMag.com). It’s like having a working phone without a contact list: you technically have the ability to call people, but you don’t know anyone’s number.
Try bypassing your DNS server by typing an IP address into your browser, such as 188.8.131.52 (which is one of Google’s IP addresses). If the page loads successfully, you’ll need to change your DNS server, or perhaps flush your DNS cache to fix your issues.
Decode flashing lights
If you can’t connect to the Internet at all, take a look at your modem and router. Both should have some LED status indicators; If neither is on, the modem or router is probably unplugged or turned off. Unplug the power cord, if you have a modem and a router, unplug both, then plug the modem back in after a minute or two.
Make sure the power switch is in the on position, if there is one. Once your lights are on, plug in your router (if applicable) and wait for it to boot up as well. If you still don’t see the lights after plugging them in, you may have a faulty power adapter, faulty power strip, or faulty router.
If some of the lights are on, but others are not, or are flashing repeatedly, you’ll want to take a closer look at what they’re telling you. For example, if the lights on your modem are blinking instead of solid, you may not be able to find an Internet connection, which will require a new modem (or a call to your ISP).
If your router’s network light is on but the Wi-Fi lights are not, you may need to press the Wi-Fi button on the side or re-enable Wi-Fi from your settings menu. Check your modem and/or router documentation to diagnose what these lights are telling you.
Who else is using the internet
Everything may be working fine, but a program on your PC, or someone else in the house, is using all your bandwidth. In Windows, open Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc and click on the Net column to sort by network usage. On a Mac, press Command + Space to open Spotlight, type “Activity Monitor” and go to Activity Monitor Net tab.
If a certain application is using a lot of bandwidth, such as downloading a large file, you may just need to wait until the process is finished or cancel it to get your internet back up and running. If you don’t see any obvious culprits, see if anyone else in the house is downloading a large file to your machine and tell them to finish. If someone is using a game streaming service, don’t let it hog all of your network bandwidth.
There is also the possibility of a neighbor stealing your Wi-Fi. We have instructions on how to see who is on your network and how to get started.
Get a better signal
If you are using Wi-Fi, there are many issues that can slow down your connection. Try connecting your computer directly to the router with an Ethernet cable. If that solves the problem, then your Wi-Fi signal is poor enough to degrade your internet speed. Check the Wi-Fi icon on your computer: how many bars do you have?
If you have few bars, you may need to move your router to a more central location in your house or purchase a Wi-Fi extender. (If you already have a Wi-Fi extender, it may be of poor quality; a mesh system will probably work better.)
If you have full bars but there are many Wi-Fi networks in your building, it may be too congested, and changing the channel or using the 5GHz band may help resolve the issue. Check out our guide to boosting your Wi-Fi signal for more tricks to improve reception.
Update your firmware
Firmware is the low-level, embedded software that runs your modem, router, and other networking hardware. Most vendors offer downloadable firmware updates that can resolve performance issues, add new features, and increase speeds. Look for the firmware update tool in the System section of your router’s settings and follow the instructions carefully to ensure you are installing the correct firmware version. Do not download the firmware from a third party site.
Wipe your setup clean
If restarting your router doesn’t work, it’s possible that a certain setting is causing your problem. Try resetting your router to its factory default settings. For most routers, this involves pressing a very small reset button on the back panel and holding it down for several seconds until the LEDs begin to flash. Once rebooted, you can login to the web interface and configure it from scratch. Just be careful not to enable the same setting that caused the problem in the first place.
Upgrade to a faster router
If you’re using an older 802.11b or 802.11g router, you may want to consider upgrading to a newer, more powerful one, especially if you have multiple computers, smartphones, and other devices competing for bandwidth. A dual-band router gives you two radio bands to choose from and allows you to dedicate one band to clients that require a lot of bandwidth, such as video streaming devices and game consoles.
Plus, newer routers employ the latest technologies to deliver fast performance, with improved Wi-Fi range. The latest router standard is 802.11ax, also known as Wi-Fi 6, and its improved version Wi-Fi 6E. Check out our list of the best wireless routers when you’re ready to take the plunge.
head to the source
If troubleshooting your modem and router doesn’t help, the problem may come from later. Inspect the connection that comes to your house. This is usually located on the side of your house and may or may not be housed in an enclosure. Make sure the main cable hasn’t been chewed up by squirrels or knocked loose in a storm. If you see a cable splitter, make sure each connection is tight and the connectors are properly crimped. If the splitter looks suspicious (ie rusty or dirty), try replacing it. Cheap splitters can also degrade signal strength, so if you don’t need to split the signal, try getting rid of it altogether.
Last Resort: Call Your ISP
If you’ve tried everything and are still having trouble connecting to the Internet, it’s time to call your service provider. The problem could be on your end and may require a new connection on the pole entering your house or new equipment such as a better modem or amplifier.
If you’re experiencing slowdowns at certain times of the day (think after school hours), it’s possible that your ISP simply can’t handle the increased user load, in which case you may want to find a new service provider.
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