The Ultimate Guide to Troubleshooting Home WiFi and Router Issues

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Last Updated: May 28, 2024
  • Restarting your router is the simplest way to solve Wi-Fi issues.
  • Learning your router’s icons will help you diagnose any problems.
  • Placing your router in a centralized and open area is essential for the best connection speed and stability.
  • Speed tests and other diagnostic programs are useful tools for assessing your network connection.
  • The best mesh Wi-Fi networks offer extensive coverage and the quickest speeds for your home.
Ninety-nine percent of home Wi-Fi issues can be fixed by unplugging the router, waiting five seconds, then plugging it back in. This resets the device and frequently improves the speed. But if that doesn't fix your problem, this guide will provide you a to-the-point reference for dealing with some of the most common home Wi-Fi issues, such as the Wi-Fi not working, slowing down, disappearing, or not connecting with devices. Keep reading to find out what to do if your connection is running slower than usual, as well as how to troubleshoot a network that won’t connect at all. We’ll also take a look at several tools you can use to help troubleshoot your connection no matter what problems crop up.

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Home Wi-Fi Quick Fix

If your wireless connection suddenly stops working, restart your router before trying anything else. Here’s the process:
  1. Unplug or power off your router.
  2. Wait two to five minutes before plugging it back in.
  3. Wait five more minutes and retry the connection.
In most cases, this should fix your issue and allow you to get back online. If you go through these steps and something still isn’t working, you may need to contact your internet service provider for assistance.
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Understanding Your Router’s Icons

Most routers have a series of icons that illuminate to convey different status messages at a glance. Though these can vary from brand to brand, most manufacturer’s include at least three primary status indicators:
Globe icon Globe icon: solid when modem is connected to the internet.
WiFi icon Wi-Fi icon: solid when Wi-Fi is being broadcast with no issues.
Ethernet icon The ethernet icon will light without blinking when ethernet cables are connected and working properly. This icon can also look like an empty square or a box with a line striking through, depending on the ethernet connection you’re using.

Interpreting the Colors of Your Router’s Lights

green light When everything is working properly, the icons are a solid or blinking green or blue light. This signals that a device is plugged in and functioning normally.
orange light An orange or amber light may indicate a problem or limited connectivity.
red light A red or unlit icon may signal that there is no current connection.
Important note: In order to be clear on what your specific device is communicating to you, refer to the user manual for a more detailed explanation.
Pro tip: You can usually find a digital copy of your router’s manual by typing your device model number followed by “user manual” into Google.
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How to Troubleshoot Wi-Fi

The appearance of routers differs from brand to brand, but the core functionality is the same: directing digital traffic over Wi-Fi.
If you’ve tried the quick fix above to no success, there are still several other ways you may be able to troubleshoot your Wi-Fi connection. In order to identify the technique most likely to actually help you, let’s break down some common issues:

“I’m experiencing slower-than-normal network speeds.”

Try this: Plug an ethernet cable directly into your router and test your internet speeds using our speed test tool. Next, test your speeds on the Wi-Fi connection. If they're both slow, the issue is likely with your service provider and not your equipment. Give them a call.
If the hardwired connection is much faster than the wireless one, however, there may be more you can do to optimize your network. Wired connections will usually always be faster than wireless in some capacity, but the difference shouldn’t be so vast that your Wi-Fi is unusable. First, try moving your router to a more central location in your home. If that’s not an option, it may be worth exploring how to extend your Wi-Fi connection to all areas of your home. Also, you might be encountering interference from networks adjacent to yours. If you think this may be the case, you can try changing the channel your router is broadcasting on. For starters, you’ll want to use the 5 GHz band whenever possible, if your router supports it. These tend to be less congested and therefore better performing than their 2.4 GHz counterparts.

“I have no internet connection at all.”

Try this: Plug an ethernet cable into your router and see if you’re able to get a signal on a desktop or laptop. If you can’t, your access has been cut and you should contact your ISP.
If you’re able to load web pages through a hardwired connection, there’s definitely something wrong with your Wi-Fi network. If restarting the router didn’t fix the issue, you may need to set it up again completely. Most routers have a small “reset” button that needs to be held down with a paperclip or other small object. Doing this will restore the device to factory settings and you’ll be able to go through the first-time setup once again. If you’ve been through this process and still can’t get connected, you’ll likely need to contact your ISP for help. You could have an unpaid balance that has caused the company to suspend your account, or there might simply be an outage in your area.

“My Wi-Fi network disappeared completely.”

