Having Trouble Connecting to the Internet? Here's How to Figure Out and Fix the Problem
Problems can include physical connections, the network, the servers, the modem or router, and more
It's happened to everyone. We sit down with our laptop or tablet or smartphone. We open the browser. We wait…and wait…and wait. And then…
An error message.
Your device is unable to connect to the Internet. The webpage is not available. The page cannot be displayed.
The messages may be different, but they all amount to the same thing: your device is having trouble connecting to the Internet, and it may—frustratingly—be up to you to figure out the problem and fix it.
So how do you do it?
The First Step
Before you roll up your sleeves in preparation for hours of troubleshooting, check the physical connections. Are the power cables for the router and modem still plugged in? Is the Ethernet cable still snug in its socket? It is all too easy to trip over one of these necessary cords and accidentally pull it out, causing device users to lose the ability to connect to the Internet.
No, not Bing. If you've checked all the physical connections to your devices, router, and modem and haven't found a problem, the ping command should be your next step. But what exactly is the ping command, and what does it do?
The ping command sends several small amounts of data—known as packets—to a web address that you specify. The web server then responds to each packet that it receives. If there are any packets lost, it means that the server did not respond to one or more of the packets that you sent, which can be a sign of a network problem. Another sign of a problem with the network is if the server is taking much longer to respond to some packets than others. This can be a problem with the actual website (although this is not likely if many different websites experience the same problem), with your Internet service provider (ISP), or with your network (such as your router).
So now you know what a ping command does, but how do you send one? Simple:
- Open a Command Prompt window. You can do this in Windows 10 by going to Start, then Windows System, then Command Prompt. Alternatively, you can press Win (the Windows key on your keyboard), then R. This will open the Run window. Simply type "cmd" and press OK.
- Type "ping," then insert one space, then type the web address you are trying to see. For example, "ping google.com" or "ping ncconsumer.org." Do not include "www" in front of the address.
- You will then see several lines that you can ignore. Pay attention to the line directly below "Ping statistics for" and then the IP address. This line will look like the following: "Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss)." In this example, the ping command sent 4 packets to a web server ("Sent = 4"), the server received 4 packets ("Received = 4"), and no packets were lost ("Lost = 0"). There are no problems in this instance.
Be aware that some websites never respond to pings, such as Microsoft.com. If you send packets with "ping Microsoft.com," every packet will be lost.
Checking a Particular Website
If you aren't able to access a certain website but ping seems to be working correctly, it may be that the website is having a problem on its end.
There are several tools that you can use to check the status of a specific website. These include Down For Everyone Or Just For Me, Is It Down Right Now?, and Down Detector. These tools try to connect to websites and determine whether or not they are actually down. If they say that the website is down for everyone, the problem is on the website's end, not yours.
If, on the other hand, they say that the website is down only for you, there are several possibilities for the problem. For example, there may be an issue between your device and the path on the network that the device follows to reach the website's servers. If this is the case, there is little you can do except wait for the problem to be fixed.
The Modem and Router
If you are having problems with several websites, there may be something wrong with your modem or router. What exactly are these devices? Your modem is what talks to your ISP and gets the Internet from it, and your router then sends the Internet connection to all of your computers and devices. In some instances, the modem and the router may be combined into one device.
If there are several websites that you are having trouble seeing, look at your router. If there are green lights flashing on it, it is working normally. If there is a steady, blinking orange light, this is usually a sign of a problem. This principle also applies to the modem.
So what should you do if your modem or router is flashing an orange light?
- First, unplug the devices and then plug them in again. This is the same thing as restarting your computer, only for the modem and router. Be aware that your modem may take a few minutes to reconnect to your ISP.
- If unplugging and re-plugging doesn't solve the problem, you might need to do a factory reset of your router or upgrade its firmware (the permanent software programmed into the router). To figure out whether the issue really is the router, plug your computer's Ethernet cable directly into the modem. If you can then connect to the Internet, the router is the issue.
Problems with Only One Computer
If only one of your computers or devices is having trouble connecting to the Internet, it is likely that it has a software problem. This could be caused by a virus or malware, or it could be a problem with a particular browser.
Use your antivirus software to scan the computer. In addition, install a different browser and use it to go to the website you've been trying to view. There are also many other software problems that could be behind the issue, such as a misconfigured firewall.
The DNS Server
When you try to go to a certain website, your computer contacts that site's DNS server and asks it to provide the site's IP address. Your ISP provides the default DNS servers that are used by your network, and those servers sometimes have problems.
One option you can try is to get to a website directly using its IP address, which will bypass the DNS server. For instance, you can visit Google directly by plugging in the following IP address into your browser's address bar: "http://188.8.131.52".
If you are able to get to the website using its IP address but not by entering its URL as normal (www.google.com), the problem is with your DNS servers. In this case, you can either wait for your ISP to fix the issue, or you can try a third-party DNS server such as OpenDNS or Google Public DNS.
Hurry Up and Wait
In the end, most Internet connection problems are on the other end, not yours, so the only thing you can do is to wait for your ISP or the website to fix the issue. However, you can always call your ISP on the phone, since you are paying them to provide a service that works correctly. Your ISP can also tell you if other users are having the same problem or if the issue is local to you alone.