Instructables

How to troubleshoot your home network

Picture of How to troubleshoot your home network
Due to a recent demand for help with home networks, I have decided to write this instructable on how to troubleshoot your home network.  If you are not already familiar with the basics of how your network works, I suggest reading my previous instructable "How your home network works".

I will be providing instructions for Windows XP and Windows 7.  If you are using Vista, it is very similar to Windows 7, so follow those instructions.  If you are using Windows 8, you're on your own.
 
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Step 1: Ultimate basics

Picture of Ultimate basics
It may not seem like an important step, but before you go any farther, you need to check your cable connections and reboot everything (your computer, router, modem, switches, etc).  Unplug everything and plug it back in, don't just sight check it.  I can't tell you how many times I have gone to troubleshoot a network and they just have something unplugged, or didn't bother to reboot their router.  (This is especially common with my parents...)

Step 2: Taking a step back

Picture of Taking a step back
The first thing you should do when troubleshooting your network is to take a step back and think about the facts you already know about the problem you are having.  Is your computer able to connect to other networks, and just not this one network?  If so, it probably proves that there are not any hardware issues present on your computer (unless you are trying to connect to a 5GHz network with a 2.4GHz network adapter... we'll cover that later).  Are other computers able to connect to this network?  If so, then there might be a problem in your settings on the problem computer.  Are you connected to the network, but just not able to access the internet?  There might be a DNS problem.  Is your service unreliable?  It could be a lot of things, but interference and DNS problems are the most common in home networks.
One thing I might suggest for hardwired networks, are cable testers. You can get them for around ten dollars each. There are two kinds of testers. one will check a cable not plugged to a network, but you have to have access to both ends. The other kind tests connectivity with one end connected into the network. Some of the cheaper ones will give a false positive though. Many a time I have seen cables that look perfect, but actually have problems. if you have any amount of computers in your network, some extra cable ends and a crimping tool are worth their weight in gold.

There are a lot of MSWindows viruses that love to disable your networking so you can not get on line and repair the machine. Running the virus checker in safe without networking mode could also remedy some issues. You can also restart your networking without rebooting the machine if you have admin rights and access to the system tools. Reboot is not an option for most professionals.

On wireless networks can also have issues of ssids and passphrases not in sync. Some routers can lock out devices with certain preset mac addresses, so you have to make sure your mac address is not excluded from connecting. More too it than just the speed. There is another tool, but a bit more expensive that can detect wifi signals. For example, computers near microwaves or the like could interfere with radio transmission.

As much as the name Geek Squad makes me want to laugh, They do have a few good techs. You get what Best Buy pays them. last I heard it was not much per hour.

One question though. How do you update network drivers if the network is not working in the machine? (rhetorical)
thegeeke (author)  Computothought1 year ago
Thanks for your input. Some times people are able to connect using another adapter (for slim drivers), and also, if there is an updated driver locally, device manager will usually find it. Otherwise you need to find it off of the manufactures website, which is what I recommend most.

I will agree Geek Squad has a few good techs, but not many. :)
Djhart11 month ago

I need some help please.

My WiFi is not wanting to work with me, I can use my laptop at work or a friends house on their wifi with no problem. My wifi on the other hand will not allow me to search on webpages or anything close to that.
It wont even work if I hardwire it with an Ethernet cord, I can connect to my wifi and it says that I have internet access but when I open the browser and try to go to any webpage it says webpage can not be displayed.

Any attempt to try and help is greatly appreciated.

P.s. I can even connect using my neighbors wifi from inside my house.(which im doing at the moment)

ahmet_b1 month ago

my laptop has been having internet problems for a while i went to go get it fixed from a professional and he fixed it but the problems came back and now its worse it wont connect to a wireless network and now it wont connect threw a wired connection what should i do i tried everything you said and it wont still connect.

mzamora55 months ago
Hi. I read through all the steps but have failed to solve my problems.

I use this laptop at home and at school. AT HOME: my laptop only connects in one corner of the house - in the same room as the main setup and in the room directly below that one. Moving 20 ft away where all other devices still connect, mine struggles to connect (and if it manages to it disconnects after a few seconds) or doesn't connect at all. AT SCHOOL: I'm not sure where the main setup is, but my connection is strongest and only usable in the first couple of rows. Anything beyond that, where i usually sit, the connection is so poor it's practically not usable. Again, everyone else's devices connect properly throughtout the entire auditorium.

Help please :( this is not only annoying but has cost me several times already. Thank you!
aaziz79 months ago
Hi i want ask about my laptop problem..

