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Broadband Internet Troubleshooting: The Steps to Do It Right

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.

See also  Can't Connect or Wi-Fi Drops Signals Frequently? Here's How to Likely Fix It

Dong’s note: I first published this post on Jan 18, 2019, and updated it on April 13, 2021, to add more relevant information.

Netgear CM600 Cable Modem 12
Broadband Internet Troubleshooting: A typical some Wi-Fi network setup: A router connects to a modem via its WAN (internet) network port.

Broadband Internet Troubleshooting: Four simple steps

Every network is different. Most importantly, you need to know if yours consists of a modem and 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.) need to be plugged into power and turned on. At the very least, you should see some lights coming out of them.

Wi-Fi troubleshooting: Wi Fi Networks
Broadband Internet Troubleshooting: If you can see your Wi-Fi network being broadcast, chances are your router is working well.

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.

Broadband Internet Troubleshooting:  The MB8600 Cable Modem 9
Broadband Internet Troubleshooting: A cable modem in action.

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.

Netgear CM600 Cable Modem
Broadband Internet Troubleshooting: Note the coax service line (white) that’s attached to the service port of the modem. Make sure it’s crewed in tightly.

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).
VendorFriendly URLDefault IPUsernamePassword
Asusrouter.asus.com192.168.1.1
192.168.50.1
adminadmin
AT&T Gatewayn/a192.168.1.254n/aAccess code printed 
on the hardware unit
Comcast 
(Xfinity) Gateway
n/a10.0.0.1 
10.1.10.1
admin 
cusadmin
password 
highspeed
D-Linkdlinkrouter.local192.168.0.1 
192.168.1.1
n/aadmin
Netgearrouterlogin.com192.168.1.1adminpassword
Linksysmyrouter.local192.168.0.1 
192.168.1.1
n/aadmin
TP-Linktplinkwifi.net192.168.0.1adminadmin
Most Cable ModemsN/A192.168.100.1admin (or blank)admin
password
default
Default Interface access address popular of routers/gateways/modems by vendors.

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 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.

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27 thoughts on “Broadband Internet Troubleshooting: The Steps to Do It Right”

  1. I’m not sure how I found this blog, but maybe I can find the help and direction I need. I have xfinity internet (5ghz), and 3 computers (Imac desktop, and 2 macbook pro’s) that use the internet. Only 2 computers, at the most, are online at the same time. My Imac desktop (25 ft away in another room) connects wonderfully. My macbook pro also works great as to speed and connectivity where ever I go in the house. However, my wife’s macbook pro (the same model as mine) will only connect if she is within 2-3 feet of the router. Once she moves further away, it loses it’s connection and tells me I have to move closer to the router. This suggests to me that the issue must be with her computer, because my computers connect well and don’t drop their connections, even at further distances. I’ve tried to get help from a online service, and they can’t figure it out…..besides suggesting a full reinstall of the operating system (OS 10.12.6) My laptop has the same OS as my wife’s. Any suggestions on what direction to head to help my wife’s computer be able to move further away from the router and not have the connection dropped? Thanks for your time, effort, and quick reply in advance. Any help is appreciated.

    Reply
  2. One additional somewhat more advanced debugging technique esp. if you have your own cable modem separate from your router is that, by convention, almost all of the cable modem man’f make accessible an internal web server in the cable modem and have given it the same IP address, namely 192.168.100.1. So if you can get to your router successfully from a PC or laptop (i.e., your router is up and working), trying to open a web browser connection to 192.168.100.1 and then logging into the cable modem web server. Some cable modem web servers require a user id and/or password, and each vendor has their own default which you can usually search when your connection is up (so do this before you need to). Once logged in, there is usually a wealth of information available about the state of the modem, error logs, channel connection status, etc. One very useful feature on most of these is the ability to reboot your cable modem remotely, esp. useful if your cable modem is inconveniently located like on a different floor of your home from your PC. The default userid/password isn’t a terribly vulnerable security hole since the cable modem is on a non-routable private address so it can only be accessed from on your LAN, but if you want even mode security you can typically change it to something more private as well.

    Reply
  3. Our entire community has a dedicated fiber ISP. My neighbors & I can connect to our ONT’s w/older AC-type routers [via ethernet cable to the router WAN], right “out of the box”, without any special setup or configuration. But we are unable to connect ANY newer AX-type routers. ASUS, Netgear & TP-Link service techs have been unable to assist us. Is there any difference in the AX router WAN [input] circuits?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • That doesn’t make sense, Larry. If the connection works with an AC router, it will work with an AX router. What exactly did you mean by “unable to connect,” by the way? Because clearly, you *can* connect a network cable into the ports of the two parties. It’s physics.

      Reply
      • I know it doesn’t make “sense”, but we can [repeatedly] connect new or old AC routers to our ONT’s and get to the internet, while we are unable to connect [get internet] w/three brand new AX routers. I thought there might be something different about the input/WAN circuits on the AX routers. The router techs – and our ISP techs are unable to assist us.
        Currently, there are many AC routers on the market. But I assume this will not [soon?] be the case.