Try this: Check to see where your router is positioned. If it's somewhere cramped, such as behind a couch or crammed into a storage closet, it might've overheated and shut down automatically to prevent any damage.
If you’re able to move your router to a place with more airflow, you should be able to solve the overheating issue. If you feel that your router is positioned in a good location and that overheating isn’t the problem, there are a few other things that could be happening. For one, your network may have reset itself due to an update. Take a look at the default network name (usually printed somewhere on the router itself) and see if you recognize that network when looking for a connection.

“My phone/laptop/tablet won’t connect even though my other devices are fine.”

Try this: Turn off the offending device and turn it back on. You can also try turning the Wi-Fi off and on again in the settings of your device, just to be thorough.
If this doesn’t help, you may need to delete your network from the device entirely. On an iOS or Android device, you can simply click on the network name and hit “Forget This Network.” This means you’ll have to find the network again and put the password in like you did the first time you set it up, but it should solve any remaining connection issues in the process.
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Tools for Wi-Fi Troubleshooting


Speed Test

screenshot of BroadbandNow speed test tool
Use our speed test tool to check for reductions in your upload and download speed.
Our speed test tool allows you to see how your current network is performing in terms of both upload and download speeds. You can use this at any time to test the quality of your connection, and if you’re having any issues, you can use it to gauge your progress on getting them resolved. You can also use Speed Test periodically to see if you're really getting the speeds that you're paying for (look at your bill for payment info). Just remember that using Wi-Fi will always slow things down a little bit. You can also run speed tests on different devices and from different locations. If the speed is sluggish on one device or in one location but not the others, that indicates an issue specific to the device or location. [/blogBlock] [blogBlock]

Wireless Diagnostics (Mac)

The network diagnostics tool is a robust program that allows you to get a clear picture of your network health, as well as troubleshoot any issues you may be experiencing. You can find this program by hitting "command" plus "spacebar" and typing “Wireless Diagnostics” into the search bar. When you first open the program, it will scan your immediate area for any available Wi-Fi networks. Once this is done, you’ll be presented with two options: monitor my Wi-Fi connection and continue to summary. Choose neither of these. Instead, at the top of your screen, select “Scan” from the Window drop-down menu. You will see a list of networks. Select “Scan Now.” The service will then show you a full list of connections around you, including what channel they are operating on. The program will also show you the best channels for both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands based on network congestion. In order to actually change the channels your router is operating on, you’ll need to Google search the brand of the device followed by “IP address.” You will then type this in just like you would any regular website.
1. Open the program by clicking Command + Spacebar and typing “Wireless Diagnostics” 2. Once open, select “Scan” from the Window drop-down menu. Select “Scan Now.” 3. Observe the channel your network is operating on, as well as the channels recommended by the program. 4. Log in to your router’s control panel and change the broadcast channel to the one recommended above.
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NirSoft (Windows)

NirSoft functions very similarly to the wireless diagnostics tools for Mac, scanning your Wi-Fi environment and displaying all available networks, as well as a number of useful statistics for each. You’ll still need to log into your router’s control panel to actually change its configuration. [/blogBlock] [blogBlock]

NetSpot (Mac & Windows)

NetSpot is a fantastic alternative to both options above and even features some additional tools that intermediate users may find valuable. Above and beyond being able to view detailed information about your network, NetSpot also allows you to visualize its footprint in your home, showing you any dead zones and weak points that need to be patched up. Available as a free download, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more feature-complete troubleshooting program. [/blogBlock]
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Ways to Boost Your Speeds or Wi-Fi Reach

A little more speed or reach makes a big difference. To inject more oomph into your internet, try boosting your Wi-Fi signal and speeds with the following methods:

Ethernet iconMove Your Router

If your router is in a corner, closet, drawer, or non-central location, move it to a more open, central spot in the home (not the kitchen though. There is too much potential for liquid messes and signal interference from metal appliances). WiFi signals are stronger when they don’t have to travel through walls or floors, and a central location means better access to more devices. If your home is three floors, the central location is the middle of the second floor. Alternatively, adjust the angle of the antenna on your router, and see if that helps. Use compressed air to get gunk off your router, too. For more speed with heavy usage devices such as online gaming consoles and video-streaming laptops, keep them as close as possible to the router.

