Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Connection Issues

Troubleshooting your Internet connection

Troubleshooting | Resetting the Router | Firewall Issues
Security Software Issues | Terminology

The back of a router showing the ADSL and Internet ports used, but none of the four outgoing ports.

If You Can't Access the Web

This page assumes that your Internet was working at an earlier point.

If you are setting it up for the first time, the steps listed below were not designed with that purpose in mind. You need to follow the instructions that came with your router or modem. There is help. See Setting Up Your Network.

I've included a series of definitions for the terminology used on this page.

Unless the problem is directly related to your computer or device (smartphone, tablet, WiFi printer, virtual assistant, Smart Home appliance, etc.) then it will involve either your own network or one that is further along the chain.

If the issue is with your ISP or (rarely) a regional access issue, the resolution is beyond your control. You'll just have to wait for your ISP or the Internet structure to repair the problem.

I'm going to use the terms computer and device interchangeably. All that differs is how they are configured to connect to the Internet.

Reboot the Device

The first step should be rebooting (restarting) your computer or device to see if that fixes the problem. You'd be surprised how often that simple step resolves issues.

You can also check to see if other devices connected to your network are also unable to reach reliable websites like Google.

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Troubleshooting Access Problems

If There is No Internet Access

The following steps assume there is NO Internet access. Specific websites and ISPs can have outages that have nothing to do with your computer or its settings.

Troubleshooting Steps

If other device can connect and restarting your computer or device doesn't work, you'll have to check out each potential problem area to see if it restores access.

Try the following series of steps, in order, to see if this fixes your problem. You can stop when you resolve the issue(s) you are having.

  1. Check the network settings to see if you have Internet access.
  2. Check for changes to proxy settings.
  3. Check the network cables if your computer is wired to the router.
  4. Reset your router.
  5. Check your firewall or security software. There are specific troubleshooting steps for ZoneAlarm issues.
  6. Check your browser access issues or email problems.

The next few sections will expand these steps into a series of instructions and may vary from your configuration.

Check the Network Settings

Check the network connection on your computer. This connects other computers in your network as well as providing access to the Internet via your ISP.

Depending upon your operating system and your settings, there may be a network icon at the top or bottom of the screen or it may be hidden.

Your Internet connection can include either or both wired and wireless connections (see terminology).

Ensure that your network adapter is not turned off.

Whichever you're using, there is likely a router involved, whether it is your home network or a public network such as at a coffee shop or a business network, or a community wireless network).

If you're not using your own network, you'll need to speak to the person responsible for that network for details on how to fix any issues.

Wireless Settings

If you're connected wirelessly you'll see a listing of available wireless networks. The wireless network you're currently logged into (if any) should be indicated. Most networks are protected by a security protocol and a password.

Wired Settings

If you're connected via CAT5 or CAT6 network cables, you should check the following:

Network Settings by Operating System

The following are specific to each operating system. If you're isn't listed, look for your computer or device documentation.

Windows 10

Windows 10 has changed the way that these settings work over time, so you may see something different than what is indicated here.

Windows 10's network icon is on the right side of the taskbar in its default configuration. The icon changes from a globe to a computer to a WiFi icon depending upon your connection and its status.

Click the network icon to see the status of your Internet connection(s) and to connect to listed WiFi networks. Look for the word “connected” for both LAN and WLAN connections to ensure they are working correctly.

Clicking on Network & Internet settings then Status displays a diagram of your network status:

Windows 10 Network Status showing the basic network status

There should be solid lines between your computer, the network and the Internet as shown above (a private LAN connection — yours could display different icons).

Through the various settings you can make changes to your network settings you can:

*A VPN may disable your connection to the Internet if it is disconnected (a security measure to protect your privacy). Reconnecting or turning off the VPN should resolve any issues.


Open the Network Preferences from the WLAN icon or look in the Systems Preferences to see your network connections. You may have active connections for Ethernet (LAN) and/or WiFi (WLAN).

If everything is normal, you should see “connected” indicated in the appropriate location(s).

If not, click on Assist Me at the bottom then Diagnostics on the dialogue box that appears. Follow the instructions for the connection that is having problems.


These instructions are based upon Linux Mint.

There are two areas dealing with your network connections:

  1. under Administration (Network: configure network devices and connections); and
  2. under Preferences (Network Connections: manage and change your network connection settings).

