No Internet? Troubleshooting your Network Connection

Being forced offline isn’t easy. It’s like being in a blackout, only worse because your computer works fine. Especially if you need to be online for something such as responding to emails, working from home, etc. I know, it seems strange to write an online article on what to do if your internet isn’t working but save this one, it may help you quickly fix your problem and avoid a lengthy customer support phone call.

Steps to troubleshooting a network connection:

It’s easiest to break down your connection into pieces or steps to look at. Following these steps is important because you’ll save yourself time and aggravation. There’s basically three parts to your internet connection:

– The outside network.
– Your Cable/DSL/FIOS modem.
– Your computer.

You want to troubleshoot in that order because if the outage is with the network or your cable modem, fiddling with settings on your computer for hours won’t help you at all.

First Step: Examine the problem.

First, before we start actual troubleshooting, we need to gather some information about the problem.

– Open up Firefox/Safari and go to a website – What does it say?

– Go to a different website such as Yahoo! or Google. – Does it say the same thing?

– If you use Wireless, look at your Airport symbol in the upper right corner. – Are you connected?

– Go to System Preferences and click on Network. – On the left, are the buttons next to Ethernet (Wired) or Airport (Wireless) Green, Yellow or Red?

– Do you have an address that starts with 169.254.x.x? – This means you are not receiving an address from the modem/router.

– Is anyone else having problems? – If they are, it’s likely not with your computer. If they aren’t – it is likely your computer.

– Look at your Cable/DSL modem – Note the lights, are they the same as when everything is working?

Second Step: Look at the information.

In Safari or Firefox, when it says Page Can Not Be Displayed, its pretty self explanatory. However, if it says “Server can not be located” it may be something with DNS, not your connection. If it’s with DNS, we’ll look at that in a bit.

If other websites work such as Yahoo! or Google, chances are it’ with the site in particular and not your connection. Believe it or not, sites go down pretty often or get jammed up with too much traffic. Always check a major site preferably one with a constant stream of new information, so you know it’s not cached. CNN, BBC, Google News, New York Times are good sites to try.

If you’re wireless and the little bars in your airport symbol are grey, you’re not connected or poorly connected if one of them is black.

In your Network preferences, a green light means you are connected, yellow means there’s a problem and red means either the cable is disconnected or your airport is off. If could also mean there is a hardware problem if it’s red and says something like “No Airport” or “No Ethernet”.

Looking to see if others have the same connection issues is very important. You can easily eliminate your computer as the source of the problem if everyone else is having trouble.

Take not of those lights on the DSL / Cable modem. Usually there’s a light for Power, Activity, Link and Connection to your computer / router. There may be one or two more depending on the model. Usually, all lights are on, solid and green. The Activity light normally will either flash, be solid or off depending on what’s going on. Check your DSL or Cable modem right now and note what lights are on when everything is good. If the lights aren’t in that pattern when you have a problem, you immediately know it’s with either the Cable modem or it’s connection to the network.

Third Step: The Network.

– Check that Cable or DSL modem. What are the lights? Are they normal? Are they all dark? Is only the Power light on?

– Check all cable connections to / from the modem. As stupid as it may seem, just do it. Is the power plugged in? Is it connected to the cable? Connected to the telephone line? Connected to your Router or Computer?

– Unplug the power to your Cable / DSL modem to force it off. Wait about 10-15 seconds and plug it back in. Give it about a minute for it to start up. Check and see if your internet works again. 60% of the time, it will.

– If the lights are normal and restarting the modem didn’t help, continue on to the next step. If the lights aren’t normal and restarting still didn’t help, call tech support – It’s likely a problem with the network. Try to stay calm when they ask you to restart the modem and check to see if everything is plugged in. It’s actually very common for people to call with the modem unplugged, in standby or without resetting it first.

Fourth Step: Network devices.

Do you use a router? If you’re wireless, you do. If you’re not, does the cable go straight into the modem? For security reasons, I hope not. Just like with the modem, we’re going to unplug the router’s power, wait 10-15 seconds and plug it back in. Remember, 60% of the time this solves the problem. If that doesn’t work, bypass the router by plugging your computer directly into the modem.

Note: When switching what is plugged into the modem, turn it off and back on again. Cycling the power ensures that your modem sees your computer right away.

Fifth Step: Your Computer.

Ok, so everything works fine on another computer but not yours. Here are some things to look do:

– Restart the computer. You’d be surprised how often this fixes things.

– Check those cables. It’s silly but they do come unplugged. Try reseating them if they aren’t.

– Make sure your network settings are right – 99% of the time DHCP or “Automatic” is all you need.

– If you need to put in your own custom settings, make sure they are right.

– Check OS X’s firewall and turn it off temporarily – Select “allow any connection”.

– If you’re using Little Snitch, turn that off too.

– Try Safari if you use Firefox or Firefox if you use Safari.

– If you have an address and are “connected” but get the “Server not found” DNS problem, manually add the following Open DNS addresses: 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220.

– Boot from the OS X Install DVD and see if it connects. If it does, it’s a software related problem.

– If it still doesn’t, it’s likely hardware related. I’d recommend taking it to an Apple Store / Repair Center.

Note: The preceding troubleshooting steps are for when you can’t get any internet whatsoever. If you can visit pages, you have a connection.

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