How to troubleshoot problems with your router
If you’re having problems with your network connection, but have determined it’s not your computer or a bad cable, your router might be the problem. Routers aren’t too difficult to troubleshoot either, so it’s actually easy to trace down the problems to your network problems.
Follow along below and we’ll show you the warning signs that appear, indicating you might have a bad router. Not only that, but we’ll show you how to troubleshoot and diagnose the problem, too. From there, you’ll find out if you need to replace the router or if it’s just a quick and simple fix with your old unit.
There are actually quite a few warnings that a router gives off to indicate it’s dying. Here are some of the most common symptoms you might come across:
- Dropped connections: If you are consistently getting a dropped connection to your home Wi-Fi network, this could indicate a sign of a failing router. Power it down, leave it off for awhile, and then boot it back up. You might also want to try using a different computer to ensure the problem isn’t with your machine. Sometimes Windows might tell you you have “Limited Connectivity,” too. Other times, the connection will work fine for a few hours, but randomly drop. If the problem persists, you could have a faulty or dying router.
- Random reboots or power loss: As you could probably guess, a router randomly rebooting or losing power frequently is not normal. Check the electrical outlet or power strip to make sure the router is plugged in. Make sure other electronics plugged into the outlet or power strip aren’t having any issues. If they are, the problem could sit with the outlet or power strip. If not, this is another sign of a faulty router.
- Lost config settings: Do you lose your router configurations every time it boots up? This could be a sign that the flash memory the router writes the config settings to is going bad. Of course, there’s no way to fix that individually — the whole router will have to be replaced.
What could be the problem?
It’s difficult to pin down a specific issue with the router causing the problem. There could be “known” problems that your router model has, which is where the problem could lie, but really, you’ll never know.
It’s worth mentioning that routers are essentially miniature computers. They have a processor, RAM and flash memory — all parts that could fail or go bad. And, of course, it isn’t something where you can simply open it up and replace a component. When a router goes bad, you have to replace the whole unit.
But, we’ll go through some troubleshooting steps and hope that isn’t the case (or even IS the case if you’ve been eyeing an upgrade for some time now!).
Check your connections — that’s the first step. Make sure there are no loose power or Ethernet cables (if you use one). If they are loose, get them plugged in firmly. That may resolve the problem in itself. If you do use an Ethernet cable, try and swap it out with another one to make sure that it isn’t your current Ethernet cable that’s bad.
If you exclusively use the wireless connection, disable it on your computer. Then, connect an Ethernet cable from your computer to the router. If this cleans up any dropped connections, this could indicate that the problem is with some wireless settings within your router. If not, we’re almost definitely looking at a bad router.
It’s worth noting that, before deciding the router is bad, ISPs can be slow or have outages at random times. Sometimes the connection will just be slow during congested hours, too. That said, make sure the problem isn’t with your ISP before we go and replace the router. Usually with a quick call or a tweet to your ISPs official Twitter account can get you an answer on whether there’s an outage or not in just a few minutes.
Did you change some configuration settings? If your router worked before those changes, it’s likely that that’s what messed up your wireless signal. If you can, revert back to the original settings before you changed them. If you can’t remember what it was that you changed, most routers will let you restore back to factory settings somewhere within the software.
Speaking of software, did you know routers have their own mini operating systems? It’s true, and most routers come with their own stock operating system, though there is a whole community out there behind flashing new open source firmware. In fact, before deciding on a new router, it might be best to try out some third-party software first. Either way, you’ll want to go into your router and make sure the firmware is completely up to date. Many times an update will resolve any issues and bugs a router was known to have beforehand.
It’s also worth considering that your frequent connection drops could be because of a dead area in your house. Your best bet here is to move your router around until you can find an area that will give you the best stability.
Another thing to consider — how old is your router? As with all things, technology can start to die with age. Not only that, but old technology is, well old. That said, it won’t have the signal strength or stability of modern routers. Your best bet is to, of course, replace the router with something more modern. Generally, this will fix having a “dead area’ problem as well, since modern routers have that better signal strength.
