How to Fix WiFi and Internet Issues While You Work at HomeHome > Work at Home Tips >
Last updated February 8, 2021
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Do you experience frequent or occasional drops in internet or Wi-Fi service while working on your computer? Or does your internet or WiFi signal seem to be weak because websites are loading too slowly? Not being able to depend on the service that connects you to the rest of the world can hurt your ability to work at home.
As a work at home employee, I have noticed a number of my co-workers who have struggled with the issue of not being able to keep a strong online connection while working. If you are having this problem or just want to be prepared if the problem arises, there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re able to stay connected.
Internet or WiFi?
First, you need to determine specifically which service is being interrupted – your internet or your WiFi connection. You may be asking yourself “What’s the difference?” There is a big difference!
Internet is the service for which you are likely paying a monthly bill to an internet service provider. Through cables directly to your home and wiring that connects to a modem, that provider sends a service that allows you to go online where you post on social media, watch videos, keep in touch with family and friends, and search for information.
WiFi, on the other hand, allows you to access the internet wirelessly. Using a router that connects to the internet modem (sometimes the modem and router may be a combined unit), a signal is distributed throughout your home that allows you to connect your smartphone, tablet, streaming device, and or laptop to the internet without having to be hardwired.
How to know which service is the source of the issue
On a Windows computer, when your internet service drops out, you can find an indication on screen in the right corner of your status bar. Look for the WiFi icon: or (if you are using an Ethernet cable to connect to your router). Place your cursor over the icon and hover. A small box should pop up that will show the name of the network to which you are connected and the current status of your internet connection which will state either “Internet Access” or “No Internet Access.”
However, if your WiFi network is the issue, you can also take a look at the WiFi icon to find the status. If you no longer see or but see instead, you are not receiving a signal from your router.
How to fix it
You are able to address most internet and WiFi issues on your own. Just try the steps listed below.
Your internet service will drop out for one of two reasons:
1) an issue with your modem or
2( an issue with the service from your provider.
Before contacting your provider when your internet service is down, take a moment to check out your modem. The modem is the box that has two different types of cables connected. One cable, the coaxial, is connected directly to a jack in your wall and the other, Ethernet, is connected to your router.
Make sure that your modem is 1) plugged in and receiving power and 2) connected to your WiFi router with an Ethernet cable or that all connections are tight and secure (that is, if you do not have an internet/Wi-Fi combo unit). If the device is receiving power and connected to your router, try rebooting or power cycling the modem by following these steps:
- Simply disconnect the modem from its power source by unplugging it. You can unplug it from the wall, but sometimes it the cord can be disconnected directly from the back of the modem.
- Leave it disconnected for 60 seconds.
- Then reconnect it.
- Wait a few minutes for the modem to power up fully.
- Then check the status icon on your computer.
I have found that when I lose internet service, rebooting my modem fixes the issue more than 90% of the time. However, if your internet connection is not restored after following these steps, contact your provider. There may be a service outage in your area.
The most common causes for a poor WiFi signal are:
1) your computer is located too far from your router;
2) signal interference; or
3) there are too many devices connected to your WiFi network.
Regarding issues 1 and 2, if one or more of the “bars” is not illuminated on the WiFi icon on your computer, you are not receiving a full signal from your router.
This usually means that your computer and router are placed too far apart or something is blocking or interfering with the signal. Therefore, consider closing the distance between the two devices by either moving your router or relocating your work at home office space.
I understand that either of these options could be very difficult or even impossible to pull off as there are other wireless devices in your home that you have to consider or your current home office setup may be the best configuration for you. My own home setup presented some obstacles for me as well.
A simple way to accomplish this task is to just attempt to get your router to the center most point of your home. Placing it in a central area allows all devices to receive an equal level of WiFi signal. Let me share two things that have helped me.
- Extra-long cables – I have a cable internet modem and a separate WiFi router. The cable jack to which my modem is connected is located on an outside wall at the northwest side of my home. However, several of my numerous wireless devices are placed on the southeast side of my home. In order to ensure that all devices were receiving a sufficient signal, I used an approximately 10-foot long coaxial cable between the cable jack and modem and a 6.5-foot long Ethernet cable between the modem and router so that I could place the router closer to the center of the house.
- Mounting the router high up on a wall – Still try to place the router in a central area, but also mount it up high to cut down on signal inference from any other electronic or radio signals. Routers and modems are designed with small notches, or holes, on the backsides of their casings that allow them to be mounted, or hung up, on walls with screws or nails.
Another frequent source of signal interference can be your neighbors’ WiFi.
When I first started working at home, only a handful of the homes on my street also had WiFi but now WiFi can be found in most homes. And all those signals get entangled with each other.
Years ago when I first experienced such a signal problem, the technician sent out by my service provider showed me an app (There are many free apps available. Just search: WiFi Scanner) that he downloaded to his phone that scanned and displayed all the nearby WiFi networks. He explained that each network is on a channel like those of a walkie-talkie, and the app showed each network’s channel.
So whenever it seems like I’m not getting a strong signal on my devices, I check the app to see if my next door neighbors’ networks could be interfering with mine. Recently, I was having an issue with poor video while streaming. I found that a couple of my closest neighbors were both on channel 5 while I was on channel 3, and the app showed how the signals were crossing each other. So I switched my network to channel 1, which no one seemed to be using. The video cleared up immediately.
Note: You would need to go into your router’s settings to make this change. However, if you aren’t sure how to do that, contact your router’s manufacturer or your service provider for instructions.
Regarding issue 3, too many devices on your WiFi network
The simplest technique is to turn off, disconnect, or unplug any devices that you are not using or do not need while you are working on your computer.
If you’re having to use this technique often, it may be time to upgrade to a better router because this indicates that your current router is not able to handle providing a signal to all of your wireless devices at one time.
I began experiencing this issue after adding streaming devices to all the TVs in my home. My router at that time was an older model and could not deal with multiple streaming devices, laptops, and smartphones pulling on its signal. When I would sign on to my computer for work, I had to routinely disconnect the streaming devices in order to have a strong enough connection. Eventually, I upgraded to a router that was able to handle the streaming load and allow me to perform my job without any issues.
Note: If your WiFi issue is a regular occurrence or not helped by any of the suggestions listed above, try contacting the router’s manufacturer for help or your service provider, if they own and installed your device.
Bonus tip: Check the state of the coaxial cable or Ethernet cable connected to your modem or router. If the cable is bent or damaged in any way or if it is more than a couple years old, it may need to be replaced. The internal wires could be broken. Therefore, the signal isn’t being transmitted properly.
Do you have any suggestions for dealing with internet and WiFi issues? If my suggestions helped you, let me know in the comments below!