How to Troubleshoot a Router (And Find Out If You Need a New Router)

It’s easy to blame Internet Service Providers (ISPs) when the Internet goes down, but it isn’t always that simple. Sometimes hardware fails and that includes your router. Your router won’t let you know something’s wrong, you have to troubleshoot it to find out if you need a new one. Use the following points as a checklist to troubleshoot a router.

Assumption: This article assumes that you have done the troubleshooting on your computer and are sure that the Internet issue is not due to a software misconfiguration.

1. Is Your Router On?

Your first step to troubleshoot a router is to check the power. Depending on your setup, it’s possible that the power source has been turned off or the power plug has come loose. While you’re checking the power cords, check the rest of your cables, too. You never know when a cable might come out just enough to cause a service interruption.

2. Check Your Signal

After checking to see if your power cable, and other wires, are connected snugly, you’ll want to check your Internet signal. Disconnect from the router entirely and plug a PC directly into the source of your Internet. This can be a modem or a wall jack. This will immediately tell you if there’s a problem with your router or your Internet signal.

3. Check the router’s LAN port

If you are using a wireless router, disable the wireless connection on your computer and connect it directly to the LAN port of the router. If it is working, then the fault could lie in the wireless configuration of the router. If it is not working, then the router could be faulty.

4. Router Settings

If you are not able to get a wireless connection, we’ll want to talk a look at your router settings to see if something might be set up improperly. If you recently changed your router settings, reverse what you did and see if that changes anything. It’s possible your router didn’t like the change.

5. Check the Channels


If your router doesn’t utilize dual-band wireless, household items – like cordless phones, garage door openers and anything that operates on the same wireless band – can interfere with your signal. If everyone in your neighborhood has a wireless router in particular, this can cause conflicts as the signals are trying to bounce from one location to the next.

From your router’s settings, you’ll be able to change the channel for your wireless connection. Change the channel, then cycle your home network, and see if that solves the issue.

6. Update Router Firmware


If changing channels and cycling your network doesn’t help, check the manufacturer’s web site for your router and see if a firmware update is available. Most Internet users have no clue the router can be updated and these updates can actually make an incredible difference in performance, especially on older router models.

The update process varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but there should be a place in the router settings that let you upgrade it. It will either check for an automatic update or let you manually choose a file to start the upgrade. Follow the instructions for your particular router model.

Once finished, cycle your home network, and see if it makes a difference.

7. Dead Spots

If your router doesn’t support 802.11n, which is considered the most current in WiFi technology, chances are your router is too old to continue functioning properly. If you notice dead spots in your home or office, it may be part of the “n” technology of your router. The “N” technology refers to MIMO, or Multiple Input Multiple Output, this means that often signals in your home or office are bounced off walls before they reach their destination.

Dead spots occur when a signal has reached its maximum amount of bounces and the signal drops off. There isn’t much you can do to combat dead spots, other than move your router or go with a router not using “N” technology.

8. Resetting Your Router


If you’re still having issues troubleshooting your router, the last step should be to reset it to factory settings. This will make it seem like it came right out of the box. You’ll need to reconfigure the router to your liking and this should be your last ditch effort to troubleshoot your router.


If none of the above help you troubleshoot your router, it’s probably time to buy a new one. Routers aren’t that expensive anymore, unless you want a high-power model. Buying a new router after troubleshooting can save you more time than continuing to deal with dropped signals, dead spots and other issues that come up when a router goes bad.

Image Credit: Flickr

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