A lot of variables are involved when you connect to a network: cables, network adapters, drivers and routers. So troubleshooting network connection problems can be challenging. This article can help you find and fix problems with wired (Ethernet) and wireless (WiFi) network connections. Some common problems are:

  • A wireless network adapter switch is turned off

  • Flight mode is turned on

  • Disconnected or improperly connected cables

  • Incorrect WEP, WPA or WPA2 security keys or passphrases

  • Mismatched wireless standards

  • Missing updates

  • Incorrect network connection settings

  • Damaged or incompatible drivers

  • Hardware or software problems

Follow the steps in these sections to try to solve the problem, then try connecting after each one. If the problem still occurs, move on to the next section.

Use an automated troubleshooter

An automated troubleshooter can find and automatically fix some common networking problems. Run the Network troubleshooter first, then test your network or Internet connection to see if the problem has been fixed. If it doesn't fix the problem, try the rest of the automated troubleshooters.

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To open the Network troubleshooter

  • Open the Network troubleshooter by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the upper-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, and then clicking Search), entering Identify and repair in the search box, and then tapping or clicking Identify and repair network problems.

To open the Internet Connections troubleshooter

  • Open the Internet Connections troubleshooter by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the upper-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, and then clicking Search), entering troubleshooting in the search box, and then tapping or clicking Troubleshooting. Tap or click Network and Internet, then tap or click Internet Connections.

To open the Network Adapter troubleshooter

  • Open the Network Adapter troubleshooter by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the upper-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, and then clicking Search), entering troubleshooting in the search box, and then tapping or clicking Troubleshooting. Tap or click Network and Internet, tap or click Network Adapter, and follow the instructions on your screen.

For more info about network adapters, see How do I fix network adapter problems?

Review suggested solutions

If running a troubleshooter didn't solve the problem, look for the problem and corresponding solution in the following table.

Problem
Possible solutions

I can't connect to a home network.

If running the Network troubleshooter didn't help, here are some other things to check:

  • Make sure that the router and modem are turned on.

  • If you're using a wired connection, make sure that the network (Ethernet) cable is inserted into the network adapter in your PC. Each end of a network cable looks like this:

    Network (Ethernet) cable
    Network (Ethernet) cable
  • If you're using a wired connection, make sure that the network cable isn't defective. You can test this by using a different cable that you know works properly.

  • Make sure that the cable is connected to the correct port on the router. It shouldn't be connected to the "uplink", "Internet" or "WAN" port. In addition, some routers turn off the port next to the uplink, Internet or WAN port, so try using a different one.

  • If your PC has a wireless network adapter, Windows will automatically detect wireless networks that are nearby. To see a list of wireless networks that Windows has detected, follow this step:

    • Connect to a network by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Settings (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the bottom-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer up, then clicking Settings), then tapping or clicking the network icon (Wireless network icon or Wired network icon). Tap or click the network you want to connect to, then tap or click Connect.

    If Windows doesn't detect a network that you think is in range of your PC, see Why can’t I find a wireless network?

  • Make sure that your router and the wireless network adapter in your PC will work together. To work, the network adapter in your PC must use a wireless standard that is equal to or older than the router’s wireless standard. For example, if the network adapter in your PC uses the 802.11n wireless standard (also called Wireless-N) but your router uses 802.11g, (also called Wireless-G), you won't be able to connect because the Wireless-G standard is an earlier version and doesn’t recognise Wireless-N. However, if the router uses Wireless-N but the adapter in your PC uses Wireless-G, you should be able to connect if the router is set to mixed mode, as Wireless-N works with some or all of the earlier standards (802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g).

  • Many laptops and tablets have a wireless switch on the front or side of the PC. If your PC has a switch, make sure that it's turned on. Some PCs also use a function key combination to turn the switch on or off. Check the info that came with your PC for details on locating the wireless switch.

  • Making sure flight mode is off and WiFi is on.

    To make sure flight mode is turned off and WiFi is turned on

    1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, then tap Settings.
      (If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, then click Settings.)

    2. Tap or click the network icon The wireless network icon.
    3. Make sure Flight mode is set to Off and WiFi is set to On.

  • Use Device Manager to verify that your network adapter is working correctly.

    To check your network adapter

    1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, then tap Search.
      (If you're using a mouse, point to the top-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, then click Search.)

    2. Enter Device Manager in the search box, then tap or click Device Manager.‌ Administrator permission required You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.

    3. Double-tap or double-click Network adapters, press and hold or right-click your adapter, then tap or click Properties.

    4. Under Device status, check to see that the device is working properly.

  • The network adapter driver might not be working properly. Download and install the latest version of the driver from the manufacturer's website. For more info, see How do I fix network adapter problems?

