Wired and wireless network problems

This tutorial is designed to help you identify and fix problems with wired (Ethernet) and wireless (Wi-Fi) network connections in Windows. This tutorial doesn't cover network connection problems related to specific programs.

You might experience network or Internet connection issues in Windows for a number of reasons. Some common issues that can cause these problems are:

  • A wireless network adapter switch that's not enabled

  • WEP, WPA, or WPA2 security key or passphrase issues

  • Cables that aren't connected properly

  • Corrupted or incompatible drivers

  • Missing updates

  • Network connection settings

  • Hardware or software problems

How to use this tutorial

Because the instructions can vary for different Windows operating systems, open this tutorial on each PC so that you see the correct instructions for that PC, or use the selector on this page to choose an operating system.

Test your network connection after each step before going on to the next step.

Connect to a wireless network in Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1 (wireless only)

If you have a laptop or a PC with a wireless network adapter, you can see a list of available wireless networks and then connect to one of those networks. The wireless networks will only appear if your PC has a wireless network adapter installed, the adapter is turned on, and the wireless access point is in range.

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View and connect to wireless networks

If you have a laptop or a PC with a wireless network adapter, you can see a list of available wireless networks and then connect to one of those networks. The wireless networks will only appear if your PC has a wireless network adapter installed, the adapter is turned on, and the wireless access point is in range.

Warning

  • Whenever possible, you should connect to security-enabled wireless networks. If you do connect to a network that's not secure, be aware that someone with the right tools can see everything that you do, including the websites you visit, the documents you work on, and the user names and passwords that you use. Turning off network sharing can help minimize the risk. For more info, see Turn sharing on or off and How do I know if a network is safe to connect to?

To connect to a wireless network:

  1. On the desktop, tap or click the wireless network icon The wireless network icon in the notification area.
  2. In the list of wireless networks, tap or click the network you want to connect to, and then tap or click Connect.

  3. If you're connecting to a secure network, enter the security key, and then tap or click OK.

Note

  • If you entered your sign-in info, pressed OK, and nothing happened except that now the OK button is unavailable, you might need to adjust the identity timeout request setting on your router (for example, set the timeout value to 30 seconds). For instructions, contact your router’s manufacturer.

Connect to a wireless network by pushing a button on your router

If your router supports Windows Connect Now (WCN), or Wi‑Fi Protected Setup (WPS), you can add a PC to the network by following these steps:

  1. Turn on the PC.

  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 upper-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, and then clicking Settings), and then tapping or clicking the network icon (The wireless network icon or The wired network icon). Tap or click the network you want to connect to, and then tap or click Connect.
  3. Instead of typing a security key or passphrase, press the Wi‑Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button on the router. The router will automatically set up the PC to connect to the network and apply the network's security settings.

Where can I find my network security key?

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 search 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 user name 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.

Troubleshoot connection problems

If you're having trouble connecting to a wireless network, here are some troubleshooting tips for common problems.

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What if I don’t see my wireless network in the list of available networks?

Your wireless router might not be set to broadcast its network ID (SSID). If this is the case you won’t see the network when viewing available networks. Setting the router to broadcast its network ID makes the network visible to any person within range of the network.

To check your wireless router and broadcast the network ID (SSID), refer to the documentation that came with the wireless router or follow these basic steps:

  1. Connect your PC to the network using a network cable, start Internet Explorer, and type the IP address for your wireless router (for example, 192.168.1.1 or 172.16.0.0). The default IP address should be listed in the documentation that came with your router.

  2. Enter the user name and password to see the router settings. The documentation will contain the default user name and password.

  3. On the wireless router page, look for a Wireless Settings option. Depending on the router manufacturer, this might be a tab, an icon or just an option in a task pane.

  4. On the Wireless Settings page, look for an option to Enable SSID Broadcast or Wireless SSID Broadcast. Click the button or place a check in the box to choose this option, then save your router settings.

    Note

    • If you can't find the option to turn on broadcasting, check the documentation that came with the router or contact the router manufacturer.

How do I connect to a hidden wireless network?

