Monthly Archives: January 2017

Why Wi-Fi Network Connections Drop

On home or public wireless networks, your Wi-Fi connection might drop unexpectedly for no obvious reason. This kind of networking problem is especially frustrating. It’s also more common than you might think. Fortunately, solutions exist. Consult this checklist to determine why it is happening and how to prevent it.

Wi-Fi Radio Interference

Radio signals from various consumer electronic products can interfere with Wi-Fi wireless network signals. For example, cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, garage door openers and microwave ovens can each take down a Wi-Fi network connection when powered on. You can move your network equipment or (on home networks) change some Wi-Fi radio settings to avoid this problem.

  • Change the Wi-Fi Channel to Avoid Interference
  • Position Your Router / Access Point for Best Performance

Insufficient Wi-Fi Network Range and Power

Even without interference from other equipment, Wi-Fi connections can drop occasionally on devices located near the edge of the network’s wireless signal range. Wi-Fi links generally become more unstable with distance. Relocating your computer or other gear is a simple but not always practical solution. Otherwise, consider antenna upgrades and other techniques to improve wireless signal transmission and reception.

  • Position Your Router / Access Point for Best Performance
  • How Can the Range of a Wi-Fi Network Be Boosted?

Unknowingly Connecting to 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. This can cause the interference and range problems described above. Additionally, in this scenario your computers will lose connection whenever the neighbor network is turned off, even if your preferred one remains functional. Take proper security measures to ensure your computers connect to the right network.

  • Improve Wireless Network Security

Network Driver or Firmware Upgrade Required

Each computer connected to a Wi-Fi network utilizes a small piece of software called the device driver. The Wi-Fi network device driver controls various functions of the Wi-Fi hardware. Network routerscontain related technology called firmware. Network drivers and firmware can both become obsolete over time. Upgrading (over installing) newer versions of these things can sometimes fix network connection problems. Get free upgrades from the manufacturer’s Web sites.

  • Upgrade Router / Access Point Firmware

Incompatible Software Packages Installed

Wi-Fi network connections may start failing on a computer due to incompatible software installed and running there. This includes operating system patches, operating system services, and other software that modifies the networking capabilities of the operating system. Keep records of each time you install or upgrade software on your computers, and be prepared to uninstall any incompatible software you’ve added recently.

Overloading / Overheating the Wireless Access Point

Owners of some wireless routers (and other types of wireless access points) have reported dropped connections during times of heavy network utilization. This can occur during, for example, online gaming or while copying large files. Routers can, in theory, become overloaded with too much data and fail temporarily. If a router’s temperature increases too much, it may also fail until cooled. Install routers (access points) in places with good airflow. Exchange the router for a different unit if the current one doesn’t support your usage patterns

How To Troubleshooting Home Network Router Problems

You’ve carefully followed all the instructions in your network router’s setup guide, but for whatever reason your connections aren’t working as they should. Perhaps everything functioned before and just started failing suddenly, or maybe you’ve spent days or weeks trying to get through the initial installation. Use these troubleshooting guidelines to isolate and solve network problems related to your router: Keep in mind there may be more than one issue involved.

Mismatched Wi-Fi Security Settings

Seemingly the most common cause of wireless network setup issues, incompatibility in settings between two Wi-Fi devices (such as the router and a PC) will prevent them from being able to make a network connection. Check the following settings on all Wi-Fi devices to ensure they are compatible:

  • Network mode: A router must be enabled to support all versions of Wi-Fi used by the network clients. For example, routers configured to run in “802.11g only” mode will not support 802.11n or old 802.11b devices. To fix this kind of network failure, change the router to run in mixed mode.
  • Security mode: Most Wi-Fi devices support multiple network security protocols (typically different variations of WPA and WEP). All Wi-Fi devices including routers belonging to the same local network must use the same security mode.
  • Security key: Wi-Fi security keys are passphrases or sequences of letters and digits. All devices joining a network must be programmed to use a Wi-Fi key recognized by the router (or wireless access point). Many home network routers (access points) support only one key that all devices must share in common. Some newer routers can store multiple Wi-Fi security keys instead of one, however, technically allowing local devices to have different key settings (although keeping their keys all the same can simply setup and troubleshooting).