I already followed ur suggestion until step 3: "First look at the option that says DHCP Enabled. If it says no, it means that at some point a static IP address was configured, which may not be the correct IP address for this network. To set your ip addressing to automatic, see step 6."
The i saw step 6: "Right click the wireless icon on your system tray, click "Open Network and Sharing Center". On the top right of the screen, click "Change adapter settings".
Ok, but problem comes that i can't find my network adapter. it doesn't appear. But, that network adapter still can be used in other laptop and in my android. It can be dettected, but not in my laptop. Please help me... Thanks
thegeeke (author)  aaziz79 months ago
So you are not able to see your network adapter like the one I am pointing to in the picture attached, or you are not able to get to that screen?

If you are not able to see your network adapter; most likely is that the driver is not installed.  Try going to System (Click "start"- Right click "Computer"- Left click "Properties") and clicking "Device Manager" on the upper left-hand side of the screen.  Go to "Network Adapters" (see second picture) and see if your wireless card is listed, and does not have a yellow exclamation mark or red "X" on the icon that the arrow is pointing to in the picture.
Network Connections_2013-07-18_08-13-42.jpgDevice Manager_2013-07-18_08-20-28.jpgDevice Manager_2013-07-18_08-20-28.jpg
aaziz79 months ago
how if my laptop can't find my network adapter after i click "Change adapter settings" ? but my android can detect that network adapter and connect internet with using it. please help me...
sharefa10269 months ago
ok honestly some of the steps that you told me to follow i do not understand that well because i am not a computer person but when i try to connect my laptop to the home internet it does not work but it works on everyone else laptop in the house and cell phone, i use this laptop at someone else house to use there wifi and it worked so im guessing its something with this laptop and the home internet can you help ? i called my phone company where im set up with the wifi and they came over and checked but it is nothing with my intermet the person said that he thinks my drive got updated in my laptop and that makes it not work so i got someone to back date it for me but it still does not work
thegeeke (author)  sharefa10269 months ago
OK, when you try to connect, does it give you any error message, or are you not able to see the network at all (when you go to connect, do you see any networks listed)?

Generally updated drivers are better, but the rollback shouldn't have hurt anything if it was done right. (It sounds like it didn't make a difference anyway.)

We can try a few things once I know a little more about your problem from those questions above, but some problems can not be solved online through Q and A like this. If that is the case, I would suggest that if you have a technician look at the computer, that he/she is at the very least CompTIA A+ certified. Network+, or another networking certification would be preferred. :)
sharefa10269 months ago
hello i tried your steps and i still can not get my laptop to connect to the wifi but everyone else computer is connecting please help
thegeeke (author)  sharefa10269 months ago
Sure. Can you give me more details about what is happening (error messages, a more detailed description of the problem such as you can not see any networks at all, etc.)

Thanks!
lelzka1 year ago
can you please help me with my internet prob. i've tried even reformatting my laptop and the same problem occurs.. when i connect to wifi at home it says limited access it connects for a few minutes then gone poof. limited access again...but other devices can connect to it with no problem. how come mine cant T_T please please help me..

ps. i can connect to other wifi just not the one at home.
thegeeke (author)  lelzka1 year ago
OK, so since you have go so far as to reinstall your OS, then we know that it is not a software issue (at least on your computer), so my guess is that there is a incompatibility some place that is affecting it.

How old is your laptop, and how old is your router? Also, what router are you using? Have you tried rebooting the router recently?
Ambo5491 year ago
Having very similar issues here myself. I read everything in the Tutorial and followed every step to no avail. So here's my problem, my old computer connects to my internet just fine, my new laptop however gets the yellow caution symbol/No Internet access/Limited Access. Every once in awhile the yellow flag will disappear and it says Connected but I can't actually open any pages.

When I run ipconfig /all it shows that my DHCP is Enabled, Subnet is 255.255.255.0, Gateway is 192.168.1.1 and IPv4 Address is 192.168.1.34

When I check my working computer the IP address ends in the hundreds so I don't think there's an issue there. On my non working laptop I changed the DNS server to Google's, I even tinkered with the IP Address, only changing the last digits. Still nothing worked even after restarts and tinkering with those settings multiple times before finally deciding to just go back to obtaining address' automatically.

Also did all the default stuff, reset modem, used Windows Troubleshoot (I'm on Windows 7 btw, if that matters - the computer that does work with my internet is my old Dell running XP). I even removed my antivirus software after running it one last time. I figure I can redownload once I get this network issue resolved. Also ran MalwareBytes. Nothing was picked up. My laptop will connect to open connections, it just doesn't seem to want to connect to mine. I do have it secured WPA2 - Personal. AES Encrypted.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
thegeeke (author)  Ambo5491 year ago
Sure, I'm glad to help! Let's try a few things first.
1. In command prompt, type "ping 192.168.1.1" (without the quotes). If that get's response, then we know that your local network is working, and can rule out connection issues between your computer and your router.
2. Again in command prompt, type "nslookup www.google.com". If it tells you Google's IP address, then we know that it is able to preform DNS queries.
3. And lastly in command prompt, try "tracert www.google.com". This will record all of the hops that your computer takes to Google. It is not uncommon for one or two of the hops to time out, but if you get more than 6 or 7 in a row, that would suggest your problem lies at the previous hop.