A hidden wireless network is a wireless network that isn't broadcasting its network ID (SSID). 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 wireless network despite the risks, you'll need to gather some info from the wireless router first. Use the following basic steps to gather that info. You can also check the documentation that came with the wireless router or contact the router manufacturer.

  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 upper-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, and then clicking Settings), and then tapping or clicking the network icon (The wireless network icon or The wired network icon). Tap or click the network you want to connect to, and then tap or click Connect.
  3. Tap or click Hidden network, tap or click Connect, and 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.

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

There are two possible causes:

  • Autoconnect is turned off for this network. The next time you connect to the network, select the Connect automatically check box.

  • 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, and then tap or click Change advanced power settings.

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

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

    Note

    • If you have a laptop or tablet, you can also set the On battery setting to Maximum Performance.

Check hardware in Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1

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

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Make sure your hardware is compatible with Windows

For a list of compatible hardware, visit the Compatibility Center on the Windows website, and search for your device.

Note

  • You might need to sign in with your Microsoft account before continuing.

Check the wireless switch (wireless networks only)

If you’re using a laptop, make sure that the network adapter switch on your laptop is turned on. Many laptops have a physical switch somewhere on the top, front, or side of the laptop 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.

Make sure all cables are connected properly

Loose or disconnected Ethernet cables, DSL or cable connections, telephone cords, USB cables, or power cables can cause network or Internet connection issues. Check all of these connections to make sure they are 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 below.

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. Make sure there's no DSL filter (a small device that the phone line plugs into) between the phone jack and the modem.

  3. Check the Ethernet cable that runs from the Internet connection on the DSL modem to the network adapter on your computer.

  4. Make sure the DSL modem is plugged into a power outlet and the power to the modem is turned on.

  5. To avoid dropped Internet connections, make sure all telephones that are connected to the same line as the DSL modem are connected to a DSL telephone 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 Ethernet cable that runs from the cable modem to the network adapter on your computer.

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

To check dial-up Internet connections

  1. Check the telephone line that runs from your telephone jack to the telephone port on your computer's modem to make sure the connections are good and the phone line isn’t damaged.

  2. Verify that you're calling the correct number, including any required access numbers (such as 9), and that the number isn't busy.

  3. Make sure call waiting is disabled on your telephone line when you connect to the Internet, so that incoming calls don't disconnect the Internet connection.

  4. Most dial-up modems only work with analog phone lines. Verify that you have analog phone lines installed, or, if you have digital phone lines installed, verify that your computer has a digital modem.

To check USB network adapters

If the cable that connects an external modem to your computer is a USB cable, you must perform some additional checks. A USB cable has different connectors on each end. One end is flat and rectangular, and the other end has a square connector with angles on two of the corners. To check a USB connection, follow these steps:

  1. If the modem is attached to the computer by 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 computer.

  2. If the modem is plugged into one of the ports on the front of a desktop computer, try plugging the USB cable into one of the ports on the back of the computer instead. Some computers 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 computer. 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 access a website that you know exists (for example, http://www.microsoft.com).

Check the indicator lights on your modem

Check the indicator lights on your modem or Internet connection device (this can be either a modem, a modem and a wireless router, or a combined router-modem device). Most of these devices have an indicator light that is labeled "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.

Reset the modem

In some instances, the IP settings or network configuration that you receive from your Internet service provider (ISP) might be incorrect or need updating. Sometimes, the connection between the modem and the ISP might experience problems. To update the settings on the modem or the router, reset (restart) the modem. This creates a fresh connection to the ISP. Use one of the following methods to reset the modem, following the steps for your modem type.

To reset an external modem

  1. Disconnect the cable that connects your computer or router to the modem. This can be either a USB cable or an 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.

    Note

    • 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 don’t see a Reset button, remove the battery instead.

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

  4. Restart the computer.

  5. Test your connection to see whether you can access the Internet.

To reset an internal modem

  • Restart the computer.

Use Device Manager

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

Note

  • You must be logged on as an administrator to perform these steps.

Make sure the network adapter is enabled

  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 Connections in the search box, tapping or clicking Settings, and then tapping or clicking View network connections.