One other thing you can do to check your router is to run ping and tracert commands in Command Prompt. Using either command is simple. Just open up Command Prompt and type in either ping or tracert followed by the website you want to ping or run a trace to. It’d look like this: tracert pcmech.com. If the website you ping or run a trace route to has trouble connecting to the website — despite the website you’re connecting to working completely fine — this could indicate a problem somewhere between your PC and a website’s servers. You’ll see everything that happens in Command Prompt, getting a good look at where the problem is.
The last thing you can do to try and fix the problem is to change your router’s network channel. There’s about 14 frequencies routers can send (and receive) data over the 2.4GHz band. In your router’s configuration, you can switch the channel to a different option to make sure there wasn’t any interference with connection. If that doesn’t work, there’s one last thing we can try with your router.
Going back to what I said earlier, give your ISP a call. They’ll not only be able to tell you if there’s an outage on there end, but they also have a number of tools to troubleshoot your connection remotely. If none of the above steps worked, generally, the ISP can confirm for you that there’s no problem on there end, thus eliminating another possibility and giving us even more reason to believe your router is at fault. It’s time to call it quits here and purchase a new router, there’s not much else we can do, and there’s certainly no saving a router that’s faulty or dying.
Replacing your router
Replacing a router isn’t the most simple task. First, do your research and find a router that will fit best for your home and overall needs (we have also written a handy guide for this here). One you have the router, you can follow these steps to replace it:
- If you have any devices connected to the router by way of Ethernet, simply disconnect them. If you strictly use the Wi-Fi connection, you won’t need to do anything here.
- Power down your router and the ISP’s modem.
- Take a picture of (or remember) how the cables are plugged into the old router.
- Disconnect all of the cables and power to the old router
- Remove the old router and place the new one in its place.
- Next, you’ll want to connect up the new router with power, cables from your modem, and then cables to go to your computer if you plan to use Ethernet.
- Power on the modem. Wait for it to fully boot up, and then power on the new router.
That’s the basics of getting your new router setup. There are still some things you’ll have to do to finish the setup. You’ll need to go to your computer and log into your router’s management console. Do keep in mind that, initially, you’ll need an Ethernet cable connected to your PC or laptop to do this. Once that’s done, for many router manufacturers, you’ll just need to open up your Internet browser, type in 192.168.1.1 and press “Enter” to access the router’s console (the router’s manual or setup guide should contain the exact details).
Here, you’ll need to enter your username and password to get into the router. If this is your first time setting up, usually the username is just admin and the password is just password. You can refer to your router’s manual for the correct credentials.
Once you’re logged in, you’ll want to go into the Wireless tab in your router’s settings and either find out what the name is for the default network or create a new network. On many router’s consoles, you should see a Wireless Security tab where you can setup specific security keys as well as passwords.
Those are just some very basic steps to getting the Wi-Fi working in your home. If you go ahead and setup a new wireless network, you’ll want to make sure you get rid of the default one that was setup (if there was one setup) for security reasons.
Now, if you’re having trouble setting up your router and aren’t sure about everything you want to configure, calling your ISP is an option. Generally, the manual will give you all the details you need to get a basic and secure home network setup, but if you need further instruction, your ISP’s technical support is usually always willing to help get you setup, or, at least point you in the correct direction.
It goes without saying, router problems can be infuriating. But, with these steps, hopefully we’ve helped you quickly identify the problem at hand so that correct steps can be taken to remedy the problem. As we mentioned earlier, routers aren’t too difficult to troubleshoot, so nailing down the problem should only take you a good half an hour. And, of course, if it’s something you just don’t want to touch, call your ISP. In most cases, you can setup a service call with them where you can rent (or buy) a router from them. They’ll come to set it all up for you at a specified date, but do keep in mind that this is generally the more costly route to take.
We hope this guide helped you get to the bottom of your problem. But if you’re still stuck, be sure to head on over to the PCMech forum and post your problem to get some additional help from the PCMech community! We have many experts over there always willing to lend a helping hand or offer some advice.