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How to fix internet connection problems

Written by Max Beckett, Broadband Expert

28 May 2020

There’s never a good time to lose internet connection. Whether you’re working from home, mid-way through ordering something online or in the midst of a heavy gaming session, a drop in connection can put a stop to all things work or play. Here are some of the common reasons you might have lost your broadband connection, advice on troubleshooting the cause and steps on how to get it back up and running.

Man frustrated with bad internet connection

#1: Find out why you’ve lost internet connection on your hardware

A drop in connection can be caused by all sorts of things, but before you jump to the worst case scenario (whole internet networks going down, your broadband being cut off, etc.), check to see if the cause is easy to fix:

  • Make sure no cables or wires have been kicked or knocked out of the router

  • Make sure your router hasn’t reset itself (this may require you to reset it again to kickstart it)

  • If you’re on a wired connection, make sure the ethernet cable is securely in its port

  • If you’re using a dongle, try using a different USB port

Setting up a new router

Setting up a new router is usually simple and most internet provider Wi-Fi routers follow a simple plug-in-and-go model, but sometimes things don’t always work out so simply. If your router isn’t instantly getting you online and you can’t access the internet, try the following:

  • Unplug all the cables from your router, including the power cable

  • Wait at least 1 minute

  • Set up the connection and try again

Sometimes it will take your modem a while to simply ‘warm up’ to your connection – the same way running a new phone or laptop for the first time takes time to set up. After this, if you’re not seeing any obvious signs of connection (this is usually a blue or green light depending on your router), then you may need to get in touch with your broadband provider to confirm whether it’s faulty.

#2: Lost internet connection because of software

If you’re confident it’s not your hardware, then check your software next. There are different issues that can make your internet stop working, so be sure to check them all:

  • Browser incompatible with certain sites

  • If you use a program to connect, say like with a dongle, this may need updating

  • Your dongle may require a new driver

  • Your router set-up may have been left incomplete

  • Your router password is incorrect

  • Parental controls prevent access to some sites (sometimes this can apply to innocent sites too if the settings aren’t adjusted)

  • The website isn’t available in your location (based on your IP address)

  • If you’re on a Wi-Fi connection, make sure your device hasn’t turned Wi-Fi off or gone into airplane mode

#3: Confirm lost internet connection online

Google is everyone’s go-to URL to check the internet isn’t working, and that’s because Google rarely crashes, but you should always confirm by visiting several websites such as Hotmail, a local paper’s webpage, a national paper site and an online store.

Bear in mind that lots of brands are connected and likely run by the same core team, so a single issue can impact multiple domains. Try to vary your web visits so you’re definitely not just revisiting the same faulty sites (if this turns out to be the cause). 

You’ll be surprised to find that sometimes single websites won’t run, but just for you. There are even handy websites to check connections elsewhere that will determine if the issue is exclusive to your connection or if the website itself is facing issues. 

Sending a ping

If your regular browser isn’t connecting, you can try a ping. A ping is essentially a slightly techier way of getting your computer to try to connect to a website, like Google, giving you the opportunity to see whether the website has recognised it or not.

If it has, it will send a numerical message back. If not, you’ll see something similar to “host not reached”. 

How do you ping?

Sending a ping from a Mac: 

  • Go to applications

  • Open Utilities

  • Click on Terminal

  • Type “ping www.google.com” and press enter

Sending a ping from Windows:

  • Search CMD

  • The black command box will open, type “ping www.google.com” and press enter

#4: Is your antivirus program blocking your internet connection? 

Sometimes it may be your firewall or anti-malware/antivirus program that stops your internet from working. If you have just installed a new program, it may clash with ones you already use, resulting in your access to most websites being blocked as a threat.

Try pausing or uninstalling new programs that monitor your internet use and see if this makes a difference to your lost internet connection. 

#5: Is your Wi-Fi reach too weak?

Sometimes, when you have no internet, the cause is as simple as your Wi-Fi connection just not reaching the room you are in. If your Wi-Fi connection isn’t working, this could be for any number of reasons:

  • The room you’re in is too far from the router

  • The router isn’t in an optimum position i.e. sending signal out the window, into a wall or into the back of a TV set

  • The router is placed near a fish tank

  • Your home might have very thick walls

  • Your router’s reach not extending to the garden

If you’ve exhausted the above options and still struggle to connect, a Wi-Fi extender can help overcome your issues, though if you like working down the garden or out and about, a mobile broadband solution would be worth considering.

#6: Are you up on payments for your home broadband deal?

Home broadband deals come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but make sure you’re on top of whatever one you do go for. Are all your bills paid? Do you have outstanding debts for going over data limits? Have you been using your connection inappropriately?

If you think your provider is holding back your connection for some reason, they should have made contact with you to notify you of any changes. But if you don’t have a letter or email from them and just want to check, you can get in touch to find out what the issue is and what you can do to resolve it.

#7: DIY lost internet connection repairs

Being able to fix broken internet connections can be a great skill to have, but you might want to get in touch with your provider first. Yes, callouts will cost you, but attempting repairs may cost you much more. Plus, if you do them wrong, you’ll need to call your provider out anyway, especially if your attempts have made things worse.

If you really want to give DIY a go, please remember to take all necessary safety precautions before doing so. The safest measure is using the test socket:

  • Remove the faceplate of your master broadband wall socket (this will have a horizontal line across it)

  • This will reveal a test socket to the right, where you can plug in the microfilter (this is the small box you plug into the wall socket)

  • Try to reconnect your router cable to the microfilter and see if connection is restored

If this doesn’t work, it could mean that the issue isn’t in your home but in the wider network. You should call your provider to confirm this.

What can I do if I lose internet connection and urgently need it?

There are several things you can do to get internet when your home broadband isn’t working, including:

  • Purchasing mobile data as part of your current mobile plan and using your phone to hotspot

  • Purchasing a separate data-only SIM that you can use with a dongle or plug into a laptop

  • Use public Wi-Fi at libraries, cafes or shopping centres (though be mindful that open Wi-Fi is often an easy target for hackers)

  • Use public hotspots exclusive to your provider, as is the case with BT and Sky

  • Ask a neighbour

Do some internet suppliers have better connections than others?

No broadband plan can guarantee 100% perfect connection all the time, but if having the best internet for things like gaming and working from home is a priority, then it comes down to types of internet.

ADSL

Standard broadband, also known as ADSL, is the most widely available type of home broadband as it runs on traditional classic phone line cables. For this same reason, it can also be one of the slowest. Cable wires in your area may not have been maintained very well, and even if they are, they aren’t capable of the speeds of modern fibre optic broadband.

Fibre-optic

This connection improves on ADSL by using modern cables for 90% of the journey from the telephone exchange to your home, but they stop at your street cabinet and then use copper cables for the final leg of the journey. This is a big improvement on ADSL in terms of speed, but it’s still not quite as reliable as full fibre.

Full Fibre

Named so because the connection is made with 100% fibre, and also referred to as fibre-to-the-premises (or FTTP). Virgin Media runs a similar cable broadband technology for many residential properties, but suppliers like Hyperoptic and Gigaclear are pushing the availability of the real thing.

You’ll reach ultrafast and even hyperfast speeds with this type of connection and – in the case of the previously mentioned providers – exclusive cabling networks mean you can enjoy more stringent maintenance, as well as a network that isn’t supporting as many users as Openreach.