We tend to only care about broadband Internet troubleshooting when there’s no connection. But of course! There’s no need to do anything when all is well.
The problem is you can’t Google how to troubleshoot the Internet connection when you, well, have no Internet. So it’s a good thing you’re reading this now when you’re still connected.
Before continuing, make sure you understand that Wi-Fi and Internet are two different things.
Aso, this post focuses mostly on the Internet connection. If you want to troubleshoot your Wi-Fi connections, check out this post on Wi-Fi dropping and connection issues instead.
Dong’s note: I first published this post on Jan 18, 2019, and updated it on April 13, 2021, to add more relevant information.
Broadband Internet Troubleshooting: Four simple steps
Every network is different. Most importantly, you need to know if yours consists of a set of a modem + a router, or a gateway. To find out which is which, you can consult this post on home networking hardware.
But with all of them, you can apply these steps when you don’t have a Wi-Fi connection or have no Internet access. Often, the issue is minor and requires as little as a restart of the router or modem.
1. Take care of the basics
These are basic things you should do first before anything else.
Try a different website or service
If you can’t go to a particular website, try a few different ones to see if they work.
Sometimes, the specific site, or service, you want to use is down, which has nothing to do with your home network or the Internet. Let’s say Netflix is not available, but you can still stream from YouTube. Well, you have to wait it out or call the service provider to find out more.
Your device’s Wi-Fi is turned on
Make sure you haven’t accidentally turned off the Wi-Fi on the device. This tends to happen with laptops where you can turn the Airplane mode on by accident. Then give the device a restart.
This applies to your media streamer, IoT devices, too. Basically, plug them in and turn them on. That helps.
Which Wi-Fi network you’re using?
That’s right. Ensure your device connects to the correct Wi-Fi network (and not one of your neighbors, for example.)
Connecting to a wrong Wi-Fi network will cause local tasks, like printing or file sharing, to fail. That’s not to mention, well, you’ll be troubleshooting something that’s not necessarily broken.
Check the cables
Indeed. Check to make sure all the cables and wires are plugged in properly and intact — not cut, broken, or chewed up by pets.
All hardware devices (router, modem, gateway, switches, etc.) must be plugged into power and turned on. At the very least, you should see some lights coming out of them.
2. Figure out where the issue is
When all the cables are in good shape, now it’s time to find out where the problem is.
- Can you connect to your Wi-Fi network? If you can’t, or your network is unavailable — you don’t see the Wi-Fi name on your phone — then the issue is the router.
- If you can connect to your Wi-Fi network — your computer or phone indicated that there’s a Wi-Fi connection — but you cannot access the Internet to check email or Facebook — then the issue is likely at the modem.
In any case, you can always start with the modem.
3. Broadband Internet Troubleshooting: What to check on the modem (or any terminal device)
Your terminal device — that is, the modem or gateway if you’re using cable Internet or an ONT if you use a certain fiber-optic connection — is literally your connection to the Internet. It needs to be in good shape.
No matter what device you use, it always has a broadband status light. This light tends to have a shape or a label that suggests that it has something to do with the Internet. Often it resembles a little globe or the letter E.
But here is what you can do at the modem.
- Give the modem a restart, then wait a few minutes for it to boot up fully. Often that fixes the problem. (If the modem is hard to reach, you can do this via its web interface. Almost all modems use the 192.168.100.1 default IP address.)
- Check the broadband status light. It needs to be solid (green, blue, or white). If it’s off, red, or flashing erratically, then make sure the service cable is intact and securely attached to the device.
If that doesn’t fix the issue, check to ensure there’s no outage in the area. If nothing works and there’s no outage, it’s time to call your provider. At this point, there’s nothing you can do. Tell the customer support agent that you have no Internet signal at the modem. They’ll know what to do.
4. Wi-Fi issues: What to do at the router
There are a couple of things you can do with the router. There are simple and advanced steps.
Simple things you can do with a router
These are steps anyone can do.
- Give the router a restart — unplug it from power, wait for 10 seconds or so, then plug it back in. Now give it a few minutes to boot up fully. That might fix the issue.
- Make sure the router’s Wi-Fi function is not turned off — many routers have an on/off switch for Wi-Fi. Generally, the router has a status light for its bands (5GHz and 2.4GHz). These lights need to be on.
Advanced steps in working with a router
These are steps for advanced users or those who are comfortable with computers in general.
- Access the router’s web interface. Try updating its firmware to the latest. That will take a bit of time, and it might fix the problem. If not, continue.
- Access the router’s interface gain. This time, back up its settings, then reset it — yes, I do mean reset — and set up your network from scratch (or restore it from the backup file).
|Vendor||Friendly URL||Default IP||Username||Password|
|AT&T Gateway||n/a||192.168.1.254||n/a||Access code printed |
on the hardware unit
Access code printed
on the hardware unit
|Most Cable Modems||N/A||192.168.100.1||n/a||admin|
If you can’t access the interface or don’t know how to reset it using the interface, you can reset it via the reset button. If all that doesn’t solve the problem, it’s time to get a new router or professional help.
Broadband Internet troubleshooting: How to get help
When you call for help, the person on the other end will try to troubleshoot the problem. It would help if you told them exactly what has happened instead of what you think has happened or how you feel about what happened. Also, describe the issue instead of its consequences.
For example, instead of saying, “I can’t get online,” explain what happens when you try to go to a website or check your email. Give the person the error message.
Or, instead of “My Wi-Fi is not working,” describe what happens when you try to connect, or if your Wi-Fi network is not available, etc.
It’s also helpful to take and share photos of the error messages and the device’s status lights. Visual is always useful when it comes to troubleshooting.