Wifi Problems: Fix It without Calling IT Support!

wifi problemsWe’ve all experienced the problems, from super-slow internet or not being able to connect your smart phone or tablet to your router. Having a wireless router in your home is one of the most useful pieces of technology that you can own, but unfortunately they can also be one of the most troublesome. Setting one up, and keeping it running is usually more advanced than the technological knowledge the average user has. If you’re new to all this, take this course and learn all about wireless technology, and how you can make the best use of it in your home.

The first step, is that you really need to understand what your router is, and how it all works. There are essentially only two functions for a router, routing packets of data between a network, and acting as an access point to share an internet connection with all devices on a home network. For relative newbies to the internet, this course is a great guide to the hidden threats that are out there, so that you’re aware and alert to any dangers.

Common Problems

Most of the time, your connection to the internet will work flawlessly, and you’ll not have any problems. But once your router starts to act up, you’re going to get unhappy very fast as you can no longer browse the internet, you face endless drop outs in your connection, and find there are dead spots all over your house. But before you get on the phone to tech support, and are asked the trusty “have you tried switching it off, and on again?” here’s a few tricks you can try to see if you can fix it yourself.

  • I have a new router that won’t connect to the internet.

You’ve just bought a flash new router, and have followed the setup instructions from the manufacturer to the letter. The wireless network is showing up, and you can connect your device, but for some reason you cannot browse the internet.

Fix: Unplug every network cable and power from your original model, as well as every cable on the new router. Keep everything disconnected for at least 30 seconds. Connect back the coaxial cable, DSL or the FIOS connection to your modem, and make sure all connections are tight and the WAN (Internet) light is on. At this point attached all cables back to your router, and power it back on, and check that the internet connection is on. This has forced your modem to flush out any information in the cache, and should not reconnect and let you browse the internet. If you still get an error, try going through the router setup instructions again (now that the broadband modem has been reset).

  • My new router cannot be detected

Your flash new router says your computer should automatically detect it, and despite trying a couple of times the installation software cannot find the router.

Fix: Unfortunately sometimes the “automatic setup” simply doesn’t work. Connect an ethernet cable from your computer to one of the LAN ports on the router. Open up network Settings (via Control Panel), and right click and open the properties of your Local Area Connection. Go to Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IP v4) and select “Use the following IP address”. Type in the address that matches your router’s IP address, it will be a string of numbers separated by periods, and look like this “192.168.1.1” You can find this in the documentation of your router, but change the last digit so that there is no conflict with your router. Under the Subnet Mask, type in “255.255.255.0” which is the typical mask for a home network, and in Gateway use your routers IP address.

These steps put your computer and router on the same network, which means you can open a browser and enter the router’s IP address to get to settings. It will ask for a username and password, which is detailed in the documentation of your router. Once you’re in the admin interface, you can manually setup the wireless connection (SSID, passwords and security).

  • My wireless network is no longer listed under available networks

For reasons unknown, your wifi simply disappears. This actually happens quite a lot, and there are various reasons that you’re forced to be offline.

Fix: To force your computer to connect to the router (even when it’s not broadcasting) Windows users need to head to Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network and Sharing > Manage Wireless Networks. If your wireless network is listed, right click on it and choose properties, and then select “Connect even if this network is not broadcasting its name (SSID)”. If you don’t see your wireless network listed, all you need to do is click “Add” and then manually go through and set up with your wireless information. Mac users can also join routers that have stopped broadcasting, through the Airport Utility. All you need to do is choose to join “Other” and fill out the details.

You will also want to discover why your SSID suddenly stopped broadcasting, by clarifying that it wasn’t accidentally disabled in the routers software, all updates are done, and reboot your router.

  • I lose the wifi signal in different rooms in my house.

When you’re in the bedroom, or the living room you can connect fine, but walking into another room in the house see’s your wifi signal strength drop rapidly, or even become non-existent.