Ethernet iconCheck How Many Devices Are Connected to Your Wi-Fi and Offload Any Devices You Don’t Need

This method also gives you an idea whether neighbors, visitors, hackers, and others are connected to your network. The main step to see connected devices is to access your router’s admin panel. Another guide we wrote covers how to get into the admin panel. It’s easier than it may seem! Here are some other links that may help:
  1. Netgear login tutorial
  2. Linksys login tutorial
  3. Asus login tutorial
  4. TP-Link login tutorial
You may see a lot of devices connected to your WiFi, whether they’re on the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band. Smart speakers, smart thermostats, security cameras, and other smart home-type devices tend to be a better fit for 2.4GHz. PCs, laptops, gaming consoles for online gaming, and smart TVs that stream a lot of video should usually go on 5GHz. 2.4GHz band: This band has better range, works well through walls, and tends to be slower than 5GHz. It may slow down noticeably if “cluttered” with too many baby monitors, Bluetooth devices, garage door openers, smart home devices, holiday lights, etc. More than 20 of these devices might be too much, although some WiFi networks can have 200+ devices connected to them and perform just fine. If too many smart devices is an issue for your system:
  1. Reduce video/picture resolution on doorbell cameras and video devices to speed up the WiFi.
  2. Use a smart home hub to take traffic off WiFi and Bluetooth, which helps with congestion and speeds.
Routers tend to choose bands automatically depending on how far away the device is when you connect to the network. Reallocating devices to different bands depends on your router. With some routers, you do it through software. Others, you flip a switch on the router. A few, especially some mesh systems, aren’t super user-friendly in this regard. “Trickery” might be necessary. For instance, devices tend to connect to 5GHz as the default. If you want them on the other band and they’re portable (say, a group of smart light bulbs), you could go to the edges of your WiFi coverage, where they “flip” over to 2.4GHz since the range is better. Finish setting up there, then put the devices where they are supposed to be. They will stay on the 2.4GHz band. If the devices are not portable, then temporarily unplug the router closest to the device or separate the router and device as much as you can. These tricks often force the 2.4GHz band to be used.

Ethernet iconTry Wi-Fi Extenders Midway Between the Router and Dead Zone

Wi-Fi extenders work similarly to boosters and repeaters. Basically, they extend or amplify the main Wi-Fi network and create a second network. They’re useful if the main Wi-Fi signal is weak and you have just one dead zone (a mesh system may work better if the home has multiple dead zones). Extenders plug into outlets and resemble air fresheners. Extenders do create second networks, some with different names. It’s not always convenient to connect to two networks from the same house, so look for extenders that use the same network name when rebroadcasting. Also, while extenders extend the reach of your network, speeds may slow a bit. A mesh network enhances range without sacrificing speed and changing network names, so we touch on that in a bit.

Ethernet iconUpgrade Your Router

It could be time for a change if you lived in a small apartment and took your router along to your new, much larger home. Bigger homes might need mesh routers or routers that can pair with repeaters/extenders to help WiFi signals reach farther. Before upgrading, though, especially if the space to cover has not changed, try moving the router if it’s in a closed location, and blast any dust buildup with compressed air.

>> Related Reading: The Best Wi-Fi Routers, Tested and Reviewed

Ethernet iconUse a Wi-Fi Mesh Router

Upgrading to mesh makes sense if your Wi-Fi connection is strong in some places but weak or dead in others. You may need mesh for coverage in large homes, multistory homes, and garages that are not close to the router. In a mesh network, a primary router and satellite nodes or modules coordinate to deliver speedy, efficient Wi-Fi. You put the nodes in different areas throughout your house, and each node is capable of broadcasting Wi-Fi. Mesh systems have become much more affordable, but you may be disappointed if you go entry-level. Plan to spend about $400 for impressive results. Look for two main features:
  1. Triband (three bands instead of two): The third band is another 5GHz band, and it’ll speed up communications between the primary router and the satellites.
  2. Wi-Fi 6: Wi-Fi 6 is more secure, efficient, and speedy compared with Wi-Fi 5. Wi-Fi 6 also handles traffic and congestion better. It has been available for a few years, but nowadays more and more devices support it. There’s also Wi-Fi 6E, which is even newer and stronger. Fewer devices support it, so don’t get your hopes up too much for that just yet (If you’re an avid online gamer, 6E can make a big difference and is worth further investigation).