  • Clear the DNS resolver cache.

    To clear the DNS resolver cache

    You must be signed in as an administrator to follow these steps.

    1. Open Command Prompt by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the upper-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, and then clicking Search), entering Command Prompt in the search box, and then tapping or clicking Command Prompt.

    2. Type ipconfig /flushdns, then press Enter.

I need to connect to a hidden wireless network.

A hidden wireless network is a wireless network that isn't broadcasting its network ID (also called an SSID, or service set identifier). Typically, wireless networks broadcast their name, and your PC “listens” for the name of the network that it wants to connect to. Because a hidden network doesn’t broadcast, your PC can't find it, so the network has to find your PC. For this to happen, your PC must broadcast both the name of the network it's looking for and its own name. In this situation, other PCs “listening” for networks will know the name of your PC as well as the network you’re connected to, which increases the risk of your PC being attacked.

If you still want to connect to a hidden network despite the risks, you'll need to gather some info from the wireless router first.

  1. Gather the following info:

    • Network ID (SSID), which is the name that would typically appear in the list of available networks

    • Type of security (WPA, WPA2, WEP or 802.1X)

    • Type of encryption

    • Security key

  2. Connect to a network by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Settings (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the bottom-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer up, then clicking Settings), then tapping or clicking the network icon (Wireless network icon or Wired network icon). Tap or click the network you want to connect to, then tap or click Connect.

  3. Tap or click Hidden network, tap or click Connect, then enter the network info.

    The network will be added to your list of networks and will be available to connect to in the future when your PC is in range of the network.

I can't connect to other PCs on my home network.

  • Turning on Find devices and content.

    Follow these steps on your PC and on any network PC running Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1 that you want to connect to. Do this only if you know and trust the people and devices on the network.

    1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, tap Settings, then tap Change PC settings.
      (If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, click Settings, then click Change PC settings.)

    2. Tap or click Network, tap or click the network you're connected to, then turn on Find devices and content.

      Note

      • It's usually not safe to turn this on if you're connected to a public network.

      • This setting isn't available if you're connected to a domain network.

I can't connect to my workplace network from home (or another location).

Here are some things to try. Contact your IT admin for help with these:

  • Make sure you entered the virtual private network (VPN) server name exactly as provided by your IT admin.

  • You must have an active Internet connection for a VPN connection to work.

  • If your modem is external, make sure the modem power is turned on.

  • Make sure you have the appropriate connection and domain permissions on the remote access server.

  • A VPN connection won't work with an active Winsock proxy client. Make sure the Winsock proxy client isn't enabled.

  • If you know the IP address (for example: 131.107.10.25) of a website, enter that address in the address bar of your web browser, then press Enter. If this works, there's probably a Domain Name System (DNS) resolution problem.

  • If you have special software that's required or installed by your workplace, it could be part of the problem.

  • If you know the IP address (for example: 131.107.10.25) of your VPN server, enter that address for the VPN connection, then press Enter. If this works, there's probably a DNS resolution problem.

  • There could be a certificate problem.

  • There could be a problem with the server you're trying to connect to.

Note

  • Windows RT 8.1 has built-in support for VPN. Third-party VPN software can also be installed on Windows RT 8.1 if it's available in the Windows Store. For help with third-party VPN software, contact the third-party VPN provider. For more info on VPN standards supported in Windows RT 8.1, go online to Microsoft TechNet and search for "VPN".

My wireless connection isn't connected when my PC resumes from sleep or hibernation.

There are two possible causes:

  • Automatic connection is turned off for this network. The next time you connect to the network, tick the Connect automatically checkbox.

  • When coming out of sleep or hibernation, your wireless network connection might not reconnect if the power options on your wireless adapter are set to a power-saving mode. Here's how to check or change your current power options.

    To check or change power options

    1. Open Power Options by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the upper-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, and then clicking Search), entering Power options in the search box, and tapping or clicking Power options.

    2. Next to your current power plan, tap or click Change plan settings, then tap or click Change advanced power settings.

    3. Double-tap or double-click the Wireless Adapter Settings section, then double-tap or double-click the Power Saving Mode section.

    4. If the Plugged-in setting is currently anything other than Maximum Performance, tap or click it, then select Maximum Performance.

    Note

    • You can also set the On battery setting to Maximum Performance.

I need to find my network security key.

If your PC is already connected to the network, and you're looking for the security key so that someone else can connect to the network, you can find it in your network settings.

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To find your network security key in your network settings

  1. Open Network Connections by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the upper-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, and then clicking Search), entering Network and Sharing Center in the search box, tapping or clicking Network and Sharing Center, and then tapping or clicking Change adapter settings.

