Can't Connect to the Internet? Try These Tips

Finding and fixing internet connection problems

The Wireless Connection
The Wireless Connection

When you suddenly can't connect to the internet, any of several things could be wrong. Use the suggestions in this list to find and solve common internet connection problems.

Troubleshooting tips to try if you can't connect to the internet.
Lifewire / Theresa Chiechi

How to Fix Internet Connection Problems

When you experience trouble with your internet connection, it's best to start your troubleshooting with simple solutions first and move on to more advanced fixes as needed.

  1. Confirm your wired or wireless network hardware is switched on and plugged in. Unplugged or loose network cables, routers, and modems are easy to miss. Yet, these devices are a common reason you might be unable to connect to the internet. If you're on a wireless network, another reason is that the device's Wi-Fi radio has been shut off.

  2. Before assuming your internet connection is faulty, visit several websites rather than just one. What may seem to be a network problem connecting to the internet may be a website or server that is temporarily offline.

  3. Avoid IP Address conflicts. If your computer and another device on the network have the same IP address, the conflict between them prevents either from working properly online. To resolve an IP conflict, release and renew your IP address. If your network uses static IP addresses, manually change your IP to a different number.

  4. Check for computer firewall malfunctions. Firewall software prevents unwanted network traffic from disrupting its operation. These software firewalls can malfunction and block valid internet traffic. When two software firewalls, such as Windows Firewall and a third-party product, are installed on the same computer, contention between the two can also incorrectly block traffic.

    If you recently installed or upgraded a software firewall on your computer, temporarily disable it to determine whether it may be the cause of your internet connection problem.

  5. Make sure you're within wireless signal range. The performance of Wi-Fi network connections depends on the distance between the device and the wireless access point. The farther away from a Wi-Fi device, the slower the local connection. Wireless signal interference in the area can also limit the range of a Wi-Fi connection.

    If you can't reach the access point and can't connect to the internet, measure the strength of your wireless signal and then expand the range of your Wi-Fi.

  6. Check your wireless network configuration. Wi-Fi networks with encryption options like WPA or WEP require computers to use matching security keys when connecting. If someone changes the encryption key or passphrase on the access point, devices that worked before can't establish sessions and internet connections. Likewise (though less likely), if the access point settings are changed to require a specific Wi-Fi channel number, some computers may be unable to discover it.

    In this case, try these potential solutions:

    • Confirm the Wi-Fi channel number and encryption keys on your router have not recently changed (check with the network administrator if necessary).
    • If the password was changed and you don't remember the new one, change the password again and then update your devices so that they use the same password. You can do this by logging in to the router.
    • When using a hotspot, carefully follow the provider's instructions.
  7. Check for broadband router or access point malfunctions. Home networks that use broadband routers are easier to manage than those without one, but technical glitches with the router can prevent computers from connecting to the internet. Router failures are caused by overheating, excessive traffic, or an older unit going bad. Typical symptoms of a bad router include computers on the network not being able to obtain IP addresses or the router console not responding to requests.

    When this happens:

    • Check the router's lights and console, if possible, to ensure it is running and responding properly.
    • Check if you need to update the router's firmware. Outdated firmware can cause problems for new devices trying to connect. Keeping the firmware up to date removes glitches and software hiccups.
    • If that's not the problem, reset the router.
  8. Contact your ISP if you suspect your account has been blocked. Internet service providers (ISPs) can block access to your account if you fail to make a payment or violate the provider's Terms of Service. When using paid hotspots that charge by the hour or day, people might forget to keep their subscriptions updated. Other common reasons an ISP might block your account include exceeding bandwidth caps, sending spam emails, and downloading illegal or inappropriate content.

  9. Look for computer glitches. Although uncommon, a computer's network adapter hardware might fail due to overheating or age. Failures in the operating system software that control the adapter, on the other hand, can frequently occur, especially with computers that are used heavily. Viruses and worms also may disable or block a computer's network interfaces from functioning properly. Finally, if you use a laptop or other mobile device, transporting it from one location to another can corrupt the state of its network.

    Here's how to find computer problems:

  10. Contact your internet provider to verify whether it is experiencing an outage. If you use satellite internet service, you may notice you can't connect to the internet during periods of extreme weather. Providers (including cellular internet carriers) in dense urban areas may be unable to support peaks in network traffic that cause sporadic outages for some customers.

    If you subscribe to newer or more complex forms of internet services (such as fixed wireless broadband), you may experience more downtime than others as providers encounter more issues with relatively less mature equipment.

    Some providers give advice on troubleshooting problems connecting to their network (sometimes for a fee).

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