MAC Address Restrictions

Many network routers support a feature called MAC address filtering. Although disabled by default, router administrators can turn this feature on and restrict connections to only certain devices according to their MAC address number. If having difficulty getting a specific device to join the local network (particularly if it is new), check the router to ensure either (a) MAC address filtering is ‘off’ or (b) the device’s MAC address is included in the list of allowed connections.

Loose or Disconnected Cables

Sometimes the router is turned off, or someone in the family accidentally unplugs power to it. Ensure power strips are switched on and receiving electricity from the outlet, and if applicable, that any Ethernet cables are firmly seated – the connectors should make a clicking sound when snapping into position. If the router can’t connect to the Internet but is otherwise operating normally, ensure any modem cables are connected properly.

Overheating or Overloading

Downloading large files or streaming data for long periods causes a home network router to generate heat. In some cases, routers will overheat due to the sustained heavy load. An overheated router will behave unpredictably, eventually disconnecting devices from the local network and crashing. Shutting down the router and allowing it to cool down solves the problem temporarily, but if this issue occurs often, ensure the router has proper ventilation (no vents blocked) and consider moving it to a cooler location.

Home routers can typically handle ten (10) or more connected clients, although if too many devices actively use the network at once, similar overloading problems can result. Even when not physically overheating, the high network activity can cause outages.

Consider adding a second router to the network in these cases to better handle the load.

Wireless Signal Limitations

Because the range of Wi-Fi radio signals is limited, home network connections sometimes fail because a device’s radio cannot reach the router’s.

Some people also have had their functioning wireless network go offline as soon as anyone in the house turned on the microwave oven. Garage door openers and other consumer gadgets inside homes also can interfere with the signals of Wi-Fi networks, particularly those that use the 2.4 GHz radio bands.

It’s also common in cities for the signals of several home Wi-Fi networks to intermingle with each other.

Even inside their own home, a person may discover one or more of their neighbor’s wireless networks when trying to connect to their own.

To work around these wireless radio interference and range limitations, change the Wi-Fi channel number on the router, or re-position the router. Finally, consider changing your router’s name (SSID) if a neighbor is using the same one.

Defective or Outdated Hardware or Firmware

It’s not uncommon for routers to fail after years of regular use. Lightning strikes or other electrical power surges can also damage the circuitry of network equipment. Because they have few moving parts, trying to repair network routers rarely is practical. Set aside some budget for periodically replacing your router (and any other essential network equipment). Also consider keeping some spare cables and a cheap backup router to help with emergency troubleshooting.

Before finally giving up a router, try updating the router’s firmwarefirst. Sometimes no firmware update will be available, but in other cases newer firmware may contain fixes for overloading or signaling issues.

Troubleshooting Your Internet Connection

With the proliferation of smart home devices, online gaming platforms, and streaming video services, maintaining a strong Internet connection at home is more important than ever. If you’re experiencing lag while playing League of Legends, or it takes forever to download music, there’s good chance that the problem is on your end and not an Internet Service Provider (ISP) issue. Before you schedule a service call with your cable company, check out our tips for troubleshooting your Internet connection.

Is Your Router Getting Power?
If you can’t connect to the Internet at all, the first thing you should do is take a look at your router’s LED status indicators. If there are no lights at all, the router is probably unplugged or powered down. Disconnect the power cord and reconnect it after a minute or two. Make sure that the Power switch is in the On position. If the router still isn’t powering up, you may have a failed power adapter, a faulty power strip, or a fried router.

Check Your Status
If the Power LED is lit, check the Internet or WAN indicator. On most routers, this should be green and may be flashing. If your router doesn’t have status indicators, look around back to see if the Ethernet port lights are flashing. If there is no activity, turn the router off. Unplug and reconnect each cable, making sure each cable is seated correctly in the appropriate port. Wait a few minutes before rebooting the router. If you still can’t connect to the Internet, try the next step.

