Having your internet access stop working can be frustrating — but if it happens to you, there’s a good chance that you’ve simply experienced a minor glitch in your router that can be easily fixed. Here are five easy things you can do yourself before picking up the phone and calling for help.
The first step: Power-cycle your router. “Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?” has practically become a tech-support cliché. But there’s a reason this is the first thing you should try if your router has stopped working: after extended operation, your router really can develop minor problems that are easily solved by restarting the device. Just unplug the power cable, wait 10 seconds — this is because the capacitors in an electronic device can carry a residual charge that keeps it powered for a few seconds even after you unplug it — and then plug the cable back in again. Wait for the router’s indicator lights to come back on, then try connecting again.
If that doesn’t work: Check all your cables. A coaxial cable that isn’t screwed in all the way can easily work itself loose. Or someone might have accidentally pulled on a cable or bumped the router while vacuuming, causing a cable to come unplugged. Check anyplace there’s a connection: not just the spot where the cable plugs into your router itself, but any other place where a plug could have gotten disturbed, like a wall jack or a signal splitter.
Make sure it’s not overheating. Electronic devices can overheat, causing damage. Place your hand on the router and see if it’s hot. If it is, the air vents that keep its components cool might be blocked. A router that has overheated may be permanently damaged and need to be replaced, but first, try positioning it in the open where air can easily flow through its vents and see if that makes it perform better.
Plug your computer directly into your Internet source. Whether it’s a modem or a wall jack, connect it directly to your computer using an Ethernet cable. If you still can’t connect, you probably have a problem with your Internet connection; if you can, the problem is with your router.
If your Wifi signal is spotty, try repositioning the router. Your router can be working perfectly, but you still won’t get a good wireless signal if it’s positioned wrong. Your router should be out in the open (not tucked in a cabinet or a closet). If you want to be able to connect from anywhere in your house, it should be as centrally located as possible. And if it has an external antenna, make sure it’s extended and pointing up. (See our previous blog post, Eight Ways to Speed Up your Wifi at Home, for tips on improving your wireless network.)