What to do When your Wi-Fi Stops Working

In 2019, there were 4.13 billion people active on the internet worldwide—more than two times the amount of internet users recorded a decade earlier.

As more people around the world depend on the internet for everything from work and shopping to paying bills and taking classes, it has become increasingly important for internet users to be able to quickly diagnose and solve issues with WiFi.

If the WiFi stopped working and you’re unsure of what the next step is—we’re here to help. WiFi issues can usually be divided into three categories: network issues, device issues and provider issues. 

Network issues occur when the wireless network that connects a device to a wireless router is not working correctly, which usually means the router needs to be adjusted or replaced. Device issues can happen when the wireless device (i.e; smartphones and laptops) attempting to connect to the network is not configured properly or needs an update.

Both network and device issues can usually be solved yourself, but provider issues can be a little more difficult to deal with. If the issue originates from the internet service provider (ISP), then it may need to be handled by the company.

WiFi network issues

A WiFi network connects wireless devices like smartphones to a wireless router, which is responsible for transmitting the WiFi signal to the devices. If the WiFi stopped working, then looking at the WiFi network is a good place to start. 

A WiFi network functions through radio waves. The wireless router gets data from the internet through a physical connection and converts the data into radio waves that are received by a device’s wireless adapter. There are many things that can go wrong in the process, but we have included the usual suspects for WiFi network issues below.

Common network issues

Router problems

If the device is unable to find or connect to the WiFi network, then it could be a problem with the router. Most routers have blinking lights with icons that represent the router’s functions. If either the icon for WiFi (usually outward waves) or the icon for internet (usually a globe) is not lit up, then that means the corresponding function is not working. Usually, router issues can be solved with a restart. Simply unplug the router, wait a full minute, then plug it back in. The wireless network may take a few minutes to come back up after the restart.

WiFi trying to connect to a different network

Sometimes a device may attempt to connect to the wrong WiFi network, either automatically or through user error. Check the device’s WiFi menu, which is typically listed under the device’s “settings,” and ensure that it is attempting to connect to the intended WiFi network.

Someone changed the WiFi password

Most WiFi networks are password-protected, and if the password has been changed, then the WiFi will not be accessible without the new password. In some cases, routers can revert back to their default password without the user knowing. If the router came with a default password when it was purchased, then it’s a good idea to have that password on hand just in case.

Router signal problems

If a wireless device is too far away from the wireless router, then the device will not be able to connect to the WiFi signal. On average, a WiFi signal extends 150 feet indoors and 300 feet outdoors. Going in the same room as the wireless router and attempting to connect to the network should tell the user if the router signal is the problem.

Device connectivity issues

Every wireless device has a separate connection to a WiFi network. Sometimes a WiFi network may be functioning, but one or more devices are unable to connect to it. If the network is found to be working correctly, but a device cannot connect, then the issue may lie with the device.

Wireless devices all have their own WiFi menus that can be used to investigate issues of connectivity. Make sure to familiarize yourself with your device’s WiFi menu, which may yield clues as to why there is no connection. Using the WiFi menu, most wireless devices allow WiFi to be turned off and on, so make sure WiFi is enabled on the device and airplane mode is turned off. 

Common device connectivity issues

Phone/computer needs to be restarted

The most prevalent issue is that the device just needs to be restarted, especially if the last time the device was restarted was a while ago. Make sure WiFi is enabled on the device, then restart the device. After the restart, check the device’s WiFi menu to see if the WiFi is functioning correctly.

Network adapter is not enabled

A device’s wireless network adapter is used to establish a wireless internet connection between the WiFi router and the device. The adapter accomplishes this by receiving the WiFi network’s signal, and every device uses its own individual network adaptor. A quick internet search should reveal how to make sure the device’s network adapter is enabled. Usually, a network adaptor is enabled using the device’s internal WiFi menu, but some laptops have physical switches to enable the network adapter. 

Network adapter driver is out of data

A network adapter driver is the software that allows the network adapter to function and receive data from a wireless network. Sometimes the network adapter driver is simply out of data. In this case, the internet user will usually need to contact the internet service provider. Checking your internet plan or cell plan will determine if the network adapter driver is out of data.

Internet service provider issues

An internet service provider, or ISP, is the company responsible for providing access to the internet. After all of the common issues with networks and devices have been checked and connectivity problems still persist, then it might be a good idea to look into ISP issues.

Most of the time, if the problem with the WiFi lies with the ISP, then the issue is out of the internet user’s hands and must be fixed by the company. However, there are a few things an internet user can do independently to check WiFi issues from the ISP.

Common internet service provider issues

Unpaid internet bill

Sometimes it’s as easy as forgetting to pay a bill. To ensure the payment for internet service is up-to-date, you can call the ISP’s helpline and give them your account information. And nowadays, many ISPs offer online help that makes it easy to see if a bill needs to be paid.

Weather or natural disaster problems

Bad weather and other natural disasters can also cause internet outages, sometimes affecting entire areas. If a device is able to connect to a WiFi network but not the internet, then this may be the case, especially if your neighborhood has recently experienced harsh weather.

Technical problems coming from the ISP

Like any telecommunications business, ISPs often experience technical problems, which may affect someone’s internet connection through no fault of their own. ISPs are usually quick to communicate this type of issue to their customers. But if everything is working and the internet is still out, checking the ISPs website should tell you if the outage is due to a technical problem coming from the ISP.

Internet throttling

Internet throttling is when an ISP intentionally slows down or stops someone’s connection to the internet. This could occur during peak hours of usage or when an internet user runs out of data for the month. Checking the ISP website and your personal account with the ISP should let you know if you are experiencing internet throttling. 

If nothing works, call your service provider

Most ISPs provide a helpline for customers to call if their WiFi stopped working. A quick internet search should provide the number for the helpline. But this option should be viewed as a last resort, due to the long wait times associated with ISP helplines and the difficulty of having someone else diagnose the problem. 

However, the ISP can usually see what is happening with a person’s individual connection remotely, so a call to the ISP’s helpline should do the trick. When waiting on hold for an ISP representative to help out, make sure to be as clear as possible on what is going on with the WiFi connection and what tactics have already been attempted to solve the issue. Having this information on hand will make it easier for the ISP representative to diagnose the problem.

Patience prevails when WiFi goes down

When technology fails unexpectedly, it can throw a wrench into the day’s plans. And because there are so many components to a WiFi connection, attempting to diagnose the issue can be frustrating. 

Patience is key in solving WiFi issues and reconnecting to the internet. Keeping a cool head and thinking through the problem critically will help the user get back online in no time at all.