Troubleshooting connection problems can be a challenge because there are so many possible causes. First, try running the Network troubleshooter to see if it can help diagnose and solve your problem:

  • Open the Network troubleshooter by right-clicking the network icon in the notification area, and then clicking Troubleshoot problems.

If running the Network troubleshooter didn't solve the problem, then follow the steps described in Network connection problems in Windows.

If the steps in that topic didn't help, then follow these steps:

  1. If you're on a home network with a homegroup, and you're trying to connect to another computer, make sure that computer is on and that it has been added to the homegroup.

  2. If you're on a home network without a homegroup, and you're trying to connect to another computer, make sure that computer is on and that you've enabled file and printer sharing on your network. For more information, see Networking home computers running different versions of Windows.

  3. Make sure that all wires are connected (for example, make sure your modem is connected to a working phone jack or cable connection, either directly or through a router).

  4. If the problem began after you installed new software, check your connection settings to see if they've been changed.

    1. Open Network Connections by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type adapter, and then, under Network and Sharing Center, click View network connections.

    2. Right-click the connection, and then click Properties. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  5. Check your router. Because of the new networking features in Windows Vista and Windows 7, some older network routers aren't fully compatible with these versions of Windows and can cause problems. For a list of routers that are compatible with Windows Vista and Windows 7, go to the Windows Compatibility Center website.

If these steps don't solve the problem, look for a specific problem and possible solutions in the following sections.

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I can't connect to other computers on my home network, or I can't share files and printers with them

This can happen for one of the following reasons:

  • Network discovery is turned off.

    Network discovery is off by default for Public networks. Changing a network location type to Home or Work is the easiest way to turn on network discovery. To learn how to change a network location type, see Choosing a network location. To turn on network discovery manually, follow the steps below.

    To turn on network discovery

    1. Open Advanced sharing settings by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type network, click Network and Sharing Center, and then, in the left pane, click Change advanced sharing settings.

    2. Click the chevron The chevron icon to expand the current network profile.
    3. Click Turn on network discovery, and then click Save changes. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

    To share files

    1. Open Advanced sharing settings by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type network, click Network and Sharing Center, and then, in the left pane, click Change advanced sharing settings.

    2. Click the chevron PictureThe chevron icon to expand the current network profile.
    3. Click Turn on file and printer sharing, and then click Save changes. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

    To share files using the Public folders

    1. Open Advanced sharing settings by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type network, click Network and Sharing Center, and then, in the left pane, click Change advanced sharing settings.

    2. Click the chevron The chevron icon to expand the current network profile.
    3. Click either Turn on sharing so anyone with network access can open files or Turn on sharing so anyone with network access can open, change, and create files, and then click Save changes. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

    Do these steps on your computer and on any network computer running Windows 7 that you want to connect to.

  • Password-protected sharing is enabled.

    Password-protected sharing is on by default for computers on workgroups. When password-protected sharing is enabled, people using other computers on your network can't access your shared folders or printers unless they have a user account on your computer. There are two ways to enable file and printer sharing:

    • Create identical user accounts on all computers on the workgroup (recommended). For more information, see Create a user account.

    • Turn off password-protected sharing. To turn off password-protected sharing, follow these steps:

    1. Open Advanced sharing settings by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type network, click Network and Sharing Center, and then, in the left pane, click Change advanced sharing settings.

    2. Click the chevron The chevron icon to expand the current network profile.
    3. Click Turn off password protected sharing, and then click Save changes. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

    Note

    • Password-protected sharing is unavailable on computers that are on a domain.

  • The computer that you want to connect to doesn't have any shared folders.

    Make sure there is at least one shared folder for you to connect to.

  • The computers aren't in the same workgroup.

    For information about joining a workgroup, see Join or create a workgroup. Note that the default workgroup name in Windows 7 is WORKGROUP.

  • File sharing is enabled, but sharing properties on the folder or printer aren't set.

    File and printer sharing is a two-part process: First, you need to enable sharing as described above; second, you need to set sharing properties on the item itself or move it to the Public Documents folder so that other people can access it.

  • Your computer doesn't have the latest updates for your router.

    To make sure you have the latest updates, check with the router manufacturer.

I can't connect to my home network

Try these things:

  • Make sure the router and modem are turned on.

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

    Illustration of an Ethernet cable
    Ethernet cable
  • If you're using a wired connection, make sure 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 should not be connected to the "uplink" port. In addition, some routers disable the port next to the uplink port, so try using a different one.

  • If your computer 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, click the network icon (The wireless network icon) in the notification area of your taskbar. If Windows doesn't detect a network that you think is in range of your computer, search Help and Support for "find a wireless network."
  • If you're trying to connect to a wireless network from a laptop, make sure the wireless switch on your computer is turned on. The switch is usually located along the front, side, or back edge of the laptop.

  • There might be problems with your network adapter. Check your local area network (LAN) connection:

    • Open Network Connections by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type adapter, and then, under Network and Sharing Center, click View network connections.

  • The network icon (The wireless network icon or The wired network icon) changes depending on the status of the LAN connection, and there is information if the adapter isn't working correctly. Also, if a LAN cable is unplugged, a status icon is displayed in the notification area.
  • Use Device Manager to verify that your network adapter is working correctly:

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

    1. Open Device Manager by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Security, and then, under System, clicking Device Manager. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

    2. Double-click Network Adapters, right-click your adapter, and then click Properties.

    3. 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.

  • Clear the DNS resolver cache. For more information, see DNS (Domain Name System): frequently asked questions.

  • For advanced information about troubleshooting wireless network problems, see A Support Guide for Wireless Diagnostics and Troubleshooting.

I can't remember my network key

If you've forgotten your network key, and there is no one else who knows it, you'll need to set up your wireless router again. See Set up a wireless router.

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

If you're having trouble connecting to your workplace using DirectAccess, you can try using the Connection to a Workplace Using DirectAccess troubleshooter to automatically find and fix some common problems.

  • Open the Connection to a Workplace Using DirectAccess troubleshooter by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type troubleshooter, and then click Troubleshooting. In the left pane, click View all, and then click Connection to a Workplace Using DirectAccess.

Here are some other things to try:

  • Make sure that you typed the virtual private network (VPN) server name exactly as provided by your network administrator.

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

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

  • Contact your network administrator to make sure that you have the appropriate connection and domain permissions on the remote access server.

  • This could be a certificate problem. For assistance, contact your network administrator.

  • A VPN connection won't work with an active Winsock proxy client. Contact your network administrator to make sure the Winsock proxy client isn't enabled.

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

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

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

  • There could be a problem with the server you're trying to connect to. For assistance, contact your network administrator.