A computer's ability to reliably connect to an Internet connection depends on several complex technologies. Not only must hardware within the computer work properly, but the components of the network itself must work flawlessly as well. When a computer loses its ability to connect to a previously reliable connection, there are a few troubleshooting steps that you should take. Troubleshooting individual components will help you identify the faulty network component.
Troubleshooting Modems and Routers
In order for your computer to detect your Internet connection, the hardware must be connected and working properly. If your computer is connected to a wireless router, inspect it to confirm it is in turn connected to your cable or DSL modem via an Ethernet cable. This cable looks like a thicker version of a telephone cable. It should be connected to the router at one end, and the modem at the other. Gently pull on the cable at either end to ensure it is secured. Also, check your modem's connection to the cable or DSL line. The modem must be connected to one or the other to feed the signal to the router. If possible, attempt to connect another computer to your modem.
The Ethernet Cord
The Ethernet cord itself is prone to damage if it is mishandled or allowed to tangle. Inspect your network's Ethernet cords for signs of damage by disconnecting them and laying them out straight. There should be no frayed plastic or exposed wires. The plug should be composed of clear plastic that is not cracked or damaged. It should have a small plastic clip on its backside. Dispose of Ethernet cables with broken clips, as they are prone to becoming dislodged from Ethernet jacks. Damaged Ethernet cords that run from the modem to the router can definitely cause an Internet connection to fail.
Corrupt Hardware Drivers
Hardware devices like wireless cards contain small programs called "drivers" that allow them to communicate with the computer. To check if this driver is installed and working correctly, click "Start" and then right-click "Computer." Click "Manage" and then click "Device Manager." Scroll down to "Network Adapters" and look for any adapters that have a small yellow question mark. If your adapter has this icon, you will need to contact the manufacturer to obtain an up-to-date driver. This can usually be accomplished by visiting the manufacturer's website and downloading the latest driver there. Just be sure to get the driver specific to your hardware model.
Troubleshooting Wi-Fi Connection
Your computer itself contains a few settings that can toggle your Internet connection on and off. If you are using a laptop, check it for a physical Wi-Fi switch. Not all models contain these switches, but if yours does, and if it was inadvertently turned on, it will sever your connection to the Internet. There is also a blue function key on most laptop models that has the same function. Test this by pressing "Fn" and the key that contains the icon that resembles a cellphone tower at the same time. Press this key combination again if this does not resolve your problem.
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