Basic ISP Troubleshooting

by Ellis Davidson

Your Internet service provider (ISP) should automatically provide most of the settings you will need to connect your computer to the Internet, but you can take some basic troubleshooting steps to reconnect when your Internet connection goes down. Your ISP will provide support in these cases, but knowing what steps to take will minimize your downtime and get you back online as quickly as possible.

Call Your ISP

A phone call to your Internet service provider can save you many headaches. If the problem is being caused somewhere on its network, there will be nothing you can do until it restores service. Most ISPs will put you into a call center queue when you call, and it can take a while before you speak to a support technician. However, the ISP will commonly play you a recorded message when the Internet connection has gone down on its end. If you hear such a message, there is nothing to do but wait for the ISP to fix the problem. When this is not the case, put the support call on your speakerphone and continue with these steps to resolve the problem if it is on your end of the connection.

Reboot Your Modem and Router

Rebooting your modem and router can restore your Internet connection. Disconnect all of the wires connected to both your router and modem, including the power cable. Let both sit for about two minutes (allowing the internal capacitors to discharge; this will ensure that internal memory is cleared). Connect the incoming Internet cable to your modem first, making sure that the connection is secure, then reconnect the modem’s power. Wait for the modem to finish its boot sequence; your manual will tell you what sequence of LED lights you should see for a successful connection. If your modem does not properly start up, wait for customer service to pick up the line; there is nothing you can do until they are able to assist you. Connect the Ethernet cable from the modem to the router’s incoming connection port, and power on the router. Again, wait for the LED sequence to indicate a successful startup. Connect one computer to the router; you can attempt to do this wirelessly, but if that does not work, connect another Ethernet cable from an outgoing port of the router to the incoming port on the computer. Point a web browser at the administrative web page of the router; your manual will tell you how to do this, but typically you’ll go to a web address similar to “” If your router is working, you’ll see an external Internet IP address on the administration page. If this address starts with “169.254,” the router’s address has been internally assigned after being unable to get an address from your ISP, and you’ll need customer support to help you resolve the issue. However, many Internet disconnects should be solved by this point in the process.

About the Author

Ellis Davidson has been a self-employed Internet and technology consultant, entrepreneur and author since 1993. He has written a book about self-employment for recent college graduates and is a regular contributor to "Macworld" and the TidBITS technology newsletter. He is completing a book on self-employment options during a recession. Davidson holds a Bachelor of Arts in American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania.

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