Category Archives: Internet

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.

More Efficient Internet Searching

Did you hate memorizing seemingly insignificant facts for tests at school? No photographic memory? Good news! Life is now an open-book exam — assuming you have a computer, browser, and Internet access. If you know how to use a good search engine, you don’t have to stuff your mind with facts that are useful only when playing Jeopardy! and Trivial Pursuit.

Chances are, you aren’t the first person to run across the problem you are experiencing. Chances are also good that an answer is awaiting your discovery on the Internet — you just have to remove the irrelevant pages and the unhelpful/incorrect results to find that needle in the haystack.

Google has been fanatical about speed. There is little doubt that it has built an incredibly fast and thorough search engine. Unfortunately, the human element of the Internet search equation is often overlooked. These 10 tips are designed to improve that human element and better your Internet search skills. (Note: All examples below refer to the Google search engine.)

1: Use unique, specific terms

It is simply amazing how many Web pages are returned when performing a search. You might guess that the terms blue dolphin are relatively specialized. A Google search of those terms returned 2,440,000 results! To reduce the number of pages returned, use unique terms that are specific to the subject you are researching.

2: Use the minus operator (-) to narrow the search

How many times have you searched for a term and had the search engine return something totally unexpected? Terms with multiple meanings can return a lot of unwanted results. The rarely used but powerful minus operator, equivalent to a Boolean NOT, can remove many unwanted results. For example, when searching for the insect caterpillar, references to the company Caterpillar, Inc. will also be returned. Use Caterpillar -Inc to exclude references to the company or Caterpillar -Inc -Cat to further refine the search.

3: Use quotation marks for exact phrases

I often remember parts of phrases I have seen on a Web page or part of a quotation I want to track down. Using quotation marks around a phrase will return only those exact words in that order. It’s one of the best ways to limit the pages returned. Example: “Be nice to nerds”.Of course, you must have the phrase exactly right — and if your memory is as good as mine, that can be problematic.

4: Don’t use common words and punctuation

Common terms like a and the are called stop words and are usually ignored. Punctuation is also typically ignored. But there are exceptions. Common words and punctuation marks should be used when searching for a specific phrase inside quotes. There are cases when common words like the are significant. For instance, Raven and The Raven return entirely different results.

5: Capitalization

Most search engines do not distinguish between uppercase and lowercase, even within quotation marks. The following are all equivalent:

  • technology
  • Technology
  • TECHNOLOGY
  • “technology”
  • “Technology”

6: Drop the suffixes

It’s usually best to enter the base word so that you don’t exclude relevant pages. For example, bird and not birds, walkand not walked. One exception is if you are looking for sites that focus on the act of walking, enter the whole term walking.

7: Maximize AutoComplete

Ordering search terms from general to specific in the search box will display helpful results in a drop-down list and is the most efficient way to use AutoComplete. Selecting the appropriate item as it appears will save time typing. You have several choices for how the AutoComplete feature works:

Use Google AutoComplete. The standard Google start page will display a drop-down list of suggestions supplied by the Google search engine. This option can be a handy way to discover similar, related searches. For example, typing in Tucson fast will not only bring up the suggestion Tucson fast food but also Tucson fast food coupons. Use browser AutoComplete. Use this Google start page to disable the Google AutoComplete feature and display a list of yourprevious searches in a drop-down box. I find this particularly useful when I’ve made dozens of searches in the past for a particular item. The browser’s AutoComplete feature must be turned on for this option to work. Click one of these links for instructions detailing how to turn AutoComplete on or off in I.E. and Firefox.

Examples:

  • Visual Basic statement case
  • Visual Basic statement for
  • Visual Basic call

8: Customize your searches

There are several other less well known ways to limit the number of results returned and reduce your search time:

  • The plus operator (+): As mentioned above, stop words are typically ignored by the search engine. The plus operator tells the search engine to include those words in the result set. Example: tall +and short will return results that include the word and.
  • The tilde operator (~): Include a tilde in front of a word to return results that include synonyms. The tilde operator does not work well for all terms and sometimes not at all. A search for ~CSS includes the synonym style and returns fashion related style pages —not exactly what someone searching for CSS wants. Examples: ~HTML to get results for HTML with synonyms; ~HTML -HTML to get synonyms only for HTML.
  • The wildcard operator (*): Google calls it the fill in the blank operator. For example, amusement * will return pages with amusement and any other term(s) the Google search engine deems relevant. You can’t use wildcards for parts of words. So for example, amusement p* is invalid.
  • The OR operator (OR) or (|): Use this operator to return results with either of two terms. For example happy joy will return pages with both happy and joy, while happy | joy will return pages with either happy or joy.
  • Numeric ranges: You can refine searches that use numeric terms by returning a specific range, but you must supply the unit of measurement. Examples: Windows XP 2003..2005, PC $700 $800.
  • Site search: Many Web sites have their own site search feature, but you may find that Google site search will return more pages. When doing research, it’s best to go directly to the source, and site search is a great way to do that. Example: site:www.intel.com rapid storage technology.
  • Related sites: For example, related:www.youtube.com can be used to find sites similar to YouTube.
  • Change your preferences: Search preferences can be set globally by clicking on the gear icon in the upper-right corner and selecting Search Settings. I like to change the Number Of Results option to 100 to reduce total search time.
  • Forums-only search: Under the Google logo on the left side of the search result page, click More | Discussions or go to Google Groups. Forums are great places to look for solutions to technical problems.
  • Advanced searches: Click the Advanced Search button by the search box on the Google start or results page to refine your search by date, country, amount, language, or other criteria.
  • Wonder Wheel: The Google Wonder Wheel can visually assist you as you refine your search from general to specific. Here’s how to use this tool:
  1. Click on More Search Tools | Wonder Wheel in the lower-left section of the screen (Figure A) to load the Wonder Wheel page.
  2. Click on dbms tutorial (Figure B).

As you can see in Figure C, Google now displays two wheels showing the DBMS and dbms tutorial Wonder Wheels, with the results for dbms tutorial on the right side of the page. You can continue drilling down the tree to further narrow your search. Click the Close button at the top of the results to remove the Wonder Wheel(s).

9: Use browser history

Many times, I will be researching an item and scanning through dozens of pages when I suddenly remember something I had originally dismissed as being irrelevant. How do you quickly go back to that Web site? You can try to remember the exact words used for the search and then scan the results for the right site, but there is an easier way. If you can remember the general date and time of the search you can look through the browser history to find the Web page

10: Set a time limit — then change tactics

Sometimes, you never can find what you are looking for. Start an internal clock, and when a certain amount of time has elapsed without results, stop beating your head against the wall. It’s time to try something else:

  • Use a different search engine, like Yahoo!, Bing, Startpage, or Lycos.
  • Ask a peer.
  • Call support.
  • Ask a question in the appropriate forum.
  • Use search experts who can find the answer for you.

Shold You Know About Internet Browsing Safety

If you think devious Web sites are the only places where spyware awaits its victims, you are in for a shock. Spyware lurks in many corners of the Internet; often in places where you’d least expect it. All it takes is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to compromise your Internet browsing safety.

Here’s where the danger lies:

  • You open your Web browser and begin browsing
  • You visit a site and unknowingly fall into a spyware trap, such as:
    • A pop-up you click on, even to close it
    • A deceptive link that you follow
    • A clickable graphic that leads down a dangerous path
  • Spyware loads onto your PC without your knowledge
  • Sometimes simply opening a Web page or an HTML email starts the installation
  • Your computer is infected and your personal information is at risk

Spyware quickly begins its task of stealing your information (including credit card numbers, usernames and passwords), directing your browser to suspect sites, changing or deleting your files, pummeling you with pop-ups and slowing your PC to a crawl.

