No Internet Connection? How to Troubleshoot Internet Issues
It’s incredibly frustrating when your Wi-Fi network is connected but your internet isn’t working. The network shows up in your Wi-Fi menu, you’ve put in the right password, but then you open your browser, and you get nothing. Aaargh!
Why isn’t your Wi-Fi working? A lot of different things could be the culprit. Sometimes the solution is simple—maybe your router is out of date or just needs a quick reboot. But sometimes it’s a little more complicated. So, we’ve put together a guide to help you troubleshoot your network and get your Wi-Fi flowing like gravy once more.
We cover the simple tips at the top of this guide, but feel free to jump farther down for advice on more complicated network troubles. Let’s get started.
Easy fixes for your internet
You won’t even have to get out of your chair to try these solutions. Here’s hoping one of these approaches does the trick.
Restart your device
This might sound a bit too obvious, but the first thing you should do is restart your device. It won’t work every time, but it gives the operating system a chance to clear things up and try again in case it’s frozen, not recognizing the network, or just being uncooperative.
See if there’s an internet outage
It could be that you’re not the only one whose internet is down. Run a quick search on Twitter or Google to see if anyone else in your area is reporting internet outages or connectivity issues from your provider. You can also find information about internet shutdowns on the website Down Detector, or you can call up your internet service provider (ISP) to investigate.
If the internet is indeed down in your area but you still need internet, you can use your cell phone as a mobile hotspot to access Wi-Fi. You can also go outside in search of a public hotspot to connect to. Take a look at our Wi-Fi hotspot guide for more details.
If you’re in no rush for internet access, then open up a book or old-timey print magazine to keep yourself entertained as you wait until the network is back up.
Troubleshooting routers and modems
So you’ve tried the obvious stuff, and it’s still not working. That means it’s time to get up out of your chair and take a look at your equipment. Ugh.
Don’t worry—we’ll get this working again in no time.
Test your Wi-Fi on different devices
If you’re on your laptop, pull out your phone or tablet to see if you can get internet over the same Wi-Fi connection. If it connects on one device but not the other, then you know that your internet connection is fine and it’s the disconnected device that’s having the problem.
If your Wi-Fi is not working on any device, however, then it’s the router, modem, or your ISP that’s causing problems. It could also be a faulty Ethernet cable, which connects your modem to your router.
We’ll offer some tips for disconnected devices farther down in this piece, but let’s start with the modem and router since those are the most common culprits in Wi-Fi issues like these.
Restart your modem and router
The modem and router are like the heart and lungs of your home internet network. They’re essential to keeping your connection going and Wi-Fi pumping throughout your home. But if they’re experiencing issues, sometimes all it takes is a quick reboot to get them working again.
Unplug the modem and router and leave them unplugged for a minute or so. Then plug them back in and see if they’re able to reconnect. Unplugging your modem and router gives the equipment a chance to clean memory banks and restart tasks.
This is the tried-and-true trick of every coffee shop and McDonald’s manager who runs a free public Wi-Fi network. If you’re on a network that’s getting bogged down by lots of devices and users, then a simple reboot offers a chance to clear the clogs and start fresh.
You can check to see if you’re getting a signal by looking at the LED lights at the front of your equipment. The light for an internet connection is usually labeled WAN, Internet, or with a globe icon, and you can tell the internet is on if the light (usually white or green) is solid or flashing.
If the light is red or not on at all, that means it’s still not working properly.
Try a different Ethernet cable
If you have a spare Ethernet cable, swap it out with the one currently plugged into your modem and router and see if it makes a difference. Cables don’t last forever, and it could be that your current Ethernet cable has kicked the bucket and needs to be replaced.
Cables can also be damaged by pets or pests, so make sure your dog isn’t chewing on it and didn’t get hurt.
If you’re experiencing repeated slowdowns and outages, you may have an internet plan that’s too slow. Take our “How much speed do I need?” test to see if you’re paying for enough internet bandwidth to deliver the goods.
Upgrade your equipment
You may be experiencing connection issues if you have outdated equipment that doesn’t match the latest wireless standards.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) developed a series of standards that allow a Wi-Fi device like a laptop to connect to the internet. There are currently five standards. Here they are in order from oldest to newest:
- 11b / Wi-Fi 1
- 11a / Wi-Fi 2
- 11g / Wi-Fi 3
- 11n / Wi-Fi 4
- 11ac / Wi-Fi 5
- 11ax / Wi-Fi 6
The wireless standard of your computer will be backward compatible with previous standards, but you may have issues if it’s an older piece of hardware and doesn’t adhere to more recent wireless standards. In that case, you may want to invest in a new wireless adapter for your computer that matches your router’s capabilities.
Here’s how to check the wireless standard of your computer:
Hold down on Option while clicking on the Apple menu in the top left of the screen, then select System Information. Scroll down to Network, click Wi-Fi in the drop-down menu, and look for the readout for Supported PHY Modes. This will tell you what wireless standard your computer is outfitted for.