You'll need to unlock the Network Settings with the Administrator password to make changes.

More advanced or adventurous users can try using network commands to troubleshoot your network:

iOS or Android

Mobile devices can connect via both wireless networks and cellular networks (smartphones and cellular-capable tablets). At least one must be enabled and have access to an available network to use the Internet.

Check the Proxy Settings

Most users should not touch the proxy settings, leaving them at the default which is System Settings. Changing the proxy settings can disable Internet access and is something that malware and other malicious programs do to maintain control of your computer.

Browser Proxy Settings

Each browser has proxy settings but most users should leave these settings alone.

System Proxy Settings

If you're in an office where your computer is provided by your employer you'll want to verify the settings with whoever is responsible for the network.

Be Wary of Malicious Proxy Changes

It is generally not recommended that users change these, but it is possible your Internet connection isn't working because something else changed the proxy settings such as malware or a program installed by a scammer (more here…).

Check the Cables

The troubleshooter may prompt you to check the router settings, but first you'll need to ensure that the network cables are firmly attached and that your modem is connected to either the cable outlet or the phone line (depending upon which ISP's service you're using) and that the cables are not damaged.

Try replacing the cables. If the connector retainer (a small, springy plastic that holds the cable firmly in place) is broken or has lost its ability to retain a firm connection then the connection may be weak or intermittent.

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Resetting the Router

If instructed by the network troubleshooter (or if you've completed the steps above) you'll need to ensure that the problem isn't with your router.

Recycling Power to Your Router

Have a Separate Modem?

Most people now have an all-in-one combined modem/router supplied by your ISP.

If you have a separate high-speed modem connected to an external router or have disabled the ISP-provided router and added your own separate router then both need to be reset when you are instructed to reset your router in the steps listed on this page.

  • Turn off the modem first, then the router;
  • Use the reverse sequence when restoring power.

A separate power bar with only the two devices attached simplifies matters because you can perform the process by turning off the power bar. Be sure that turning off this power bar doesn't affect critical items.

Start by recycling the power to your router (and modem if they are separate):

  1. Turn off the power to the modem (then the router), and wait for two minutes.
  2. Turn the modem on and wait for the lights to settle (you should see a steady light on the modem) then turn on the router.
  3. Wait at least 30 seconds.
  4. Turn your computer on.

This process will force a new IP lease from your ISP and everything should now work.

Recycling the power is necessary because many ISPs (Shaw, Rogers, Telus, etc.) use dynamic IP addresses and they disable them every so often. This results in poor connectivity or none at all until you reset the router.

I strongly recommend that you purchase a decent power bar to protect your investment in your modem/router if a power surge hits your system.
  • This will allow you to turn off the power to both the modem and router with a single switch.
  • Don't use the $10 variety — replacing your computer, modem, router and associated gear will cost much more than that.

Try Without the Router

This will only work if your router and modem are physically separate.

If recycling the power to your router didn't resolve connection issues, you can try to run directly from your modem (i.e., connect without the router).

It doesn't take more than a couple of minutes for an unprotected computer to become infected. Be careful while accessing the Internet at this stage.

If you regain access to the Internet using only your modem, try to run it with the router again. If that fails, proceed to the next step in resetting and setting up your router.

Resetting Your Router

If you continue to have problems, you should try resetting the router.

Configuring the Router

You will then have to configure your router to set up your network and connect to your ISP.

You may wish to have some professional help to ensure you retain the maximum security and correct settings for your network.

At the very least you should read the manual provided with your router so you understand the process and what each of the settings will change.

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Firewall Issues

Programs that are unable to access the Internet may be a result of a misconfigured firewall setting.

If you continue to have problems connecting to the Internet, check the firewall for issues. Be sure that software is not misconfigured.

I'm assuming that you've tried resetting your router then rebooting your computer before looking at this section.

The firewall's job is to protect your computer from unauthorized access.

If there is a problem with the firewall settings, then your Internet connection may not be working or the firewall may not be protecting your computer from threats on the Internet.

You should be using both security software suite that includes a firewall in addition to a router (hardware firewall).

While some decent free security software, a paid version will generally provide better protection against a multifaceted attack.

Software with Access Issues

If the access issue is with a specific piece of software (i.e., everything else has Internet access) then the challenge is figuring out why.

