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How to Repair a Broken Internet Connection

written by: Matt Isaac•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 5/19/2011

You computer has suddenly lost internet connection and you want avoid having to spend hundreds of dollars for professional troubleshooting. What can you do?

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    You computer has suddenly lost internet connection and you want avoid having to spend hundreds of dollars for professional troubleshooting. What can you do? Follow these simple guidelines and you can solve simple connection issues on your own, or with minimal professional assistance.

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    What has changed?

    A lot of connection problems stem from plain old user error. The first thing to do when you notice your connection has been severed is to remember the last time it worked and then identify any changes that have taken place. Did you download something, visit a different website, walk out of the room, or install something new? These can all be clues to help you solve this frustrating mystery.

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    Who is affected?

    Unfortunately this section is not designed to save you time. Don't assume anything regarding the combination of computers and hardware affected by your undiscovered problem. Just because every computer on the network is unable to connect does not mean that the source of the issue is in the router. Single computers can affect entire networks just as routers can affect single computers. If you assume that the router is dead because every PC has lost connection you might end up spending a good deal of money to have the same issue. And, if you assume that because only one computer is affect you should focus only on it, then you may spend many hours working on the victim and not the perpetrator. Before coming to any conclusions such as these, run through every step.

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    There are two different ways that hardware can affect your internet connection. Any time you install a new piece of hardware it has the potential of causing negative affects on a PC. If a computer looses it's connection to the internet following an install it could be a sign that the new part is either taking too much power or is causing conflicts in the system. Have the new hardware removed from the computer and retest your connection.

    If you have installed any miscellaneous network hardware, such as IP cameras, storage devices, printers, etc, remove these prior to further connection testing. Once testing is complete and connection has been restored, reconnect these devices. If the connection drops out again, there is a good indications that the source of the connection issues are being caused by one of these network peripherals.

    There is also a handful of network hardware that is found in every household connecting to the internet. Most simple home networks will be comprised of computer(s) connecting to a router/highspeed modem using a 10/100 Ethernet card. Depending on the ISP the router and modem may be separate, if this is your case, simply combine the two in the following steps unless otherwise instructed. Start by verifying that all devices are powered on indicator lights are functioning. Next, check any cables, both power and network, to ensure they are securely attached to the appropriate devices. If they have become disconnected then assure they are reconnected to the appropriate port. Routers are fairly simple to reconnect to if a network(ethernet) cable has come loose. Most home routers/broadband modems have 5 ports one being the incoming connection. Any of the ports besides the incoming connection is appropriate to connect to a PC. For networks with the modem and router separate, the incoming connection of the router should connect to the modem. If your computer(s) connects wirelessly this step should be skipped with the exception of the power cables and modem connection. Once you have verified the cables and your connection is still not working, move on to rebooting all major network hardware. Turn off the power to your router and computer(s), wait a few minutes and then return power to the devices. Once power is returned, allow the router and computer(s) to completely finish booting before attempting to verify the connection. If the connection is still not working check the router for any flashing or solid red lights. If one is visible verify it with your routers user manual. This will instruct you if your router has bit the dust.

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    Router connections
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    Every computer, Mac or PC, has built in software to connect to networks. Network connectivity icons can be found next to date and time display. If your computer connects wirelessly, use this utility to reconnect to your network. Even if your computer has not become disconnected, this step can still solve many connectivity errors. If your computer connects using ethernet cabling or your specific wireless network is no longer available use the hardware reboot to achieve the same effect without getting into professional settings.

    Most software titles available today come with some sort of updater so they can make small, incremental improvements to your software as necessary. This also means that any new application installed can potentially cause issues with your network connection. If you have recently installed a new application, try uninstalling and rebooting your system. Even if the installed software is an internet security app, this may still be a required step. Just because the software is designed to protect your connection does not mean it cannot also have some negative affects if something goes wrong during installation. In fact security apps are notorious for causing some of the worst issues your connection can suffer from. For this reason, you should consider seeking professional assistance if this is your situation.

    Malware has many different ways of affecting an internet connection. If your computer suddenly looses internet connection and is not benefiting from the resetting procedures, it could be the sign of bad hardware, or maybe a virus. Although this type of issue is rarely the intended operation of viruses and spyware, systems that are infected with more than one piece of malware often experience this phenomenon. Before running out to replace a computer or other hardware, run a complete system scan with a reputable internet security or anti-malware application.

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    Connecting to a wireless network with OS XConnecting to a wireless network using Windows XPXP p2
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    Still confused?

    If you have tried all these steps and are still unable to revive your connection to the web, then perhaps it is time to seek out a professional. Never attempt to open or fix hardware in-which you have not been trained, and never change software settings which you don't understand There are simply some issues which are better left to the professionals and god forbid you attempt to take on these issues and wind up injured or spending lots more shells.