Fix: The biggest problem with your wifi signal is interference. Most routers use the 2.4 GHz band, along with many common items like cordless phones. Mirrors and glass can also can be disruptive, so first test to see if all of your devices using wifi lose signal at the same spot. If they do, the problem is typically with the router. Purchasing aftermarket antennas can help, along with firmware updates for the machine. If it’s a single device, check the wireless adapter and make sure it is working correctly.

  • I forgot the password to the router.

Plain and simple, you forget your router’s password.

Fix: You need to reset the router to its default (factory) settings. The downside is that you lose all the configurations and settings on the router. You can usually find a reset button on the back of most routers. Use a paperclip (the button is recessed) and push and hold this button in until the LEDs on the router blink. The time it takes varies from router to router. Once it has been reset, you can simply enter the default username and password. Some newer routers also allow you to save the configuration settings so you don’t lose everything on a factory reset, double check in your documentation (first!) – just in case you can make use of this.

  • The router turns itself off.

Every now and then your router simply shuts down

Fix: The main culprit is overheating, as many of us leave them running all day and all night. After a couple of years, they can get very inefficient at cooling themselves, especially if the air vents are covered or obstructed with dust. Unplug your router and use a can of compressed air to clean out as much dust as you can from the ventilation. Newer routers allow you to specify when to power down the router, like 30 minutes after being idle. If your router doesn’t have this feature, you should really turn it off when it’s not being used to extend its life.

  • I can’t get my new device to connect to my wifi.

All of your current devices connect fine, but the new device you just bought refuses to work. It must be a problem with the router, so what’s going on?

Fix: If you find yourself in this situation, check to make sure the device is working fine, and able to connect to other wifi hotspots. If it connects fine, make sure that its connecting to the right band of wireless signal on your router (for dual-band routers). Some of the newer wireless devices connect to the 5 GHz band, whereas most other tablets, e-readers and laptops all connect to the 2.4 GHz band.

  • The second-hand router I’ve been given or purchased isn’t working.

You’ve just been given a router from a friend, but it doesn’t work on your home network.

Fix: You need to reset secondhand routers back to their factory settings before you can set them up and use them on a new network. The easiest way is to use the reset button on the base of the router. On the manufacturers website you’ll be able to find all of the default information, and download any required software to get your new router working effectively.

  • My network is very slow.

No matter what you do, the internet seems to just be moving at a snail’s pace.

Fix: Try and determine what specifically is slow. Is the network slow internally (transferring files between devices), or is it browsing websites and the internet that is slow. Make sure you are using the latest versions of firmware on the affected devices, and you can always add a powerful USB wireless adapter to an older laptop or notebook if this is the problem.

When your access to the internet is slow, you need to check that you’re getting the bandwidth promised by your ISP. There are a number of sites you can use to determine your internet speed, and if you’re not getting what you’re paying for then pick up the phone and find out what is going on with your ISP right now! Some of the best speed tests are

  • http://www.speedtest.net/
  • http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/
  • http://www.att.com/speedtest/

Finally: Secure Your Wifi Network

There are two typical forms of security on your router, WEP and wifi protected access (WPA). The latter offers the most protection, and both of these are easy to set up. All you need to do is go into your router’s administrative settings (usually 192.168.1.1) and click the security area. You can then setup a password for WPA, or if using WEP choose your 64 or 128 bit level of encryption and a hex phrase. For an even higher level of security you can stop your network broadcasting the SSID, enable the routers firewall, and change the default password. As a final measure, only ever enable file sharing if you intend to use it. This course covers wifi security in much more detail, or try this advanced course and learn everything you could possible want to know about securing your home wifi network.

When you rely on technology to connect, you’ll inevitably hit a wall and find that your wifi network has a problem. One of the biggest is that it can be an absolute pain to transfer files between devices when the signal is playing up, or that you don’t have a reliable back up should a device decide to stop working. Why don’t you check out this post on building your own server for your home and never have these problems again!

Fixing your router to get great wifi has never been easier, so get started today.