The most likely culprit is a firewall setting that prevents access.

Most access issues are with browsers and email programs but can involve other programs.

Check your software documentation or the manufacturer's website for details on how to troubleshoot your particular program.

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Check the Security Software

This section refers to ZoneAlarm as an example.

Your security software may operate differently but you should be able to duplicate the following steps.

Check your software settings and any logs to see if a particular program is blocked or if all Internet access is disabled.

Your product manual or the company's website should give you more information.

Avoid Multiple Security Programs

Do NOT run multiple security programs.

If you have more than one antivirus program running at the same time–or more than one firewall–you're asking for trouble.


Two such programs, trying to do the same thing at the same time, will slow down your system. Worse, they can cause conflicts.

Incorrect Settings Block Access

ZoneAlarm includes a firewall which is designed to protect you from unwanted and dangerous traffic to and from the Internet.

If you have not configured it properly, your Internet service might not work or a particular program may not have access.

Recent versions of ZoneAlarm are much easier to configure and require less hands-on management.

Test Using Another Device

Before proceeding, try testing the connection using another computer or mobile device that you know is working.

If that device has access, you know the issue is not your Internet service.

Reinstalling ZoneAlarm

If ZoneAlarm is incorrectly installed or misconfigured (or not running at all), uninstall then reinstall it.

Uninstalling ZoneAlarm should remove any corrupted settings.

See Uninstalling ZoneAlarm for instructions.

If you have manually deleted portions of the program you may have to reinstall ZoneAlarm before you're able to uninstall it.

Testing Without ZoneAlarm

Reboot then briefly test to see is your Internet connection is restored before reinstalling ZoneAlarm.

Do not reinstall ZoneAlarm until you've resolved all problems with access.

If your connection is working, reinstall ZoneAlarm using the most current version.

Testing with ZoneAlarm

Once you've reinstalled your ZoneAlarm product, repeat the access test to ensure everything is working correctly.

Hardware or ISP Issues

If your tests without ZoneAlarm installed didn't restore access you need to look elsewhere for a solution.

If you have followed the steps to this point and you still have a problem, you'll need to call your ISP to verify service or to repair the issue.

Testing Elsewhere (with ZoneAlarm)

You can take your computer to another location where you know the Internet is working (reinstall your security software first).

If your computer has no issues with Internet access, the issue is probably with your Internet service (or possibly the modem or router hardware involved).

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Basic Network Terminology

You might wish to review basic computer terminology (including additional Internet terminology) and Windows terminology to better understand how they are involved in connecting to the Internet.


A network is a collection of computers and devices that are connected together, allowing them to share information.

The Internet is a network that spans the globe. Most people connect to the Internet either via their home or work network (router) or via a free wireless service provide by a coffee shop or community broadband service or via their cellular provider.

Connection Protocols

The following describes the common methods used in connecting to a network, including the Internet.


The following describes the hardware involved in connecting to a network.


These are the basic programs used to view content on the Internet:

Issues with Slow Internet Access

If you have Internet access but it seems that your service is slow:

The problem may also be with your computer or device. Older computers contain older, less capable hardware and software. If the device's storage capacity is maxed out it can create issues with how well you can connect with the Internet.

No Internet Access?

If you have no Internet access a series of troubleshooting steps will help to determine where the breakdown is and how to resolve the problem.

Basic Troubleshooting

When your Internet service is disrupted, there can be many things that have gone wrong. The best way to start is to determine if everything is broken (i.e., you can't access any websites or Internet services) or if the difficulty is only with a certain program or a specific website is not responding.

If Access is Limited

If you are able to view certain sites, but not others, it is possible that one or more specific sites are down. Sites go dead for a variety of reasons and the issue may be temporary or permanent.

If you see a 404 error (“page not found”), it means that the site is up but the page you requested is not available. This is not an issue with your Internet connection.

Regional Outages

If you are able to view local content but cannot see sites hosted across the country or elsewhere, there could be a blockage in the Internet grid (a regional outage).

Issues with Specific Programs

If only some of your programs are working, try the following:

Check to See if the Problem is the Computer

If you have more than one computer, see if both computers are experiencing difficulties accessing the Internet. If the second computer has full access then your problem is localized to the first computer (you can skip any tests that don't deal with the computer itself).

Related Resources

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Updated: February 19, 2024