Beyond the Reboot: Diagnosing Home DSL\Router Connection Issues

When your home internet connection starts acting up, what’s the first thing you do? Reboot, of course, that’s everyone’s answer. When you call support, that’s the first thing they’ll ask you to do.

As an I.T. professional, I had to call support recently for my home DSL connection issues. I too had to do the reboot, but fortunately, I knew how to troubleshoot it and could narrow it down for the support person.

First off, a reboot is always asked for because it clears up the system memory and occasionally does fix the problem. That’s always the first starting point. But where do you go after that and you still have the problem? There must be something else you can check right? Yes, there is….follow along as I explain how to simply check your system and understand it a little more.

it is with your computer

When a package is sent to your house, it must have the proper address and so it is with your computer. The pc must have the right address for online access, so let’s go find what that is:
Left click on the windows Start button, usually on the bottom left corner. Somewhere on the list, you’ll see a
selection named “run”. Left click on that.

In the blank text box, type in the following 3 letters: cmd & then click OK.

(Its short for command if that makes it easier to remember)

Now you’ll see a black screen with white letters on it. It probably says something like C:\my documents and settings\your name. At the end of that line, where the flashing cursor is, type in the following:

Ipconfig and then press enter.

You’ll see a similar display as below:

Windows IP Configuration

Ethernet adapter Local Area Connection 4:

Connection-specific DNS Suffix . :

IP Address. . . . . . . . . . . . :

Subnet Mask . . . . . . . . . . . :

Default Gateway . . . . . . . . . :

These numbers identify your computer and also the path to the network. Going back to the home example for just a minute. If you lived on 1234 Sunshine St; 1234 is your house number and Sunshine Street is how you reach your house. For you to leave your house you have to use Sunshine Street which will take you to other main roads and then on to your final destination.

Referring back to the info above, the IP address is the number of your pc in this case: & the default gateway, The IP address is just like your house number and the gateway is the street. To access the internet, email and beyond, the information has to go through the default gateway.

So if you ran this command and saw an IP address but no Gateway info, you won’t reach the internet. I had that problem when I setup a wireless router; every time I went to the internet, I received “page could not be displayed error”. It turned out to be something with the laptop, not the wireless network.

A big part of diagnostics is knowing what is working. Seeing the above information, tells us the following:
the network card on the computer is working, the DSL modem is running & is connected to the phone line.

If you’re not receiving anything from the above command, check your equipment to make sure all the proper lights are on, it’s plugged in, etc. Sometimes my cat will go behind the pc and move wires, so a quick check is a good idea.

If all of that looks good, look at the back of your pc where the cable from the modem connects; when connected properly, you should see small lights flickering, usually green, yellow, or orange. If you don’t have lights here, you could have a bad network card in your pc. The easiest way to determine that, is to connect a different pc/laptop to that cable and see if it works.

For other issues, most modems/routers have onboard diagnostics, which we can access by using the gateway address.

Open up an internet browser window, even if you can’t access the internet. Since we’re going to the modem/router, this will still work. In the address bar, where you normally type, type in the gateway address. This will take you to the DSL modem or wireless router diagnostics page. You’ll probably be asked for a password that was provided when it was setup.

diagnostic tests on the equipment and phone line

In here will be diagnostic tabs where you can easily run diagnostic tests on the equipment and phone line. Write down or save a screen shot of any error messages, these will help the support person a lot.
Obviously, don’t change anything with consulting a support person first. I know from experience, that a simple problem can be made worse.

So now you know enough to do some basic troubleshooting, and hopefully the next time you have an issue, you’ll be able to resolve it. If not, at least you can give the support personnel detailed information and get back online quickly.

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