Ethernet iconFall Back on Good Old-Fashioned Communication

If you live with a bunch of roommates or relatives who love streaming and gaming, all of you may need to agree on some guidelines or take turns using the internet connection. Of course, first try suggestions such as restarting the router, moving it to a central place, running speed tests, and using an extender for a dead zone. Do avoid putting your router in the kitchen, as microwaves and metal appliances can mess with the signal. So can liquids and food that get spilled on the router. Otherwise, here are ideas for Wi-Fi sharing and communication:
  1. Limit certain activities to certain times (perhaps downloading online games during the wee hours when everyone is asleep). Be aware that torrenting (while also being illegal) is a huge bandwidth hog.
  2. Give a heads up before hopping onto Zoom or any high bandwidth activity so that everyone else in the home doesn’t try to Zoom, FaceTime, and livestream classes all at once.
  3. If you live in a multi-family residence, ask your housemates to not share your Wi-Fi passwords with others in the building.
  4. Agree to dial back the graphics, for instance, by streaming in standard definition instead of 4K or Ultra HD.
  5. Pay a bit more money per resident for more bandwidth..

Ethernet iconChange Your Router’s Channel Setting

(more common if you’re in an apartment building and experiencing frequent Wi-Fi disconnects or out of range or weak Wi-Fi signals). By default, U.S. routers tend to be automatically set to channels 1, 6, and 11, especially 6. Assume that everyone else in the building is on these channels. Manually adjust your router so it is on channel 1, and retest your WiFi until you find a channel it works well on. Or, use a third-party app that shows the channels around you and helps find a less crowded channel.

Ethernet iconReconsider Your Internet Plan

If your internet plan has certain limits, then you are unlikely to get more. Say that you’ve been content with web surfing and some video streaming here and there at 25 Mbps max for the past few years. You’ve recently gotten into online gaming, and your new partner and stepchildren, all of whom love streaming movies, moved in. You may need a new plan that can support both online gaming and streaming in 4K, giving you speeds of 50 Mbps to 100 Mbps. Now, if you’re doing a lot of live streaming all of the sudden, perhaps taking online classes live every day or doing Twitch broadcasting, you might need speeds up to 150 Mbps or even 200 Mbps. However, if you cannot afford to upgrade your plan, you may still be able to improve your internet speeds. “If budget is a limiting factor, it’s best to call the service provider to see if there are faster plans that you can upgrade to,” said Mark Chen, founder and CEO of GetBillSmart. “Sometimes you’re stuck on a legacy plan that they can easily upgrade you to. You can also threaten to cancel to get a better deal and use those savings to get faster speeds.” Once you've resolved the issue by following one of the above steps, make sure to secure your wireless home network to prevent hackers or neighbors from accessing your Wi-Fi.
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Why Does My Computer Keep Disconnecting From Wi-Fi?

If you find that you are consistently getting booted from your Wi-Fi network, there are a few things that could be happening. We recommend looking for any patterns in the service disruptions. Do they only happen at a certain time of the evening? Maybe it even drops when you pop something into the microwave? Believe it or not, there are many signals from Bluetooth devices, baby monitors, and smart lights constantly flowing through your home that can disrupt your internet connection. If you’ve ruled out network interference using the tools listed above, you may need to try updating your router’s firmware. This is essentially the device’s “operating system,” and like any other piece of software, it needs to be updated from time to time to keep functioning properly. If you’ve updated your firmware and are still getting disconnects, you may need to consider replacing the router outright, especially if it's more than a few years old. Routers are computers, and computers unfortunately do tend to fail after a few years. If you've been renting a modem and router from your ISP, it might be better to invest in your own equipment since ISPs tend to rent out old hardware.

Firmware Updates by Brand

How to Log Into Your Router’s Control Panel

Click on your router’s brand below to see in-depth instructions on how to log in to its configuration area, where you can adjust network passwords and names, as well as change the channels they are operating on.
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If All Else Fails, Contact Your Service Provider.

Though technical support from many companies can be a hit or miss experience, if you’ve tried everything above and nothing seems to be working, it might be best to simply reach out to request a tech to come to your home and sort the issue out directly. This may entail a service fee of some kind, but if it gets you back online, it'll be worthwhile in the end.

Tech Support Phone Numbers for Common ISPs:

  1. AT&T Internet tech support: (800) 288-2020
  2. CenturyLink tech support: (888) 723-8010
  3. Cox tech support: (800) 234-3993
  4. Frontier tech support: (888) 884-0504
  5. Hughesnet tech support: (866) 347-3292
  6. Mediacom Cable tech support: (800) 883-0145
  7. Rise Broadband tech support: (877) 910-6207
  8. Spectrum tech support: (855) 757-7328
  9. Suddenlink Communications tech support: (877) 794-2724
  10. TDS tech support: (866) 571-6662
  11. Verizon Fios tech support: (800) 837-4966
  12. Viasat tech support: (855) 463-9333
  13. Windstream tech support: (800) 347-1991
  14. WOW! tech support: (855) 496-9929
  15. XFINITY tech support: (800) 934-6489