How to Properly Restart a Router & Modem

Rebooting Your Network Devices in the Right Order Makes All the Difference

Rear view of a D-Link AC3200 (DIR-890L/R) wireless router
D-Link DIR-890L/R (Rear View). © D-Link

One of most simple troubleshooting steps of all is to restart whatever thing isn't working properly.

Does Windows seem a little buggy today? Reboot your computer. Is your iPhone not connecting to anyone's WiFi anymore? Restart your phone and try again.

It borders on annoying when you're describing a problem to your IT department or a tech support agent and they suggest a restart or reboot right away, but the fact is, restarting actually does fix a lot of problems.

So it is with your network hardware, like your digital modem (be it cable, DSL, satellite, or fiber), as well your router.

Did your smartphone and laptop both lose connection to the Internet? Is your NAS no longer showing up on your desktop? Are all of your connected devices sluggish when it comes to streaming and browsing online?

If so, it's probably time to reboot your router and modem! In my experience with my clients, rebooting network hardware corrects widespread network and Internet issues 75% of the time or more. Seriously.

Here's the small print, though: you have to restart your router and modem in the right order if you expect it to help! In fact, do it incorrectly, and you could lose connectivity completely, potentially a worse problem than you're dealing with right now.

Follow the short process below, in order, for the best possible chance of having this workout. Rebooting in this way should work with pretty much all makes and models of routers and modems:

How to Properly Reboot a Router & Modem

Important: The following process is not the same as a resetting a router or modem. The word reset is short for factory reset, which means the removal of all wireless settings and other configurations. That's not what we're doing here!

  1. Unplug both your router and your modem.

    Warning: Don't use a button labeled reset, or even restart, since these likely start the factory reset/restore process I just warned you about above. A clearly labeled power button is probably fine to use, but unplugging removes any doubt.

    Advanced: If you have other managed network hardware, like many kinds of network switches, be sure to unplug them too. Unmanaged devices are probably fine left powered on but use your judgment if you think these might in some way be involved in your issue.
     
  1. Wait at least 30 seconds. Make a cup of coffee or go pet the dog... just don't skip this step.

    Why Wait? This step might not be necessary if we knew exactly what the problem with your connection was but restarting your router and modem is the sort of thing you often do when you have no idea what's wrong. This time lets the devices cool down a bit and clearly indicates to your ISP and your computers and devices that you're offline.
     
  2. Plug the modem back in. Yes, just the modem. If it doesn't power on in the first few seconds, there may be a power button that needs pressing.

    Is This My Modem? Your modem is the device that your physical connection to the Internet attaches to. For example, if you have cable-based Internet service, your modem is the device that the coax cable from outside your home comes in and attaches to.
     
  3. Wait at least 60 seconds. This wait is very important and one I see skipped in other "reboot your network stuff" tutorials out there. Your modem needs ample time to authenticate with your ISP and get a public IP address assigned.

    Tip: Every modem is different but on most, there are four lights: a power light, a received light, a send light, and an activity light. Better than an arbitrary wait time would be making sure the first three lights are stable, indicating that the modem is fully powered on.
     
  1. Plug the router back in. Like with the modem back in Step 3, some may require that you press a power button.

    Tip: If you have a combination modem-router, just skip this step, as well as the next. The software in that device will initiate things in the proper order.

    Is This My Router? The router is always physically connected to the modem, so the other device next to your modem is probably it. Not all routers have an antenna, but many do, so if you see one or more of those, that's probably the router.
     
  2. Wait at least 2 minutes. This gives your router time to boot back up, and your computers, smartphones, and other "downstream" devices that use your network ample time to get new private IP addresses assigned by the DHCP service in your router.

    Advanced: If you removed the power from any switches or other network hardware, now is the time to power those back on. Be sure to give them a minute or so as well. If you have several devices, be sure to power them on from the outside-in, based on your network map.
     
  1. Now that your router and modem have been properly restarted, it's time to test to see if the problem went away.

    Tip: While it shouldn't be necessary to restart your computers and other wireless devices, you may need to at this point, especially if some of your devices have come online and others haven't. Like with your router and modem, be sure to restart your computer the right way as well. If restarting isn't an option, execute ipconfig /renew from the Command Prompt.

If rebooting your router and modem didn't fix the problem, you'll need to follow some more specific troubleshooting for whatever your network or Internet issue is.

In general, if it appears that your modem is having trouble getting a signal from your ISP (e.g. those first three lights aren't lit solid), contact your ISP for more help. Otherwise, it's time to look closer at your network setup inside your home.