Almost all of us are dependent on Wi-Fi connections in one form or another. We connect our laptops, desktops, phones, and tablets to a wireless network. We sometimes overlook other devices, such as smart TVs, game systems, security systems, Alexas, and more.
When our Wi-Fi drops for unknown reasons, it can be understandably frustrating. That frustration can intensify when you lose work or voice\video communications in the middle of an important meeting.
If your Wi-Fi stops, you’ll need to do some troubleshooting. The broad nature of this issue means you’ll need to look at several things to get to the bottom of it. Let’s jump right in and get started on figuring out why your Wi-Fi keeps disconnecting.
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Troubleshooting Your Wi-Fi
Tracking down and troubleshooting a Wi-Fi connection problem can be frustrating. Why? Because there are a lot of things that could be going wrong. Experience and knowledge can often point you to the most probable solutions, but that’s not always the case.
Therefore it’s often best to start by first eliminating things that we know aren’t the cause. The old Sherlock Holmes quote holds true here:
“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
Let’s see how we can use this logic to solve the mystery of your flighty Wi-Fi connection.
Possible Areas of Concern
There are four major areas of concern that we should check out. If we can rule out all but one of them, then we’re closer to finding the culprit. Those areas are your device, your wireless router, your modem (if not built into your router), and your internet service. By eliminating these possibilities, we’ll get to our solution more quickly.
The first and easiest thing to rule out is your device. Has your device had a similar problem on any other Wi-Fi networks? If you don’t know, you can always go to a friend’s house, coffee shop, or library and test it there.
If the device in question is a desktop, you can’t do that. One thing you can do is see if other computers on the network have the same issue. It’s possible your computer or device might have some type of compatibility problem with your network. However, if other gadgets also can’t connect to the Wi-Fi, you can safely say that your device isn’t the source of the problem.
If you ruled out your device or computer, you have narrowed the problem down to your router/modem or ISP. Trying another router with your internet connection is an excellent way to determine if the router’s the problem. Obviously, we don’t usually have a spare router lying around to test with. You could borrow one from your friend or neighbor and try it on your internet, but that may be a hassle.
Here’s another place to start. Look at the lights on your router. They may tell you a lot about how it’s functioning. You may need to refer to your user manual or look up the information online to determine what they mean for a particular model.
You should at least see some blinking lights indicating that data is being transmitted or received. Red lights are normally bad; no lights at all are definitely bad. If the router seems to be working, move on and check your ISP next.
At this point, try connecting directly to the internet with a network cable. Take a laptop and connect it directly to the modem or the modem/router. If it works while connected by cable, then you will know that the problem does not lie with your internet service. If you do have the same problem, there is a good chance your internet service is the issue.
To verify that the internet service is at fault, look at the lights on your router/modem. If you see that the internet light is not on or is red (consult your router/modem documentation to determine exactly what those lights indicate), then your service is being interrupted.
By doing a combination of testing in these different areas, we will finally narrow the problem down. Once you determine whether it’s the device, modem, router, or ISP, you can then dive deeper into the possible headaches for that particular piece of equipment. Let’s look at some of the most common for each.
Wi-Fi problems that occur from your phone, computer, or tablet can come from many different areas. But if your Wi-Fi connection works and then suddenly drops, there are a few things to look at. The first is your power saving settings.
Most devices have a battery-saving mode. They are often configurable. Wi-Fi is one of the common features that may get shut off because it drains a lot of battery power. If your device is inactive for a time, it will likely shut your Wi-Fi off—and sometimes, when you go to use it again, it doesn’t come back on immediately. There is some lag in the time it takes to reconnect; it’ll look as though your Wi-Fi is not working.
You can check to see if this is the issue by finding and turning off any power-saving mode. If it works after that, then you’re good to go.
If the power-saving mode doesn’t seem to be breaking the connection, and your device or laptop has a dual-band Wi-Fi adapter, try switching to the other band—from 5GHz to 2.4GHz. If you don’t see any issues, then it could be that your adapter is going bad. It could also be that you can’t get a good signal at your location. While the 5GHz band may be faster, the 2.4 GHz band transmits farther and through obstacles better.
A common problem, especially with laptops, is the Wi-Fi adapter. Most laptops come with a cheaply made built-in Wi-Fi adapter. They are easily damaged from rough use. Sometimes, they just fail on their own. The easiest way to check is to get a cheap USB Wi-Fi adapter. They are available for under $30; having a spare one around will help you test devices whenever you need to.
Just plug the USB Wi-Fi adapter into your laptop and allow it to install the needed software. Once it’s up and running, if you no longer see the issue, you will know that it is a busted Wi-Fi adapter. You can either use the USB adapter or purchase a new one to fix the problem.
2. Wi-Fi Router
If it looks like your wireless router is the problem, there are a couple of things to try. The first is to reboot your router. If you haven’t restarted it in a while, this simple solution could fix everything. You should also see if your firmware is up to date. One of these two solutions might get you back in business.
If the reboot and firmware had no effect, and you have a dual-band router, try both bands and see if the issue persists. If it doesn’t, it could be the location of your router. If the router’s located near dense concrete walls or metal structures, you may have dead spots. Utilizing the slower but more powerful 2.4GHz band often solves a Wi-Fi coverage problem.
But reboots, software updates, and changing Wi-Fi bands may not give you the quick fix you are looking for. You should also check the cables that are connecting your router. Suppose the network or power cable is loose, frayed, or partially cut. In that case, it would cause your router to lose connection or power intermittently.
You should also try moving your router to another location and see if that solves your problem.
Another possibility: your Wi-Fi network is overcrowded. If you have too many devices connected, some may get kicked off or periodically drop their connection. Start by moving some devices to the other band. If both bands are overcrowded, you may have to invest in a second router or remove some devices from the network entirely.
You might have inadvertently changed a setting in your router that is causing an issue. Have you logged on to your router’s configuration interface lately? There’s a chance you may have unknowingly changed some settings. As a last resort, do a factory reset on the router and see if that makes a difference.
Doing a factory reset will require that you set up the router again with a network name and password. You might want to keep the username and password the same. You don’t want to have to change all your devices’ connection settings again.
If all of the above solutions fail, then it could just be that your router is failing. If it’s still under warranty, check with the manufacturer or your ISP. If your router is old and out of warranty, get a new one.
If your modem is not built into your router and appears to be the problem, rebooting is the first step. You can do that by unplugging it, waiting a few seconds, and then plugging it back in. Sometimes a simple reboot will clear up the problem. If it doesn’t, you probably need a new modem.
If you have narrowed the problem down to your ISP, then there’s not a lot you can do on your own. About the only thing you might check is the internet cable, line, or fiber coming into your home or office. Make sure it’s not cut, frayed, or loose. If you don’t see anything obviously wrong with your cable, contact your provider and let them know what’s going on. They’ll give you the next steps.
Disconnecting Wi-Fi can be really frustrating. It’s often hard to determine what is causing the problem.
Test your equipment, including your devices, modem/router, and ISP, then use logic to determine where the problem is originating. Once you have a good idea of which part is causing the problem, you can use some of the methods we have provided to solve it.
As usual, please let us know if you have any questions or comments.