Is there anything more annoying than slow or non-functioning internet? As someone who works completely online, I would have to say no.
Connectivity issues can be a real problem for me, but I’ve found there’s generally a straightforward way to get moving again.
No internet or slow internet?
This may sound obvious, but the first step is making sure that it is actually an issue you’re having with the internet, rather than a specific site or task.
If you’re having trouble sending an email, for example, double check a few other internet functions to be sure it’s not just Outlook that’s causing problems. Just run a Google search – if results come up, even slowly, then it’s not an internet outage. If it is running slowly, you can run a speed test; contact your provider if it’s miles off what your plan promises you.
Once you’ve established that the internet really isn’t working, start by troubleshooting the specific device you’re using.
If you’re using a WiFi-enabled device, ensure that you can see the wireless signal bars on your computer or device without a cross or exclamation mark. A cross or the absence of WiFi bars suggests there is no WiFi connection, while an exclamation mark indicates a connectivity problem.
The exclamation mark signifies that your connection to the router (your local network) is functioning, but there is an issue with your internet connection (external network). In this case, you might want to concentrate your troubleshooting efforts on your modem. If you have a combined modem-router device, it is likely that this device is experiencing internet-related difficulties.
If you’re using an Ethernet connection on your computer, check the system tray located in the lower or upper right-hand corner of your main screen. Look for a square TV-like networking icon that signifies a successful connection. Hover your mouse pointer over this icon, and it should provide information about your network status, such as “internet access” or “no internet access” if there are any problems.
If you see a globe symbol with a smaller ‘no entry’ icon, it indicates that you are connected to your local network but not connected to the internet. Similar to the previous WiFi example, this combination of a globe icon and a ‘no entry’ sign suggests that your router is functioning correctly, but there may be issues with the modem component.
The first thing to try is always turning off the device, waiting a few seconds then turning it back on. More often than not, that solves the problem.
However, if none of your devices are able to connect to the internet or all of them are suffering from the same slow speeds, the problem is probably outside of your devices.
Troubleshooting NBN network equipment
As mentioned above, turning devices off and on again (also called power cycling) is a great place to start with devices – but it works for all equipment.
Power cycling is different from restarting in that you leave the device off for a while before turning it back on. Some device manuals have a recommended power-cycle time but I find that anything from 15 seconds to a minute does the job for most situations. You can also leave it off while you grab another coffee.
The trick with power cycling networking equipment is to start from the outside of the network and work your way in (like with cutlery at a fine-dining restaurant). If you only have a modem-router, that makes it easy; if you have a separate router, do the full process with your modem before moving on to your router. If you also have a networking switch, do that last.
It will probably fix your issue to power cycle all your devices at once, but it won’t help you understand what was going wrong, which means you won’t be able to resolve the cause.
Follow the light
You can also check the lights on your networking equipment. Green, blue or white lights usually mean that the device is working fine, while red or no lights probably mean that you’ve found the source of your problem. Depending on where the lights are red/ off, it could mean a problem with power, connection status or local area network (LAN).
If there are no lights indicating power, try to power on the device. If it remains unresponsive after a power cycle, and there are still no lights or a red light for the power indicator, you should contact your service provider.
When there’s no light for the connection status or if there are red lights present, it signals a connection problem. If power cycling doesn’t fix it, definitely contact your provider.
On a modem, the absence of a light on the LAN status or a red light suggests a problem with the connection to your router. This issue could stem from either a faulty Ethernet cable; ensure it’s properly connected at both ends or try a different Ethernet cable.
The situation is similar for routers except that. Flashing lights (rather than steady lights) are more common on routers and modem-routers, and there may be additional lights for WiFi, 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi frequencies, guest WiFi channels, USB ports and LAN ports. Flashing lights on these ports are typically normal but no lights could indicate that the function is disabled, inactive or disconnected, or that there’s an issue with the router itself.
Troubleshooting cable and wire issues
The way you connect to your networking equipment can significantly impact your speed, connectivity and reliability. When dealing with wired connections, which encompass power, Ethernet, telephone, and coaxial cables, ensure that they remain free from pinches, kinks, or bends. If you suspect that a cable is causing connection problems, consider replacing it to verify the issue.
Make an effort to keep cables clear of potential trip hazards and snags. If you need to route Ethernet cables over doorways, under carpets, or around wall corners, you can buy longer ones that make this easy. Flat Ethernet cables, as an alternative to traditional round ones, are easier to manage and less conspicuous underfoot.
If your router (or modem-router) and devices support it, Cat6 Ethernet cables can achieve gigabit speeds in comparison to older Cat5 Ethernet cables, which max out at 100Mbps. Obviously, you’ll be capped at your plan’s limit, but using newer Ethernet cables can bring you closer to your internet connection’s maximum speed.
Wireless connectivity is convenient but is more susceptible to signal interference and attenuation. Thick walls and floors can also hinder WiFi signals, making it challenging to maintain a reliable connection. You can mitigate this by using Ethernet connections or investing in a WiFi extender or a mesh network to enhance your wireless coverage.
Modem or router positioning
If your WiFi is slow or not working but only in certain areas of your home, it may be an issue with router or modem-router placement. For best results, keep your connection device around two metres off the ground, outside of cupboards and clear of sources of interference (microwaves, fridges, fish tanks and radios). Also, check that the antennae are undamaged and properly attached.
Keep your router or modem-router close to where you need the best signal. If that’s everywhere, put it in a central spot. Remember, the further you are from the router, the worse your signal quality will be.
So what if your internet is working, just slowly? If you’ve done all the above troubleshooting, run a speed test.
This should tell you latency, download speed and upload speed but you’ll want to focus on download speed. Different nbn plans offer different speeds, so compare what your plan offers to your speed result.
If your result is close to what your provider lists as a typical evening speed, you may want to upgrade to a higher speed tier.
However, if your results are significantly below what your provider is advertising, give them a call.
Too many devices
If you have many connected devices using your internet, you may experience slower internet. Check how many devices you have connected any any time; think beyond laptops and phones to include smart TVs, security devices and Google Home or Amazon Alexa.
You can limit the impact of all these devices competing for bandwidth by scheduling updates for the hours you’re not using the internet, or disabling automatic updates and doing it manually at a suitable time.
Check NBN Co’s outages page (using your phone data), which should let you know if there’s a planned or unplanned outage. It’s annoying, but at least you’ll know it’ll be up and running again as soon as the issue is fixed.
If there’s nothing listed, check your provider’s website for the same thing. If there’s a listed outage, they should also have a suggested repair time frame (if not, give them a call).
If you’ve tried all these steps and you’re still having problems, call your provider. It may be something more complicated than you’re able to fix. They’ll probably ask you to do some of the things above, but if you can assure them you’ve already done them it’ll speed up the process.
Losing internet is frustrating, and it can take time to run through all the troubleshooting steps but take heart: there is always a solution.
Authored by: Marshall Thurlow
Marshall Thurlow is the Director and Founder of Orion Marketing Pty Ltd.
He is a digital marketer with expertise in SEO, website design, content marketing and project management. With over 15 years of experience spanning government, not-for-profit and the private sector, he is well equipped to lead teams to success. He is a big proponent of environmental sustainability, critical thinking and progressive issues.
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