Go to the Start menu or click the Pearl button to access the Device Manager. Once you’re in Device Manager, click on the menu titled Network adapters and look for the listing of your wireless adapter and the wireless standard it’s set to.
Call your internet service provider
There can sometimes be a miscommunication between your modem and router and your ISP’s network—especially if you own your equipment instead of renting it from the internet company. The best solution in that case is to call your internet provider and ask what the problem is.
Chances are the ISP’s tech support department will give you a clear answer as to whether or not their service is down. If there’s a bug in which the modem isn’t properly communicating with the network, the ISP can reset the system on its end and force the network to recognize the modem you have.
Reset your router to default settings
If you’ve tried everything else to no avail, it may be time to reset your router to its factory settings. This is a pretty big step to take because it will restore the router to the way it was when you first pulled it out of the box, wiping the slate clean.
Resetting the router will erase your password and issue a default one (which you will then want to change for security reasons). It will also erase any memory of custom features or guest networks you’ve set up through the router, and it will kick off all the devices that were signed onto the network.
Getting everything back up and running again will definitely take a chunk of time out of your day, so this is worth trying only if you have no other options.
Anyway, here’s how you do it: Unplug the router and then use a safety pin or paperclip to push the button hidden in the tiny hole at the back of the router. Hold it down for a few moments and plug the router back in. After that, you can set up the router again just like new.
Troubleshooting desktops, laptops, and mobile devices
If you’ve pinpointed your Wi-Fi device as the source of your disconnection woes, here’s a few things you can try to get the Wi-Fi back up and running.
Run the internet troubleshooter (for Windows)
If you’re on Windows, then run the built-in troubleshooter program to see if your machine can run a diagnostic and fix the issue for you. For Windows 10, click to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Troubleshoot and then select the troubleshooter for Internet Connections.
If you’re still having trouble or you’re on an older version of Windows, you can find other helpful tips on Microsoft’s page for fixing Wi-Fi connection issues.
Run Apple Diagnostics or Apple Hardware Test (for macOS)
Most Mac computers have a built-in diagnostic program that will scan your computer for issues, including problems with Wi-Fi. It’s called Apple Diagnostics on models from 2013 and later and Apple Hardware Test on models from 2012 with at least OS X 10.8.4.
To run Apple Diagnostics, disconnect any Ethernet cables or external DVD or hard-drives, hit restart, and hold down the D key as the computer reboots. Pick a language and then the diagnostic will launch automatically.
You can launch the Apple Hardware Test in slightly the same way. The only difference is that when the screen for the test appears as your computer is restarting and you’re given the prompt to choose a language, you want to press Return or the right arrow button.
Clear your DNS cache
Clearing your DNS cache could solve issues with your Wi-Fi connection.
The DNS cache is a digital log of all the websites you’ve visited, offering your browser a shortcut to quickly load web pages that you’ve visited in the past. But your cache can create technical issues if there’s a glitch in the storage banks or if pop-up ads or online malware have inserted URLs into your cache uninvited.
Here’s how to clear your cache on different devices:
Go to the Command Prompt by punching cmd into the search bar, finding the Command Prompt shortcut in the Windows System folder, or typing cmd into the Run window.
Once you’re in the Command Prompt, type in ipconfig /flushdns and hit Enter. Then make a toilet flushing sound as the cache gets flushed away.
Run the Terminal app by opening it in the Utilities folder or searching for it on Spotlight.
In the Terminal app, enter the command to flush your cache. It can be slightly different depending on your Mac operating system:
- Yosemite and after: sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder
- Yosemite 10.10–10.10.3: sudo discoveryutil mdnsflushcache
- Mavericks, Mountain Lion, Lion: sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder
- Snow Leopard: sudo dscacheutil -flushcache
You’ll be prompted to enter in the administrator password for your account. Then your cache goes bye-bye—and hopefully any glitches with it.
On an iPhone or Apple device, all you have to do is switch on and then switch off Airplane Mode or reboot your device to clear your DNS cache. For Android devices, type chrome://net-internals/#dns into the URL bar in Chrome, click to the DNS menu, then click Clear Host Cache.
After you’ve cleared your cache, test your Wi-Fi to see if it’s back up. Also, you can always take our speed test to see if your internet speeds match those offered on your monthly internet plan.
Switch off your antivirus software
Try turning off your antivirus software or firewall. Misconfigured antivirus protections can sometimes interfere with your Wi-Fi connection.
Also, if possible, run a scan to see if any malware has gotten onto your computer. It could be that a virus has gotten into your system and it’s messing with the network.
Make sure you have a working IP address
There’s a chance that your computer is having trouble configuring a valid IP address. Your computer needs a unique IP to get on the internet, but you won’t be able to if multiple devices are assigned the same IP or something has prevented your computer from assigning one. It’s not a particularly common issue, but it can happen—especially if you have multiple routers on the same home network.
