Why Is Your WiFi Not Working?
A Definitive Troubleshooting Guide


Author:- Stephen Harrison, B.Sc., M.Sc., MBCS, CITP, MInstM 
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So, why is your WiFi not working? It is a common theme across the land and something we have all experienced at one time or another.

The other day we had an unexpected power outage in our village, and my first thought was "No Wi-Fi!". No second thoughts about the fridge warming up, freezer thawing out, security lights or no chance of using the oven or microwave.

This underlines the importance of wireless technology in our daily lives, and is increasingly on a par with water, gas and other essential utilities. When our wireless access is unavailable, we notice because what we take for granted these days. I know I do.

It therefore makes sense to cover the important topic of what to do when you are experiencing wireless access issues. That is the theme of this article.

In my experience troubleshooting Wi-Fi issues tends to fall in to two main areas; The Wi-Fi service itself, and the wireless devices connecting to that service.

Each area has several troubleshooting techniques for you to review and consider using to fix your wireless network issues. Examples include router reboots, service optimization and automatic network connectivity settings. Read on for more ideas.


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Troubleshooting Your Wi-Fi Service

With your WiFi not working the first steps tend to be focused on the device or devices that are experiencing the issue. This could be no connectivity at all, to intermittent or slower connectivity.

We focus on device troubleshooting in the next section. In this section we focus on troubleshooting your Wi-Fi service, which in most cases will be the source of the issue affecting all of your household wireless devices.

Here we look at the quick and easy fix that resolves the majority of Wi-Fi issues, why router positioning is important, and what you can do to set up your wireless router for maximum efficiency.



Rebooting Your Wi-Fi Router Fixes The Majority of Wi-Fi Issues

I have experienced both at home and at work the different triggers that disrupt wireless services. For example, the recent power cut prevented my router from loading correctly when power was resumed.

In addition, and just like the majority of all other home devices and technology, spurious behaviour can occur when devices go too long before a reboot. This includes Wi-Fi routers too. Memory leaks can be a common cause of connectivity and service performance issues.

Internet Service Providers (ISP's) can also experience issues at their end. For example, if you are experiencing intermittent disconnects from your wireless service. This could also down to the carrier, experiencing issues, such as your telephone line provider.


Attention!

Before rebooting your router, check with your ISP and landline providers service pages to see if there are any planned or unplanned outages affecting your area or postcode.


To reboot, or restart your router, you have two options, which are a soft restart, or a hard restart.

A soft restart is where you use your router software to perform the reboot. This option does not cut the power supply to the router and is usually the quickest, but not necessarily the most effective, restart method. It simply reloads the router firmware.


Restart Wireless Router (Also Known As A Soft Restart)WiFi Not Working
Restart Wireless Router (Also Known As A Soft Restart)

If a soft reboot does not resolve your issue, try a hard reboot. This is where you cut power to your router by either switching off at the wall and/or removing the power cord from your router.

In some cases there is a power on/off button you can use. Wait for at least 30 seconds before reconnecting the power cord, plugging back in to the wall, and switching back on.

This ensures all power to the device has discharged, and any residual data in the device's memory has been fully removed.


Look For Power Buttons and Sockets to Perform Hard Router ResetsWiFi Not Working
Look For Power Buttons and Sockets to Perform Hard Router Resets

Different routers take different amounts of time to fully restart. In my case, it takes up to 4 minutes before the router becomes fully operational.

Once your router is fully booted, try again with your device to access online services. In the majority of cases a hard reboot resolves the issue.


Attention!

It is always prudent to understand your routers icons and illuminations as these are quick indicators as to the current state of your router.

In my case, the router has illuminations such as Green, which means the hub/router is starting up, Steady Orange, which means the router is fully booted but not connected to the ISP's broadband service yet, and Red, which means there is a fault somewhere.

A Steady Blue Light means the hub/router is fully booted, connected to broadband and is working as expected. Any issues are likely down to individual devices, or coverage problems.

Fully Functioning Wireless RouterWiFi Not Working
Fully Functioning Wireless Router

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Wi-Fi Router Positioning is Important

In years gone by, old analogue telephones were plugged in to an RJ11 socket positioned next to a window, or the front door (certainly in the UK).