Let me know what these find. :)
bluegunky1 year ago
I just checked with same server and download to desktop was 43 Mbps and at same time to laptop was 2 Mbps. This happens routinely. If I reboot the laptop, it behaves for awhile. Anyway, just wanted to confirm to you that there is a distinct discrepancy between the two. Will get a new NIC. Final thanks
thegeeke (author)  bluegunky1 year ago
No problem... it defiantly seems like a problem with the NIC. Be sure to check on Amazon... if you buy a NIC in the store you tend to over pay. :)
bluegunky1 year ago
Thanks for the tip re: ESET and Avast. I just renewed my Norton, but will consider a change next yr at renewal time. I periodically scan with Malwarebytes and have yet to discover an issue. So, I think I will look into a new NIC. Thanks for your help!
thegeeke (author)  bluegunky1 year ago
No problem! Glad I could help! :)
bluegunky1 year ago
I am fairly certain that I can still have great speed on the desktop but abysmal on the laptop at the same time. Having said that, I just ran the speedtest.net on both and got 43.3 Mbps download on the desktop and 17.8 Mbps on the laptop. The disparity is usually greater than that. I am using Norton 360 Premiere AV.
thegeeke (author)  bluegunky1 year ago
Hmm... when it comes time to renew that AV, you might want to drop it and go with ESET (if you want to pay for an AV), or Avast (if you want a good free one)... Norton is undeniably the worst AV out there. Anyway, I don't think that could contribute too much to the speed difference (although Norton does kill the speed of both the network and the computer), so you might want to download Malwarebytes and scan your computer with that to see if there is a virus that Norton missed. If both Norton and Malwarebytes are not finding a virus, then I would say that your problem is probably your NIC.
bluegunky1 year ago
Windows XP. Speedtest.net
thegeeke (author)  bluegunky1 year ago
When the speed drops down, does the speed test on your desktop still get 40Mbs? Normally when you run an online speed test (such as speedtest.net), it is measuring the speed of your internet connection, not necessarily your local network (although your local network can affect it). If your desktop also drops down at the same time, I would say it is a problem with your ISP. If your desktop isn't dropping down at the same time, it is possible that you may have a virus, or it could be a problem with the NIC. I would explore the virus possibility first. What anti-virus are you using?
bluegunky1 year ago
This site looks great! Unfortunately, it hasn't solved my problem. My laptop wireless download speed is about 1Mbs. If I reboot the laptop, I run the test again and get 20Mbs! That will last from a few minutes to hours and then I run the download speed again and it is back to around 1Mbs. My wired connection on my desktop gets more than 40Mbs. I have a Verizon FIOS router. Any thoughts? Is my NIC the problem? The laptop is 7 years old and I updated to latest wireless driver to no avail.
thegeeke (author)  bluegunky1 year ago
What system is on your laptop? Also, what speed test are you running? Is it an online speed test, or the built in connection speed listed on your computer?
Ellepepper1 year ago
Hi, I'm having a bit of a problem.

I have a brand new Apple router, and all the apple products within our house work fine on it, but the odd PC laptop in the closet will not connect to it. I have tried updating and rolling back the drivers twice

On my desktop I run os 10.5
On my pc I run windows 97 sp2.

I keep getting an invalid DNS and a 'driver state not in registry' error. But it says everything is working correctly and the drivers were just re-installed two days ago.

My computer will connect with every other network on the planet it seems but not our home one. Help
thegeeke (author)  Ellepepper1 year ago
Windows 97? That is such an old system that the NIC probably isn't compatible with the new wireless standard (wireless N) which came out in 2009. If your computer came with the wireless card built in or you bought it around the time the computer came out; more than likely it is using 802.11 Legacy protocol. If you bought the wireless card within a few years of the computer, more than likely it is 802.11 B protocol (wireless B)

Does it connect to the network, but just not to the internet, or does it not even connect to this network. Also, I assume the computer didn't come with the wireless card, so how long ago did you buy the card? :)
Hi.
Well after reading al of that it sounds like its my DNS server (what ever that is).
i have a HP dv9000 has been working perfectly up ntill a year ago. I connected it to my home network fine, went to uni for three years, came back and tried to connect to the same home network and suddenly it doesnt want to connect to the internet. it does however connects to the network but with "limited access" and hardly ever signs on to the internet itsef. No tell a lie it didi briefly the oher day, i got a excited, went to go check the setttings and accidently cicked the "dusconnect" button by mistake... and now its gone back to its old ways.