To ensure sure you have a valid IP address, use these instructions:
Right click on the internet icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen and click Open Network and Sharing Center. Click through Change adapter settings > Ethernet > Properties > Internet Protocol Version 4.
Once you’ve entered Internet Protocol Version 4, select the options for Obtain an IP address automatically and Obtain DNS server address automatically. This will ensure that you get an IP address that doesn’t conflict with others or invalid digits. (These instructions are for Windows 10. Make your way to Microsoft’s Support page for details on previous operating systems.)
Click the Apple menu in the top left-hand corner of the screen, then click System Preferences > Network. Click on the network connection you want (i.e., Ethernet or Wi-Fi) and select Configure IPv4.
Choose the option for setting up an IP address. To have the IP address generated automatically, choose Using DHCP. This is the easiest way to do it.
Another (slightly more complex) way to do this on a Mac is to ask your internet service provider if it’s given you an IP address. You can then select the option for doing it manually and type in the IP address from your internet provider. You can also enter in other information from your provider, for the subnet mask, router, and DNS server.
Reset your network settings (aka the nuclear option)
If all else fails, then it’s time to reset your network entirely. This changes everything back to default settings. It’s not the most convenient option, but it could be the fix you need to start from scratch and erase the Wi-Fi bugs once and for all.
Keep in mind that this isn’t like turning off the computer and turning it back on. In the same way that resetting your router restores it to factory settings, restoring your network totally wipes out your Wi-Fi settings, bring it back to how it was when you were just setting up your home internet for the first time.
Your computer will forget your Wi-Fi network’s name, passwords, VPN settings—everything. Do this only as a last resort and make sure you save your passwords and other necessary info before doing the reset.
OK, then. Ready? Alright, here’s how to do it:
How to reset your Wi-Fi network on Mac
Click Apple menu > System Preferences > Network. Click on Wi-Fi in the drop-down menu on the left of the screen and hit the minus (-) button to remove it. Then add it again by clicking the plus button (+) and selecting Wi-Fi in the Interface options. Hit Apply and close out of the Network settings.
How to reset your Wi-Fi network on Windows
Click to Windows Settings > Network & Internet > Status. Hit the Network reset button. Hit Reset now to confirm, then hit Yes to confirm once again. (This is just for Windows 10. For previous Windows operating systems, see Microsoft’s Support page.)
Once you’ve done that, restart your computer and follow the prompts for Windows to guide you through setting up your new home network. Good luck!
FAQ on troubleshooting internet issues
Here are answers to some common questions and a quick breakdown of the topics we’ve discussed in more detail above.
Why isn’t my internet working?
There are a lot of possible reasons for why your internet isn’t working. Your router or modem may be out of date, your DNS cache or IP address may be experiencing a glitch, or your internet service provider could be experiencing outages in your area. The problem could be as simple as a faulty Ethernet cable.
To figure out the issue, try rebooting your device and your modem and router, and then call your ISP to see if it’s experiencing problems on its end.
Why is my Wi-Fi down?
If your Wi-Fi is down, you may be receiving an internet signal to your home but you can’t get a Wi-Fi signal. By that we mean you can connect to your modem directly with an Ethernet cable, but you can’t get a wireless signal.
If that’s the case, then the issue is with your router. Unplug and reboot it, check to see if it has up-to-date wireless settings and a valid IP address, and restore it to factory settings if necessary.
Why isn’t my modem connecting to the internet?
If your modem isn’t connecting to the internet, then either the internet service provider’s network is down or your modem is not communicating properly with the network. Make sure to reboot your modem to see if it starts working again, and then call your ISP’s tech support line to see if the network is up and the modem is configured properly.
How do I fix my internet?
The first thing you should do if you’re having internet issues is restart your computer. It sounds too good to be true, but sometimes all it takes is a quick restart for your computer to clear out a frozen task or refresh its memory and start over. You should also try restarting your modem and router for the same reason.
If that doesn’t work, then test your Wi-Fi on a different device, search Twitter to see if there are other outages reported in your area, and run a diagnostic on your computer. This will help you figure out where the issue is coming from and proceed from there.
Author - Peter Holslin
Peter Holslin has spent more than a decade writing for Rolling Stone, VICE, BuzzFeed, and countless other publications. He graduated with a BA in liberal arts and journalism from New York City’s The New School University in 2008. Since then, he has roved from city to city and lived overseas, mastering his craft as an editor, staff writer, and freelancer while also acquiring ninja-like skills to address feeble Wi-Fi speeds and other internet challenges.
Editor - Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has edited for HighSpeedInternet.com for three years, working with smart writers to revise everything from internet reviews to reports on your state’s favorite Netflix show. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span (buffering kills). With a degree in English and editing and five years working with online content, it’s safe to say she likes words on the internet. She is most likely to be seen wearing Birkenstocks and hanging out with a bouncy goldendoodle named Dobby, who is a literal fur angel sent to Earth.