Troubleshooting Connection Problems

As of today, my wife and I have been sharing an office in our home since March. That might sound like a recipe for divorce, but we’re not only making it work, we’ve both managed to be extremely productive without stepping on one another’s toes. It’s been a lot of little things, like finding music we both enjoy, taking turns carrying the laptop into another room to take simultaneous conference calls, and a liberal use of headphones. We also agreed early on that any time there was a problem, we’d blame Hamanu (our boy cat).

Leaving dirty dishes on the desk – Hamanu!

Snorting laughter during a conference call – Hamanu!

Accidentally playing a Star Wars fan film through speakers – Hamanu!

You get the idea. Fortunately, he’s been a good sport about taking the blame – mostly he ignores us or comes over to get petted. There is one issue we run into, though, where blaming Hamanu doesn’t work all that well. Technical Problems. Since my wife is an Account Manager for multiple associations, and I work for CLARK, all of the technical issues fall squarely on my shoulders. For the most part, things have gone very well, but occasionally one or both of us will have connection problems.

This morning turned out to be one of those occasions. As I began to run through the troubleshooting steps, I thought that this might be something good to share, especially with so many of us working or learning from home.


First, Reboot

Everyone – my wife included – hates this response from their IT person.

Before doing any other troubleshooting, the very first thing I do when I’m having connection problems is to reboot my computer. The fact is that rebooting fixes problems more often than not. Why? Because every computer runs on code and sometimes things go wonky with code that corrupts the current state of the software. Yes, wonky is the technical term – okay, not really, but it is pretty accurate. In all cases, a restart wipes away the current state of the software and forces it to reload from scratch.


Check Your Devices

If the reboot doesn’t work – unlikely, but possible – the next step is to see which devices are having connection problems. First, check any computers that have a network cable plugged into the back – open a browser and see if you have an internet connection. Don’t rely on the first page you open, click on page links to ensure the website information is not cached. Whether or not it works, next check mobile devices connected to your WiFi – this could include laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. Make sure they are using the WiFi and, again, don’t trust recent websites that could be cached, open apps, and load different pages.

At this point, you should have a clear idea of the scale of your problem. With connection issues, unless it’s a problem with only one device, you’ll almost always experience all-or-nothing problems. For example, if the computers plugged into the network cable work, but your mobile devices don’t, you know the problem is with your WiFi.

If there is a problem with only one device, and you’ve already restarted it, it’s time to concentrate on that one device. For computers with a network cable plugged in, there are three simple steps:

  1. unplug the cable, wait a few seconds, and plug it back in, making sure that you hear it click back in place
  2. replace the network cable
  3. try plugging into a different port on your router

For only one device not working when connected to WiFi, again there are three simple steps:

  1. turn off the WiFi and see if it connects to your mobile network (usually only for mobile phones)
  2. go to your WiFi settings and make sure you are connected to the correct network
  3. from the connection menu, choose to forget the network connection and then reconnect, putting in your password again

Should these general troubleshooting steps – along with a restart – not fix a single device that is having connection issues, you’re probably going to need more advanced assistance.

Power Cycle Your Router and Modem

If nothing is connecting or you’re having issues with just WiFi or networked devices, the culprit is likely your router and/or modem. It may seem odd to have one or the other work, but we see it happen often. The general rule is that if you are having connection troubles with multiple devices at the same time, power cycle the router and modem.

Why do we say power cycle instead of reboot? Because the term power cycle sounds more complex.

It isn’t. Where rebooting is just turning off and back on, when you power cycle the router and modem, follow these steps to do it right:

  1. shutdown or disconnect all computers or mobile devices connected to the modem and/or router
  2. unplug the router and modem from the power outlet
  3. wait at least 30 seconds
  4. plug the modem back in first, and then plug in the router
  5. wait for all the lights on both devices to come back on and start blinking
  6. reconnect or turn on all computers or mobile devices and start testing them

Be Patient and Don’t Skip Steps. If you don’t wait the thirty seconds for the router or modem to fully reset or start testing before all the lights on the router and modem come back on, you’re wasting your time. The same with not disconnecting or powering off all devices, taking shortcuts on these steps will lead you to frustration more often than not. It is one of the reasons we hear so many clients tell us, that they tried to power cycle them it and it didn’t work, yet when we arrive and take the same steps, it does.


If None of This Works?

Depending on whether your connection issues with one device, a set of devices (plugged in or WiFi), or all devices, will determine your next steps. Most often, when you are having trouble with one device, it’s best to contact your IT person or find an IT services company you can trust, like CLARK! When you’re having trouble with a set of devices or all devices, it could be time to replace the router and/or modem. That could mean a call to your internet services provider (ISP), a trip to the computer store, or (again) contacting your IT person or finding an IT services company you can trust, like CLARK!

No one likes to have connection issues, they are frustrating and seem to only happen when your wife is on an important conference call. When it happens, follow these steps and you too have a good chance of being the hero…and if not, at least you’ll know where to go next.

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