Computing

Wi-Fi Issues? Troubleshooting Tips for Common Problems

Wi-Fi troubles can happen to anyone, regardless of their networking experience. If you encounter a Wi-Fi problem you’ve never experienced before, don’t worry. With the right tools and a few helpful tips, you can easily solve most Wi-Fi issues. Whether you’re dealing with slow internet, a dropping Wi-Fi signal, or the inability to connect at all, here are some quick and easy fixes to try.

Slow or No Wi-Fi in Certain Rooms

Plugging an Ethernet cable into the back of a Wi-Fi router.
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Wi-Fi routers transmit radio waves in all directions, which means that if your router is located in a far corner of your house, it may unnecessarily cover a large area outside your home. To improve your Wi-Fi signal, try moving your router to a more centralized location. The closer your router is to the center of your coverage area, the better reception you’ll have throughout your home.

You can also try adjusting any external antennas your router may have. Alternating between fully vertical and fully horizontal positions can help broadcast the signal in multiple directions.

If you live in an apartment building, neighboring routers may interfere with yours. Use software like NetSpot on Mac, Windows, or Android, or Wi-Fi Analyzer for Android to identify nearby wireless networks and the channels they’re using. If your router overlaps with other networks in certain rooms, consider switching to a less congested channel. If you’re not sure how to do this, check out our guide on how to change your Wi-Fi channel.

If these solutions don’t work, your home might be too large for a single router to handle. Consider purchasing a wireless repeater or setting up an old router as a repeater to extend the range of your main router. Another option is upgrading to a whole-home mesh wireless system, which can eliminate dead spots in different areas of your home. If all else fails, it may be time to invest in a new router.

Slow Internet Everywhere

If your internet speed is consistently slow no matter where you are in your home, try connecting your laptop directly to your router with an Ethernet cable and perform an internet speed test. If the speeds are still slow, the issue is likely with your internet connection rather than your router. In that case, try the following steps to improve your internet speed and contact your internet service provider (ISP).

If the issue is not with your internet connection, it could be due to overcrowding on your current wireless channel caused by your devices or nearby networks. Access your router settings and change the channel to a less congested one.

If changing the channel doesn’t help, try performing a factory reset on your router. Look for a reset button on the back of the router and hold it down with a paperclip for 30 seconds. This should restore the router to its factory settings. Follow our guide to setting up a wireless router to properly configure it again.

If none of these solutions work and your internet works fine on a wired connection, there may be an issue with your router. Consider purchasing a new one from our list of recommended routers. Alternatively, the problem may lie with your modem, which could be experiencing connectivity issues. Check out our guide on top modem-router combos for possible replacements. Upgrading to a Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E router can also help alleviate congestion and support faster speeds, but make sure your broadband plan can handle the increased speeds.

Unable to Connect a Device to Wi-Fi

Dell's XPS 15 laptop being used on someone's lap.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If a specific device is having trouble connecting to Wi-Fi, try these simple fixes. First, turn off the Wi-Fi on the device and then turn it back on. Alternatively, unplug and replug your Wi-Fi dongle. If that doesn’t work, restart the device and try connecting again. You can also try restarting the router itself.

If these steps don’t help or the issue persists, consider deleting your current network from the list of saved networks on your device and reconnecting to it.

For Windows 10 or 11, search for “wifi troubleshooting” and open the “Identify and Repair Network Issues” result. This will run a series of diagnostics that may restore connectivity. On MacOS, you can run Wireless Diagnostics by holding the Options key and clicking the AirPort (Wi-Fi) icon on the menu bar. Then, select “Open Wireless Diagnostics” and follow the on-screen instructions.

Unable to Connect to Wi-Fi at All

If you’re unable to connect to Wi-Fi at all, plug your laptop directly into the router using an Ethernet cable and see if you can establish a connection that way. If you can, it means that the Wi-Fi is the problem and you should try the other fixes mentioned above. If you can’t establish a connection, there may be an internet outage in your area. Check your ISP’s webpage and social accounts, or contact them directly to inquire about any reported problems. You can also check a monitoring site like Downdetector to see if other users in your region are experiencing issues.

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Resetting your router can also address a variety of problems, including an inability to connect. Locate the reset button on the back of your router and use a paperclip to hold it down for 30 seconds. This will reset the router to its factory settings. Follow our guide to setting up a wireless router to properly configure it.

If resetting the router doesn’t help, it may be time to consider purchasing a new one.

Wi-Fi Connections Drop Randomly

If your Wi-Fi connections drop at random times, there could be several causes. First, check for any patterns. Does the connection drop whenever you use the microwave or after installing a fish tank? Some routers may have trouble with these and other home hardware. The 2.4GHz band is prone to interference from other devices, while the 5GHz and 6GHz bands can be interrupted by physical objects. Additionally, interference from other networks or devices, particularly during peak usage times, can slow down your connection.

To address these issues, try changing your router’s channel. Use software like NetSpot on Mac and Windows or Wi-Fi Analyzer for Android to identify nearby wireless networks. If your channel overlaps with neighboring networks, switch to a less congested channel in your router settings. Follow our guide on how to change the channel on your router for step-by-step instructions.

