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How to Fix Your Wireless Internet

Connection Problems
By Samara Lynn

1. My New Router Won't Connect to the Internet


The Problem: You buy a new router. You disconnect the old router, connect the new one, and
follow the manufacturer's instructions for setup. Even though you can see the new wireless
network and can even connect your computer or device, you cannot browse the Internet.

Quick Fix: Unplug the network cable (or cables) and power from the broadband modem you
received from your ISP including the coaxial or DSL connection, as well as all cables from the new
router. Leave everything unplugged and disconnected for at least 30 seconds. Next, re-connect the
coaxial cable, DSL, or FIOS connection to the broadband modem, making sure it's firmly in place
and that the WAN/Internet light is on. Then, attach all cables back to your router (including the
Ethernet cable from the broadband modem to the router's WAN port) and power the router back
on. Make sure the Internet connection activity light is on. Doing these steps forces the broadband
modem to flush any information it is holding onto from your previous router. Try browsing the
Internet. If you still can't, go through the router setup instructions again, now that you have reset
the broadband modem.

2. The Router Setup Software Won't Detect the Router


The Problem: The instructions to your new router say that the software on the CD that came with
the router should automatically get your computer to detect the new router, wirelessly. You've tried
a couple of times and keep getting a message that indicates the software cannot find the router.

Quick Fix: This is actually a common problem with newer routers on the market that have
"automated setup." Sometimes the setup process just doesn't work. Here's how you can bypass
the setup and go right into the router's management interface to setup your wireless network.
Connect an Ethernet cable from your computer to one of the LAN ports of the router (you can also
keep the router connected to the broadband modem). Go into your computer's network settings. In
Windows 7, they are located in Control Panel|Network and Internet|Network Sharing Center|
Change Adapter Settings.

Right-click and select Properties of Local Area Connection. Highlight Internet Protocol Version 4
(TCP/IP v4). In the TCP/IP v4 windows that opens, click the radio button, and select "Use the
following IP address." Under "IP address" you type an address that matches the default IP address
of your router, a string of numbers broken up by periods. You'll find this in the router's
documentation. For instance, if the default IP of the router is "192.168.1.1" you should type in
"192.168.1.2"—making the last number different prevent an IP address conflict with the router but
places your computer and the router on the same network. Under "Subnet mask," type in
"255.255.255.0"—this is the subnet mask for your typical home network, and for "Gateway" type in
the default IP of the router—in this example it would be the "192.168.1.1" address.

You now have your computer on the same network as the router. You can now open a browser
and enter the router's IP address. Just type the router number into your address bar, like this:
http://192.168.1.1. You will be prompted to enter a username and password. This information is
also available with your router's documentation. Once you are in the management interface, you
can manually setup your wireless connection: the SSID, pass phrase, and security.

If you can't browse to the router's interface, you may have made a typo. Recheck your network
settings under "TCP/IP v4" properties once more.

3. The Wireless Network's Name/SSID Disappeared


The Problem: All of a sudden, your SSID or Wi-Fi network name is no longer listed when you click
to see available wireless networks. There are various reasons this might happen, and it's not an
uncommon occurrence.

Quick Fix: Force your computer or device to connect to the router even if it's not broadcasting.
From Windows, go into Control Panel|Network and Internet|Network and Sharing|Manage Wireless
Networks.

If you see your wireless network listed, right-click on its icon and click Properties. Check the option
"Connect even if the network is not broadcasting its name (SSID)."

If you don't see your wireless network listed, click "Add" then select "Manually connect to a
wireless network" and put your wireless information in.

Mac users: You can also "force-join" an SSID that has stopped broadcasting through a Mac's
Airport Utility. Select to join "Other" and type in the name of the network and password.

Of course, you still want to find out why your SSID stopped broadcasting. Check to make sure
broadcasting was not inadvertently disabled in the router's software, reboot the router, and check
for any software updates.

4. My Internet Connection Keeps Dropping


The Problem: You are happily surfing the Internet and every now and then the connection drops.
Perhaps you see the light flicker down to nothing on your broadband cable modem and then
suddenly all LEDs light up again.

