Common Home Networking Problems: How to Fix Them

 

This article discusses some of the most common home networking problems and their corresponding troubleshooting procedures. Select the problem scenario you are trying to resolve below:

Problem #1: Computers Cannot See Each Other on the Network

There are times wherein computers can connect to the Internet but they are not able to communicate with each other in a network. It is important that computers within a network can see each other especially if you want to share files and printers from one computer to another. There are several factors that may affect the ability of your computers from seeing each other on the network. Check out the following tips that you can do if in case you are having this kind of issue:

    • Setting the Computers with the Proper Computer and Workgroup Names – This is the first thing you may want to check when setting up file and printer sharing on your network. Make sure that each of the computers have unique computer names but identical workgroup names.

To configure these settings on a Windows XP and older OS versions, click here.

To configure these settings on a Mac OS X computer, click here.

To configure these settings on a Windows 8 computer, click here.

To configure these settings on a Windows 7 or Vista computer, click here.

    • Check if File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks is Enabled - This is a key Windows Network Service that must be enabled in order for the computer to participate in file sharing. Make sure that this particular option is enabled by going to the network adapter’s properties. Although this component is enabled by default, you may want to double-check if this service is currently listed in the network components installed and enabled on the computer. To do this, follow the instructions presented here.
    • Verify if the Computers are Getting the Correct IP Addressing and Subnetting – Computers in home networks or Local Area Networks (LAN) that are set up behind a router or a gateway normally obtain IP addresses that are unique and are within the same range. It is best to configure the computers to obtain the IP address automatically from the router or gateway, unless a computer will require a static IP address for special LAN functions such as web or FTP hosting. The subnet mask that is normally used for most home networks is 255.255.255.0.

To check the TCP/IP settings on a Windows Vista computer, click here.

To check the TCP/IP settings on a Windows XP computer, click here.

To check the TCP/IP settings on a Windows 7 computer, click here.

To check the TCP/IP settings on a Mac computer, click here.

    • Disable Firewalls – Windows has a built-in Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) that commonly interferes with the file sharing capability of a computer. Third-party firewalls such as ZoneAlarm and Norton, can also stop file sharing from working if not configured properly. If there is such a program or software currently running on your computer, temporarily or completely disable it to further isolate the problem.

To disable the Windows Firewall, click here.

  • Check if TCP/IP is Installed – The best network protocol to use for enabling file and printer sharing is the TCP/IP protocol. This allows the computer to obtain network addresses such as an IP and Default Gateway addresses, which enables the computer to communicate inside and outside its network. NetBEUI or IPX/SPX can also be an alternative network protocol to use for file and printer sharing. However, it is recommended to use only one of the two network protocols as having them both enabled may cause network connectivity problems on the computer.

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Problem #2: Computers Cannot Get Online

Not being able to access the Internet is a major problem not just in home networks, but in small office and large business networks as well. There are also numerous things that you will need to check in order to diagnose and resolve this problem.

  • Checking the Physical Connections – An unplugged cable or a disabled WiFi function/switch can make a big difference when it comes to the computer’s ability to access the Internet. Sometimes, the problem lies from the simple connection of your networking devices.

    If you have a hardwired computer, make sure that the Ethernet cable that is connecting your computer to the router or gateway is firmly plugged in. Also, check if the port LEDs on the router where the computer is connected to is lit. If not, try a different known-working port or cable (whichever is possible), and then see if you can now get online.

    If you have a wireless computer, make sure that the WiFi radio switch or button is on or enabled. You may refer to the computer’s documentation for more information regarding its wireless functionality.

