If web pages aren’t loading or streaming video keeps buffering, resetting your router and modem is one of the first things you should try, as it can fix a slew of Wi-Fi or Internet connection problems.
This works just like rebooting your Windows PC when you’re having issues. The software on your router and modem will shut down and restart in a fresh state. When you restart your modem, it will reconnect to your Internet service provider (ISP). Some routers—especially older ones—can slow down over time as they run. This is a software problem, and a quick restart can fix it.
Locate Your Router and Modem
Your wireless router likely has visible antennas. It’s the device that hosts your Wi-Fi network. Your router plugs into your modem, which is the device that communicates with your Internet service provider.
These might not be two separate devices. Some ISPs offer combined router and modem units, so you might only have one device to reboot.
If you’re in doubt, find your wireless router and see what it’s plugged into. If it’s plugged directly into an outlet, it’s likely a combined unit. If it’s plugged into another device, that then plugs into an outlet, you have two devices, and the other one is your modem.
Restart Your Router and Modem
This is a simple process, and you won’t be doing anything fancy. You’ll lose your Internet connection and Wi-Fi during the restart process, but everything will automatically reconnect in a few minutes.
First, unplug the power from both your router and modem (or just the one device, if it’s a combined unit). You should see a power connection on the back of each device.
We recommend waiting at least ten seconds before plugging them back in; wait for 30 if you want to be thorough.
Waiting ensures the capacitors in your router and modem completely discharge and forget any settings. It also ensures that the modem loses its connection with your ISP and will have to re-establish it. Waiting might not always be necessary, but it ensures that everything is fully shut down and ready to start fresh.
Plug the power back into your modem. (If you have a combined unit, just plug it back in.) The lights on your modem will light up, and it will boot up and reconnect with your ISP. This process might take a few minutes.
You can tell whether it’s done by monitoring the lights on your modem—they might blink different colors or in a different pattern while connecting. There might also be an “Internet” light that turns green when the connection is established.
Finally, plug your router back into its power source. Its lights will come on—if they don’t, you might have to press a power switch in your router, but this is rare.
Your router will boot back up, connect to your modem, and re-establish your Wi-Fi network. Your wireless devices will begin reconnecting to Wi-Fi, although it might take them a few minutes to do so. You might want to wait another few minutes before testing to see if your problem is resolved.
When you’re ready, try using your connection normally and see if everything’s working. If you’ve given it some time, and the lights on your modem are blinking strangely, the problem might be on your ISP’s end.
If you find yourself regularly rebooting your router to fix problems, try automatically rebooting it on a schedule.
A Faster Way to Reboot Your Router
The above method is the longer, more drawn-out version of this process. In our experience, it’s often good enough to simply unplug the modem and router from power, wait ten seconds, and then plug them both back in. They’ll boot back up and automatically sort things out.
However, some routers might struggle with this if they come online before the modem has connected to the Internet. Other devices might need more than ten seconds to ensure everything is wiped.
The first method is the safest to ensure you’re performing a full reboot and proper restart on any modem and router. If you frequently have to reboot your devices to fix problems, though, try this faster method and see if it works for you. It might save you some time.
Reboot vs. Reset
Note that “resetting” a router is another process. This term refers to performing a “factory reset” on your router, which wipes all your custom settings and returns it to its factory-default state. This option might be available in your router’s web interface. You might also see a “Reset” button on your router—usually, a small pinhole button you need a bent paperclip to press and hold—that will factory-reset your router.
Resetting is also a useful troubleshooting step if you’re having problems, but it’s different than simply rebooting your router or modem. It’s like the difference between rebooting your computer and reinstalling Windows (or “resetting,” as it’s called on Windows 10).