Internet browsing safety

Internet safety can be deceiving. Seemingly reputable sites may contain spyware traps, or the sites themselves may be counterfeit — phishing sites posing as the real thing to lure you into their scams and debacles. The path away from Internet safety often begins innocently enough; however, certain sites are more prone to be a source of spyware, including:

  • Adult sites
  • File sharing sites
  • Social networking sites

Follow these internet safety tips for avoiding spyware and fortify your computer security right away:

  • Avoid questionable Web sites
  • Only download software from sites you trust. Carefully evaluate free software and file-sharing applications before downloading them.
  • Update your operating system regularly
  • Increase your browser security settings
  • Type in a trusted URL for a company’s site into the address bar of your browser to bypass links in an email or instant message
  • Make sure that you have the best security software [http://www.webroot.com] products installed on your PC:
  • Use antivirus protection and a firewall
  • Get antispyware software protection

Stay safe online

An unprotected computer is like an open door for Web sites that threaten your Internet safety with spyware and computer viruses. Firewalls monitor Internet traffic in and out of your computer and hide your PC from online scammers looking for easy targets. Products like Webroot Internet Security Essentials and Webroot AntiVirus with Spy Sweeper make avoiding spyware easier by thwarting spyware and viruses before they can enter your PC, standing guard at every possible entrance of your computer and fending off threats that try to enter, even the most damaging and devious strains. If a spyware or virus threat is detected, questionable content is quarantined or deleted. While free antispyware and antivirus downloads are available, they just can’t keep up with the continuous onslaught of new spyware strains. Previously undetected forms of spyware and viruses can often do the most damage, so it’s critical to have up-to-the-minute, guaranteed protection.

Improving Home Wi-Fi Performance

A basic Wi-Fi wireless home network can be assembled fairly quickly. However, the performance of a Wi-Fi network can decline for a number of reasons. Many homeowners aren’t aware of the options available to maintain a network and make it better over time.

Consider these suggestions for improving the capability, performance and security of your wireless home network.

Upgrade and Add Equipment

While Wi-Fi gear can run for many years before failing, you should consider replacing older equipment. Many homeowners know about network routers and access points, but they may not realize that Wi-Fi technology continually improves. Newer Wi-Fi gear typically runs faster, is more reliable and offers better compatibility with your home electronic gadgets.

Don’t overlook the benefits that more advanced gear, including wireless print servers, range extenders and game adapters. Before settling for the cheapest basic network setup that supports only a few PCs or phones, research these types of products to see if they may benefit your home and can be acquired for reasonable prices.

Move the Router to a Better Location

Users often quickly setup their wireless network only to find that it doesn’t function well in certain areas of the home, while others may enjoy a working setup at first but find that their network crashes when a microwave oven or cordless phone is turned on.

PCs in a basement, attic or corner room may suffer from chronically poor network performance, but it may be unclear how to fix the problem.

One easy way to address these common Wi-Fi networking issues is to simply move the wireless router to a better location. More »

Change the Wi-Fi Channel Number

In most countries, Wi-Fi equipment can transmit signals on any of several different channels (similar to televisions). Interference on a channel can impact your Wi-Fi network’s performance.

Most wireless routers ship with the same default channel numbers and most users never think about changing this. You may experience radio interference from a neighbor’s router on the same channel, or even from some other piece of electronic equipment.

Changing the Wi-Fi channel is often the best way to fix this problem.More »

Upgrade Router Firmware

Wireless routers contain built-in programmable logic called firmware. Much like software, firmware can be upgraded and improved.

A version of firmware is installed on the router by the manufacturer, and this logic is essential to the operation of the device. Many routers offer a firmware upgrade capability that allows users to install newer versions.

Updating your firmware can provide performance improvements, security enhancements or better reliability. Look for firmware updates on the router manufacturer’s website—usually under a support section—and upgrade as needed. More »

Increase Signal Strength and Range of the Router

No matter where in a residence a wireless router is installed, sometimes the Wi-Fi signal will simply not be strong enough to maintain a good connection. The likelihood of this problem increases the further away from the router a client is and the more obstructions, such as brick walls, stand between the client and the router.

One way to solve this problem is to upgrade the Wi-Fi antenna installed on the router. Some routers do not support antenna upgrades, but many do. The alternative involves installing an additional device called a repeater. More »

Increase Signal Strength and Range of the Clients

As with wireless routers, you can also improve the signal strength of wireless clients. Consider this when dealing with a single Wi-Fi device that suffers from a very short signal range compared to the rest of your devices. This technique can improve the ability of laptop computers to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots, for example. More »

Increase Wireless Network Security

Many homeowners consider their wireless network setup a success when basic file and internet connection sharing are functional. However the job should not be considered finished until proper security measures are in place. Follow this checklist of essential steps for establishing and maintaining good Wi-Fi securityon a home network.