Cable Connection Okay?
Before you start thinking about resetting or replacing your router, inspect the cable connection coming into your home. This is usually located on the side of your house and may or may not be housed in an enclosure. Make sure that the main cable hasn’t been chewed up by a squirrel or knocked loose by debris from a storm. If a cable splitter is being used, make sure each connection is tight and the connectors are properly crimped. If the splitter looks suspect (i.e., rusty or dirty), try replacing it.

Start Fresh
If rebooting your router doesn’t do the trick, try resetting it to its factory defaults and performing a fresh install. For most routers, this is done by pressing a very small reset button on the rear panel and holding it down for several seconds until the LED lights begin flashing. Once reset, use the accompanying disk or Web-based setup utility to reinstall the router.

Make Sure Your Firmware Is Current
Firmware is embedded software, installed at the factory on a read-only memory (ROM) chip, which allows the router hardware to implement network and security protocols. Most vendors provide downloadable firmware updates that resolve performance issues, add new features, and increase throughput performance. Look for the firmware update tool in the System section of your router’s management console and follow the instructions carefully to ensure that you are installing the correct firmware version. Do not download firmware from a third-party site.

Do You Need an Extender?
If you can wirelessly connect to the Internet in one room, but not another, check your router’s Wi-Fi signal strength. Look at the network connection icon on your PC or mobile device to see how many bars are showing. If you’re only seeing one or two bars, your Wi-Fi signal may be too weak to maintain a strong Internet connection. Try connecting to another band if you have a dual-band router. Readjusting the router’s antennas or changing the location of your router (if possible) can help improve range as well. If relocating the router is out of the question, a range extender may be required to boost the router’s Wi-Fi signal. We like the Tenda P1002P 2-Port Powerline Adapter Kit and the TP-Link AC1750 (RE450).

Is Your PC/Phone/Tablet Configured Correctly?
If you can browse the Web with your laptop, but can’t connect with your smartphone or another PC, check the problem device’s network settings. For smartphones, go to your Wi-Fi settings and make sure Wi-Fi is enabled and that you are connected to the proper SSID using the correct security password. Make sure Airplane Mode is disabled and that your time and date are correct. For Windows clients, make sure the Wi-Fi switch is turned on, and that the device is not in Airplane Mode. Right-click on the network icon in your system tray and select Troubleshoot Problems to run the Windows Network Diagnostic routine. Very often this will correct common issues by resetting the adapter. Also, check your network adapter settings to make sure that the adapter is functioning properly and is using the latest driver.

Make Sure Your PC Is Healthy
Check for spyware, viruses, and malware. These programs are easily downloaded and installed, without your knowledge, while you’re surfing the Web. They can run undetected and have a significant impact on your Web surfing speed and overall system performance. There are plenty of free and subscription-based utilities available that will detect and eradicate these programs and prevent them being downloaded and installed in the first place.

Time to Upgrade Your Router?
If you’re using an older 802.11b or 802.11g model, you may want to consider upgrading to a newer, more powerful router, especially if you have multiple client devices vying for bandwidth. A dual-band router gives you two radio bands to choose from and allows you to dedicate a band to clients that require lots of bandwidth, like streaming video devices and gaming consoles. Moreover, newer routers employ the latest technologies to deliver speedy throughput, with enhanced Wi-Fi range. Check out our list of the 10 best wireless routers when you’re ready to take the plunge.

Last Resort: Dial Up Your ISP
If you’ve tried everything and are still experiencing Internet connection woes, it’s time to call your service provider. It could be that the problem is on its end and may require a new connection at the pole coming into your house and/or new equipment such as a cable modem or amplifier. If you’re experiencing slowdowns at certain times of the day (think: after-school hours) it’s possible that your ISP is simply unable to handle the increased user load in which case you may want to find a new service provider. Lucky for you, we’ve tested the to find the fastest ISPs in the country.