Quick Fix: This is a common issue, particularly for those with cable Internet service or FIOS. You
wouldn’t believe how often this problem is caused by a degraded signal coming into the cable
modem. If you use splitters, try replacing them. If you have several splitters on an inbound cable
connection, say one coming into your home and another to break out the cable signal in your home
entertainment system, check to see if they are -7dB splitters (printed on the outside of the splitter).
Try replacing a -7dB splitter that your broadband modem is connected to with a -3.5 dB splitter,
which may decrease signal loss. Also, if you happen to have three splitter and you are not using
the third connection, try replacing it with a two-way splitter

5. When I Move to Another Room in the House, the WiFi


Signal Drops
The Problem: In your living room, your wireless connection is fine. Move into another room and the
signal becomes weak or nonexistent.

Quick Fix: There are several things that could cause a wireless signal to drop. The big culprit is
interference. Cordless phones and any device using the 2.4GHz band could be the cause. Even
things you couldn't imagine could cause interference, including mirrors and glass. Once you've
checked for physical interference, test something: Do all your devices and computers lose signal at
the same location, or just one in particular? If all, chances are the problem lies with the router.
Consider external antenna for the router and also check for router firmware updates. If one specific
machine is dropping the signal, update that machine's wireless client adapter or upgrade the
adapter altogether

6. Port Forwarding Does Not Work


The Problem: You want to run an application that requires a specific port on your network to be
open. You follow the directions that the app developers provide only to get the error, "Port closed."

Quick Fix: Usually, this isn't a problem with a user's configuration. It's a problem on the Internet
service provider's side. ISPs will often block ports to strengthen your network against hackers and
intruders. Before frantically going through your configuration steps again, check to make sure the
port you are setting up for forwarding is not blocked by your ISP. Use a tool like the Open Port
Check Tool to see if the port you need opened is being blocked. If so, contact your ISP.

7. I Forgot the Password to My Router


The Problem: You forgot the password to manage your router. Period.

Quick Fix: You have to reset the router back to its factory default settings. You'll lose all your
configuration settings made on the router. On the back of most routers is a recessed button
labeled "Reset." Using a paper clip, hold this button in until the LEDs on the router blink (the
amount of time you need to hold the reset button may vary from router to router, so check the
documentation). This will reset the router back to factory settings, enabling you to use the default
username and password again. Also, many current routers allow you to save the configuration
settings so you don't have to reconfigure after performing a factory reset, so check to see if your
router has that capability.
8. The Router Shuts Itself Off
The Problem: After having a router for a while, you notice that every now and then it shuts itself off.

Quick Fix: This is usually caused by overheating. Many of us leave our routers running 24/7. As it
ages, the router can become more inefficient at cooling. Check to ensure the cooling vents on the
router are not obstructed. Unplug the router for a bit. Use a can of compressed air to clear out as
much dust as you can from the vents.

Newer routers have energy efficient settings that let you specify when it should shut the wireless
radio off or power down, such as after 30 minutes of being idle. If your router doesn’t have this
feature, best practice is to turn it off when it’s not being used to extend its life.
10 Ways to Boost Your Wireless Signal
1. Free: Change the channel
Not the TV's; your router's. Wi-Fi routers operate on specific channels. When you set up a typical
router, it usually chooses a certain channel by default. Some routers choose the least-crowded
channel, but yours may not have. Check for yourself which Wi-Fi channel is the least crowded to
boost the router's performance, perhaps boosting signal range. A good, free tool to use is
inSSIDer. Don't be put off by the graphs and excess information. What you want to focus on is the
column "Channel." See how many routers in this area are on channel 6 in the slide above? If your
router is on the same channel, you want to switch it to a less-crowded one, like 4 or 1. You can
change the channel of your router by going into its interface. All routers have different ways to
access the interface, so check with your manufacturer.

2. Free: Update router firmware


Updating router firmware is often overlooked by home users. Business networking devices usually
display some sort of notification when newer software for the device is available for download.
Consumer products such as home wireless routers, especially older routers, don't always offer this
notification. Check often for firmware updates for your router. There is typically a section in the
router's interface for upgrading the firmware. However, you often have to go the router
manufacturer's website and search for the firmware (most vendor make searching for firmware
pretty easy) and then upload it through the router's interface. There's often accompanying release
notes that tell you what the firmware helps to fix; often the fixes are for connectivity problems.

3. Free: Update adapter firmware


Just like routers, network adapters on PCs and laptops also are subject to firmware updates.
Remember, good wireless range and performance is dictated not just by the router but by the
network adapter on clients (as well as other factors, but these are the two biggies.) Most laptops
have on-board adapters. Go into your Network settings to find the name of the adapter (via Control
Panel in Windows OS') and then to that adapter's manufacturer's site to make sure you have the
latest firmware.