This practice hasn't really changed over the past years and consequently, lots of routers are positioned towards the periphery of the home, i.e. near front doors and windows.

This means a lot of the wireless signal is either being blocked by the walls or is distributed towards the next door neighbours, or into your garden or street.

The remaining part of your routers wireless range provide coverage inside your home, but not necessarily covering all of your home, and to the signal strength required to run all of your household wireless devices efficiently.

The image below is a good example of what I mean. The red and yellow areas will have good wireless coverage where the router is located.

However, towards the blue areas you would see poor to zero wireless coverage, and with your wireless not working, or working properly in these areas, comes the frustration and limitations on where and how you use your household devices. 


Example of A Heatmap Showing Wireless Coverage Quality Inside A HomeWiFi Not Working
Example of A Heatmap Showing Wireless Coverage Quality Inside A Home
Source:- techdigest.tv

The way to resolve this issue is to try and move your router to a more central location. However, I appreciate this is not always possible.

There are techniques you can use to extend your wireless coverage without moving your router from its original position. Take a look at the improving your wireless signal coverage section of the home broadband setup article for ideas. This can be especially helpful when your home has thick walls or lead-lined concrete floors/ceilings, as I have found in my home.

In addition, make sure there are no obstacles in the way of your router, i.e. boxes or other devices. I've seen WiFi routers locked in old thick cupboards before, and the occupiers wonder why their Internet performance is poor sometimes.

Finally, routers operate at two different frequencies; 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Unfortunately, microwave ovens also encroach on the 2.4GHz range.

If you find wireless connectivity is sporadically intermittent, check to see if the loss of connection correlates with using the microwave ovens in your home. DECT phones (Digital Enhanced Cordless Technology) and Bluetooth speakers can have a similar effect.

If your household coverage is good, use the 5GHz range whenever possible to avoid interferences.


The Electromagnetic Spectrum and InterferencesWiFi Not Working
The Electromagnetic Spectrum and Interferences
Source:- thegadgetsjudge.com

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Optimizing Your Wireless Router's Capabilities

If you live in an apartment complex or area with a lot of overlapping wireless networks, you can experience slowness in Internet performance, or even random disconnections.

This is likely because there are too many devices operating on the 2.4GHz frequency, and on the same frequency channel. 

This is where you can optimize your routers capabilities by splitting your devices between the two bands, and changing the channels on each that are in use the least. This gives you the optimal setup for a consistent Wi-Fi connectivity experience and quality performance standards.


Attention!

WiFi bands or frequencies are governed by a set of protocols that adhere to a set of standards. This is what gives the different Wi-Fi settings their characteristics in terms of range and performance.

For example, the 802.11ac standard governs the 5GHz band, and the 802.11g standard governs the 2.4GHz band.


A quick way to determine your routers capabilities is to open a command prompt (Ctrl + R, followed by CMD), then enter the following command:-

  • netsh wlan show drivers

Wireless Router CapabilitiesWiFi Not Working
Wireless Router Capabilities

As you can see, my home router supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. This gives me some options to think about.

For example, I can consider moving some of my home devices on to the 5GHz frequency, assuming they are capable of operating on that band.


Devices Connected To Each Wireless BandWiFi Not Working
Devices Connected To Each Wireless Band

Now you have your devices split across the two bands, it is time to optimize the channel each band uses. The less channel overlap there is from friends and neighbours etc., networks, the less congestion there is, and therefore the better network performance you will experience.

The easiest way to do this is to let your router itself do the channel analysing and select the least used channel available at  the time of analysis.

Alternatively, you can use utilities such as Wi-Fi Analyzer to manually determine which channels are best to use. A quick Google search will find this utility for you.


Wireless Router Bands and ChannelsWiFi Not Working
Wireless Router Bands and Channels

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Wi-Fi Performance Testing

At this stage your home WiFi network setup should be optimized. If you are still experiencing issues, it is time to perform a broadband speed test.

This can be conducted either wirelessly, or by plugging your Laptop, for example, in to one of your router's Ethernet port, using the Ethernet cable supplied with your router.

If the download speed is much slower than usual, or what you are paying for, there is every chance the issue is with the ISP, and an outside chance of a hardware fault with your wireless router.



