Over the years while working for an ISP, I’ve overheard troubleshooting conversations held by the office staff and our customers. Beyond that, I’ve been a technically-minded internet user for 15 years myself. While there’s nothing that can be done in the moment if your ISP is really providing service slower than advertised, there is one simple trick that has shown, time and time again, to fix an astonishingly large number of problems that people have with their internet service.
It’s simple, really. Reboot.
‘Reboot’ is another way of saying, “turn it off, then turn it back on again”. For internet problems, generally the first things to reboot are your router and modem. Or, for wireless internet customers – your radio, which is like a modem. If that doesn’t seem to help, try rebooting your PC or laptop, your phone or tablet, your TV or printer — whichever device is giving you troubles.
How to reboot your devices
If you need to reboot your router or modem, you can simply unplug each device from the electrical outlet. Wait 10-30 seconds, then plug them back in. The order may not matter in most cases, but I tend to plug the modem back in, then plug in the router.
For TVs, computers, phones, tablets and everything else: try to use the built-in shutdown or reboot options. These devices generally do not need to be off for any period of time, rather the reboot process is enough to get the desired effect.
Why rebooting ‘fixes’ so many internet issues
Rebooting a device is a way of resetting it to a fresh, restful state that can return it to optimal performance. In a way, a reboot for an electronics device is a lot like what happens to us humans if we take a 20-minute nap when we’re stressed out, tired or mentally fatigued.
This quick break and ‘reset’ helps us to perform better, much like it can with our electronics devices.
Disclaimers & further information
While rebooting a device can help restore functionality and improve performance, it does not actually fix any underlying problems with your hardware. For example, if your router is going bad, rebooting it may:
- help get your internet working again
- help it to perform better than it was before rebooting it
- allow you to use the router for a little while longer
but it won’t actually fix your router if it has a physical problem.
It is recommended that you do not physically reset any devices unless you know what you are doing. Some ISPs have special settings, in modems or sometimes routers especially, that can only be programmed by the service provider. If you perform a real reset on these devices, it may completely break your internet until you can get a technician out to restore the settings.
If rebooting doesn’t help, then call your ISP
Rebooting your router and other devices should be the first thing you try if your internet isn’t working at all, or it’s not working like it should. Trying to be conservative, I’d estimate at least 50% of the troubleshooting calls I’ve overheard in our office were all fixed by the customers rebooting their devices. Moreover, I’ve had two service calls in the past week where the “internet problem” was really a PC problem that was fixed by customers rebooting their computers.
Rebooting won’t fix everything, but it’s a simple thing that anybody can do, and it’ll potentially save you a lot of time and grief. It might even end up saving you some money, too.