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Fix Internet Connections without Tech Support

How to avoid tech support calls by troubleshooting internet connections on your own

Unplug the router. Wait 30 seconds. Plug it back in. The go-to process for anyone who just lost their internet connection. Usually a router reboot has Netflix streaming your latest binge watch obsessionNight Rider for days! again in no time, but what if power cycling doesn't bring back the internet?

When rebooting the router fails, submitting yourself to tedious support calls and bad hold music seems like the only way back online. Sometimes calling your internet provider is the only solution, but internet connection problems can often be fixed without calling anybody. If you are dealing with a problem you could fix on your own, calling tech support introduces communication overhead that slows the troubleshooting process. In situations like these, replacing tech support with a little knowledge saves a lot of time and frustration. So unless you enjoy the hold music, here are three internet connection problems you can solve on your own.

Wireless Interference

Wireless interference occurs when competing signals or objects impede wireless networks

Tech support's first over the phone test is often checking performance on a wired connection. This is because competing signals frequently interfere with wireless networks, and proving wireless interference absolves the ISP of wrongdoing. Internet providers like being absolved because they can tell you it's not their problem, hang up the phone, and get back to not helping someone else.

Everything from microwaves and Blu-Ray players to radios and human bodies cause wireless interference. A neighbor's wifi competing for the same channel is another regular offender. Distance between device and router is another factor because wifi strength decreases over distance. Regardless of cause, if you connect directly to the router and the problem disappears, you're experiencing wireless interference.

Possible wireless interference solutions include changing your router's operating frequency or investing in a dual band router. Shutting down the device causing the interference or moving closer to the router can also resolve the problem, but wired connections are the best way to ensure connection stability.

Bandwidth Saturation

Bandwidth saturation occurs when networks are used beyond their capacity

Data flowing through a network is similar to cars moving along a highway. One car moves quickly, but when the highway is over capacity, traffic slows down. A single video streams without interruption, but connections slow down when network capacity maxes out. If you notice poor connection quality during periods of heavy network use and better quality during light usage periods, bandwidth saturation is a likely culprit.

Tolerating a slow connection is the easiest approach to dealing with bandwidth saturation, but if you actually want a solution, you can use your network when others aren't using it or upgrade your internet subscription to get more bandwidth. A more advanced solution would be purchasing a device that gives preference to certain types of data the same way a carpool lane lets certain cars move faster.

Bad Hardware

Bad hardware occurs when network components like cables, routers, or modems fail

Like all technology, devices like routers, cables, switches, modems, and servers eventually stop working. When network components break down, or fail to perform to your standards, connections slow down, or stop altogether.

Fixing bad hardware problems can be as simple as replacing the broken component. Unfortunately, identifying the broken component is easier said then done. Trial and error is the basic approach to troubleshooting bad hardware. Testing the network with different cables is a good place to start. If you see better performance with different cords, the cords were the problem. You could also test networks with a friends router, or modem, to find out if performance improves with different devices.

When There is No Other Choice... Making the Call

In many ways, internet providers operates like larger versions of your home network. Because of these similarities, they are susceptible to the same problems. Talking to neighbors who use the same provider is a good way to identify an ISP problem. If neighbors experience similar connection problems, you probably have an internet provider issue on your hands. Regardless of the problem your ISP faces your solution is the same. it's time to make that call you've been avoiding.

When you call, keep in mind that internet providers have an incentive to not believe you. Identifying a problem means more work for them, so you need to bring a strong case to get results. Your network diagnosis can be strengthened by relaying the results of the tests described above. Providing this information signals competency and saves time because the support tech can skip walking you through the tests.

Demonstrating network troubleshooting knowledge is a great way to get your ISP's attention, but without evidence, the conversation becomes your word against theirs. When you need more than words PingPlotter becomes an indispensable resource. The software unbiasedly pinpoints the location of problems and lets users email the information with a few clicks. In our case, PingPlotter can verify conclusions made through the tests. If the software confirms your problem diagnosis, PingPlotter graphs are powerful supporting evidence in conversations with providers.

Even if your ISP is the barrier between you and a Netflix Night Rider marathon, checking for wireless interference, bandwidth saturation, and bad hardware reduces time on the phone significantly. We've only glossed over the network troubleshooting process in this article. For more detail on finding and fixing internet connection problems, check out our network troubleshooting walkthrough The Roadmap to Network Nirvana.

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