My suggestion is to contact your ISP. If they are not experiencing any issues, check with your landline provider and ask them to perform a health check on your line. You would be surprised how often the issue lies here. I've had it happen a couple of times in recent years.


Attention!

Devices that do not belong to you can connect to unsecured wireless networks, and could be leaching all of your bandwidth.

Make sure your router is set up securely using WPA2, or WPA3, if available. If you do not have this security setup, then do so ASAP. 

Wi-Fi Protected Access v3 (WPA3) is more secure overall than WPA2, but common-sense precautions around online behaviour and general security should not be relaxed when using WPA3.

"Despite these issues with WPA3 our conclusion is still that WPA3 is a considerable improvement over WPA2 in terms of security and should remain in service for the time being."

Citation (Opens New Window)
Maximilian Appel, Dr.-Ing. Stephan Guenther (2020) WPA 3 - Improvements over WPA 2 or broken again? In: Network Architectures and Services, November 2020.


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Troubleshooting Your Wireless Devices

The WiFi not working article has covered scenarios for fixing your wireless connectivity issues when all of your (home) devices are not working. However, what are your options if only one of your household devices is not working? That is the purpose of this section.

We'll look at the basics to start off with, and review more complex fixes as we progress through the section.



Is Your Device's Wi-Fi Service is Enabled?

All good computer technician's will advise to check the obvious issues first. This is because they are the most common cause of most issues they deal with.

All wireless enabled devices need to have their Wi-Fi service enabled before it will work. Often Laptop devices will have a physical button on their keyboard to enable or disable wireless services, along with a corresponding light to signify its state.


Laptop Wireless Button With Red Disabled Light (Blue Equals Enabled)WiFi Not Working
Laptop Wireless Button With Red Disabled Light (Blue Equals Enabled)
Source:- superuser.com

Attention!

Some older devices have a physical button on the side to enable or disable wireless services. In addition, mobile devices such as Apple iPhones also have methods to enable or disable wireless services.

Laptop Wireless Slider ButtonWiFi Not Working
Laptop Wireless Slider Button
Source:- accatech.com
Apple iPhone Quick Wireless Setting ChangeWiFi Not Working
Apple iPhone Quick Wireless Setting Change

Make sure you have your respective device's wireless service enabled, and ensure you are in a position to receive a good strong signal to test connectivity and then performance.

If you are still not connected, do a quick check of your Operating System to ensure services are enabled correctly.

For example, left-click or tap the wireless icon in your Microsoft Windows system tray to ensure your WiFi button is showing services are enabled. Here you can also confirm your device is within range by checking the list of available networks, or SSID's (also known as "Service Set Identifiers").

If the required SSID is showing as disconnected, select the Connect button. Make sure the right network is selected. Check the name and spelling, and ensure you are entering the right password.


Microsoft Windows Wireless Service CheckWiFi Not Working
Microsoft Windows Wireless Service Check

Attention!

If you suspect a software issue in Microsoft Windows, search for "network status" (without quotations marks).

From here you can check your network status, and select the Network troubleshooter option at the bottom of the screen. In modern operating systems, inbuilt troubleshooting tools are much better than they were just a few years ago.

Microsoft Windows Network StatusWiFo Not Working
Microsoft Windows Network Status

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Connecting To Wireless Networks Automatically

There are options to enable your Windows-based devices to connect automatically to preferred wireless networks, which can be convenient when moving between different locations and different networks.

To check the status of this service on your device select Ctrl + R then type in "services.msc" (without quotations).

From here, scroll down the list of services until you see WLAN AutoConfig. The Status should be set to Running, and the Startup Type set to Automatic.

Double left-click or tap to open the service properties. Click or tap the Start button if the service is disabled. Then, if the status or startup type is not set to automatic, select this option from the drop-down menu and click OK.

Next, reboot your device and see if your device can connect to your preferred wireless network.


Microsoft Windows WLAN AutoConfig ServiceWiFi Not Working
Microsoft Windows WLAN AutoConfig Service Option
Microsoft Windows WLAN AutoConfig Service SettingsWiFi Not Working
Microsoft Windows WLAN AutoConfig Service Settings

Attention!

