7 Troubleshooting Steps if You Know Nothing About Routers

The internet is dead, and you have no idea why. Is it that stupid thing in the corner again? You know, you should have got a new one the last time. But here we are, and you need to get it working again. To help you with your task, I have collected the 7 most simple steps you can take to get internet back again.

As a systems administrator, I am usually the guy my friends and family go to when they have the same trouble that you have right now. These seven steps are very handy for me to have close by in that case because it seems that most of my friends never learn them themselves…

What is That Thing in the Corner (the Router)?

Well, it’s a router, if that says something. I think that it’s important to know what a router is before you start troubleshooting it. That way, you may get a better knowledge of the problem. In basic terms, a router enables you to share your internet connection with several different devices. It can be things like laptops, smartphones or a tv, anything that is connected to the internet.

There are two different types of routers. The most common type is wireless routers, which will provide wireless internet access (WiFI) and often cabled connections as well. Many ISPs (Internet Service Provider) will provide a router of this type as part of the subscription, but I would recommend that you purchase one yourself. Third-party routers like this Asus AC-68U on Amazon (which I have at home, it’s great) will provide better WiFi and have more settings for you to change.

The other type of router does only support cable. These routers do often support even more functions instead of a wireless network. An example of such a router is the Ubiquiti UniFi Security Gateway, also on Amazon. If you are not into networking, this is not the type of router for you.

Troubleshooting the Router

Routers are usually pretty reliable but they, like any other electronic device, can experience problems from time to time. Down below, you can find seven troubleshooting steps that I highly recommend that you go through in order to get your router working.

Before you get started, I would also recommend that you set up a so-called “ping”, which will make it easier to see when you get your internet back. To set up a ping, do this:

  1. In the Windows start menu, search for CMD
  2. Open Command prompt and type ping 8.8.8.8 -t
  3. Hit enter

The computer is now trying to reach Google over and over again and you know you have your internet back when it looks like in the image below.

Step 1 – Restart Your Router

I’m sure you have heard it before but turning off an electronic device and then back on again will solve most of the problems. This is also true for routers, so this is the very first step to do. If you call support, later on, they will also ask you if you have done this.

It is important that you wait for at least 15 seconds to restore the power to your router. The reason for this is that routers use electronic devices called “capacitors” which will store a small amount of charge and they require a few seconds to discharge this power.

Why does this work? Well, your router is like a mini computer and when you turn it off and on it is like restarting or rebooting a normal computer. Sometimes a spurious event will cause your router to stop functioning properly. Turning it off and on can reset things back to normal.

Step 2 – Isolate the Problem

If it didn’t help to restart the router, we need to find and isolate the cause of the problem. The second step is where you isolate the cause of the problem. You need to know whether the problem lies with the router itself or with your Internet connection from your ISP. Sometimes there are issues with the external network between your ISP and your home or office. There can be several reasons for this.

The best way to isolate the problem is to plug one of your computers directly into your ISP wall socket. There will be a cable from this wall socket that plugs into your router. Remove this carefully from the wall socket and then use an Ethernet cable to connect your computer directly to the wall socket.

If the Internet is OK, then you will be able to access it with your computer directly. In this case, the problem is with your router. If you cannot access the Internet by connecting directly with your computer, then there is a problem with your ISP and you have to call them for support. However, if it’s the router, then there are some other things we can do.

Step 3 – Check Another Computer

If you have access to another computer, then check to see if you can connect to the Internet using this or if the same problem occurs. If you can connect to the internet, then the problem lies with the original computer. If the problem is the same move on to step six…

 

Is it one computer or all computers that experience the problem?

 

Step 4 – Update Your Router Firmware

Once you have isolated the problem to be with your router and you have checked cables and connections the next thing that you can do is to update the firmware for your router. Firmware is specific software that routers and other hardware devices use for low-level control. If the firmware is not up to date, then it can cause problems.

Some routers will automatically check if they have the most current firmware installed and update themselves. Most routers will not do this, and you will have to find the latest version of the firmware for your router and update it manually.

The best way to find the latest firmware is to visit the manufacturer’s website. If your router is not working, then plug your computer into the ISP wall socket directly using an Ethernet cable. Be sure to check for the exact model number which will be visible on your router.

Download the firmware update onto your computer. This will normally be in zip format. It is important that you check that this version of the router firmware is the very latest and not an earlier version than the firmware that your router is currently using.

Extract the zip file to a specific location on your computer. You will need to remember this location as you will have to browse for it later.

The next step is to access your router’s internal settings via a web browser. You do not need an Internet connection to do this. Your router will have an IP address and the ISP may have supplied this to you. If you purchased the router yourself then it should be in the user manual. However, in 99% of the cases, it’s 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1.

Once you have your router’s IP address you will need to enter this into your web browser and log in. Some routers will not allow you to access the settings using wireless. If this is the case, you will need to connect to your router using an Ethernet cable.

You will see a login box asking for a username and password. If you don’t have these details, then try leaving the fields blank and then enter. If this doesn’t work use “admin” for the username and no password. If that doesn’t work, go to routerpasswords.com and get the details from there.

Once you have logged in check the menu for a “Firmware Update” link. The firmware page will have a “Browse” button where you can find the latest firmware files that you downloaded to your computer. Find the files and start the upgrade. It can take around 5 minutes or so to perform the upgrade so wait until the page confirms this.

Your router will then probably reset itself. If something went wrong with the upgrade, then you can reset your router using the reset button on your router. Did the firmware upgrade fix your problem? If not go to step five…

Step 5 – Check Cables & Connections

Your router will have a number of cables connected to it. If it is a wireless router (or wireless and cable) then there will be a cable connecting from your ISP wall socket to it. You may also have used direct cable connections from your computer(s) to your router.

You need to check all of the cables. It is always a good idea to have a spare Ethernet cable available so that you can interchange it with existing cables to check connectivity. Cables can break sometimes and there can be problems with the wires connecting properly to the Ethernet plugs.

Sometimes a cable plug may not be properly inserted into the router. Remove all cables and then reinsert them making sure that they fit securely. Do this after you have checked that the cables are not broken.

If all of your cables are fine and inserted properly then it is time to move on to step six.

Step 6 – Reset Your Router to Factory Settings

Restoring the original factory settings to your router is easy to do but the method of doing this will vary from one router to another. With some routers, you need to press and hold the reset button on the router for at least ten seconds. On other routers, you will need to use a paper clip to press the recessed reset button.

Some routers will let you restore the default factory settings via the router settings page. Use a web browser to access your router settings page and then look for a command to do this. Did restoring factory settings fix your problem?

Step 7 – Contact Support

At this point, you have done all the steps that a technical support asks of you. If you have done all of the above and the internet still doesn’t work when going through the router, check if you have any warranty left and contact the manufacturer for a new router.

If there is no warranty left, a new router is your best option. Again, I am using the Asus RT-AC68U, which can be found on Amazon. It’s a router that I highly recommend if it comes to that.

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