How to fix 5 common WiFi problems

Have you tried turning it off and back on? 
wifi router indoors
The source of joy, the source of woe. Misha Feshchak / Unsplash

WiFi has been around for decades, but even seasoned users run into inexplicable problems from time to time. Fixing these issues may seem complicated and frustrating, but the solution to your WiFi woes is likely surprisingly simple. 

Whatever your struggle, you’re here now and we’ve got solutions. Check this guide to get back online in no time. 

Problem 1: My device won’t connect to the WiFi network

Most of us have had to deal with this classic and supremely annoying problem: not being able to connect to what seems like a healthy WiFi network. 

[Related: Device won’t connect to WiFi? Here’s what to do first.]

The worst part about this issue is that there are many reasons why your device may not be able to get online—from a weak signal to a pending firmware update. To solve this, try some of the tips from our guide to the six things you should do first when connecting your phone, laptop, or home appliance to a WiFi network.

Keep in mind that there may be other reasons why you are not able to hop online, and some may only be solved with professional help. 

Problem 2: I can’t remember my WiFi password

If you can’t remember your WiFi password but have a Windows or Mac computer connected to it, this is an easy problem to solve. 

On a Windows machine, you’ll need to find the list of known networks. The easiest way to do so is by opening the Run app (summon it with Win + R or by entering its name into the search bar next to the Start button), typing ncpa.cpl, and clicking OK. A new window with your computer’s known connections will appear. Double-click on the network you need access to and then click Wireless Properties on the popup menu. A third window will emerge, and under the Security tab you’ll see the Network security key, which is just a fancy way of saying “password.” By default, the word or phrase will not be visible (you’ll see some black dots instead), but if you click on the Show characters box underneath, the password will appear before your eyes. 

You can do something similar on a Mac computer. Open the Keychain Access app (via Spotlight Search or Cmd + Space), go to the Passwords tab, and double-click on the network you’re trying to gain access to. On the popup menu, check the box next to Show password—the app will ask for your system credentials (the details you use to log into your computer). Enter those and the password will appear on the screen. Keep in mind that TouchID is not enough to unlock your network’s WiFi password, and this solution won’t work if you’re not the administrator of your machine. 

If you have an Android device running the latest version of Google’s operating system, you’ll also be able to see the password for the network it’s connected to. Go to Settings > Network & Internet > Internet and select your home WiFi network. Tap the Share button and verify your identity. Depending on how you have your phone set up, it’ll ask you for your biometrics, your password, passcode, or pattern. This tool will generate a QR code other devices can use to hop onto the network, but you’ll also be able to see the password right underneath.  

If none of this works, you’ll need to reset your credentials. This entails accessing your router and—you guessed it—entering a username and password. The good news is that whether you bought your router or still have the one your internet service provider gave you, you probably didn’t actually change the device’s default credentials. If that’s the case, you’ll be able to find them by looking at the user manual or searching for your router’s brand and model online. 

Your ISP might have created a unique username and password for your router, and if you haven’t changed them, those details are usually printed on a sticker underneath or on the back of your router. If you have an Ethernet cable, you can also connect a laptop directly to your router.

If all else fails, call your ISP and ask for help. They might be able to access your router remotely and help you reset your password. 

Problem 3:  My device says it’s connected but I still can’t get online

If this is what you’re dealing with, your device might not be the problem, so take a look at the router instead. 

First, make sure it’s online by checking out the lights on the device—if the one with an antenna symbol is anything but green or is blinking intermittently, the router is offline. This means it is doing its job, but it’s emitting an empty signal. Turning your router off and on again might solve it. 

Another reason you might not be able to get online is that your ISP has cut your service, which can happen if you, say, forget to pay your bills on time. This can be a good time to check if you have any pending notices waiting for you in the mailbox. 

There could also be an outage in your building or neighborhood, or you might have missed your ISP’s announcement of a planned service interruption. In either case, check with your internet provider—start by looking at their social media or calling them directly. 

Problem 4: I have dead zones all around my home

Sometimes thick walls or a weird room layout in your home may be causing spotty WiFi. Installing signal boosters or setting up Ethernet and a mesh network might be the ultimate fix, although this may be much harder than it sounds depending on the particular characteristics of your house or apartment. 

[Related: Keep up with the competition with the best Ethernet cables for gaming]

If you want to give it a try, check out our guide to getting internet into every room of your home

Problem 5: My WiFi is too slow

Sloth-paced WiFi is another problem that can have myriad sources, each with a different solution. 

First of all, figure out if you’re getting what you’re paying for by performing a speed test. You can use Ookla, a classic platform that people have long used to figure out how fast their connection is. If you Google “speed test”, the search engine also has a built-in feature that will tell you your download and upload speeds, as well as what they mean. Whatever results you get, compare them with the internet plan you bought from your ISP. If the numbers differ a lot, it’s time you give them a call. 

There are other things you can do, such as updating your router’s software, changing the channel, or simply eliminating any obstacles that may interfere with your router’s signal. You can find the details of each one in our guide on how to speed up your internet connection