This service option is usually enabled by default. However, although it is still worth checking, ensure you have taken the appropriate cyber security measures, otherwise you may be putting your device, and therefore yourself, at risk of cyber crime.

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Ruling Out Any Service Blocks

Occasionally, security software can be a little overzealous, and block legitimate network traffic. I'm sure we all prefer this to the alternative which would put us at unnecessary risk.

For example, the native Microsoft Windows Firewall can be checked to determine if this is the cause of your device's connectivity issues. We can temporarily switch the Firewall off and test connectivity, and check the Firewall rules to confirm that wireless services are not being actively blocked.


Attention!

Firewalls should not be switched off, albeit temporarily, without assurance that your other security tools, such as anti-virus products, will do a sufficient job of keeping your device secure during the testing stage.


To load the Firewall on a Microsoft Windows device, select Ctrl + R and type "firewall.cpl" (without quotations).


Microsoft Windows Firewall SettingsWiFi Not Working
Microsoft Windows Firewall Settings

From here you can select the Turn Windows Defender Firewall on or off option. If you find Wi-Fi services start working, the next step is to switch the Firewall back on, and then select Allow an app or feature through Windows Defender Firewall.

Here you can confirm that your wireless services are being allowed through the Firewall. If any of the checkboxes on the right-hand side are not ticked, then check them and click or tap OK to apply. Retest your Wi-Fi connectivity.


Microsoft Windows Firewall WLAN SettingsWiFi Not Working
Microsoft Windows Firewall WLAN Settings

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Wireless Device Driver Checks

If your WiFi not working is still an issue at this stage, the next logical step is to check the device drivers for any issues, such as outdated drivers with known issues that affect connectivity, to driver corruption.

You have a choice to either let the operating system reinstall the drivers from its database, or find the latest version of the drivers from the WLAN driver manufacturer.

My recommendation is to use the manufacturer's drivers whenever possible. They tend to be more stable and often come with additional features such as management programs, which can help manage the device settings a little easier than through the O/S.

Search and open "Device Manager" (without quotations), then search for Network adapters in the device list. Expand the list to find the wireless driver (See image below from my Laptop).

Double-left click the driver and click the driver tab to see the driver manufacturer, ad driver date and version. The second image below from my Laptop shows a date of 2019, which suggests this is an older diver, and a likelihood that a later driver version has been released.


Microsoft Windows Wireless DriversWiFi Not Working
Microsoft Windows Wireless Drivers
Microsoft Windows Wireless Driver SettingsWiFi Not Working
Microsoft Windows Wireless Driver Settings

Before finding the latest driver version, you could uninstall the device by left-clicking the Uninstall Device button. Restart your device and let the operating system source and reinstall the drivers for you. Test to see if this has resolved the issue.

If not, then source and install the manufacturer's latest driver release. In my case, this is straightforward because the Laptop come with the Lenovo Vantage application, which searches for and presents the latest drivers for my automatically.


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What About Mobile Devices?

Mobile devices including Apple iPhones and iPads can experience similar wireless connectivity issues like more traditional devices such as Laptops and Desktop Computers.

I have an older iPhone 6 and experience frequent wireless disconnections, especially in other parts of my home where I have extended wireless coverage by using extra routers.

I often have to perform a forced reboot of my smartphone to establish a new connection to my home broadband service. I've only once knocked on Airplane mode once


Attention!

I once had a major issue with my iPhone connecting to the home broadband service, only to find I had forgotten to knock off Airplane mode after charging (Doing this speeds up the charging process). Don't make the same silly mistake I did.


How you perform a forced reboot of your smartphone depends on the make and model. For my older iPhone 6 I simply hold the off button and home button's together for about 10 seconds.

Later iPhone models require a quick press of the volume increase button, the volume decrease button, before holding the side/power button down for several seconds. Give it a go and hopefully, your issue will be solved.


Modern iPhone Forced Reboot InstructionsWiFi Not Working
Modern iPhone Forced Reboot Instructions
Source:- drivereasy.com

If a forced reboot does not resolve your issue, you could try forgetting the problematic wireless network. This effectively wipes the network from your smartphone, and can be newly discovered again, with (hopefully) the fix included that resolves the connectivity issue for you.

