As our reliance on the internet increases, having a solid internet connection is crucial to many aspects of our life. From sending work emails to watching movies on your smart TV, to checking what your friends are up to on Facebook, there are a ton of reasons to make sure your internet connection works at all times.
However, there will be occasions where for seemingly no reason your router won’t connect to the internet. Due to the large amount of devices and cables involved in connecting to the internet there can be many places where your connection can go wrong. These problems can include (but are not limited to) your modem, computer, ISP and any cables you use to connect your devices.
How to get free internet at home
There are, however, also plenty of things that can go wrong on your router itself. Reasons your router won’t connect to the internet can include:
- Faulty cable connections
- Old router firmware
- Router hardware problems
- Wireless interference
This guide will look at firstly how to confirm your internet connection problems are to do with your router, and secondly how to fix any problems your router may have.
It is also worth mentioning that before you take any of these steps (apart from perhaps turning the router on/off and checking it is plugged in), it is usually a good idea to contact your ISP for their advice.
This is especially true if they have provided you with the router you use.
What exactly does a wifi router do?
How To Test And Check The Internet Connection
Can I Get To The Internet?
First of all, you need to check whether or not you have access to the internet. This is good for deciphering if you have an issue with your device, rather than the router and/or access to the internet.
This step-through is for Windows users (always omit the quotes)
How To 'Ping' The Internet
We recommend trying these steps out first. 'Pinging' is a great easy first test to help determine where the issue lies.
There are further troubleshooting steps after this section...
1. Open up a Command Prompt (to do this go to 'Start' or the Windows symbol in the bottom left corner - and type 'cmd').
2. Type 'ping 188.8.131.52' and press 'Return' (within Command Prompt window). 184.108.40.206 is a well-known server within the internet (I believe owned by Google).
If you receive successful replies, then you have connectivity to the internet.
- Successful replies example:
If you still can't browse the internet, there is likely an issue with your laptop/PC or DNS.
Try the exact same testing approach above, with another device on the same network.
If it is your DNS, you may need to look at your DNS settings on your laptop/PC, look at flushing DNS, or contact your ISP to see if there is an issue on their side.
So congratulations, you do not have an issue connecting to the internet! (you just need to investigate why your individual device has connectivity issues).
If you see either of these 4 messages...
- "Request timed out"
- "Destination Host Unreachable"
...then you have issues connecting to the internet.
'Destination Host Unreachable' messages usually indicates that your router cannot access the Internet. This is almost always an ISP issue, or a cabling issue between your router and the wall socket that your router or modem plugs into.
- Unsuccessful replies example (Request timed out):
3. If you received 'Request timed out' messages, you can then ascertain whether or not the issue lies between your laptop/PC and the router.
- To do this, type 'ipconfig' into your Command Prompt window.
There will be quite a lot of output after you hit 'Return'.
Scroll down to the adapter that you use on your laptop/PC.
- In this example, it is the Wireless adapter, as I am connected to the router with wireless (output hidden for security reasons!):
Note: if you are cabled into the router, your connection will likely be labelled 'Ethernet adapter Local Area Connection' or something similar.
The IP address highlighted is the IP address of the router. It will almost always be the address beside 'Default Gateway' (unless you have a more complicated network setup!)
Try pinging this IP address (marked Default Gateway).
- If you can (4 successful 'Replied from' responses as described previously), then connectivity between your device and the router is ok.
- If you cannot (4 'Request timed out' responses described previously), then the issue lies between your device and the router.
- Example of pinging the router successfully:
Note that if your Default Gateway address starts with '169.x.x.x' this means there is a DHCP issue, and you can totally blame the router for this! Make sure your router is powerd on!
The rest of this article is geared towards troubleshooting the connection to the internet, rather than connectivity between the device (laptop/PC/tablet etc) and the router.
Try to use these 'ping' tests as you troubleshoot the steps below to help valisate connectivity...
Fix The Internet Connection
When trying to fix your internet connection you need to work out exactly why you are having problems.
There are many ways to test why your router won’t connect to the internet, however, first it is worth confirming that the problem is indeed with the router and not with another aspect of your network.
1: Check The Router Is Actually The Problem
To check your router is actually the problem the first thing you should do is plug your PC or laptop straight into your modem with an Ethernet cable. To do this take the Ethernet cable out of your router (if you use one) and plug it into the Ethernet port of your computer and try to connect to the internet.
If you don’t use an Ethernet cable to connect your router to your modem, they can be picked up fairly cheaply online.
If after doing this you find your internet works perfectly then it is quite likely that the router is causing your network problems.
However, the problem could still be to do with the wireless network adapter on your PC or laptop. To confirm that the problem is indeed with the router you should try to connect another device to your wireless network. For example a smartphone or another computer. If you don’t have another product at hand, you could also just buy a new wireless adapter for your computer and try to connect to the internet with that.
If after connecting another device to your network you still can’t connect to the internet it is indeed likely that the problem is with the router. If the other product connects, however, the problem is likely to be with your computer.
