Why Does My Internet Keep Going Out? How to Troubleshoot Home Internet Issues
Find out why your internet goes out and what you can do to fix it.
- There are a variety of things that can cause your internet to go down, from equipment and provider issues to bad weather and network congestion.
- Oftentimes, you can fix internet outages on your own with a few simple steps.
- Assessing your equipment and its placement, checking your internet speeds, and changing device settings can all help get you back online.
There’s nothing worse than curling up on the couch, ready to binge your favorite show (mine is “One Tree Hill”), only to see the buffering icon appear on your TV screen. I’ve encountered this situation more times than I can count, but luckily, the culprit — my Wi-Fi connection being down — is a temporary setback and not a permanent one.
Whether you’re in the middle of an online game, taking an important Zoom call, or working on a research paper, the internet always seems to go out at the most inopportune times. Luckily, you can diagnose and fix many internet problems without sitting on hold with your internet service provider for what feels like hours. Some of the most common reasons for internet outages include:
- Issues With Your Modem or Router
- Your Speed or Equipment Isn’t Cutting It
- Bad Weather
- Issues With Your Internet Service Provider
- Network Congestion
- Issues With Network Cables
- Your Connection Has Been Hacked
In this guide, we’ll cover why these issues occur and how to fix them, along with some additional tips when all else fails.
Issues With Your Modem or Router
Our routers and modems are plugged in and running all day long. Sometimes, they can get overworked, overheated, or even clogged with dust and dirt. These issues can lead to a slow or dropped internet connection.
Many times, restoring your internet connection back is as simple as unplugging your router or modem and plugging it back in. Here’s how:
- Unplug your router and modem from the power source.
- Wait for one minute.
- Plug your modem back in and wait 30 seconds.
- Plug your router back in.
- Wait five minutes and retry the connection. (Patience is a virtue here; I like to set a timer and go grab a snack.)
If you notice that your router looks a little worse for wear when you unplug it, give it a good cleaning. Wipe down your router with a duster or cleaning cloth. Then, use a vacuum attachment or condensed air duster to remove any trapped dust inside the device. I can’t remember if I’ve ever dusted or cleaned my router, but it probably would’ve helped in the long run!
Your Speed or Equipment Isn’t Cutting It
If your internet is constantly lagging or buffering, it could be because you simply lack the speed to handle your online activities. Some things require a lot more speed and bandwidth than others. For instance, online gaming and streaming services take up a lot of bandwidth, while browsing the web and checking email use a lot less. If you live in a large household with multiple TVs, laptops, phones, and other devices connected to the internet, you’ll also need substantial speed.
Or you could have enough speed and your equipment is the culprit. Every router has a limit to how much speed it can support, which varies from one router to the next. One of my relatives has an internet plan that offers speeds up to 300 Mbps, but their router was designed to handle speeds up to 200 Mbps only. That means they never experienced speeds faster than 200 Mbps and they were missing out on the other 100 Mbps that they paid for (which I explained; they have since upgraded their router).
You can use our bandwidth calculator to assess the speed and bandwidth you need with your current internet usage. Then, take an internet speed test to see what speeds you’re actually getting. If you realize you need a faster speed than your current plan provides, consider upgrading your internet plan.
Have the Need for Speed? Use our ZIP code search tool to find the best prices and plans with the speeds you need in your area.
If you assess your needs and feel like your current plan should be fast enough to meet them, you might have an equipment issue. You can check to see how much speed your router is designed to handle by looking through the router’s product manual. Don’t have the manual? Just Google: “How much speed can [insert your router name here] handle?”
If you check the manual and realize your router should be able to handle your plan’s speeds, it could be a router placement issue. Try moving your router using the tips for optimal placement below:
- Choose a central location that is out in the open.
- Don’t place your router on the floor.
- Avoid putting it in the kitchen.
- Avoid placing it near mirrors or fish tanks.
- Avoid walls and place the router near an open space or doorway.
- Avoid other electronics that use radio signals, like baby monitors and cordless phones.
- Don’t place it in a cabinet or drawer.
Heavy rain, thunderstorms, snow, heavy cloud coverage, and other major weather events can cause your internet to go down or weaken the connection. All types of internet can be impacted, but satellite internet is more at risk of a weather-related outage than other kinds of internet.
This is because satellite internet transmits a signal from the satellite dish on your house to a satellite located in space thousands of miles away. Bad weather can scatter the signal, making it more difficult for it to travel the long distance between your dish and the satellite in space. A storm miles away from your home could even impact your connection if it gets in the way of the signal’s path.
I live in Tennessee, where it gets windy, but luckily, it hasn’t been so drastic that I’ve had my internet go out. Residents who live where there are more extreme weather conditions might not be so lucky, so they might have to wait out the bad weather for their internet to return. If you have satellite internet, you can also purchase a satellite dish heater or weather shield to help prevent weather-related outages.
Issues With Your Internet Service Provider
While widespread internet outages are a lot less common than you might think, they still happen from time to time. There are several ways to confirm if your ISP is experiencing an outage.
You can do a quick Google search for “[insert the name of your provider] outage” to see if there are any ongoing issues in your region. Also, check the provider’s social media pages and website for information. If that doesn’t generate any information, you can try signing in to your internet provider account to get an update. Calling customer support is a last resort, as you may experience long wait times. If the outage is impacting hundreds (or even thousands) of people, and many of them try to call at the same time, you’ll probably end up on hold for a while.
