Diagnosing internet connection issues can feel like a job for a true detective. There are many potential points of failure, from issues with the device you're using to router or ISP problems. A little troubleshooting can help you identify the culprit, and then you can take some simple steps to fix the problem.

Is It My Router?

The first and simplest response is one most people know by heart: reset your router and modem. This resolves many basic problems, and it only takes a few minutes. If that doesn't work, you need to make sure the router and modem are working.

First, check the lights on the front of the modem and router to determine if the equipment is receiving a signal. One or both have a light labeled "Internet," and that light should be its normal color and steady or blinking, depending on the model. If the light seems to follow a pattern, consult your router's documentation to find out if a particular light pattern means something specific.

If your issue is connecting to Wi-Fi, ensure your router has access to the internet by directly connecting your computer using a LAN cable. If you suspect your modem isn't working, connect your computer to it using the cable that usually runs to the router. In both cases, your computer should be able to access the internet this way. If the modem isn't connected to the internet, the next step is to contact your ISP.

If the modem is connected but the router isn't, it may be time to update your router's firmware or change settings. These processes vary, and you should consult your router's included documentation for the correct information. You should also try more than one device, if possible, to make sure it isn't a device issue.

Is It My ISP?

There are a few ways to check whether your ISP is experiencing an outage, which could be the case if your router and modem aren't accessing the internet. If you can connect to the internet by another means, such as using cellular data on your phone, check for notifications on your ISP's website. It's also a good idea to call and report the outage in case the company isn't already aware of it. In fact, your ISP’s phone support team might help you troubleshoot your problem regardless of whether it was caused by an outage.

My Router and Modem Are Working

It's a complex issue to diagnose when a device won't connect to a functioning router. The tools you use to connect to the internet are really layers on a tall stack of devices, drivers, and applications that must interact to deliver a seamless experience. The easiest first step, which can resolve some minor driver problems, is to restart your computer. If you're connected to a public network, try opening a browser just to make sure the network isn't asking you to sign in before gaining access.

Many devices have a native network troubleshooting application that is worth a try if the issue still isn't fixed. These troubleshooting apps are good at catching IP address conflicts and DNS server issues.

If that didn't work, try disabling and re-enabling the adapter you use to connect to the internet. For wireless internet, that is a Wi-Fi or 802.11 card. You may need to disable and re-enable the LAN or Ethernet adapter if you connect using a cable. Also, try telling your computer to forget a network that it tries to connect to automatically, and then set the connection up again. This may solve issues with network passphrase mismatches and IP address conflicts.

Is It My DNS Server? (What Is DNS?)

You may have a good internet connection but an improperly configured DNS server. The DNS server is like a directory for your device that takes the URL you type or click on and translates it into an IP address it understands. If typing "www.google.com" doesn't take you to Google's search engine but typing its IP address does, then you need to edit your DNS server settings. Google's IP address varies, depending on your region. One common address to try is http://74.125.224.72/.

Your DNS settings utility varies, depending on your device, but you may find it easier to simply change the DNS server you use. Some are freely available to internet users, including Google's DNS servers and OpenDNS.

Is It My Drivers?

At this point, if the internet still isn't working, you may need to update your device's drivers. This may require you to use another internet-connected device to download the new driver files and then transfer them using a USB drive. Only download driver files from a reputable source, such as the official website of your device's manufacturer. Restart your device after installing the new drivers.

If none of these tips work, you may need expert assistance. The steps above help you rule out the most common causes of internet connectivity issues, but problems are sometimes the result of equipment failure or significant programming issues that require professional assistance.

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