How to fix 5 common reasons for internet outages in your home

This story is part of home tipsCNET’s collection of practical tips for making the most of your home, inside and out.

Is there a good time to get Wi-Fi off? of course not. Whatever you were using the internet at the time (TV StreamAnd the Online gamesAnd the Work from home or a combination of all of that) to a sudden and frustrating stop. An internet outage can disturb you WiFi security camerasAnd the smart light switches and other connected devices offline even when you are away.

While there isn’t much you can do about internet outages when you’re away from home, troubleshooting and fixing an occasional outage can be fairly quick and simple. Here are the most common causes of internet outages and how to fix the problem, if possible. Spoiler alert: Not always wrong Internet service provider.

Common causes of internet outages at home

1. Modem / Router Malfunctions

2. Insufficient speeds or equipment

3. Hacking or network problems

4. bad weather

5. ISP outage and network congestion

Narrowing down the exact issue can take some investigation and troubleshooting. Start by verifying that the connection problem is not specific to a single website, server, or device.

If you lose your Netflix connection in the middle of a show, check to see if other streaming services can still be accessed and turned on. If so, then it’s possible that the problem is with Netflix and not your internet connection. If you are having trouble connecting to other streaming services, the cause could be your smart TV or streaming device. Try streaming on another device, if possible, to verify that an internet outage is the culprit.

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When the internet in your home drops, it is most likely due to a faulty modem and/or router. Often the solution is simple: restart your devices by unplugging them, wait 10 seconds or so, plug them back in and allow them to restart. Often times, this will resolve the power outage.

When restarting your router, I recommend cutting off the power by unplugging it rather than pressing or pressing any buttons on the device itself. Doing so can prompt the device to perform a hard reset, return it to factory settings and clear Wi-Fi settings. Sure, the reset will most likely re-establish your internet connection, but you’ll also have the additional task of setting up your Wi-Fi again.

Also keep in mind that your device may have a spare battery. If the lights on your modem or router won’t go out when you unplug it, check to see if there are batteries installed somewhere and temporarily remove them when you restart your device.

Sarah Teo / CNET

Insufficient speeds or equipment

Maybe your internet isn’t necessarily “out”, it can’t keep up with what you’re trying to do or where you’re doing.

Constant buffering, excessive lags, Wi-Fi “dead zones”, and other connectivity issues can result in insufficient speed, bandwidth, or Wi-Fi coverage to handle all of your devices. There are two ways to handle the situation: lower your expectations online and use or make some upgrades.

Consider the internet speeds you need and determine if your current plan can provide those speeds. If your plan lacks the speeds you need, upgrading to a faster plan (assuming one is available) will be your best option. Many cable and fiber Internet service providers offer speeds of 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) or higher, which is plenty for the average home.

On the other hand, if you feel that your current plan should meet your needs, it is likely that your equipment is to blame. Run some speed tests around your home to gauge the speeds you get and where your Wi-Fi signal might not be strong. Sometimes moving your router to a more efficient location will improve connection quality and remove or at least mitigate any dead zones.

Otherwise, you may want to invest in a better router or Wi-Fi extenders to boost your Wi-Fi signal throughout your home. If you rent equipment from a provider, call to inquire about getting a better one.

Try adjusting your router settings

Your router should allow you to route connected devices to a specific pod or extender, if you have it, and between the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. You’ll get a stronger signal on the 5GHz band, but only if your device is within range (5GHz band is shorter than 2.4GHz) and if there aren’t many other devices connected to the 5GHz. So, if your connection quality is poor on a particular device, try switching the bands on the device or moving some other device from the band you are using.

Use a wired connection

Connecting directly to your modem, router, or pods/extensors using an Ethernet cable will be your best bet for establishing and maintaining a strong connection. If possible, use a wired connection for most bandwidth-hungry devices, such as smart TVs and game consoles. Not only will this often provide a better and faster connection, but it will also reduce the stress on your Wi-Fi network.

James Martin / CNET

A less likely, but still possible, cause of an internet outage is a network hack. If hackers gain access to your Wi-Fi, they can completely restrict your internet access to any or all of the devices.

If you suspect that someone is gaining unauthorized access to your network, immediately go to the router settings and re-create your Wi-Fi (preferably) with a different network name and (definitely) a different password – a word with some complexity or Randomness that would make it difficult for a hacker to detect it.