On the other hand, if after connecting your computer directly to your modem using an Ethernet cable you find the internet still doesn’t work, the problem is likely to be with either your modem, or more likely, your internet connection.
Again to confirm that this is the case you can connect another device to your modem via Ethernet cable and see if you can access the internet using this second device.
Now if you have confirmed that the router is the problem, you can start to work out exactly what the problem is and as such how to fix it.
To do this follow the following steps:
2: Reboot The Router
The first thing to do is to reboot your router. It is hard to say why rebooting the router works on some many occasions (often it's because of router memory leaks or the router has hung etc), but it can fix the issue. Hopefully permanently!
To reboot your router simply unplug it, wait a few seconds and then plug it back it again. If after doing this you can connect to the internet, then happy days!
3: Check The Cables
Another simple, yet nonetheless easy and useful thing to do, is check the cables on your router. Cables can easily come loose due to knocks, kicks, or your dog running into it! So it is worth checking all the cables are properly connected.
Cables you should check include the power cable and the Ethernet cable at both ends. If you can connect to the router but not the internet*, and the Ethernet cable is securely inserted.
It could also be worth trying a different Ethernet cable to see if that is able to solve the problem. Often you will have an extra Ethernet cable lying around but even if not they can be bought cheaply.
*To check if you are connected to the router you can simply open up a browser and type in the IP address of your router. This is usually https://192.168.0.1 or https://10.0.0.1 although if this isn’t case the case you just open a command prompt window and type ipconfig and press enter. Please refer to the 'ping' test guide above for more info!
4: Factory Reset Your Router
The following two steps (4 & 5) should only be undertaken after all other steps (including contacting your ISP), and if you are competent with technology.
There is a risk of 'bricking' (otherwise known as 'destroying') your router if this step is not undertaken correctly!
If your ISP owns the router, you should always contact them first.
If rebooting your router doesn’t fix your network problems you could go one step further and completely reset the router to its factory default settings.
Now it should be mentioned that this is certainly a last resort as reinstalling your router software could result in making the router unusable. It should also never be done if your ISP provides your router.
Most routers will have a reset button somewhere on the device that will reset the router when pressed in for a few seconds. After the router has been reset you will need to use the router’s setup software to reinstall the router.
How to 30-30-30 reset your router
While both rebooting and resetting the router can often fix your network problems , if you find yourself doing the above two resets fairly frequently, you could have a problem with the default firmware.
5: Upgrade The Router’s Firmware
If all else fails, you can upgrade your router's firmware. Think of firmware as the 'operating system' of your router. It controls how the protocols, controls & security work.
Log into your router to check the firmware version. It should be clearly listed somewhere in the menu. Then check the manufacturer's website to see if the version installed on your router is the latest.
If you don't have the latest version, your router firmware can be downloaded from the manufacturer's site and then uploaded onto the router using the router's GUI (menu page).
Once again, be very careful while doing this. It's possible to destroy your router if done incorrectly, or if power is lost to the router while an upgrade is taking place!
I'm Ok When Cabled In, I Only Have Issues With Wi-Fi!
Change Your Wireless Channel
If the above solutions haven’t sorted out your router, then it's time to look at wireless.
One of the things that can affect an otherwise healthy router is wireless interference. This is especially the case in locations where there are a lot of other routers nearby, for example, the apartment buildings that many of us live in.
Also note that non-wifi electronics, like cordless phones and microwaves etc can interfere with wireless signal.
One way to reduce this is by changing the channel your router uses. By choosing a channel that is as far away from your neighbor’s networks as possible, you will reduce interference and potentially see a marked improvement in your network speeds. Just make sure you choose a non-over-lapping channel!
It is usually possible to change the router channel using the router’s management software.
If you suspect this to be the case you could try installing a different firmware like DD-WRT instead.
Here is a video looking at wireless channels. The software used is Insidder, which used to be free, but no longer sadly. Try NetSurveyor if you want to go the free route.?
Check The Signal Strength
Often wireless router problems will come down to signal strength. Even if you can connect to the network, but the signal is too weak, you may struggle to get a consistent internet connection.
Weak signals can be caused by distance to the router, solid objects like walls that are in between your router and your device and even interference from devices like cordless phones, microwaves and baby monitors.
If you find that it is possible to get a good internet connection when your device is closer to your router you may find that you need to change the position of your router to a more central location.
If this is impractical you could buy something like a wireless network extender to improve your Wi-Fi connection over a longer distance or even upgrade your router to one with a longer range and/or beamforming technology.
As seen in this article, there are loads of things that can go wrong with your network and your wireless router. As such it is worth doing a check of your network to make sure that the problem you are experiencing is indeed down to your wireless router.
If after confirming that your network problems do lie with your router and then after performing the above checks you still have network problems, it could be a sign that you need a new wireless router.
Wireless routers these days come in a range of shapes and sizes and with many different features and at many different price points. For a thorough look at some of the best of this year’s wireless routers check out our roundup here.
If you have any more questions about why your wireless router won’t connect to the internet please comment below. Alternatively, if you know anyone who may find the information in this post useful please feel free to share this post.