Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Internet Connection Issues

Troubleshooting Your Internet Connection

Access Problems | Firewall Issues

Troubleshooting your Internet connection when you can't access the web.

If You Can't Access the Web

We'll assume 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.

Basic Internet Terminology

  • A modem can generally refer to either cable or ADSL modems. Dial-up modems are mostly obsolete.
  • A LAN is wired connection.
  • A WLAN is a wireless connection.
  • ISP refers to the company that provides you access to the Internet (e.g. Shaw, Telus, etc.).
  • A router combines the splitting power of a network hub with the ability to protect you with a hardware firewall. Your connection may be hard wired or wireless.
  • An IP address is usually represented with a numeric series of numbers separated with dots (e.g. and will vary by ISP and by router brand.
  • A (web) browser is a program used to view web pages on the Internet. There are many browsers.

You might also wish to review basic computer terminology and Windows terminology.

Troubleshooting Basics

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.

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 not responding.

If Access is Limited

If you are able to view certain sites, but not others, or if only some of your programs are working, try the following:

  • 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. Have a look at The Internet Traffic Report which monitors the flow of data around the world. On their site, you can view data for specific cities, helping to pinpoint potential problems. There is little you can do about this sort of problem other than to wait it out.
  • If your email works fine but your problem appears to be related only to your web browser, have a look at Browser Problems.
  • If you can surf the Web OK, but you have difficulty sending or receiving email, have a look at Email Problems.

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).

Reboot the Computer

Try rebooting your computer to see if that fixes the problem. You'd be surprised how often that simple step resolves issues.

If restarting Windows doesn't work, you'll have to verify each potential problem to verify that it is or isn't the problem until you restore access.

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Troubleshooting Access Problems

Where I refer to your router this may be configured as a separate high-speed modem connected to an external router or as an all-in-one combined modem/router supplied by your ISP (most common).

If the devices are separate 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.

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

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 icon (or wireless connection 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.
  6. Check your browser or email software.

The next few sections will expand these steps into a series of instructions. Where Linux is indicated, I've based these on Linux Mint, the version I'm currently working with.

Check the Network

Check the network connection on your computer. 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 be one or both of the following:

  • Wired: connected directly to the router using a network cable (LAN); or
  • Wireless: connected via a wireless connection (WLAN).

Check the Wireless Settings

If your connected wirelessly (i.e. there is no network cable from your computer to the router) you'll see a listing of available networks and the wireless network you're currently logged into (if any).

You'll need to verify that your connection is strong enough and that the settings don't indicate any problems.

If you're having difficulties connecting or if there is a problem with the connection, you'll need to diagnose it.


Windows users can click the network icon (you may need to click the little pyramid icon beside the clock to see all the settings). The Windows 7 icon changes colour according to the condition of your network access:

  • White is normal but you may only have access to the network (but not the Internet).
  • Red indicates that there is no access to either the network or the Internet.
  • Yellow indicates a problem.

Click on Open the Network and Sharing Center which should open in a new window.

At the top is a diagram of your network. There should be solid lines between your computer, the network and the Internet:

Windows 7 Network and Sharing Center showing the basic network information

If there isn't, click on Troubleshoot problems (Diagnose and Repair in Vista) and follow the prompts.


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.


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.

Check the Proxy Settings

Most users should not touch the proxy settings, leaving them at the default which is System Settings. However, changing the proxy settings can disable Internet access and is something that many unwanted infections do to maintain control of your computer.

Browser Proxy Settings

Each browser has proxy settings but most make the changes in the System settings.

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).

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.

  • Windows users will find these in the Internet Options. Click on the Connections tab then click the LAN Settings button. Only Automatically detect settings should be checked. Uncheck Use a proxy server for your LAN then verify that you have Internet access.
  • Mac users will find these in the Proxies tab in Network Preferences. Normally none of the options should be checked other than Use Passive FTP Mode at the bottom. My computer also has *local, 169.254/16 under Bypass proxy settings for these Hosts & Domains.
  • Linux users will find these settings in the Network Proxy Preferences (click on Preferences then Network Proxy). The default should be Direct internet connection.

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 service you're using).

Check the connections at both ends of all wires. This may sound silly, but things get pulled or simply break. Check the connection to the cable jack or phone line as well as the network cable (CAT5 or CAT6) between the modem and the computer or router (on most systems there should be a green LED lit if the network cable connection is working).

You may need to replace 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.

Reset 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

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 30 seconds.
  4. Turn your computer on.

Note: If you have to do this relatively frequently, you might find it easier to purchase a decent power bar to protect your investment in your modem/router as well as making it easier to turn off the power to both the modem and router with a single switch. Don't use the $10 variety unless that is connected directly into a suitable power bar.

