9 Wi-Fi problems and how to fix them

Slow internet speeds? Here's how to fix your Wi-Fi with these quick tips

Wireless internet is like electricity at this point — you only notice it exists when it stops working. Then you panic. But you don’t need to! There are many unique ways that your router can stop working, but you’d be surprised how many of those issues can be easily fixed.

You can even fix it yourself with a few, simple tips. Here is a list of things that commonly go wrong with Wi-Fi, and simple things you can try to solve those issues.

Slow or no internet access in certain rooms

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Wi-Fi is radio waves, meaning your router broadcasts in all directions from a central location. If your router is in a far corner of your house, you’re covering a great deal of the outside world unnecessarily. If you can, move your router to a more centralized location. The closer you can put your router to the center of your coverage area, the better reception will be throughout your house.

If you have external antennas, you can try adjusting those too. Alternating between fully vertical and fully horizontal positions can help reach in multiple directions.

If you live in an apartment building, other routers might be interfering with yours. Free software like NetSpot on Mac and Windows (and Android) or Wi-Fi Analyzer for Android, can show you every wireless network nearby, and what channel they’re using. If your router overlaps with nearby networks in particular rooms, consider switching to a less congested channel.

If none of that helps, your home might be too much for one router to handle. Consider purchasing a wireless repeater or setting up an old router to serve as one to extend the range of your main router.

Slow internet everywhere

If your Wi-Fi speed is slow no matter where you are, try plugging a laptop into your modem directly and test your internet speed using a site like speedtest.net. If speeds are still down, the problem is likely with your Internet connection, not your router. Contact your ISP.

If that’s not the issue, it could be that your current wireless channel is overcrowded by your devices, or by those of other nearby networks. Consider changing the channel on your router in your router settings. Each router brand does that a little different though.

If that doesn’t help, performing a factory reset on your router and setting it up again may help. On most routers, there’s a “Reset” button which you can hold down with a paperclip. Do so for 30 seconds and the router should default from factory settings. Use our guide to setting up a wireless router to get everything properly configured, and see if that helps.

If none of that works and your internet is fine on a wired connection, your router might be dying. Consider buying a new one: Here are five of the best routers we know of. If the router seems fine, then it might instead be your modem, which could suffer connectivity issues if it’s on its way out.

One device can’t connect to the Wi-Fi

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Sometimes you run into an issue with one particular device. It’s probably just a momentary issue. Try turning off the Wi-Fi on your device, then re-enabling it. If that doesn’t work, do the same with your router by unplugging it and then plugging it back in 30 seconds later.

If that doesn’t help, or if the problem re-occurs, consider deleting your current network from the list of saved networks on your device, then re-connect again.

If you’re running Windows 10, search for Wifi troubleshooting, and open the result, Identify and repair network issues. That will go through a series of diagnostics that may restore connectivity. On MacOS, you can run Wireless Diagnostics. Hold the Options key and click the AirPort (Wi-Fi) icon on the menu bar. Find Open Wireless Diagnostics, and then follow the on-screen instructions.

If none of that works, consider rebooting the device.

Nothing can connect to Wi-Fi

If you can’t connect to your Wi-Fi at all, plug your laptop into the router directly using an Ethernet cable, and see if you can connect that way. If that works, your Wi-Fi is the problem — but if it doesn’t, then your internet may be down altogether. In that case, you’ll want to contact your ISP.

Resetting your router can fix a myriad of issues and an inability to connect is one of them. Press the reset button on the back of the router with a paperclip for 30 seconds and the router should default to factory settings. Use our guide to setting up a wireless router to get everything properly configured.

If that’s no use, you may need to consider buying a new router.

Connections drop at random times

Is there some sort of pattern? Do connections drop whenever you use the microwave? It may sound weird, but some routers have trouble with this, especially on the 2.5GHz frequency or if you’re using an older microwave with shield problems.

It could be that you’re experiencing interference from other networks or devices. If your neighbors are heavy Wi-Fi users at a particular time each day, this could be slowing you down. Changing your router’s channel might help. You can use NetSpot on Mac and Windows and Wi-Fi Analyzer for Android to show you every wireless network nearby. If yours overlaps with nearby networks switching to a less congested channel in your router settings can help.

If that doesn’t work, try performing a factory reset on your router by pressing a paper clip into the miniature hole on it.

Wi-Fi network disappears entirely

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If you lose track of your Wi-Fi network on any device, it’s possible that your router reset itself. Do you see an unprotected network named after your brand of router? That might be yours. Connect a laptop or desktop to it via Ethernet cable, then use our guide to setting up a wireless router to get everything properly configured again.

If you don’t see such a network, plug your laptop into the router with an Ethernet, and see if you get a connection. Use our guide to finding your router’s IP address and login information for more help.

The network connects, but there’s no internet access

It might sound like a tired tip, but try resetting your modem by unplugging it and plugging it back in. If that doesn’t work, try also resetting your router the same way, assuming it’s a separate device.

Connect a laptop or desktop to your router with an Ethernet cable (these are the best ones). If this works, then the router is having a problem, and may need to be reset. If there’s still no internet, though, your may have an outage. Contact your ISP.

Router crashes regularly and only restarting it helps

If your router needs to be restarted regularly, consider giving it a full reset. On most routers you’ll find a “Reset” button which you can hold down with a paperclip. Do so for 30 seconds and the router should default from factory settings. Use our guide to setting up a wireless router to get everything properly configured.

If that doesn’t work, your router may be on its way out. Your only real option is to return it if it is within its warranty period, or buy a new one. If you do have to go down that route, here are some of our favorite routers.

Forgotten the Wi-Fi password

If you really can’t remember your Wi-Fi password and there are no notes or cards with it written down on somewhere, you’ll have to reset your router. Use a paperclip to press the hidden switch in the pin hole on the back of your router for 30 seconds. It should then default to factory settings.

Use our guide to setting up a wireless router to get everything properly configured.

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