  2. Press and hold or right-click the network name, then tap or click Status.

  3. Tap or click Wireless Properties, then tap or click the Security tab.

  4. Tick the Show characters checkbox. Administrator permission required You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.

If you're looking for the security key so that you can connect to the network, first check for a push button on the router. If you find a push button, press it and see if the router automatically adds your PC to the network. Some wireless router manufacturers set a default security key that you might be able to find on a sticker in the documentation or on the bottom of the router. If you still can't find it, you can open the wireless router settings webpage. This is where the security key is set up or automatically generated.

To find your network security key on your router settings webpage

  1. Connect your PC to the router using a network (Ethernet) cable.

  2. Open a web browser and enter the IP address for your wireless router into the address bar (for example 192.168.1.1 or 172.16.0.0). You can find the default IP address in the documentation that came with your router.

  3. Enter the user name and password to open the router settings webpage. Most router documentation contains a default username and password.

  4. On the router settings webpage, look for a wireless or wireless settings option. Depending on the router manufacturer, this might be a tab, icon or option in a task pane.

  5. On the wireless settings page, look for a security or wireless encryption setting. The security key (sometimes called a network key, a passphrase or a network password) should be listed nearby.

Note

  • Different router manufacturers have different settings pages. If you can't find the router settings, contact the router manufacturer.

Windows reports that my connection is "Limited".

This means the PC has successfully connected to the router, but the PC wasn't assigned a valid IP address, so you can't actually get to the Internet. If you're connected to a home network, try restarting the router. If you're connected to a domain network or a public network, contact your network admin or the technical support rep for that network.

Note

  • You can only join a domain if your PC is running Windows 8.1 Pro or Windows 8.1 Enterprise.

Check your hardware

Many network connection problems are caused by hardware that isn't set up properly. Here's some info about how to check your cables, check or reset your modem, and check for problems with your network adapter.

Check the wireless switch (wireless networks only)

If you're using a tablet or laptop, make sure that the network adapter switch or button is turned on. Many laptops have a physical switch somewhere on the top, front or side that turns the network adapter on or off. There's usually an indicator light on the laptop that shows if the wireless network adapter is enabled. Tablets sometimes have a push button that controls this, with or without an indicator light.

Make sure all cables are connected properly

Loose or disconnected network cables, DSL or cable connections, telephone cords, USB cables, or power cables can cause network or Internet connection problems. Check all of these connections to make sure they're properly connected. This section mainly applies to wired networks, but if you're trying to connect wirelessly to your own home wireless network, you should check the modem and cabling to the modem as described in the following sections.

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To check DSL Internet connections

  1. Check the phone line that runs from your phone jack to the phone line port on the DSL modem.

  2. Check the network cable that runs from the Internet connection on the DSL modem to the network adapter on your PC.

  3. Make sure that the DSL modem is plugged into a power outlet and it's turned on.

  4. To avoid dropped Internet connections, make sure that all phones that are connected to the same line as the DSL modem are connected to a DSL phone line filter.

To check cable Internet connections

  1. Check the coaxial cable that runs from the wall to your cable modem.

  2. Check the network cable that runs from the cable modem to the network adapter on your PC.

  3. Make sure that the modem is plugged into a power outlet and it's turned on.

To check dial-up Internet connections

  1. Check the phone line that runs from your wall to the phone port on your PC's modem.

  2. Make sure call waiting is turned off on your phone line when you connect to the Internet so that incoming calls don't disconnect the Internet connection.

To check USB network adapters

If the cable that connects an external modem to your PC is a USB cable, you must perform some additional checks.

  1. If the modem is attached to the PC using a USB hub, try to bypass the USB hub by plugging the cable from the modem directly into one of the USB ports on your PC.

  2. If the modem is plugged into one of the ports on the front of a desktop PC, try plugging the USB cable into one of the ports on the back of the PC instead. Some PCs don't provide sufficient power to the front USB ports. This can create problems with the connection to the modem.

If you’re having trouble determining the correct way to connect a cable, check the documentation that came with the modem, the network adapter or the PC. If you made any adjustments to the cable connections, test for an Internet connection before going on to the next step. To test for an Internet connection, open your browser and try to get to a website that you know exists.

Check the indicator lights on your modem

Check the indicator lights on your modem or Internet connection device (this can be a modem, a modem and a wireless router, or a combined router-modem device). Most of these devices have an indicator light that's labelled "Broadband link", "Internet", "Online" or something similar that indicates a connection to the Internet. If you're unsure, refer to the documentation that came with the device.