Besides creating a strong password, be sure to update all the firmware on the router and any connected devices to help prevent hacking attempts. Installing antivirus software will also help keep your devices protected. Many ISPs offer virus and malware protection at no additional cost.

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Yes, Mother Nature can mess with your internet connection. Some types of internet connection are more prone to internet outages than others during bouts of bad weather, but heavy rain, violent thunderstorms, or even heavy cloud coverage can interfere with the signal.

Satellite internet is most prone to weather outages, but power outages can disrupt any type of offline connection. Having a modem and router with a battery backup may help keep you connected during a power outage, although they would be useless if the power outage prevents your internet service from reaching your modem in the first place.

If you have satellite internet, a rain shield, snow shield, or dish heater can help prevent outages due to bad weather in the vicinity of your home. Signal interference can occur anywhere along the path between the satellite and your dish, however, heavy cloud coverage or rain can have an effect on your communication even if it is miles away. There isn’t much you can do about an internet outage in this case, unfortunately; You will just have to wait for the signal to return.

DownDetector / screenshot by CNET

ISP outage and network congestion

Despite the negative impression many people have about ISPs, widespread internet outages are uncommon, and outages in a single residence are almost unheard of (unless, of course, you’ve forgotten to pay the bill) . However, it is possible that the provider is experiencing problems.

If your internet is completely down and you’ve already tried restarting the router, check your provider’s social media pages, the official website, or sources like downdector.com for updates and outage reports. You can also contact customer service, but be prepared for a long wait.

Other than making sure that your ISP is having issues, there is nothing you can do in such situations other than wait for the service to come back. An outage is bad publicity, so rest assured that your ISP is doing their best to restore service as quickly as possible.

Outages are rare, but network congestion can be a more frequent problem, and while it won’t always completely disconnect your connection, it can certainly cause slow speeds. Cable, DSL and satellite internet are susceptible to network congestion, as is 5G home internet. T-Mobile acknowledges that network congestion can lead to slow speeds, noting that “during congestion, home Internet customers may notice lower speeds than customers using other T-Mobile services due to data prioritization.”

Network congestion means that speeds coming into your home slow down, so you can’t do much about it other than wait for the congestion to clear up. However, you can make the most of the speeds you get by ideally positioning your router, adjusting Wi-Fi settings or using an Ethernet connection, as mentioned above.

What do you do when your internet is down?

Apart from the above tips, there are two ways you can get back online.

The first is to use your mobile connection. Your phone will likely switch automatically to cellular service if Wi-Fi drops, so you’ll be able to use your phone just as if you were away from home. However, keep in mind that doing so will use your mobile data.

Additionally, some phones, carriers, and plans allow you to create a Wi-Fi hotspot. It probably won’t power your home like your router, but it will enable you to connect some devices until your home network is back.

Second, and probably only applicable for longer outages or urgent internet needs like sending a school assignment on time, is to find a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Your local public library, café, or restaurant, among many other public places, may offer free Wi-Fi.

Keep in mind that using a public Wi-Fi connection is not as secure as your home network, so consider using a VPN or avoid any activity that involves sensitive data (passwords, banking information, taxation, etc.) while connected to a public network.

Frequently asked questions about internet outages

Why does my internet keep going off?

There may be a number of factors that affect your Internet connection. The first, and most likely, is your hardware problems. Restarting your modem/router should fix the problem.

Insufficient speeds, network congestion, and inclement weather are other reasons why you might stay online. It is possible that your service provider is experiencing an outage, but for frequent connection outages, I would like to look at the previously mentioned reasons, starting with your router.

Can I get a partial refund for ISP outages?

Many providers offer compensation for prolonged or frequent outages. Spectrum, for example, will provide “proportional credit for those eligible outages that last for 4 or more consecutive hours.” Call to report the outage as soon as possible and monitor how long it takes before requesting a refund.

Will a power outage disrupt my internet service?

Not always, but most likely. When the power goes out, it won’t necessarily prevent the Internet from reaching your home, but it can certainly limit your ability to use the Internet. Unless your modem and router have a battery backup, a power outage will disable these devices, leaving you unable to connect to the Internet.

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