Sometimes home network problems are as easy to fix as plugging in a cord, yet “check your cords” is almost all the advice you’ll get from overworked help desk operators. Sometimes you get onto a help desk operator that wants to take you through every simple step, even the ones you have already performed. The average computer user gets very frustrated with troubleshooting methods used over the phone when trying to diagnose their home network problems. If you do not have time to sit there and listen to an hours worth of pre-recorded troubleshooting tips will give you a few ideas to try when having home network problems. If you have a wireless connection you should also see 5 Threats To Your Home Wireless Connection.
Here are 5 common home network problems:
These common Home Network Problems may be responsible for the Internet not working as you expect. We also have an article about 5 uncommon home network problems.
Common Home Network Problems #1: Router Failure
Although computer hardware is increasingly reliable these days, I find that routers are one of the devices most likely to fail when having home network problems. Unlike most computers, routers stay on all of the time and perform millions of complicated electrical connections every second, causing them to wear down faster than most other hardware.
- Unplug the router, count to three, and plug it back in to the wall. Routers often suffer from micro-blackouts present in home power supply (also called brownouts) which can screw up the operating system on the router. Unplugging the router and plugging it back in will force the operating system to reboot.
- Most routers start with all of their lights on and then turn off the lights for any unused network ports. If the lights all come on and stay on, it usually indicates the operating system failed during boot. If your device is under warranty, contact the manufacturer or your service provider. If you need to repair this problem yourself, follow the instructions in your router’s manual for resetting the software; if that doesn’t work, you need to buy a new router.
- If none of the lights on your router light up, make sure it’s plugged into a working electrical socket and that you have at least one computer plugged into it. If it still doesn’t work, then the router is dead and probably not worth repairing.
Common Home Network Problems #2: Wireless Interference
In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) never gave computer companies permission to create wireless devices. The companies just started doing it using a special part of the wireless spectrum the FCC calls unlicensed.
People with an FCC-approved amateur radio license, such as your author, can broadcast at high power on the unlicensed frequency.
All of these other signals can significantly reduce the quality of your wireless Internet connection and cause network problems. The only way to deal with the annoying error is to find the offending device and try to turn it off or move it away from your laptop or router. Here are some steps you can use to find the offending device:
If you have a walkie-talkie or a baby monitor, walk around with the hand-held part until you hear a lot of noise. Keep trying to get closer to the noise until you find the offending device.
If all you have is a laptop and wireless router, you need special software. For Windows, I suggest the free inSSIDer 2 from metageek.net. Install it, open up its Time Graph, and start walking around where the interference is greatest until you find the offending device.
If the offending device belongs to your neighbor, there’s nothing you can do legally (unless you can prove your neighbor is using too much power or is purposely trying to block your signals). However, I find that an amicable solution can usually be reached: ask your neighbor to move the device to end of his or her house which is furthest from your house; then, move your router to the end of your house furthest from your neighbor. In most cases, this should be enough distance to eliminate the interference and give you full-speed wireless networking.
The problem can also stem from having two wireless routers in the same house.
See how to setup a home wireless network.
Common Home Network Problems #3: Too Much Upload
Everyone knows that downloading a big file makes downloading any other files or Web pages run slow, but did you know that uploading a file can make downloading run slow too?
The most common networking protocol on the Internet is the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). TCP says that your computer must send an ACK packet (for acknowledgment) to the computer it’s downloading from every time it gets a big packet of downloaded data. This prevents the other computer from sending data to your computer after you cancel a download.
If your network is using all of its available upload bandwidth, your computer can’t send its ACK packets, so other computers stop sending data to your computer.
If your Internet connection is running slow, check the computers on your network to see if any are uploading a lot of data. Here are some applications that often hog the upload:
- Filesharing applications like BitTorrent
- 3D multi-player games like World of Warcraft
- Voice over IP (VOIP) Internet phones like Skype. See making conference calls with Skype.
- File uploads like uploading your pictures to Shutterfly or sharing files with family using Dropbox or uploading a video to YouTube
See more Computer Networking Tips
Common Home Network Problems #4: Bad Network Drivers
Microsoft Windows ships with over 100 different network drivers, which is a great convenience–you can usually just insert a new wired or wireless network card and start surfing the Internet. The only problem is that Windows only gets major updates once a year, so any drivers it ships with are usually out of date. This can cause home network problems as the driver will be out of date very quickly.
If you just purchased a new network card and it isn’t performing as well as you expect, you can try a very easy solution: install the driver that comes with the card (or download the driver from the card manufacturer’s website).
Common Home Network Problems #5: Zealous Firewall Rules
Firewalls provide essential security to Windows computers, but they can be a huge hassle when you try to share resources on your computer with other computers on your network and around the world. This is one of the most common home network problems that can interfere with your internet connection.
If someone is trying to connect to your computer and they get a “Connection Denied” error or a strange error, check your firewall rules to see if you’re blocking the other computer. If you are, you need to make an exception–but be careful, too broad an exception can open your computer to attacks from hackers.
The best exception only lets a specific computer connect to a specific port. You can figure out the port by searching Google for the name of the service you’re attempting to share. For example, a search for “windows printer port” brings up a Microsoft Technet article indicating the printer port is 9100.
To only allow a specific computer to connect, you need to know its IP address. If the computer is on the same network as you, open the start menu on that computer, click the Run… icon, type in
ipconfig on the command line that appears, and write down the IP address. Use that IP address in the exception you create to your firewall rules.
If the computer is running on the Internet, open a Web browser on the other computer and go to whatsmyip.org. Write down the IP address they give you and use it to create the exception to your firewall rules that fixes the problem with your home network so the other computer can connect.
See more Computer Networking Tips
If you did solve your home network problems please see this article about 5 uncommon home network problems. Also once you have sorted your network problems out you can then tweak some settings to get a faster internet connection.
Please feel free to comment below and share your home network problems that you have experienced recently.