HOW TO TROUBLESHOOT WI-FI
Modern Wi-Fi routers have been a godsend for home internet setups. (Older millennials know the pain of dealing with equipment like clunky 90s-era wireless cards.) But, as with any networking tech, Wi-Fi connections aren’t immune to the occasional hiccup.
If your wireless connection is acting up, check out our tips to fix your router and restore your Wi-Fi network.
Fixing slow Wi-Fi
Is your Wi-Fi connection going slower than molasses in the middle of January? Have no fear: your computer or access point’s Wi-Fi settings likely need an adjustment.
Poor Wi-Fi signal
Wi-Fi routers work just like a radio antenna—your internet speeds are fastest the closer you are to the router, and they get lower the farther away from the router you move. You’re likely having Wi-Fi signal issues if the Wi-Fi icon on your device is consistently showing less than two full bars.
- Big home: If you’re dealing with Wi-Fi signal issues in a multi-story home, your wireless router probably can’t reach your entire home. We’d recommend moving your router closer to the middle of your home or investing in a mesh Wi-Fi system.
- Small home: But if you’re still dealing with a weak Wi-Fi signal in a small home, consider resetting your router or shopping for a newer model.
Change your Wi-Fi router’s settings
Every device connects to your Wi-Fi router using two options: the router’s 2.4 GHz network (good for long-range with average transfer speeds) or 5 GHz (good transfer speeds with average range) network.
Newer routers sometimes have automated traffic controls that switch devices between either network to guarantee the best download speeds based on their location. But when you’re moving across your home, your devices might want to stay on one network even when it’s not the fastest option.
By putting devices onto separate 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks, you can keep devices on the one that best fits their performance needs and location. For example, you could put a smartphone that you take around the house on the 2.4 GHz network and keep a TV on your 5 GHz network.
Your exact steps will vary depending on the brand and age of your router, so check your manual to confirm how to enable separate wireless networks.
Clear up a traffic jam
Wireless network congestion typically happens when too many devices need to get online via a slow router or internet connection.
Older routers lack the bandwidth and tools needed for households with heavy internet needs like regular video calls or 4K video streaming. If your household fits this description and your router is more than a few years old, we’d recommend upgrading to a model that supports Wi-Fi 6. That’s a hardware standard that offers the fastest wireless router performance.
But if you’re trying to cram your entire family’s internet traffic onto a meager 25 Mbps connection and your Wi-Fi is dragging, we’ve got some bad news: your slow Wi-Fi problem is just your internet connection running out of bandwidth. You’ll need to upgrade to a faster plan.
Wi-Fi connection drops
You won’t have a great time catching up on Mythic Quest episodes or playing Call of Duty online when your Wi-Fi is constantly disconnecting and reconnecting to your router. In these situations, it’s time to tinker with your router’s hardware settings.
Restart your router
We tend to think about internet equipment like a refrigerator—it’s something we can leave on forever. But, like with any gadget, your router can use a break.
By restarting your router, you’ll flush out the performance problems that can cause Wi-Fi drops. Simply unplug and replug your router after about 15 seconds to restart the device. On newer routers, you can schedule daily or weekly restarts that’ll keep the device running smoothly.
Reset your router and device’s Wi-Fi settings
Wireless connections are a bridge between your router and device’s Wi-Fi settings—if one end of the connection isn’t working, it can send everyone into the water.
Here’s how to clear out your Wi-Fi settings and reconnect to your wireless network on Windows and macOS.
Fixing Wi-Fi for Windows
- Click the Wi-Fi icon by the clock and open Network & Internet Settings.
- Click Manage Known Networks.
- Find your wireless network under the listed networks and click Forget to remove the network.
- Go back to Network & Internet Settings. Find your Wi-Fi network and enter your password to reconnect to your router.
Fixing Wi-Fi for macOS
- Click System Preferences and open Network.
- Click Advanced and find your Wi-Fi network under Preferred Networks.
- Click the “—” button to remove the network. Click OK.
- Find your wireless network in the Network Name pull-down menu. Click the network name and enter your network password to reconnect to the Wi-Fi network.
Pro tip: Router firmware updates can improve your Wi-Fi performance and reliability. Check your manufacturer’s product page or your router’s configuration tool to see if a new firmware version is available to download.
Resetting your router is the Wi-Fi troubleshooting nuclear option (you’ll lose all your saved settings), but it’s the quickest way to see if your Wi-Fi problems are caused by your router or wireless device. Here’s how to reset your router:
- Look for the reset button on the back of your router. It’ll be inside of a pin-sized hole.
- Use a thin-tipped object like a paper clip to hold down the reset button while your router is turned on.
- The reset process will be complete when your router’s lights flash off and turn back on.
Can’t connect to Wi-Fi
If you can’t connect to your Wi-Fi router or it’s not listed as a nearby network, we’ve got good and bad news: your troubleshooting options are going to be really easy or less than great.
Double-check your password
This step’s a little obvious, but make sure you’re correctly typing in your Wi-Fi network’s password when you’re trying to connect to the router. Your Wi-Fi router’s default password and name will be on a sticker on the bottom of the device.
Check your router lights
On your router’s status lights, see if the router’s Wi-Fi network lights are on. The exact icon depends on your router model, but these will be marked with the Wi-Fi icon or 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz labels.
If these lights are on, you’ll know that your router is still broadcasting a Wi-Fi signal. Check out our router and modem lights guide if you need help identifying the lights for your router.
Clear out your device’s network settings
When one wireless device can’t connect to Wi-Fi but the rest of your network is working fine, try resetting the device’s Wi-Fi settings to ensure it’s creating a fresh wireless connection.
We’d also recommend creating a separate 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz network and seeing if the device can connect to a standalone network. Devices like smart home gadgets can connect only to 2.4 GHz networks and won’t join 5 GHz networks.
Upgrade your router
But if your router’s Wi-Fi lights are out and nothing can connect to your Wi-Fi router, your router might be toast. Check if your router is still under warranty coverage before you start shopping for a replacement.
How to troubleshoot Wi-Fi FAQ
To fix your Wi-Fi connection, restart your router or try moving your devices closer to the router to improve Wi-Fi performance.
Wi-Fi connection issues can be caused by router or device issues. Try restarting your router or turning your device’s Wi-Fi antenna off and on.
Make sure you’re correctly entering your Wi-Fi network’s password. Confirm if other wireless devices are connected to your Wi-Fi network to make sure your wireless router is not broken.
Unplug your router’s power cord for 15 seconds, and replug it to restart your Wi-Fi router.
Make sure that you’re getting a Wi-Fi signal of at least two bars, typing in the correct Wi-Fi password, and that other devices on your network can connect to Wi-Fi.