What to Do When Windows 11 Can't Connect to a Network

Try these fixes when Windows 11 won't connect to Wi-Fi or the network

Few things are as frustrating as a computer that won't connect to the internet. This article will step you through some fixes when your Windows 11 PC won't connect to a network.

Why Can't I Connect to a Network?

Wireless networks are complex because there are several points for failure. From the Wi-Fi switch to a software conflict, router issue, and ISP problem, finding out where the network fault is can be difficult.

The common reasons for why Windows won't connect to a network are misconfigured settings and physical distance from the network source. But there are also several other possible causes: Wi-Fi is turned off, a piece of software has broken the connection, the network that requires unique authentication, or the network is overcrowded.

How Do I Fix Network Connection Problems?

Given all the possible reasons for network issues in Windows 11, walk through these tips in order, testing after each one to see if the problem has been resolved.

  1. Double-check it's really a Windows 11 problem. There's no reason to troubleshoot it as a computer issue when it's also affecting other devices on the network.

    For example, if your phone, smart speakers, other computers, etc., are all able to reach the internet normally, you can safely assume the issue lies with your Windows 11 PC and you can continue these steps. But if nothing else is working, review these general tips for when you can't reach the internet; you may need to contact your ISP (or wait it out).

    This is also a good time to verify whether the problem is really just an issue with one website or with your computer as a whole. If you're able to reach Google, YouTube, or Twitter, for example, from your Windows 11 PC, but your bank website won't load, then the problem rests with that one site, not with your computer or your network. Contacting that site or waiting are your only real options. See How to Tell If a Website Is Down for Everyone or Just You for more.

  2. Reboot your computer. Restarting is a common troubleshooting step for most electronics and could be all that's needed to fix the Windows 11 network problem.

    The fastest way to restart from the desktop is to right-click the Start button and go to Shut down or sign out > Restart.

  3. Verify Wi-Fi is turned on or the Ethernet cable is securely attached to the computer and modem/router. This is absolutely necessary and will result in no internet connectivity if unaddressed.

    Some laptops have a physical switch which must be toggled to enable Wi-Fi. Others use a key combination, such as FN+F5 or FN+F2. A Wi-Fi toggle is also available in Settings: Network & Internet > Wi-Fi.

  4. Forget the Wi-Fi network, and then re-add it. Similar to rebooting your PC, this will start the connection from a clean slate. There might be an issue with the way the Wi-Fi details were saved the first time, or something on your computer corrupted the information. This also provides an opportunity to re-enter the SSID and password, which could have been submitted incorrectly the first time.

    After deleting the connection, return to Settings and go to Network & Internet > Wi-Fi > Manage known networks > Add a new network to set it up again.

  5. Move closer to the device delivering the network connection, if you're using Wi-Fi. A network can only reach so far, and some devices can't catch a signal from a long distance.

    Inching closer to the access point, or moving it closer to you if possible, is the easiest way to eliminate distance as the reason for why you can't get online.

    If you've confirmed this is the problem but relocating your computer or router isn't possible, consider upgrading to a router which can broadcast the signal further, or connect an external wireless network adapter to your computer.

  6. Choose the wireless network manually. You might be close enough and everything could be set up correctly, but if Windows 11 isn't told to connect automatically, it might appear to be a network issue.

    Go to Network & Internet > Wi-Fi > Show available networks to find the Wi-Fi network. Select it and choose Connect automatically, and then Connect.

  7. Open a web browser and follow the steps for connecting to the network. This is required in most cases after choosing a public Wi-Fi network. You won't see this on other ones like your home network.

    You might need to confirm your information on that page, usually your email address and name, but sometimes other details like your room number if you're in a hotel. In some cases, like on an airplane, you might need to pay for access.

  8. Temporarily turn off other network-related tools which could be interfering with Windows' ability to use the network.

    Here are some examples:

    Set as metered connection toggled off in Windows 11
  9. Check the network driver. It could need updated or reverted to the previous driver if a recent update broke it.

    The easiest way to update the driver is to download it from a computer that has a working internet connection, and then copy it to your Windows 11 PC. Undoing a recent update is possible by rolling back the driver.

    Some driver updater tools let you scan the computer for missing or outdated drivers and then easily download them from a PC that has a valid network connection. It makes identifying the correct driver really easy.

  10. Check for Windows updates. If a driver update didn't fix it or an update wasn't necessary, there might a network-related bug fix from Windows Update.

    Windows update checking for updates
  11. Use the built-in Windows network troubleshooter to identify and fix problems related to the network. Get there through Settings > Network & Internet > Network troubleshooter.

    Network troubleshooter detecting problems
  12. Reset the network settings by going to Settings > Network & Internet > Network reset > Reset now. This will reinstall network adapters and reset core network components to their default state.

There Might Be Nothing You Can Do

Step 1 touched on this. In many cases, a device that can't connect to a Wi-Fi network is merely part of a bigger problem that's out of your control.

For example, if you're using a public network, like in a café or airport, it's possible there are simply too many people online at once. Bandwidth isn't unlimited, so at some point, a maximum number of devices will be reached, and depending on what they're doing (e.g., downloading or streaming), it could be maxed out sooner than you'd expect. In this kind of situation, there's really nothing you can do from your computer to fix it.

Some issues are related to your ISP or the network device you're using. If your whole town is out of internet, for example, it's pretty clear that performing the above steps won't help you get online.

Similarly, and this is easier to realize if you have multiple devices attempting a connection, your router might be outdated or malfunctioning. If so, updating the router, upgrading to a newer one, or resetting the router are some things you can try.

FAQ
  • Why can't I connect to a network in Windows 10?

    Wi-Fi and network errors in Windows 10 could result from the wrong password, device interference, or hardware and driver issues. Start by double-checking that your Windows 10 device is the only one that can't connect to a network, and then reboot your modem and router. Then try these other Windows 10 network troubleshooting tips, such as enabling and disabling airplane mode and moving to a less populated area if you're trying to connect to a public network.

  • How do I change the wireless network in Windows 11?

    From the taskbar, select the Wi-Fi symbol and then click the Available icon (right-facing arrow) to view available networks. To connect to a new network, right-click the current network and select Disconnect. Then choose the new network > Connect to switch networks or set up a new connection.

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