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How to troubleshoot common internet issues at home
We’ve all experienced video buffering or slow internet connections at some point – and we all know it’s frustrating. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to do some easy troubleshooting on your own, without having to call your provider and potentially wait on hold until a service representative is available? Here are some tips to help you do just that.
Reboot your modem and router
First things first: reboot your modem and router. It’s amazing how many times this simple step solves a connection issue. Just like computers, your modem and router can get overloaded and overheated, causing their performance to decline. Reboot them at least once a month by unplugging them from the power outlet for a few minutes and then plugging them back in, modem first.
Assess the number of connections
Your internet “speed” describes the amount of data that can be transferred over your internet connection in one second. That bandwidth is a finite number for each internet connection, and all internet-connected devices in your home share that bandwidth.
The more devices you have connected at the same time, the less bandwidth each one will get, resulting in slower internet speed for all. And keep in mind that even though a device isn’t being actively used, it can still be connected and using bandwidth.
A smart TV in your guest room that’s connected to your home Wi-Fi network is still taking some bandwidth, even when no one’s watching it. If you’re struggling with speeds or spotty connection, think about whether all of the devices connected to your network need to be. If they do, you may need to upgrade to more bandwidth to adequately support your internet usage.
Run a speed test
When running an internet speed test, always connect your device to your modem using a wired Ethernet connection instead of using a device (like your mobile phone) that is connected through Wi-Fi. A wired connection is the only accurate way to measure your internet connection bandwidth.
If you can’t use a wired connection for your speed test, just remember that a Wi-Fi connection will automatically cut your internet bandwidth measurement by almost half.
The likely culprit: Wi-Fi
At this point, you’ve disconnected unnecessary devices, rebooted your modem and router and run an accurate speed test that shows you’re connected at the bandwidth you expect. If you still encounter buffering or a slow or spotty connection, the likely culprit is your Wi-Fi signal.
If you, like most people, want to enjoy the freedom of accessing the internet without being physically connected to your modem, you will need to distribute that signal throughout your home via a router. That is your Wi-Fi network.
Here are some tips to troubleshoot this piece of the puzzle:
Check your router location
Where your router is located in your home can greatly affect the strength of your Wi-Fi signal and coverage area. It’s best to put your router in a central location on the main floor instead of in the basement or on an upper level so it can more easily distribute the signal throughout the house.
Wherever you decide to place your router, make sure it is in an open space with plenty of airflow. Just like your modem and laptop, there are air vents on your router that help to regulate its temperature. If these vents are blocked your router may overheat, causing it to fail and stop working until it has cooled down.
If problems persist, think about the places in your home where you most frequently access the internet and where your router is located. The more walls your signal must travel through to reach your devices, the more interference there will be.
If your Wi-Fi signal has to travel through brick, stone or metal walls, it may be blocked or degraded, and you may want to consider moving your router.
You may be surprised to learn that some electronics and appliances like refrigerators, microwaves and Bluetooth speakers can also interfere with your Wi-Fi signal. This can lead to a slower internet connection or cause the Wi-Fi signal to drop out completely.
What looks to you like a lost internet connection might really be a Wi-Fi signal that dropped due to interference. Make sure these appliances or electronics are not between your router and where you typically use your wireless devices.
Use the Right Wi-Fi frequency
Wi-Fi routers use radio waves to transfer data from your device to the internet and vice versa. Today, most routers transmit data using two different radio frequencies, or “bands” - 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
The 5GHz band can handle higher speeds (up to 1 Gb) but has a shorter range (the distance it can transmit the signal). While the 2.4 GHz band doesn’t handle the higher speeds, it can transmit its signal about three times as far as the 5 GHz.
This is important when you are setting up your Wi-Fi network and deciding what devices to connect to which frequency. It’s better to connect your cell phones and tablets to the 2.4 GHz frequency since it can reach farther, and you tend to use these devices throughout your home. y
For more stationary devices, like smart TVs and video game consoles, consider connecting them to the 5 GHz frequency so you can take advantage of the higher speeds. If you experience a poor Internet experience on one device consistently, try moving it to the other Wi-Fi band to see if that helps.
All of these tips are fairly quick and simple and may help you solve internet interruptions on your own. If trouble persists, it’s always best to work with a provider who offers local 24/7 support to resolve issues quickly.