4. Free: Change position


Do you have your wireless router nestled up against your broadband modem tucked away in your
entertainment center in your basement that's converted into the family den? Move it, if you have
range issues. You don't have to have the router in close proximity to your modem. Ideally, a Wi-Fi
router should be in a central location. You can purchase custom length Ethernet Cat 5 cable from
Best Buy or any place that services computers (although if you do that, this is technically no longer
a free options) if you need more flexibility in centrally positioning the router.

5. Free: DD-WRT
For the adventurous; DD-WRT is open-source software for routers. It's known to ramp up router
performance and extend the feature set beyond what typically comes with most routers. Not every
router supports it, but the number of routers that are supported keeps growing. Warning; installing
DD-WRT may quite possibly invalidate your router's warranty. Many manufacturers will not help
you troubleshoot router issues once you have DD-WRT on them. Hence, this is not a
recommended option for routers under warranty or in a business network. There are also no
guarantees that DD-WRT upgrades won't negatively affect a router. However, many users are
finding it a free way to trick-out their routers. So, if you have an older, spare router laying around,
or want to take the plunge to see if DD-WRT firmware helps your range issues on a newer router,
check if it's supported on the DD-WRT site. Also note, it's not easy to remove DD-WRT from some
routers without doing a lot research

6. Cheap: Set up a second router as an access point or repeater


You can set up just about any router as a wireless access point. To do so, you need to connect the
second router's LAN port to the primary router's LAN port. On the second router, you will want to
give it the same addressing information as the primary router. For example, if you primary router's
IP address is 192.168.2.1 and its netmask is 255.255.255.0; then you could make the second
router's IP 192.168.2.2 and use the same netmask. It's also important that you assign the same
SSID and security on the second router and turn DHCP off on the second one as well.

Newer routers make this process easier. If you have a second router that's only about a year old,
most of them can be set to operate in "access point" or repeater mode. Configuring is as simple as
clicking a button. Check with your router's manufacturer or documentation. You can also just
purchase a dedicated access point such as Linksys By Cisco's Wireless-N Access Point with Dual
Band WAP610N. This is a more expensive option, but will likely save you some network
configuration headaches. Best bet, if you go this route; use an access point from the same
manufacturer of your router.

7. Cheap: Antennas
Newer 802.11n Wi-Fi routers are increasingly coming with internal antennas. There are some that
still have or support external ones, and these antennas can often be upgraded. Consider a hi-gain
antenna, which you can position so that the Wi-Fi signal goes in the direction you want. Hawking
Technology offers the HAI15SC Hi-Gain Wireless Corner Antenna. Though, we have yet to test it;
Hawking claims it boosts wireless signal strength from a standard 2dBi to 15dBi. Antennas like
these can attach to most routers that have external antennas connectors. Hi-gain or "booster"
antennas range in pricing from $40 to $100 dollars.

8. More Expensive: Repeaters/Extenders


Most major wireless networking vendors offer devices that act as repeaters or wireless extenders.
While they can extend a Wi-Fi signal, they can be tricky to setup, can cause interference with the
signal and can be expensive. A good repeater or extender can you set you back almost $200.

9. More Expensive: New Router/Adapters


How about getting new routers and adapters, altogether? Upgrading your home network to
802.11n and using the 5 GHz band should give noticeable performance improvement. 2.4 GHz is
said to actually have greater range than the 5 GHz band, but that only becomes apparent when
supplying wireless coverage to large areas such as college campuses or municipalities. In a
number of our router testing, for smaller areas, like in a typical home network, 802.11n and the 5
Ghz band kept better throughout than 2.4 GHz with most routers, at greater distances. It's a more
expensive option, but if wireless connectivity is crucial for you, it's a plausible one. If you go with an
802.11n router, you will of course, need to update client adapters that support "N" as well. USB-
based 802.11 N adapters are convenient ways to update a laptop that may have an older on-board
adapter.

More Expensive: Single Vendor Solution


Vendors are quick to say that their product will work with other vendor's products. But it just makes
sense: Cisco network adapters will work better with Cisco routers; Belkin adapters work optimally
with Belkin routers and etc. If possible, try to limit your network devices to one vendor; that means
not only your router or adapter, but antennas, repeaters and access points.