Moving your router to a more accessible location can also help minimize the distance and interference between you and the router.

If these steps don’t improve your connection, try performing a factory reset on your router. Locate the miniature hole on the router and press it with a paperclip, following the reset steps outlined in your manual.

Wi-Fi Network Disappears

The Almond 3 Wi-Fi hub has a smart LED screen.
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If you can’t find your Wi-Fi network on any device, it’s possible that your router has reset itself. Look for an unprotected network named after your router brand. Connect a laptop or desktop to it using an Ethernet cable and follow our guide to setting up a wireless router to properly configure it.

If you don’t see the network, try connecting your laptop directly to the router with an Ethernet cable. If you get a connection, use our guide on finding your router’s IP address and login information for further assistance. If you don’t have an Ethernet cable, refer to our guide on choosing the right one.

Connected to Wi-Fi but No Internet Access

If your device is connected to Wi-Fi but you have no internet access, try resetting your modem by unplugging it and plugging it back in. If that doesn’t help, connect a laptop or desktop directly to your router using an Ethernet cable to determine if the issue lies with the router or the Wi-Fi connection. If you have internet access through the wired connection, try resetting your router. If you still can’t access the internet, there might be an outage. Contact your ISP for further assistance.

Router Crashes Regularly and Requires Restarting

If your router frequently crashes and only restarting it solves the problem, try giving it a full reset. Locate the reset button on your router, usually accessible with a paperclip, and hold it down for 30 seconds. This will restore the router to its factory settings. Follow our guide to setting up a wireless router to properly configure it again.

If resetting the router doesn’t resolve the issue, it may be time to replace it. Check the warranty period for a possible return or consider purchasing a new one.

Wi-Fi Connection Lost When Logging Back Into the Computer

Windows update settings menu.
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Windows 10 users may encounter issues with Wi-Fi connection after logging back into their computers due to Fast Startup. This feature keeps certain processes running for a quicker login experience but can sometimes cause a bug that prevents a proper Wi-Fi reconnection. To prevent this issue, disable Fast Startup by navigating to Power Options in the Control Panel. Select “Choose What the Power Button Does” in the left-side menu and disable the “Turn On Fast Startup” option.

For a long-term solution, update the driver for your wireless network adapter to fix any bugs causing this issue. Follow our guide on how to update Windows 10 drivers for detailed instructions.

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Forgot the Wi-Fi Password

Selecting the Wi-Fi devices on a smartphone.
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If you can’t remember your Wi-Fi password and don’t have it written down, you’ll need to reset your router. Locate the hidden switch in the pinhole on the back of your router and press it with a paperclip for 30 seconds. This will restore the router to its factory settings. Follow our guide to setting up a wireless router to properly configure it.

Unknown Devices on Your Wi-Fi Network

Log into your Wi-Fi app or administrator settings by entering your IP address in your browser’s search bar. Look for a list of currently connected devices and identify any unfamiliar ones.

Before assuming the worst, ensure that the unrecognized devices are not yours or belong to friends or family. Some devices may have unique or unusual names if you haven’t assigned them yourself. Additionally, be aware that smart devices, game consoles, and TVs may also be connected to your network.

If you’ve ruled out familiar devices and suspect unauthorized access, check your router settings for options to block these devices on your Wi-Fi. If possible, ban their MAC addresses and change your Wi-Fi password. Finally, reboot your router to kick unwanted guests off your network. While this may not deter determined hackers, it should be sufficient for most cases.

For more severe situations, consult our guide on dealing with Wi-Fi theft.

Wi-Fi Issues Caused by Recent Updates

Windows update settings menu.
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Operating system updates can occasionally create Wi-Fi issues. If your Wi-Fi network connection or performance has been affected after an update, wait for a patch that addresses the problem. In the meantime, uninstall the problematic update and roll back your system to a previous version that restores your connectivity.

Keep in mind that routers may also develop problems with age. They may lose support for new device updates or experience other issues, similar to when Apple discontinued the AirPort Extreme. If your router is exhibiting signs of aging, it may be time to consider purchasing a new one.

Satellite Routers on Your Mesh Network Won’t Connect

Plugging a wireless node into a home network.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If the satellite routers on your mesh network fail to connect, start by ensuring that they are powered up and turned on. Try unplugging and replugging the problematic device and see if it connects to your network afterward. Some router apps, like Google’s Home app, allow you to restart a Wi-Fi point, which can also help establish a connection.

You can also use Google’s Home app to test the network setup. Look for “Wifi points” in the app and select “Test mesh.” If the test indicates a weak or failed connection, reposition your satellite routers closer to your primary router. This is also a recommended solution when satellite points keep dropping. They may be too far away from the primary point.

Ensure that your satellite router devices have a different SSID than your primary router. If they share the same SSID, the mesh network may not function properly.

