Troubleshooting an Internet connection

Tips & Hints

Troubleshooting an Internet connection

Posted 22 March 2002

The most common questions we are asked are about Internet connections that have stopped working. This question is so common we’ve decided to go through the steps that, even if it doesn’t fix the problem, at least help you narrow down the cause.

  1. What exactly is the problem?
  2. Just saying "I can’t get on the net" doesn’t really help anybody. The first thing is to find where the problem is. Do you connect? Can you receive e-mail? Can you surf for a while and then it stops?

  3. Make a note of any error messages
  4. If you get an error message, make a note of it. It may not mean anything to you but it may save hours of wasted time and frustration for your Internet support or service technician.

  5. Check everything is plugged in.
  6. It sounds obvious but even old-hands get caught by this. Check everything is plugged into the correct place properly. Many modems have two ports for the cable, make sure it is plugged into the "line" socket.

  7. Remove any recently-installed software or hardware.
  8. It isn’t unknown for other things to interfere with the modem or the Internet settings. Make sure you haven’t installed anything that interferes with the software or hardware. PDA’s such a Palm Pilots are common villains for this.

  9. Check the modem is working.
  10. If you have an external modem, read the manual and check the lights indicate the modem is working correctly. External modems will often warn you of a problem with various combinations of lights.

    Windows users can test their dial-up modems from the Diagnostics section of the modem control panel. This runs a quick test to show you the modem is responding. You must be disconnected when running the modem test.

    If the modem isn’t lighting up, or it isn’t responding to the diagnostics, then replace the modem.

  11. Are you getting a dial tone?
  12. Plug a phone into the line and check you can dial out. If you can, but the modem reports it can’t, then the modem has died. Replace it. If you aren’t getting a dial tone then there is a problem with the phone line.

  13. Can you connect to your provider?
  14. If the computer is continuously saying "line busy" or "no answer". Check the phone number is correct. If it is try connecting a phone and dialling the number yourself. You should hear a screeching noise as the Internet provider’s modem answers. If you do, but the modem doesn’t hear it, then the modem has failed. If you don’t get an answer then you need to contact your service provider.

  15. Can you logon to your provider?
  16. The computer is dialling out but you are getting a message like "insert logon password" or "connection failed. Check password". Your password is wrong. You have to contact your service provider.

    Before calling your provider make sure you have all your account details handy as well as the credit card (if any) you bill your Internet access to. They are going to want to make sure you are the account holder before giving out or changing passwords.

  17. Some services work, others don’t.
  18. Sometimes you find the mail works, but the web doesn’t. This is usually a problem with the setup of the program. Your mail server settings may be wrong or you may have the wrong proxy server. Again, check with your ISP.

  19. After a few minutes you are disconnected.
  20. This is one of the most common and irritating problems. Have a listen to the phone line, if you hear crackling and distortions then there is a problem on the line.

    Get your telephone company to check the connection. Disconnect everything except your modem and see if the problem goes away. Replace the cable connecting the modem to the phone socket. Try another modem and phone line.

  21. The connection stops after a few minutes.
  22. By stopping, we don’t mean disconnected, this situation is when you stay connected, but nothing will talk to the Internet. This is the worst possible problem and you will almost certainly need a technician to look at it. At the least it will mean some registry hacking and at worst the operating system will have to be reinstalled.

  23. Try somebody else’s connection and modem.

Get a friend or colleague to try their Internet or modem on your computer. This is a quick test to make sure it is not your computer. If your account works on the friends modem, it is the modem. If your friend can connect on their account then it is your Internet provider.

This list isn’t comprehensive. The Internet is a complex beast and we can only provide a basic list to address common problems and help narrow down the problem. You may well find the problem is not yours, it could be the Internet provider, the telephones, even the individual websites you are trying to access. The important thing is to narrow down the problem, then it can be fixed.

Remember if you don’t understand something, don’t play with it. If you are out of your depth call your Internet provider or computer technician.

PC Rescue Pty Ltd
Suite 236, 4 Young Street Neutral Bay NSW 2089
ABN 082 635 765
ŠTechnology Publishing Australia, 2011