Network troubleshooting

How to solve the most common computer network and internet connection issues

by Drew Aspland

Experiencing network problems is pretty much a rite of passage for anyone with a computer, and as we increasingly rely on the internet and our network connection for work and for everyday tasks at home and in the office, the frustrations caused by network issues can be dialled up to 11.

The possible causes of networking issues can number in their many dozens, and this guide cannot cover all of them. What follows is some basic network troubleshooting tips. These steps cover network troubleshooting in Windows 10, but most can also apply if you’re using older versions of Windows, or an Apple iMac or MacBook.

Network troubleshooting basics

Windows 10 has a basic network diagnostic tool, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to try it first. Click Start, type ‘Network Status’ and then find the network troubleshooter about halfway down the page. It’s a step-by-step wizard and may solve your network issue first time. Good luck!

If it doesn’t, we have a number of network troubleshooting tools at our disposal, so read on.

My wifi won’t work! 

This may sound like an obvious one, but if you’re using wifi, first make sure that wifi on your laptop is turned on. In Windows 10, head to Start > Settings > Network & Internet and then the Wifi tab on the left-side panel. On this page, make sure the wifi toggle switch is set to ‘on’. Voila!

Another easy win is checking to make sure you haven’t got airplane mode turned on. Much like airplane mode on your phone, this disables all network activity on your laptop. In the same Network & Internet settings page, look for the Airplane Mode tab on the left, and make sure the toggle switch for that is turned off.

Some laptops also have a built-in airplane mode button on the keyboard. Look for a button with an aeroplane or a radio mast on it and give it a tap. It may just make your connection spring back to life.

My PC is plugged directly into the router. What about that?

Again, don’t overlook the basics here – is the cable plugged in at both ends? Even the most seasoned network technician can miss that one. The network cable must be undamaged, too. Are there any tight twists or kinks in the cable? Is it wrapped taut around a desk leg? Has it been crushed by furniture? A knackered ethernet cable can be replaced cheaply and easily and will get you up and running again quickly.

While we’re looking at cables, check the plug at both ends. The metal contacts should all be present and unbent. This applies to the ports in the router and the PC itself, too. Is there any fluff in there? Make sure they’re clear, but don’t stick anything like tweezers or other tools into these ports – this can permanently damage them, and they are much harder to replace.

More network troubleshooting steps: wifi and network details

Wifi can be patchy. If you’re within a direct line of sight and not more than a few metres from the wireless access point (WAP) then you should be golden, but things like walls, furniture (especially metal furniture such as cabinets or shelving units) or glass partitions can play merry hell with your wireless connection. Wifi is simply a radio signal and can be subject to interference just like the DAB radio in your car or kitchen.

Has the wifi password – or key – changed? Who looks after that? You may need to ask them. Of course, if you have an IT support contract with Plan IT Support, this will have all been taken care of! The name of the wifi network, or SSID (service set identifier – you don’t have to remember that, it’s not on the exam) may have been changed. Check that, too.

None of this worked!

That’s ok! We have more network troubleshooting tools in our belt!

There are more things to look at, and we’re going to turn our attention to the router. If you’re at home, you may call this the ‘hub’. BT, Virgin Media and other ISPs (internet service providers) call it a hub, too. It’s where the wifi comes from, and what everything plugs into.

However, if you’re at work, the router for the office may be inaccessible to you, and you may need to speak to whoever is responsible for your network.

Much like a PC or laptop, a router needs to be restarted every now and again. Turn it off at the wall, wait for a few minutes, and then power it back on again. A restart is not a cop-out and can solve many problems.

Make sure you’re updated

Everybody hates them, but software updates aren’t just cosmetic. As well as important security updates, your operating system needs regular updates to keep on working, including the bits of it that handle your network connection. Bite the bullet and make sure all those updates are installed.



It didn't work, so what's next?

This is where we get slightly more complicated. Your network adapter may be disabled. Your network drivers may need looking at. Your DHCP or DNS may be incorrectly configured, or there may be some kind of IP conflict on the network. There’s a bunch of network troubleshooting commands we can try, but these issues are all beyond the scope of this guide.

Plan IT Support can offer ad-hoc network help, or we can manage your entire IT operation with a monthly agreement tailored to your budget and your business needs, including cloud networking solutions. Speak to one of our team now for an informal chat about your business IT. There’s no pressure, and no obligation.

Drop us a message to get the ball rolling.