Fix your internet connection by restarting your devices

Fix your internet connection by restarting your devices

Router issues are among the most common causes of internet outages, but they’re also usually some of the easiest to fix. Rebooting your Wi-Fi router — and potentially your modem, too — can be as simple as unplugging it, waiting about 30 seconds and plugging it back in. If that doesn’t work, resetting your router to factory settings could be necessary. 

I’ve been writing about home internet — and all the headaches that come with it — for more than five years. I’ll walk you through all the steps you need to take to get your Wi-Fi up and running again. 

Do a hard reboot of your router

“Unplug it and plug it back in” is some of the most tried-and-true advice for any electronics, and your router is no different. Imagine a computer game that’s gone hopelessly wrong. Starting the game over lets you walk back all the mistakes you made to get you to that point. A hard reboot works the same way, allowing your device a fresh start from a “known state.” 

“It’s amazing how that’ll solve like 90% of the problems, because the drivers are the interface between the radio and the operating system, and they can get discombobulated,” Dave Coleman, a Wi-Fi expert, author and director of product marketing for Extreme Networks, told CNET. “I know it sounds simple, but it’s the first troubleshooting thing people should do.”

Here’s what you do: 

  1. Unplug the router from the power source. You can unplug the power cord from the wall or the router — either will work.
  2. Wait at least 30 seconds.
  3. Plug it back in. 

Once the router is plugged back into the power source, you may need to wait another 30 seconds for it to reboot. Once all the lights are on, try connecting to Wi-Fi from a device. 

Reset your router to factory settings

If your hard reboot didn’t work, a more drastic step is to reset your router to its factory settings. A note of caution: This will erase all of your custom settings, like your network name and password, and give you a new public IP address. Your router will be the exact same as it was when you first took it out of the box.

You may want to take this step if you’re having to reboot your router multiple times a day or if your Wi-Fi speeds are drastically slower than the speeds you’re getting through a wired connection. I’d also recommend making sure your router’s firmware is up-to-date before resetting it to factory settings. Here’s what you’ll do on most routers:

  1. Keep your router plugged into the power source.
  2. Insert a paper clip into the Reset opening on your router. Some routers will also have a button you can press with your finger. 
  3. Hold this button down for about 30 seconds. 
  4. Wait for the router’s lights to come back on. This could take a minute or two.

You can also reset most routers using their app or website. To do so, you’ll need your login credentials. 

How to tell if it’s a modem or router issue

If you have a separate modem and router, you may need to troubleshoot each of them on their own. To find out if your modem is up and running, connect a device to the modem directly using an Ethernet cable. If you can get online this way, the issue is coming from your router. If it’s still not working, you should start with a hard reboot of both devices. Here’s what you’ll do:

  • First, unplug your router and modem from the power source. 
  • Wait about 30 seconds, and plug them back in: first the modem, then the router.
  • Wait a few minutes for them to completely power back on. 

This restart should fix most issues with your modem and router and your internet should be back up.

It might be time to upgrade your router

If you’re having consistent speed issues or outages that require you to reset your router on a regular basis, it might be time to upgrade to a newer model. Experts recommend replacing your router every five years or so, but if you have a lot of smart home gadgets or keep up with the latest electronics, it might be worth pushing that to two or three years. 

That said, your router is only as good as the internet connection that’s flowing through it. The best way to tell where the blame lies is to run some speed tests while plugged into your modem with an Ethernet cable and compare the results to the speeds you’re getting through Wi-Fi. If the wired speeds are still slower than you’d like, it’s probably time to switch to a faster plan or switch internet providers altogether.  




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