Check the Network Connection Status of Wireless Devices

Here's how to see if your device is connected to the internet

Woman using smartphone on couch
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Anyone who uses a device that connects to the internet or another network, eventually encounters the situation where their device becomes disconnected or was never connected in the first place.

Wireless connections can drop suddenly and sometimes without warning. You might even do nothing different from one day to the next, but then suddenly lose your Wi-Fi connection. This can happen for many reasons, from driver or other program installs to signal interferences and technical glitches.

When to Check Wireless Connections

Deciding on the right time to check your connection is equally important as knowing how to do it. The need becomes obvious when an error message appears on your screen, but in many cases you won't receive a direct notification.

Consider checking your connection when you start troubleshooting issues with network-connected applications that crash or suddenly stop responding. Particularly, if roaming while using a mobile device, your movement may cause the network to drop out.

The method for checking your network connection status varies greatly depending on the specific device involved.

Smartphones

Smartphones show both their cellular and Wi-Fi connection status via special icons within the bar at the top of the screen. These icons typically display a variable number of vertical bars, with more bars being visible indicating a stronger signal (higher-quality connection).

Android phones sometimes also incorporate flashing arrows into the same icon indicating when data transfers across the connection are happening. Icons for Wi-Fi work similarly on phones and typically indicate signal strength by showing more or fewer bands.

A app full of settings, normally called Settings, typically allows you to view more details about the connections and initiate disconnects and reconnects. You may also optionally install various other third-party apps that report on wireless connections and issues.

On the iPhone and iPad, through the Settings app, is a section called Wi-Fi and another labeled Cellular. You can enter into those settings to disable the radio, restart it, check if it's connected, verify that there's an IP address on Wi-Fi, etc.

If you're on an Android phone or tablet, open the settings and find the Network connections area. That's where you can manage Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other networks like your mobile network and VPNs.

Desktops and Laptops

Windows, Linux, macOS, and other operating systems contain built-in connection management utilities. Just like with smartphones, the steps for finding this particular area of the software are different for every device.

For example, in Windows, Network and Sharing Center displays status for both wired and wireless networks. You can jump right to the list of network connections in Windows with the ncpa.cpl Run command (use WIN+R to get there), or netsetup.cpl in Windows XP.

In Windows, Linux, macOS, Google’s Chrome OS, and other operating systems, there's usually a status bar on the bottom or top of the screen that shows icons for visually representing the connection status.

Some people prefer to install third-party applications that offer similar features through alternative user interfaces.

Routers

The administrator console of a network router captures details of both a router’s connection to the outside world and the links for any devices on the LAN that are connected to it. You have to log in to the router to see this information.

If your router can be accessed via a mobile app, you can usually determine if the whole network is down or if specific devices are disconnected, through the main screen of the app. You might even get notified through the app the moment the network goes down or is reconnected to the internet after a power outage or other failure.

Usually, a router also has LED lights that indicate connection status for its WAN link and any wired links. Some routers have a single light that goes red when there's a connection issue. If your router is located in a place where it’s easy to see the lights, taking time to learn how to interpret their colors and flashes can be a helpful time saver—it beats logging in to the router just to check its connection status.

Game Consoles, Printers, and Home Appliances

Beyond routers, an increasing number of consumer devices feature built-in wireless support intended for use on home networks. Each device tends to require its own special method for setting up connections and checking their status.

The Xbox, PlayStation, and other game consoles offer on-screen Setup and Network graphical menus. Smart TVs also feature similar large, on-screen menus. Printers provide either text-based menus on their small local displays or a remote interface to check status from a separate computer.

Some home automation devices like thermostats may also have small screen displays, while others offer only lights and/or buttons. The same small screen is all you have available on small devices like smartwatches.