What have i done wrong?? It connects to the interent if i plug it directly to the modem via cable. It'll connect to my mobile network on my android if i set it to "tethering", and has connected to other WIFi's it just simply refuses to connecct to my home netowrk.

There are 3 other computers in the house that connec tto the same network fine. the main computer, via cable and two laptops wireless, my phone also seems to connect to it fine. Please help me with this most annoying issue.

Thanks, Alicia
thegeeke (author)  alicia.marke1 year ago
Sure. Once you are connected to the network with the computer that has limited access, run an ipconfig /all command from command prompt. Also do the same from one of the working computers, and tell me what your IPv4 address is, subnet mask, default gateway, DHCP enabled, and DNS servers are from both computers. This can help me diagnose the problem. :)
Hi, thanks for the instructable. It was helpful but didnt solve my problem. I just moved to dubai and am trying to use my wireless router from Turkey. It seems to be working fine because my smart phone and ipad can connect to the wireless, but my laptops (one acer and one asus) seem to have trouble connecting to the wireless. In fact, my acer connects but seems to disconnect after a while. any ideas? thanks!
thegeeke (author)  timvanvliet1 year ago
If I remember correctly, the WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network A.K.A. WiFi) channel restrictions are different in Dubai than Turkey. More than likely, your router may need to be changed in order to comply with the restrictions in place. It's possible you are getting interference from other devices connecting on those frequencies... which would account for the connecting and disconnecting. Your iPad and probably your smart phone as well is most likely made to work in all countries and therefore has a wider range of frequencies that it can pick up. Once you change your router, you may have to buy a new NIC (Network Interface Card) in order to change your laptops as well. (You can just buy a USB NIC... that would probably be the easiest and cheapest.)

I'm sorry I don't have any better news for you! :(
Ok, back again. (been busy)
Looked under network adapters. Not sure exactly how NIC is translated (or abbreviated) in French but I had 2 things showing there and tried to update both drivers: 802.11n Wireless LAN card and Atharos8132 PCI-E Fast Ethernet Controller. Results for both after a lasp of 2-3 mins "no new update found"
Also:There is no error next to anything. And all says working properly.
thegeeke (author)  Angebiensur1 year ago
I totally understand it being busy... same here. :)

Anyway, I'm sorry if I already asked this, but what wireless "letter" (A, B, G, N) is your wireless router, and how old is your laptop? I doubt this is the problem since it seems to connect to the internal network, but it doesn't hurt to check.

What anti-virus are you running on your laptop, and did you try running a virus scan?

Also, if you could try running this command from the command prompt:
tracert 74.125.13.104
This traces the hops that your computer uses to get to google. You don't have to tell me what the different hops are, but if you could tell me how many hops it gets before you get more than four or five hops that say "request timed out"?
sliv11 year ago
Err nono, the thing is, they do not have error symbols ._. I clicked on properties and it sais that they'rs working just fine.
thegeeke (author)  sliv11 year ago
So there are not yellow or red marks under the network adapter icons in device manager?
sliv11 year ago
Hi there. I've been having problems connecting my laptop to my wireless network after i configured my modem. Everything was working just fine before i did. My laptop as acknowledges the network, but when i try and connect it to the network, it remains unconnected. Im pretty sure the password for the network is correct. All the other devices are able to connect to the network except for the laptop. I also tried going to command prompt, keyed in 'ip config' ' and it says,
Ethernet adapter local area connection : media state...: media disconnected
Same goes for ethernet adapter local wireless network. Im guessing it has ntg to do with the hardware cuz the 'network adapter' icons under device manager have to yellow or red marks on'em. Your help is much appreciated =)
thegeeke (author)  sliv11 year ago
Glad to help! Because the network adapters have error symbols in device manager, my guess is that you do not have the proper driver loaded. Try googleing "Network drivers for (your laptop brand and model number here)" from a working computer. Most manufactures will provide them to you online. Once you find the correct drivers, just transfer them to your computer that isn't working using a flash drive, or something similar and run them. Hopefully that should clear up your problem! :)
On step 3 every time i type in ipconfig /all the box flashes but doesn't stay up.
thegeeke (author)  Supernova231 year ago
Are you typing that into the run box or the command line? It sounds like you are typing that into the run box. In the run box type cmd and press enter, then type ipconfig /all.

You can also go start-all programs-accessories-command prompt, and then type it into that command window. Whichever you prefer. :)
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