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

  1. Recycling the power is necessary because your ISP (Shaw, Rogers, Telus, etc.) changes dynamic IP addresses every so often, disabling those that have been running for too long.

Try Without the Router

If you continue to have problems and you have a separate modem you can try your modem without the router. If the Internet is accessible, try to run it with the router again. If that fails, proceed to the next step in resetting and setting up your router.

Note: 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, particularly if you are using Internet Explorer.

Resetting Your Router

If you continue to have problems, you should try resetting the router. Obtain the instructions for your particular router from the manufacturer's website or from the documentation that came with your router. Most have a recessed reset button that can be held down for a minute or two with the tip of a ball point pen or an opened-up paper clip to restore the factory settings.

Configuring the Router

You will then have to configure the router again to have it work with your network. You may wish to have some professional help in accomplishing that (at the very least you should read the manual provided with your router).

Ensure that your computer is connected to the router with a network cable during the setup process.

Never alter your router settings while connected through a wireless connection — you will lose access to the router when it reboots during the setup process.

Check the Firewall

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.

Follow the instructions for checking your firewall security software (on the sidebar).

Check the Software

If everything else is working, then the problem may be with your software. Generally when this happens you'll be able to access the Internet except with a specific piece of software.

The are special sections on the Internet Access Problems with Specific Programs page. Most issues are dealing with browsers and email programs but you may also have problems accessing FTP sites or on-line help in other programs.

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Firewall Issues

In order to protect yourself while connected to the Internet, you should be using both firewall security software and a hardware firewall (router).

There is more information about these on the Firewalls page, including why you need them.

Software Firewalls

If you are having difficulty with your Internet access, the most likely causes are:

  • your high-speed modem and/or router;
  • a disconnected network cable (if your computer is wired);
  • your IP address needs to be reset for your computer;
  • service from your ISP is temporarily down; or
  • Internet access to your area is down.

Determining if your firewall is creating the problem.

ZoneAlarm Recommended

I strongly recommend a current version of ZoneAlarm Extreme Security.

While Check Point offers a free basic firewall for personal use ZoneAlarm Extreme or Internet Security Suite will provide better protection against a multifaceted attack.

I'll use ZoneAlarm in the examples below. The testing process should be similar with other firewall products. Your product manual or the company's website should give you more information.

Configuring ZoneAlarm Incorrectly Can Stop Internet Access

Programs like ZoneAlarm are designed to protect you from unwanted and dangerous traffic to and from the Internet.

ZoneAlarm denies access to the Internet for everything by default.

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

To rectify an incorrect installation of ZoneAlarm, you may need to uninstall and reinstall it. The same may be true if ZoneAlarm is not running at all.

In extreme cases you may have to reinstall ZoneAlarm before you're able to uninstall it. (See Uninstalling ZoneAlarm for instructions.)

Testing ZoneAlarm's Firewall Settings

There are many programs tracked by ZoneAlarm and incorrectly choosing to deny access could be the source of your problem.

  • Click the ZoneAlarm icon beside the clock to restore the ZoneAlarm monitor.
  • Click on the Antivirus & Firewall box on the left then click on the Settings in Application Control.
  • You should see two slider controls labelled Network firewall and Your DefenseNet. Normally, these should be set to Max and Auto respectively.
  • Try moving the Network firewall to Off then see if your browser has access to the Internet.

If you are able to access the Internet with ZoneAlarm off, then the problem is with your ZoneAlarm settings and you should probably do a clean install (to remove any incorrect settings).

You'll need to uninstall your Zone Alarm product, reboot, then reinstall using the most current version of the ZoneAlarm product you're using. Be sure to download and install the same version. The license for one product won't work on any other.

Testing Without ZoneAlarm

If the previous test didn't give you access, ZoneAlarm may be corrupted and should be uninstalled.

Once ZoneAlarm has been uninstalled, try your browser to see if it has access. Verify with other programs that were unable to connect.

  • If access is restored, then your problem was with ZoneAlarm and you should reinstall it.
  • Otherwise you need to look elsewhere for the source of the blockage of your Internet access.

Do not reinstall ZoneAlarm until you've resolved all problems with access (then do a clean install to remove any settings).

Other Reasons for ZoneAlarm Access Issues

Incorrect configuration of ZoneAlarm is not the only possible cause for lack of Internet access.

One of the Windows Updates that Microsoft released on July 8, 2008 (KB951748) caused ZoneAlarm to treat the changes as a malicious attack on Windows. As a result, ZoneAlarm users were unable to access the Internet. Setting the Internet Zone Security to Medium resolved the issue temporarily until a newer version of ZoneAlarm could be installed that resolved the issue.

Any such issue will be reported in Check Point's support pages or forums.

Router Issues

If you have followed the steps to this point and you still have a problem, you'll need to verify that your router is not the problem.

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Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.

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Updated: August 27, 2018