Restart the modem

To update the settings on the modem or the router, restart the modem. This creates a new connection to the Internet service provider (ISP). Use one of the following methods to restart the modem, following the steps for your type of modem.

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To restart an external modem

  1. Disconnect the cable that connects your PC or router to the modem. This can be either a USB cable or a network (Ethernet) cable.

  2. Turn off the modem using the power switch on the front or back of the modem. If the modem doesn't have a power switch, disconnect the power cord from the back of the modem, or unplug it from the wall.

    Some modems have a backup battery that prevents the lights from going out. For this type of modem, press and quickly release the reset button. If you can't see a reset button, remove the battery instead.

  3. Wait several minutes, then turn on the modem and reconnect the cable from the PC or the router to the modem.

  4. Restart your PC by swiping in from the right edge of the screen and then tapping Settings.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, then click Settings.)

  5. Tap or click Power, then tap or click Restart.

  6. Test your connection to see if you can get to the Internet.

To restart an internal modem

  1. Restart your PC by swiping in from the right edge of the screen and then tapping Settings.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, then click Settings.)

  2. Tap or click Power, then choose Restart.

Verify that your network adapter is working

Use Device Manager to verify that your network adapter is working correctly.

To check the network adapter

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, then tap Search.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the top-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, then click Search.)

  2. Enter Device Manager in the search box, then tap or click Device Manager.‌ Administrator permission required You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.

  3. Double-tap or double-click Double-tap or double-click Network adapters, press and hold or right-click your adapter, then tap or click Properties.

  4. Under Device status, check to see that the device is working properly.

  5. If the network adapter is disabled, tap or click Enable Device to enable it.

    Note

    • If the network adapter isn't working properly, you might need to download and install the latest driver for it. (If you received an installation disc with the network adapter or with your PC, the driver might also be on the disc.)

      If you're still having problems finding the latest driver for your hardware, go to "To download and install a driver" in the "Update drivers" section of this article.

For more info about fixing network adapter problems, see How do I fix network adapter problems?

Update drivers

A network adapter driver is software used by your PC to communicate with your wireless network adapter. Outdated, incompatible, or damaged network adapter drivers can prevent network connections or cause intermittent disconnections.

If you recently upgraded from one version of Windows to another, it's possible that the current network adapter driver was designed for the previous version of Windows. If you've had recent power outages, viruses, or other PC problems, it's possible that the driver has become damaged. Windows Update automatically downloads and installs recommended updates. Installing any important, recommended, and optional updates can update system features and other software that might help to fix your network connection problems.

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To update the driver using Windows Update

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, then tap Search.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, then click Search.)

  2. Enter Windows Update in the search box, then tap or click Windows Update.

  3. Tap or click Check for updates.

    If there are any available updates, tap or click the links to see more info about each update. Windows Update tells you if an update is important, recommended, or optional. Each type of update might include drivers.

  4. On the Select the updates you want to install page, look for updates for your network adapter, tick the checkbox for the driver that you want to install, then tap or click OK.

    There might not be any available driver updates.

  5. Tap or click Install. Administrator permission required You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.

    Windows Update will tell you if the updates were successfully installed.

Note

  • On Windows RT 8.1 PCs, Windows Update automatically updates drivers. You can’t directly install other drivers from manufacturers.

Here are two other ways to find and install a driver:

  • Install software from the device manufacturer. For example, if your PC or network adapter came with a disc, that disc might contain software that installs a driver for the network adapter.

  • Download and install the driver yourself. You can search for a driver on the manufacturer's website. Try this if Windows Update can't find a driver for your network adapter and the adapter didn't come with software that installs a driver.

To download and install a driver

If your PC can't connect to the Internet, you'll need to download a driver on a different PC and save the driver to a USB flash drive so you can install it on your PC.

Driver updates are often available on the adapter manufacturer's website. To locate the driver, follow these steps:

  1. Find the manufacturer and model name or number of your network adapter.

  2. Go to your manufacturer's website to locate and download the latest driver for your network adapter.

  3. If you find an updated driver, follow the installation instructions on the website.

Most drivers install automatically after you download them. You can usually double-tap or double-click the file to begin the installation, then the driver installs itself on your PC. Some network adapters have drivers that you need to install manually.

To manually install a driver

Here's how to install a driver that doesn't install automatically.

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, then tap Search.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the top-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, then click Search.)

  2. Enter Device Manager in the search box, then tap or click Device Manager.‌ Administrator permission required You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.

  3. Double-tap or double-click Network adapters, press and hold or right-click your adapter, then tap or click Properties.

  4. Tap or click the Driver tab, tap or click Update Driver, then follow the instructions. Administrator permission required You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.



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