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How to fix your broadband

Diagnose bad broadband with our handy checklist of tips and advice, plus find out how to contact your provider when things go wrong.
Vicki Crowe
Speed up slow broadband 434184

When wi-fi goes wrong or your broadband isn't working, it can be difficult to know where to turn. The good news is what may seem like a technical issue beyond your grasp could be simple to fix. 

Our checklist can help you tick off the most basic issues, and with luck, fix your connection. This means you'll avoid those long call-hold times to your provider and the dreaded call-out charges.

If you still can’t find a fix, you’ll be better able to describe the issue to your provider and hopefully help them get you up and running more quickly. It can be awkward to find the right contact if your broadband's down, so bookmark our page on How to contact your broadband provider with your mobile phone so you have it handy in an emergency. 

But let's think positive - follow these simple steps to help diagnose problems with your connection and you could be back up and running in no time.

Best broadband providers - sick of poor service? View our best and worst providers for 2020.

Using an older router? You'll want to make sure it's still getting important security patches to protect against threats. Read our guide on router security for more.

1. Check your devices

The first thing to eliminate is the device you're trying to access the internet from. See if you're having the same connection problem across all devices in the home - your mobile phone, tablet, laptop, or even TV, by checking their wi-fi status. 

If a specific device isn't working but the others are fine, that's more than likely your problem. Disconnect and reconnect wi-fi, and if that doesn’t work, restart the device.

2. Check internet outage for your provider

If all your devices are having trouble, there's probably an issue with your connection. Before you dig any deeper it's worth checking to see whether your provider is having issues in your area. 

There are a few ways you can do this - many providers have a service status page, which should allow you to check your specific connection by entering your phone number or postcode. It may also be worth checking a Twitter or Facebook support page, or even calling to ask. 

You'll find all the most important contact details on our broadband providers contact page

3. Ping Google

If you appear to have no connection, you can run a handy check by asking Google. Follow the instructions below.

  • On a Windows PC press the Windows key+R on the keyboard. This will bring up the Command Prompt tool. Type 'ping www.google.com'.
  • On a Mac go to the ‘Network Utility’ app, choose ‘Ping’ and type 'www.google.com'.

If you see a ‘timed out’ or ‘unsuccessful’ message, there’s a problem.

If everything looks fine, it’s probably the fault of the device you’re trying to connect with. A problem usually means no connection, and if you've already eliminated the device with step 1 above, try rebooting the router.

4. Check the router lights

That confusing array of lights on your router actually offers genuinely useful information. It's likely that your provider will ask you to check these anyway, so there's no harm in ticking this box yourself.

As a general rule, if any lights are red or amber, this is a bad sign. No lights usually means no power - don't forget to check it's still plugged in properly!

We've plenty more information on router lights in our guide to routers, but if you're after a quick solution, turn it off, wait 30 seconds, and turn it back on again.

Bear in mind that some routers can take time to restart and reconnect when you do this - so allow 3-5 minutes before you start diagnosing those lights. 

5. Plug a computer directly into the router

Since the majority of connected devices we use around the home are now wireless, it's easy to forget that a wireless connection is a completely different animal to a physical internet connection. 

Wireless devices communicate across the airwaves to your router, and if there's a problem here it's still possible that the physical connection from the router could still be working fine.

To eliminate this, plug your computer into the router with an Ethernet cable. If the computer then connects ok, wireless is the problem. If not...

6. Check the IP address

You can tell if your router is having trouble connecting by looking for a number called an IP address. Follow the steps below:

Plug your computer into the router via Ethernet cable

  • On Windows press the Windows key + R to open the Command Prompt tool.
  • Type: ipconfig | findstr /I “Gateway"
  • You should now see a line that looks similar to this: Default Gateway . . . . . . . . . . :
  • On Mac open ‘System Preferences’ and click ‘Network’ under ‘Internet and Wireless’.
  • Select ‘Ethernet’ and click the ‘Advanced’ button.
  • Click the ‘TCP/IP’ tab and the IP address will be next to ‘Router:’.

A valid IP address starts with 192. If it starts with 169, this is not a valid address, and you should contact your provider with this information.

7. Check the cables

No harm in ticking all the boxes - make sure everything is properly connected. Remove and reinsert cables, check for frays and damage to cables and plugs. It's surprisingly easy to damage connections or leave them slightly misaligned, especially if some members of your household can be overly enthusiastic with the hoover.

You could also have a faulty microfilter - a small white box that connects to your phone line between the phone socket and cable, and allows your broadband to work at the same time as your telephone. 

If you have a spare microfilter, try replacing it, and if you don't, put one on the shopping list. They only cost a few pounds and are useful to have around.

Alternatively, modern housing may have microfilter that's built into the phone socket, in which case you'll need to contact your provider to see if they can help diagnose the problem.

8. Check the phone line

Plug a home phone directly into the landline socket on the wall, without the microfilter or other adaptors in between, and listen for a dial tone. 

If instead all you can hear is noise or silence, there’s an issue with the line, which you should report to your provider using your mobile phone.

Hopefully these tips have either helped you get back up and running, or gone some way towards diagnosing the problem. 

Find more tips and advice on keeping broadband healthy in our guide to speeding up slow broadband.