        Reply
        • That’s super odd, Larry. You need to check the interface of the AX router to see what the error of the WAN connection is. Also, try these:

          1. Restart the ONT and the AX router after the setup. In that order.
          2. Copy the MAC address of the AC router that worked on the AX router that didn’t. Use the latter’s MAC clone.

          And no, AC routers will still be on the market for years to come. AC is not going away anytime soon.

          Reply
          • Thanks for trying to help us Dong. Unfortunately, power cycling and “MAC spoofing” do not help. It is a very interesting problem. All AC-type routers [and even desktop/laptop PC’s w/AC cards] will readily connect to the ISP ONT. Three brands of AX routers will not. [ASUS, TP-Link & Netgear]
            To increase wifi coverage in my home I have connected a new Netgear [RAX50] router to a LAN port from an older AC router. But I would prefer not having to run [2] routers.

  4. Very good article for the first steps but i was hoping there would be information about actually analyzing the status and event log. The specific (only) service provider here stock answer is that the problem is not there’s, even though multiple users report same problems. I don’t know what the boundaries are for Freq Pwr SNR or what some of the event log entries actually mean. Do you have that info posted or can point me to the correct place to find it? Thanks so much for sharing all this information

    Reply
    • That’s specific to an Internet provider, Emma. Generally, when it comes to that, you need to contact the vendor or a professional.

      Reply
  5. So I tried putting the TP Link M9plus into AP mode and hang it off my Linksys 1900AC+. I noted the same drops. So I hardwired to the Linksys
    router and ran ping tests. Same thing happened. I believe the COmcast Cable modem is the problem and will have to get that swapped out.

    I may put the Deco M9 back as the main router again instead of AP mode..

    Reply
    • And a few days later, the drops have stopped.. I will probably remove the Linksys as the router and put the Deco M9 back at Router/Mesh to keep it
      simple. Comcast must have fixed their issue.

      Reply
  6. Hello Dong! Great advice as usual. I’ve had intermittent issues with my internet. Switched modem and router and problem still remains. Had spectrum out to have a look and they confirmed everything was fine on their end. Very frustrating until I moved the modem away from the router and my Verizon cell booster. Is it possible these were interfering with the signal somehow? Much better since I moved it.

    Reply
    • Definitely, David. Don’t use any “booster” devices (Wi-Fi or Cell). They are no good. Most cell phone now has the Wi-Fi calling feature anyway.

      Reply
  7. Hey Dong, has anyone developed a system / device or whatever, that can allow you to access the internet, when your primary internet goes down? Kind of like a “Backup” internet of sorts?

    I thought about this the other day, when my internet went down and I could not view my wifi cameras.

    Reply
      • Hey Dong, thanks for the reply…..Have you done a article on this, on this platform yet? It would be very educational… (hint hint)

        Reply
        • Not yet on this feature specifically, David. But it’s relatively straight-forward. You need two Internet sources (Cable + DSL or cellular, for example), then you can set them up as load-balancing (if the two are of similar speeds) or failsafe.

          Reply
  8. Hi Dong,

    Very impressed with your site and your advice!

    Would you say in general that you get better/stronger results using your router’s dual-band smart connect rather than keeping the 2.4 and 5 G networks separate (I’m thinking about the Asus RT-AX3000 router)? Are there other settings you automatically change from the default settings that you would recommend for better performance?

    Thanks,
    Alan

    Reply
    • Thanks, Alan. And no, the Smart Connect is just a matter of convenience. It has nothing to do with signal strength. The only benefit is it allows a device to automatically switch to the 2.4GHz band when the 5GHz one range, which is shorter, diminishes. So it might give you the elusion of signal strength and longer range at the expense of not being able to make sure your device will connect to the 5GHz band, which is faster at a close range.

      Reply
  9. Doug
    A question on bouncing a router which I do weekly via a mechanical timer.
    Upon reboot, my TCL tv which is an Ethernet connect direct to the router loses its Internet connection and I have to reset the network connection on the TCL Roku device to regain internet access. Any suggestions?
    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • I wouldn’t do that using a mechanical timer, Jerry. If the router has a restart on schedule feature, use it (that’s the only time when the term “bounce” is correct by the way). If not, just manually do it when you feel like or when it’s convenient, or when need be. I’d try restarting each of those devices manually, one at a time, to see if the disconnection happens. You’ll then find out where the problem is, the router or the TV. In any case, make sure you get their firmware to the latest.

      Reply
  10. I am so happy I found your blog and I absolutely love your information about the internet and wi-fi trouble shooting.I liked and it is wonderful to know about so many things that are useful for all of us! Thanks a lot for this amazing blog!!

    Reply
  11. This article provides us information regarding internet and wi-fi trouble shooting. I loved the way they have researched and presented it infront of us. Here you will get to know in detail about the topic which are in demand. I enjoyed alot while reading this article and would recommend other.

    Reply
  12. I have been having that problem intermittently for the last couple of months and Comcast has been unable to fix it. I was thinking maybe it was my computer. Thank you so much for writing this article. I printed it out and will try to follow it.
    Thank you for your help-you have helped me before and I really appreciate it!

    Best, Marsha

    Reply

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