On the iPhone 6 you go to Settings > WiFi then tap the SSID that is causing you an issue, then tap the Forget This Network option. Tap the Forget button, then wait for 10 seconds or so, before going back into the WiFi option, then rejoin the SSID of interest.


Forget Wireless Network On The iPhone ExampleWiFi Not WorkingForget Wireless Network On The iPhone Example

If forgetting specific networks does not resolve your issues, you can try resetting the smartphones WiFi settings. This effectively forgets all of your current and previous wireless networks, so make sure you have the names and passwords to hand to reconnect.

On the Apple iPhone go to Settings > General, then Reset. From the resulting menu, select the Reset Network Settings option, and enter your Passcode. From here, rejoin your wireless network and test to see if this resolves your issue.


Reset Network Settings On The Apple iPhoneWiFi Not Working
Reset Network Settings On The Apple iPhone

Next on the troubleshooting list is to try a different DNS, or Domain Name Server. This is a useful test because a different DNS can help with online performance issues.

DNS servers resolve Domain Names, such as google.com to an IP address that IT equipment understands. 

Google offers a free DNS service, using the IP Address 8.8.8.8, which is easy to remember. If you want to try this on your iPhone, tap Settings > WiFi, then the wireless network of interest.

Scroll down the menu list and tap Configure DNS, then the Manual option. Tap Add Server and enter the Google DNS address of 8.8.8.8.


Configure DNS On The iPhone With The Google DNS Server AddressWiFi Not Working
Configure DNS On The iPhone With The Google DNS Server Address

Finally, if all else fails, you can switch on a service called Wi-Fi Assist, which switches your device automatically to using your mobile data for Internet access, when your Wi-Fi network is being problematics

  • Tap General > Mobile Data > Wi-Fi Assist.

Attention!

However, ensure you have sufficient data to cope with your online activities, otherwise you could end up incurring charges for overuse. Make sure only essential applications can use your mobile data when enabled. 


It is worth taking a look at the WiFi not working article (Opens New Window) from Android Authority for further smartphone advice and guidance.

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More Extreme Steps If All Else Fails

If you have made it this far down the WiFi not working article, and are still experiencing issue, it is time to consider some of the more extreme actions to resolve your issue.

The first step is to complete a full reset of your Wi-Fi router. Most models have a Factory Reset button on the back.

Use a paper clip to press the recessed button (recessed to prevent accidental use). Often you need to keep the reset button pressed for up to 20 seconds. Once the router has booted, you will need to set up again from scratch.

Make sure you have the relevant information, such as SSID names and passwords, to save you having to reprogramme all of your devices.


Resetting Your Wireless Router ExampleWiFi Not Working
Resetting Your Wireless Router Example
Source:- bt.com

If this fails, the next steps is to think about manually updating the firmware on both your devices and your router. Your ISP usually takes care of your router updates, but often you can download the latest firmware package and install yourself.


Attention!

As you are poking about the firmware at this stage, just try disabling the wireless service in the BIOS. Boot your device, the shutdown, and re-enable in the BIOS. Start your device up and see if this resolves the issue.


There comes a time when you need to consider replacing the router. This is especially the case if the router is several years old and has been heavily used by lots of active devices.

If you have access to a known working router, set this up in your home and connect one of your key devices.

Conversely, if the wireless antenna inside your device is faulty, it could be the time to replace the antenna (for a computer, or even a Laptop with an external WiFi dongle), or the device itself, especially if the device is getting long in the tooth too.

Consider re-installing the operating system, or resetting the O/S to the Factory Default. However, at this stage it is unlikely this will resolve your issue.

Finally, contact your ISP and explain to them everything you have done, and let them resolve your issue for you.

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WiFi Not Working | Final Thoughts

I hope the advice and guidance in the WiFi not working article have proven helpful, and even resolved your wireless issue(s) for you.

For additional support, take a look at the "Why is my WiFi not working?" article (Opens New Window) from Computer Hope, and the "Why you can't connect to Wi-Fi at home and what you can do about it" article (Opens New Window) from All Connect.

Finally, take a look at the short video below which can offer further assistance in your quest to resolve your wireless connectivity issues. Good luck.


How To resolve Wireless Connectivity Issues Video


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