How to Fix Network Cable Unplugged Errors in Windows

This common error usually resolves with basic troubleshooting

When your computer can't connect to the network, you may see an error message that reads "A network cable is unplugged" and see a red "X" on the taskbar or in Windows Explorer. This message may appear only once every few days or once every few minutes, depending on the nature of the problem, and it can occur even when you're on Wi-Fi.

Causes for Network Cable Unplugged Error

Errors regarding unplugged network cables have several potential causes. Typically, the message appears on a computer when an installed Ethernet network adapter attempts unsuccessfully to make a local network connection.

Reasons for failure might include malfunctioning network adapters, bad Ethernet cables, or misbehaving network device drivers.

Some people who have upgraded from older versions of Windows to Windows 10 have also reported this issue.

How to Fix the Unplugged Network Cables Error

Try the following procedures, in order, to stop these error messages from appearing, and then reconnect to the network:

An illustration of the troubleshooting steps for Windows 'Network Cable Unplugged' errors.
  1. Restart the computer by fully powering down, waiting a few seconds, and then turning the computer back on. If you're on a laptop, take the extra step of removing the battery, if possible, and walking away for 10 minutes. Just unplug the laptop from power and remove the battery. Reattach the battery, plug the laptop back in, and start Windows again when you get back.

  2. Turn off the Ethernet network connection if you're not using it. This step applies, for example, when you're running a Wi-Fi network with computers that include built-in Ethernet adapters. Double-click the small A network cable, is unplugged error window, and choose the Disable option to turn off the adapter.

  3. Check both ends of the Ethernet cable to ensure that they are not loose. One end connects to your computer, and the other connects to the primary network device, probably a router. If this procedure doesn't help, try testing for a faulty cable. Instead of buying a new one outright, plug the same cable into a different computer or temporarily swap out the Ethernet cable for a known good one.

  4. Update the network adapter driver software to a newer version if available. If it's already running the latest version, consider uninstalling and reinstalling the driver or rolling it back to a previous version. It might seem impossible to check the internet for outdated network drivers when the network can't reach the internet—however, some free driver updater tools such as Driver Talent for Network Card and DriverIdentifier help.

  5. Use Device Manager or Network and Sharing Center (through Control Panel) to change the Ethernet adapter's Duplex settings to use a Half Duplex or Full Duplex option instead of the default Auto selection. This change works around the technical limitations of the adapter by changing the speed and timing at which it operates. Some people report more success with the Half Duplex option, but this setting lowers the maximum total data rate that the device supports. Go to the device's properties and find the Speed & Duplex setting within the Advanced tab to adjust it.

  6. The Ethernet adapter is a removable USB dongle, PCMCIA, or PCI Ethernet card on some older computers. Remove and reinsert the adapter hardware to verify that it's connected properly. If that doesn't help, try replacing the adapter, if possible.

  7. Troubleshoot other network connections. If none of the above procedures fix the "A network cable is unplugged" error, it's possible that the device on the other end of the Ethernet connection, such as a broadband router, is malfunctioning. Troubleshoot these devices as needed.

  • What's an alternative to an Ethernet cable for computer networking?

    Wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, have replaced computer networking cables in many offices and homes. Wireless technologies are also desirable in cases where the cable has to run outside, in conditions that might likely damage it.

  • I suspect my router is the cause of my "network cable is unplugged" error. How do I troubleshoot a router?

    There are several steps to troubleshooting a home network router problem. Some things you'll look for include mismatched Wi-Fi security settings, loose or disconnected cables, and defective or outdated hardware.

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