Diagnosing an internet outage

Nobody likes suffering with slow – or NO – internet. Here’s how to determine where the problem lies.

If NO computers can get online, check the cable that runs between the phone jack or cable TV outlet and the modem. Then unplug the power from the modem, wait 30 seconds, and plug the power back in. Restart the computer, wait 1 minute and try going to a web page.

If possible, attach a computer directly to the modem with an ethernet network cable. Unplug the power from the modem, wait 30 seconds, and plug the power back in. If you still can’t get online, call the internet provider. Their job is to deliver internet to the modem. If your computer works when it’s plugged into the modem this proves the problem does not involve the internet provider. The internal network is not their responsibility. Continue with the instructions below.

A router provides internet to multiple computers. If your modem has more than one network jack or if it has a wireless antenna, a router is built into your modem. If there’s a separate router box (such as an Apple AirPort) check the network cable between the modem and router. Unplug the power cords from router and modem, wait 30 seconds, then plug the power back in. Wait 1 minute, attach a computer to the router with a network cable (if possible) and try loading a web page. If this works, both the modem and wired connections are good.

Today, most devices are wireless. Make sure you're connected to the right wi-fi network. On a Mac, select the network in the wi-fi menu in the upper-right corner of the screen near the clock. On an iPhone or iPad, tap Settings and Wi-Fi. Select a network from the list and type the password if requested. Not sure of the network name or password? Some wi-fi routers have the default network name and password printed on the device itself. As a last resort, try each network in the list. But you'll want to connect to your own network if you plan to share files or media with other devices or print wirelessly.

If possible, try another nearby computer. If any computer can connect to the internet, the problem is not with the modem or wireless network. Any changes made to the router will interfere with the working computers, making things worse. Instead, focus your attention on your non-working computer. Maybe you've entered the wrong network password. Try visiting a friend or coffee shop and see if your computer works with their wi-fi. If it can't get online anywhere, try resetting your Mac's network settings. Call us for help if you can't resolve the situation.

If no computers can connect to the internet wirelessly then your wi-fi router is likely at fault. If you have an Apple AirPort or Time Capsule, you can erase the router settings by pushing the tiny round reset button with a pen. Hold it for 20 seconds, then release. After resetting the router, go to a Mac and click the Lauchpad. Open Utilities and the AirPort Utility. No Mac? On an iPhone or iPad, tap Settings and Wi-Fi. You should see an option to configure a new AirPort here. Either way, an assistant walks you through the configuration and you might be up and running in a few minutes. Enter the same wi-fi network name and password you used before to avoid reprogramming all your devices.

Don’t have an Apple router? Now may be a good time to buy one - no wi-fi routers are faster than AirPort. Plus you can share internet, printers and many also share storage and backup drives. Best of all, they are very easy to set up. Other routers can be very confusing and are beyond the scope of this document. You probably shouldn't attempt to reset your non-Apple router unless you are very familiar with networking. Call for assistance, or buy an Apple router.

A final word of caution: take anything an internet provider tells you with a grain of salt. Our experience shows their support people know only the very basics – like what a person would learn in a weekend seminar on computers. In nearly 20 years of business, we've seen client spend hours with CenturyLink or Comcast “fixing” things that had nothing to do with the real problem. They might mean well, but they can easily make things much worse.

Contact Creative Tech Support. We can solve most network problems and coordinate any necessary service with your internet provider.

Learn more about sharing & networking.

   ©2023 Creative Tech Support, Inc.   Experts in Apple support since 1994     Need help? Contact us.     Not officially affiliated, related, or licensed by Apple.