  • Further Investigate if the Entire Internet Connection is Down – Before concluding that your Internet connection is not working at all, make sure you have tried several different popular websites rather than just one. There are cases wherein only a certain website is temporarily down, that is why it is best to make sure that none of your favorite websites are accessible before calling your Internet Service Provider (ISP) for support.
  • Check for a Possible Firewall Interference – Misconfigured or recently installed firewall programs can also contribute to the Internet connection-related problems. If your computer happens to have the Windows Firewall and another third-party firewall currently running at the same time, there is a high risk that those two programs are conflicting, which then blocks even valid Internet and network traffic. You may want to temporarily or permanently disable one and then see if that resolves the Internet connection issue.
  • Poor Signal or Out of the Wireless Coverage – This is one of the most common reason for Internet connection loss for wireless computers. Placing the computer farther away from the router or access point results to getting poor signal, thus breaks the local and Internet connection altogether. Other wireless devices in your home that are running on the same frequency with your router or access point creates wireless interference, which also contributes to the poor signal range. You may want to relocate your wireless computer to a room where there is less “cold spots” (corner places and farther levels in your house) and interference wirelessly. If you want to extend your router or access point’s wireless range, try the options presented here.
  • Changes in the Wireless Settings of Your Router or Access Point – If you have changed a setting or two in your router’s wireless settings, chances are your wireless computer will lose its existing connection to the router and to the Internet. If you just recently enabled the wireless security such as WEP or WPA encryption, you will need to enter the encryption keys or passphrase on your wireless computer in order to reconnect. This information can be viewed on the router’s configuration page where other wireless settings can be found and modified as well.

    NOTE: When connecting to a hotspot with security enabled, you will be provided with the encryption keys or passphrase in order to connect.

  • Check for a Possible Router Clogging or Malfunction – The router or access point is one of the devices that is most likely to fail or malfunction on the network. Unlike the computer, the router stays on all the time and performs numerous network functions that causes it to wear down faster than the rest of the devices. To refresh your router’s connection, follow these simple steps:

    STEP 1: Unplug the power supply of the router. If you have a modem, unplug it from the power supply as well.

    STEP 2: Wait for approximately 20-30 seconds then plug it back in, modem first and then the router.

    NOTE: Wait for the lights on the modem to become stable before plugging back the router’s power supply.

    STEP 3: Observe the lights on the router or access point and make sure that all the key LEDs are lit such as the Power, Internet, WLAN, and LAN (where your wired computer is connected to, if there is any).

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Problem #3: Slow or Intermittent Connection

Follow these tips to help you fix slow or intermittent Internet connection:

  • Check Your Router’s Settings - Your Broadband router can be greatly responsible if there are changes with the speed or consistency of your Internet connection. Make sure that your router or access point’s settings are consistent with your Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) recommendations. If in case you changed any setting on the router, observe your connection and then take note of the information you modified in case you need to undo your changes later on. Contact the router’s manufacturer to determine if there is a need to reset and reconfigure the router.
  • Wireless Interference – Computers that receive poor or intermittent wireless signal would usually encounter dropping or no Internet connection at all. Other devices in your house and even your neighbor’s wireless signal can interfere with your wireless network. If this is the case, you may want to relocate your router or access point to a different location or try setting the router to transmit wireless signals on a different channel. Refer to the router’s documentation or manufacturer if you need assistance in changing the wireless channel.
  • Other Background Applications Running – There are some programs or applications installed on your computer that automatically runs upon startup, which obviously consumes network resources in the process. Check if you have any programs that are running in the background and temporarily close them to diagnose the connection issue.
  • Beware of Possible Internet Worms or Spyware – An Internet or computer worm is a malware computer program that duplicates itself in order to spread to other computers in the network. It mainly harms the network by consuming bandwidth without attaching itself to an existing program installed in the computer. Make sure your computer has a strong and reliable antivirus software installed to block or remove these malware programs.
  • Internet Service Provider Issues – If each and every computer on your network is experiencing slow or intermittent connection, it is possible that your ISP is responsible with the said problem. It is possible that they may have changed their network configuration, made some upgrades or updates to their system, or undergoing some technical difficulties that causes your Internet connection to become noticeably slow. Contact your ISP once you suspect that the connection problem is coming from them.

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Problem #4: Vulnerability to Internet Attacks

Nowadays, many home networks fall prey to numerous hackers and Internet attacks. Personal and private information like credit card information and passwords are stolen by hackers and are used for illegal purposes. Be vigilant when providing these sensitive information on the Internet as some websites pose false information in order to gather your valuable information. It is also recommended to install an antivirus or an Internet security program that blocks different types of incoming malicious traffic such as spyware, malware, worms, as well as viruses that can spread and harm your entire network.

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