Can a Router Cause My Internet Signal to Disconnect?
By Aaron Parson
The router in your office or home office ties your Internet connection -- provided by a modem -- to all the computers on your network. While the router itself cannot cause your modem to actually lose its connection to the Internet, errors in the router or your network can cause a dropped connection between your computer and the router, effectively disconnecting you from the Internet. To resolve the issue, you may need to move the router, update its firmware or ultimately replace it.
Before spending time troubleshooting your router, watch your modem during an outage. While modems vary by brand, most have status lights. If you see these lights shut off and then relight one by one, the modem, not the router, is rebooting due to losing its signal. In this case, the problem lies either with the modem, with the cabling running from your wall to the modem or with your Internet provider. In this case, you will need to troubleshoot these parts rather than the router.
If you're connecting with Wi-Fi, a temporary loss of the wireless signal will momentarily cause the Internet signal to your computer to disconnect. To confirm this as the cause, try connecting to the router with an Ethernet cable instead. If that fixes the problem, try shortening the distance between the router and the computer to improve the signal, or if you can't move either, try installing a stronger antenna or a wireless repeater. You can also try changing the router's wireless channel on its setup page. If you continue to lose the signal randomly, either the router's wireless radio or your computer's Wi-Fi transmitter may have a defect.
Router manufacturers release firmware updates for routers. Similar to computer system updates, these patches fix flaws in the router's programming and can improve connectivity. Check your router manufacturer's website to find the latest firmware version and instructions on how to update it. In most cases, you can update the router through its Web setup interface after downloading a firmware file from the manufacturer's website.
In addition to official firmware updates, many routers support installing third-party firmware, such as DD-WRT. These alternate firmware versions add numerous features and fixes and, especially in more complex network setups, allow you to tweak the configuration in ways that may improve your connection. Installation varies by router model and which firmware you want to use, so check with the firmware's installation guide for specific directions. Note that installing third-party firmware will invalidate your router's warranty, so only proceed if it's already expired or you're sure the hardware isn't faulty.
If nothing else improves your connection to your router, and the disconnecting occurs on multiple computers on the network, your router may simply be broken. In this case, replacing it or returning it for repair should fix the problem.
Aaron Parson has been writing about electronics, software and games since 2006, contributing to several technology websites and working with NewsHour Productions. Parson holds a Bachelor of Arts from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.