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How to Troubleshoot Wireless Router Problems

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Are you having a problem with your Internet connection or Wi-Fi? Whatever the problem — from a flaky connection to Wi-Fi troubles or even no access to the Internet at all — some router troubleshooting could fix things.

Some of this also applies to your modem, although many Internet service providers are handing out combined router-modem units these days. Your wireless router and modem may actually be the same device.

Reboot the Router

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Have you tried rebooting it? Yes, once again, the lowly reboot is the solution to many network problems. Whether websites are failing to load, everything network-related seems slow, connections are dropping, or your wireless is flaking out, you may just want to try rebooting your router.

This shouldn’t be necessary, but many routers seem to need an occasional reboot to keep working well. The reboot process is simple on most routers — unplug your router’s power cable, wait a few seconds, and then plug it back in. If you have separate modem, you may also want to try unplugging your modem’s power cable and plugging it back in after a few seconds. Some devices may have a power switch, but the unplug-and-plug-back-in method applies to all routers.

If you have to frequently reboot your router, the manufacturer’s firmware may just be unstable and buggy. Installing an alternative firmware like DD-WRT might help.

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Check for Overheating

Like any other electronic device, routers can fall prey to overheating. This overheating can damage the router over time or just make it unstable. Check your router’s temperature to see how hot it is. If it seems very hot, ensure that it’s getting enough airflow. If the vents are blocked or you have the router in a hot location — like on top of a tower PC that heats up — overheating could be causing instability. It’s also possible that past overheating may have damaged the router.

Verify Cables Are Securely Connected

This may sound like a no-brainer, but we sometimes forget to check the most obvious solution before moving on to more complicated ones. Someone may have accidentally pulled on or kicked a cable, causing it to unplug or become loose. You should check all of the cables involved and ensure that they’re securely connected.

Be sure to check the power cables to your router and modem, the cable between your router and modem, the cable between the modem and the wall socket, and each Ethernet cable plugged into the back of the router. Check each end of the cable and ensure it’s securely connected — it could look connected but be a bit loose.

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Reposition the Router

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If you’re having trouble with your Wi-Fi signal, you’ll want to try repositioning the router. Ensure nothing is blocking the wireless signal, particularly large metal objects or devices that can interfere, like microwaves and some types of cordless phones.

You should also ensure that the router’s antenna is positioned vertically rather than horizontally — a vertical antenna will give you the largest coverage area. Read our in-depth guide to improving your Wi-Fi signal for more information.

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Change the Wireless Channel

If you’re in a location with a lot of wireless routers nearby, like an apartment building, there’s a good chance your router is subject to interference from other wireless routers sending signals on the same wireless frequency. Determining the optimal wireless channel for your area and changing your router to operate on that wireless channel instead of a more congested one can reduce this interference, improving your wireless signal.

If you have an Android device, the Wi-Fi Analyzer app can help you analyze your area and find the optimal channel. You can then change the wireless channel on your router.

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Reset Your Router to Factory Default Settings

You may want to try resetting your router to its factory default settings if there seems to be a serious problem with its configuration. This shouldn’t be necessary in most cases, but it’s worth a try if you’re at your wits’ end. It’s possible that you’ve changed certain settings on your router that you shouldn’t have, and it may be easier to revert to a clean slate rather than changing the individual options back.

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Bear in mind that you’ll have to reconfigure your router after this, including setting up your wireless network name and passphrase again. You’ll likely need to long-press a Reset pinhole button on the back of the router to reset its settings, but the exact details will vary from router to router. This is the same process you need to perform to reset your router’s password.

Other Possible Problems

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As with any troubleshooting process, there’s a practically endless amount of things that could go wrong. Your router or modem may be broken. The Ethernet cables you use may be damaged and need replacement. If only one device you own is having problems with its network connection, it may have a software problem and you may need to go through a troubleshooting process on a specific device — or maybe just reboot it, if you’re lucky.

Read our guide to troubleshooting Internet connection problems for more tips.


If your router seems unstable no matter what you do or needs frequent resets, consider replacing it. New routers are fairly cheap and dealing with an unstable router can be a huge headache.

Image Credit: Sean MacEntee on Flickr, William Hook on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 01/21/14

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