If your router still fails to connect, check if any significant changes have been made to your network settings. For example, a change in your ISP’s wide-area network (WAN) type may require adjusting your router settings accordingly. If you’re still facing issues, reach out to your router’s support for personalized assistance.

Smart Devices Won’t Connect to Wi-Fi

Google's range of wireless networking products.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

When your smart devices have trouble connecting to Wi-Fi, start by ensuring that both your smart device and router are updated to the latest firmware. Then, try resetting your router and rebooting your smart device. Unplugging and plugging in the smart device or using the device’s app to reboot it are common methods.

If the smart device still won’t connect, try moving it closer to the router. Sometimes, distance and interference can impact smaller smart devices. Also, check if your smart device requires a Zigbee hub for operation, as older devices may require this additional component.

If your smart device keeps losing its Wi-Fi signal, especially during peak usage times, check if your router supports automatic band switching for devices. If it does, disabling this feature may solve the issue. Sometimes, routers attempt to switch a smart device to a different band, causing it to lose connection. In addition, connecting to a mesh router may present challenges, so ensure you are specific about your network connection to make smart devices work.

Check if your smart device is experiencing temporary bugs that may affect its ability to connect to Wi-Fi. Manufacturers often release patches to address these bugs, so keep your devices updated. Operating system updates, such as iOS patches, can also impact smart device performance.

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There are other router settings that may interfere with smart device connections, but they vary by manufacturer. If you’re unsure, contact your router manufacturer’s support for assistance.

Gaming Console Can’t Connect to Wi-Fi

Sony's PlayStation 5 console up close.
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If your gaming console can’t connect to Wi-Fi, check social media and Downdetector to ensure there are no issues with your gaming platform’s online service. If everything appears fine, try rebooting both your router and gaming console. Additionally, test your internet connection using the built-in options on your console. This can provide more information and suggest necessary changes.

If your console and router seem to be functioning correctly but Wi-Fi is consistently dropping, try relocating the two devices closer to each other. Removing any obstacles between the console and router and placing them in a higher, unobstructed position can improve signal strength. Consider reducing the number of other devices on the network, especially those streaming content.

Can’t Connect to Wireless Printer

Epson printer sitting on a desk in an office.
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If you’re unable to connect to your wireless printer, make sure you’re attempting to connect via Wi-Fi rather than Wi-Fi Direct, as they are separate technologies. Restarting both the printer and all related devices is a good initial step, particularly if the printer connected successfully in the past. If your printer is far away from the router, try moving it closer.

If your printer appears connected to Wi-Fi but still doesn’t work, check your computer’s printer settings to ensure the correct default printer is selected. Additionally, run any available troubleshooting tools provided by your operating system, such as those by Microsoft, to identify potential issues.

Check your router’s security settings, firewalls, and VPN settings to see if they’re blocking your printer’s wireless connection. You may need to disable certain firewalls or adjust security protocols to allow successful printer usage. If all else fails, uninstall and reinstall your printer drivers with the latest versions to see if it resolves the issue.

If your printer lacks wireless capabilities, consider upgrading to one that has this functionality. Check out our recommendations for the best wireless printers, laser printers, and multifunction printers.

Can’t Connect to a Guest Wi-Fi Network You Set Up

Man sitting next to a modem/router combo.
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Guest Wi-Fi networks allow you to securely share your Wi-Fi with others. If someone is having trouble connecting to your guest network while the main Wi-Fi network is functioning fine, try the following solutions.

First, wait a few minutes after setting up your guest network. It may take some time before it becomes visible. Once visible, access your router app and check the settings. Ensure that options like “Public Wi-Fi Active” and “Allow Guests to Access My Local Network” are enabled. If the problem persists, reset your router and try setting up the guest network again.

Keep in mind that some guest networks have a device limit. If you already have a significant number of devices connected to the guest network, additional devices may be unable to join.

Wi-Fi 6 or 6E Not Working With a Wi-Fi 6 Router

A TP Link Archer AX3000 Wi-Fi 6 router on a desk.
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Wi-Fi 6 offers significant improvements over older standards, including better performance, reduced latency, and improved security. If your router supports Wi-Fi 6 but you’re not experiencing its benefits, here are a few potential issues to consider.

Check if you have any extenders on your network that are not compatible with Wi-Fi 6. Incompatible extenders can prevent your devices from enjoying the advantages of Wi-Fi 6. Ensure that your device connects directly to the Wi-Fi 6 router to experience its benefits.

Also, keep in mind that most devices need partial support for Wi-Fi 6 features to utilize them. Older devices may not be compatible with any Wi-Fi 6 changes. This includes phones, laptops, and smart devices. Even desktop computers with internal Wi-Fi adapters may experience difficulties in fully benefiting from Wi-Fi 6. Updating Wi-Fi drivers can resolve compatibility issues.

Conclusion

While Wi-Fi problems can be frustrating, most issues can be resolved with a few troubleshooting steps. By following these tips and understanding the potential causes of common Wi-Fi problems, you can quickly get back to enjoying a stable and reliable internet connection. If you’re still facing issues, reach out to your router manufacturer or internet service provider for further assistance.

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