  2. Press and hold or right-click the network adapter, and then tap or click Enable. Administrator permission required You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.

    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 computer, the driver might also be on the disc.)

      If you're still having problems finding the latest driver for your hardware, go to the "To download and install a driver yourself" section on the Step 4 tab of this tutorial.

Make sure the correct network adapter is being used

Some computers might have multiple network adapters. For example, if you bought a new desktop computer and during the purchase you upgraded to a different network adapter, you most likely have an onboard network adapter (a network adapter built onto your computer's motherboard) as well as a secondary network adapter inserted into an available slot in the computer. You can verify this by looking for two network ports on the back of your computer. (Network ports look like large phone jacks.) Laptops normally have just one network port unless you’re using a USB network adapter.

Follow these steps to check for and set the correct network adapter as the default.

To set the default network adapter

  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 Connections in the search box, tapping or clicking Settings, and then tapping or clicking View network connections.

  2. If multiple network adapters are installed, the default adapter will have a check mark and be labeled "Default."

  3. If the correct network adapter is listed as disabled, press and hold or right-click it, and then tap or click Enable.

  4. If the wrong network adapter is listed as the default, press and hold or right-click the correct adapter, and then tap or click Set as Default Connection.

For more information about network connection issues, see Why can't I connect to a network? and Why can't I connect to other PCs?

Use an automated troubleshooter in Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1

An automated troubleshooter is a tool that can find and automatically fix some problems with your PC. These troubleshooters aren't designed to fix every problem, but they're a useful tool to try because they can often save you time and effort.

Run the Network troubleshooter first and then test your Internet connection.

  • 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 network troubleshooter in the search box, tapping or clicking Settings, and then tapping or clicking Identify and repair network problems.

You can also run specific troubleshooters to focus on a particular network or connectivity problem. For example, if you're unable to connect to the Internet or get to a particular website, there might be a problem with your Internet connection. Try using the Internet Connections troubleshooter to fix the problem.

If you can't connect to a PC on your home network, or on a corporate network, there might be a problem with your PC's network adapter. The network adapter might need to be reset, or the adapter driver might need to be updated. Try using the Network Adapter troubleshooter to fix the problem. Follow these steps:

  • 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, tapping or clicking Settings, and then tapping or clicking Troubleshooting. Tap or click Network and Internet, and then tap or click Network Adapter.

For more information about network connection problems, see Why can't I connect to a network? and Why can't I connect to other PCs?

For more information about Internet connection problems, see Why can't I connect to the Internet?

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

Update drivers in Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1

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 Windows operating system to another, it's possible that the current network adapter driver was designed for the previous Windows operating system. 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.

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.

Note

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

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To update the driver using Windows Update

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

  2. Tap or click Search, enter Windows Update, and then tap or click Windows Update. Administrator permission required You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.

  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, select the check box for the driver that you want to install, and then tap or click OK.

    There might not be any available driver updates.

  5. On the Windows Update page, tap or click Install updates. 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

  • Restart your PC after installing hardware drivers.

To download and install a driver

If your PC can't connect to the Internet, you'll need to download a driver manually 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 the Computer Manufacturers' Contact Information website and search for your manufacturer.

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

  4. If you find an updated driver, follow the installation instructions on the website. Most drivers install automatically—after you download them, you usually double-tap or double-click the file to begin the installation, and then the driver installs itself on your PC.

Some network adapters have drivers that you need to install yourself. Here's how to download a driver that doesn't install automatically.

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

  2. Enter Device Manager in the search box, and 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, and then tap or click Properties.

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

For info about network adapters that are compatible with Windows, go to the Compatibility Center on the Windows website, and search for your adapter.

Update router and adapter firmware

Your router or network adapter might need a firmware upgrade, especially if you're only able to connect using WEP security or no security. Firmware is the software that is embedded in a hardware device and controls how the device interacts with the operating system.

Download a firmware upgrade from the router or adapter manufacturer’s website and apply it, following the directions on the website or with the downloaded file.

Need more help?

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