Reasons Wi-Fi Connections Drop

Solutions to dropped or lost Wi-Fi connections

The Wireless Connection
The Wireless Connection
Introduction

There often seems to be no reason behind Wi-Fi connections that randomly drop off or weaken. However, there are actually several common scenarios where an otherwise strong Wi-Fi connection can become unreachable. When that happens, there are a few things you can try to get your Wi-Fi back up and running again in no time.

  1. Insufficient Wi-Fi network range and power. Your wireless access point is going to reach only so far. When you're accessing the internet on the outer edges of the range limit, you'll notice the Wi-Fi connection start and stop, probably over and over. Of course, as you move even further away from the router or modem delivering the Wi-Fi, your connection will stop permanently.

    Siblings adjusting household equipment with instruction manual at home
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    You might be suffering from weak Wi-Fi access if your router is buried in a closet, stuck in the corner of your basement, three rooms away, or is simply old or nearly broken.

    The solution might be as simple as moving closer to the router or moving the router closer to you. As you lessen the distance between the router and your device, you strengthen the odds of a good connection.

    If you're on a wireless device like a phone or tablet, it's easy to move where the Wi-Fi strength is the strongest. On the other hand, relocating your computer or other gear isn't always a practical solution.

    Another option for improving Wi-Fi strength is to consider an antenna upgrade on your access point or on your computer, if possible. Similarly, mesh networks and range extenders are other common solutions to Wi-Fi range problems — but you don't need both.

  2. Wi-Fi radio interference. Radio signals from various consumer electronic products around your house or in the vicinity of your device and the router can interfere with Wi-Fi network signals.

    For example, cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, garage door openers, and microwave ovens can each take down a Wi-Fi network connection when they're powered on.

    Screenshot of the radio settings in a Linksys router

    So, if you notice that your phone stops getting Wi-Fi when you're right next to the microwave, chances are this is your problem. It's best to look into what that new device is and how it works since the way it transmits wireless signals might be what's interfering with other devices in the house.

    Move your network equipment or (on home networks) change some Wi-Fi radio settings to avoid this problem.

    Another solution, which might be easier, is to turn off those other devices that could be interfering with Wi-Fi. If you're in the kitchen when Wi-Fi drops, move away from the microwave or avoid using it if you need to also use your phone, laptop, or other device.

  3. The network is overloaded. Your hardware and home might be set up perfectly to accommodate Wi-Fi signals and avoid interference, but if there are too many devices using the network, the available bandwidth for each device is limited.

    When each device lacks enough bandwidth, videos stop playing, websites won't open, and the device might even eventually disconnect and reconnect from the network, over and over, as it tries to hold on to enough bandwidth to keep using Wi-Fi.

    Aerial View of Elevated Roads at Night
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    You can test your internet speed to see if you're getting the speeds you were promised. If the test shows a significantly slower speed than you pay your ISP for, there's either a problem with your modem or router or you're using too many devices on your network at once.

    Take some of the devices off of the network. If your TV is streaming movies, turn it off. If someone is gaming on your network, have him or her take a break. If a few people are browsing Facebook on their phones, ask them to disable their Wi-Fi connection to free up some of that bandwidth — you get the idea.

    If someone's downloading files onto a computer, see if they can use a program that supports bandwidth control so that less bandwidth will be used for that device and more will be available for your Wi-Fi device. In particular, Microsoft OneDrive tends to use all available upload bandwidth when it syncs large files, so temporarily pausing OneDrive could free up immediate bandwidth for other people.

    If your network is still slower than you think it should be, and Wi-Fi isn't stable, restart your router. Sometimes, the router's memory becomes full and needs flushing in order to work properly.

    If the router needs rebooting often or you find yourself unplugging your modem every few days, you might need to request a new modem from your ISP (if they provided it) or purchase a new router.

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  4. You're using the wrong Wi-Fi network. If two neighboring locations run unsecured Wi-Fi networks with the same name (SSID), your devices may connect to the wrong network without your knowledge.

    People using wifi
    Tom Pennington / Getty Images

    This misdirection causes all of the problems mentioned above, including a momentary loss and reconnect of Wi-Fi as you leave one network and join another. Additionally, in this scenario, your wireless devices will lose connection whenever the neighboring network is turned off, even if your preferred one remains functional.

    Not only that, but if the other network is suffering from bandwidth problems, then your device might experience those symptoms, too, even if their Wi-Fi remains on. Chances are, if the other location has an open network, other people are using it, too.

    Take proper security measures to ensure that your computers and other devices connect to the right network. You might also set up your phone, laptop, tablet, and so on to stop joining networks automatically to avoid picking up unsecured Wi-Fi.

    It'd also be wise, and kind, of you to tell your neighbor that he should set up a Wi-Fi password (or a dedicated, but still password-protected guest network) because people could easily be stealing his Wi-Fi.

  5. Outdated or missing driver or firmware. Each computer connected to a Wi-Fi network uses a small piece of software called the device driver. Network routers contain related technology called firmware.

    These pieces of software might become corrupted or obsolete over time and cause network drops and other wireless problems.

    Screenshot showing how to update a NETGEAR router

    Upgrade the router's firmware to the newest version. This isn't a common task but could be what's happening that's causing your specific Wi-Fi connection problems.

    Also consider updating your device's network driver, if that's supported on your particular device. For example, if your Windows computer keeps disconnecting from Wi-Fi, update the network drivers.

  6. Incompatible software packages installed. This is the least likely reason for internet connection problems, but Wi-Fi could be failing on a computer that has incompatible software installed, including patches, services, and other software that modifies the networking capabilities of the operating system.

    Error message on digital display
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    This is most likely your problem if you notice Wi-Fi dropping right after an update or other software installation. However, you should first address the driver problem mentioned above, because that's a much more likely situation if software is messing up your Wi-Fi.

    Record each time you install or upgrade software on your computer, and be prepared to uninstall any incompatible software or reinstall a corrupted program.

    If you've tried everything above and you're confident that the internet drops lie not with hardware or your ISP but with software, you could always reinstall the operating system, but consider that only as a last resort option. If you're on an iPhone or Android, you can also reset that software back to factory defaults.

  7. Your router may be bad. If none of these strategies work for creating a consistent Wi-Fi signal, you may have a router problem. Contact your wireless provider; they may provide a replacement free of charge. You may also choose to purchase a new router yourself, just make sure it's compatible with your Wi-Fi service before you do.