I have Spectrum, and with the My Spectrum App, as long as I turn on alerts for outages in my account settings, I’ll be notified if my area is affected. If there’s an outage, technicians can often resolve them in a matter of hours. In the meantime, you’ll have to wait it out.
Just as we often sit in stop-and-go traffic during rush hour, our internet connection can experience network congestion during peak internet traffic times. During these peak times, you may experience slow speeds and a laggy connection. Fiber internet is the only type of internet that isn’t susceptible to this congestion, so if you have satellite, cable, or DSL internet, it may be an issue.
There isn’t much you can do about improving speeds until traffic on the metaphorical internet freeway clears up, but there are a few things that might help make the most of what you’ve got.
Wired connections will always be faster than wireless, so if possible, try plugging directly into your router with an Ethernet cable to see if that improves speeds. You can use a wired connection for devices that use the most bandwidth, including gaming consoles and smart TVs. Purchasing a Wi-Fi range extender can also help boost your signal in parts of the house that aren’t well covered by your initial internet signal. Here’s your reminder to make sure that your router is in an optimal place.
If these tips don’t help and the network congestion is a major headache, avoid using the internet during peak times whenever possible. I try to urge my kids to avoid using their devices during these times and set a limit on how long they can be online. You can also use your phone as a mobile hotspot or purchase a portable internet device for times when you really need to use the internet during rush hour.
Issues With Network Cables
If the physical network cables in your home are loose, damaged, or poorly configured, they can cause your internet to go down. There are a few things to look out for that could signify cable damage.
Here are a few signs to look for when it comes to your physical connection:
- Damaged cables: Check to see if there are kinks, tears, chew marks from pesky critters, or any other signs of damage on your coaxial cables. If you use a wired connection, check your Ethernet cable too.
- Loose cables: Ensure that the cables connected to your router, modem, and wall outlet are screwed in tightly. Loose cables can lead to a weak or spotty connection. Check that your Ethernet cables make an audible clicking sound when fully inserted and that you can’t pull out the cable without pressing down on the clip.
If you think there is an issue with your network cables, it’s time to call your internet provider and ask for a technician to take a look. Fixing cables requires specific tools and training, and you could cause more harm than good if you tinker with them yourself. A technician can also check to see if any active coaxial lines in your home aren’t in use. These unused lines can cause interference, and the technician can close them off using specialized equipment.
Your Connection Has Been Hacked
We all dread the day that we realize we’ve been hacked. While it’s one of the more unlikely causes of your internet issues, it’s still possible. Hackers can gain access to your home Wi-Fi network and control your ability to connect devices to the internet.
If you think that your connection has been hacked, it’s best to reset your Wi-Fi network with a new network name and password. Your new password should be strong and unique. Even if you’re not 100 percent sure you’ve been hacked, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
You can also install antivirus software to prevent future security breaches. Before purchasing new software, check to see if your ISP offers free malware protection, as it’s pretty common. If you already have antivirus software, make sure that it’s up to date. Outdated software could also cause network issues and leave you vulnerable to hackers.
Ramping Up Your Security: Visit our guide to creating a secure home wireless network. It covers tips on everything from creating a strong network password to setting up encryption to keep your network safe and secure!
Lastly, keeping your firmware up to date can help prevent hacking. Firmware is code that keeps your equipment running properly. Occasionally, this information needs updating. Below are links to detailed instructions for updates by brand and how to log in to each brand’s configuration area.
|Firmware updates by brand
|Logging in to your router’s control panel
Still Having Issues? Here Are Some Other Ways to Fix Internet Problems
If you’ve tried all of the solutions above and your internet is still down, here are some additional tips and tricks.
Make Sure a New Device Isn’t Hogging Your Network Bandwidth
Did someone in your home recently get a new device, such as an Xbox Series X or a streaming media player, like an Apple TV 4K? If so, these additions to your network may cause performance degradation, especially when these new devices are in use.
If you suspect this is the issue, disconnect the new devices from the internet and recheck your connection. If it improves, the devices will eat up network bandwidth. You may need to consider upgrading your internet service to accommodate the number of devices in your household or decide if there are any devices you can reduce usage to free up bandwidth.
Reset Your Network Settings
Sometimes restoring the factory default state on your devices will solve your issue. Doing so may seem difficult, but for most routers, the process is relatively straightforward.
You’ll want to type in the name of your router on Google (which you can often find somewhere on the device itself), followed by “reset to factory.”
After you’ve reset your router, you’ll need to “forget” the network on your computer. Below are the steps to do this on a Mac and PC.
Restart your device and log back in to your Wi-Fi network. Ensure your connection is back up and running.
Call Your Internet Service Provider
While it’s a good idea to troubleshoot the problem on your own first, if nothing on this list gets you connected, it’s time to call your provider. If you experience long wait times on the phone, you can also try the company’s live chat feature if it has one.
In my experience, talking with someone over the phone will be the easiest solution. You can communicate the issues better and follow the steps outlined by the customer service representative in real time. You can find your provider’s customer service number by performing a Google search or locating it on the company website.