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How to Restart a Router the Right Way

router image

A restart is a common solution that applies to almost every single tech device that can be restarted. If your PC is acting up, restart it. If your phone isn’t responding, or it’s slow, or some part of the UI hasn’t loaded, restart it. If a device isn’t responding, disconnect, and reconnect it. Often, this one simple solution will fix common problems that seem to have no real underlying cause. This applies to routers too. You can restart a router if devices are unable to connect to it, if you’re getting no connectivity, or if your network isn’t showing up in the list of available networks. It might fix everything.

Restarting is a simple process on most devices but not as straight forward when it comes to a router. You don’t need special technical skills to restart a router but there is a right way, and a wrong way to do it so we’ll cover how to restart a router in a way that is most effective.

If you’re in the market for a new router, here’s Forbes’s list of 2023’s best routers.

Quick Summary

Person on laptop

Routers are the devices you use to connect to the internet, often on a wireless basis, though not always. Usually these are utilized through your internet service provider (ISP) along with a modem. There are all kinds of variations, brands, and complexities, but for our purposes, we’ll keep it general and just cover troubleshooting fixes for your Wi Fi router. Here’s a quick summary of how routers can experience connection issues, and what to do about them.

  • A simple restart is one of the first things to try when you’re having wireless issues. We’ll go over all the steps and also discuss when you should take this step.
  • Where your router and modem is placed makes a big difference. We’ll cover optimal positioning to reduce internet connection problems.
  • Power issues, such as with your power switch or wall outlet
  • Router icons can give you clues as to what the problem is. Pay attention to the light colors, which we’ll break down for you.
  • It could be that you need to update your firmware version so look for firmware updates.
  • Running diagnostic tests such as speed tests can help you narrow down network culprits and determine which end the problem is coming from, your equipment or your internet provider.
  • What the reset button does

Resetting vs Rebooting

Router

So many tech terms that start with “Re.” Restart, reboot, reset. It’s easy to get them mixed up. Just remember, restarting and rebooting mean the same thing. If you’re wondering how to full restart a router, you basically turn your device off, then you turn it back on, with a few specifics, of course.  Resetting, however, is a bigger deal. Here are the differences:

Rebooting

  • A simple fix that takes only a few minutes
  • Should be the first thing you try for most tech devices that are misbehaving
  • Usually it’s just a few simple steps and you’re back up and running

Resetting

  • For more serious problems, such as malware infections or stubborn malfunctions.
  • If you want to get rid of your router but you want to delete any customizations or information stored on the device.
  • If you need to reset your password.
  • Resets revert log in credentials, customizations like port forwards, firmware, network names, etc., all to their previous states. It’s a pretty drastic step.
  • Be sure not to accidentally press the reset button when trying to power cycle or reboot
  • If you have a router through your internet service provider, you should not reset it yourself. Rented equipment doesn’t belong to you, so reverting your router to its out of the box state may not please your provider unless they give you permission.

Restart A Router

Router

As we just covered, restarting is different from resetting a router. That said, the following may technically be considered “Power Cycling,” which is very similar to rebooting but with a bit more depth because you completely disconnect the power and discharge the equipment. Here are the steps:

Step 1: You may see a power button on your router, though it’s common not to have one. You can certainly use this to turn off your router, but you’ll still want to unplug it to completely cut off the power source and allow it to discharge any small remaining electricity. If your router connects to a modem, or there are other access points that make up the network, you should unplug them as well. Not all routers connect to a modem so don’t worry if you only have the router. The access point devices should be unplugged.

Note: If you see a button labelled Reset, it is not the same thing. You do not want to press the reset button.

Step 2: Wait at least 30 seconds. Some router manufacturers advise you wait 10 seconds but 30-60 seconds is best.

Step 3: Plug everything back in, and turn it on via the power button if needed. Wait a few minutes. Your router needs time to establish it has a stable connection with your ISP. Once the connection is stable, your devices ought to connect to it automatically. If they don’t, open the WiFi setting on your devices, and initiate the connection.

That’s about it. The crucial thing in this process is the wait, and making sure you unplug everything.

If you’re a Windows user and are still experiencing connectivity issues, here’s Microsoft’s guide to troubleshooting network problems.

Holding Down The Power Button

Some router manufacturers advise that you hold down the power button for a few (10) seconds and then release it to restart the router. That isn’t enough. You can hold down the power button for ten seconds and release it to turn the router off. Then, unplug it and follow the rest of the process listed above.

When To Restart A Router

You should restart a router if you’re unable to access websites that you normally can. Random errors related to the DNS or time out errors can be resolved by restarting your router.

If you PC or phone is unable to connect to your WiFi network, you can restart your device and your router. One of the two, or a combination, will sort out the problem.

If you’re experiencing frequent disconnections from the network, restarting your router might be able to fix it. If the problem persists, contact your ISP.

Troubleshoot Problems with your Router

Power charger

Here are our top troubleshooting tips for when your internet connection is being problematic.. Finding the reboot or restart option, trying a different power outlet, inspecting the internet light, all can help you figure out what’s going on.

Reboot your router and modem

We’ve already covered how to do this, but it really should be the first thing you try. A router reboot can solve most minor bugs and it’s low stakes in terms of how much hassle it takes.

Check for overheating

If your wifi router or other such equipment is in a cramped space with insufficient airflow, it could lead to overheating. You should be able to feel if your router or modem seems unnaturally hot. You’ll want to turn it off and let it cool down and then find somewhere with better ventilation to keep it in the future. This can be especially true in hot summers in places with no air conditioning.

Router placement

If you’re using a wireless router, the positioning will be important in terms of your Wi-Fi signal as the further away you get, the weaker your signal is. Here are some quick factors to consider when positioning your router and modem:

  • Make sure it isn’t too far away from where you’ll be utilizing it
  • A central location is best so that it will cover more area
  • Elevating the router can help minimize physical obstructions that absorb the signal
  • Electric interference from other devices can derail your signal so try not to cram the area with other electronics
  • Thick, solid walls can also cause interference, so try to avoid placing the router near them if you can
  • Reflective surfaces and water (think fish tanks) can also be problematic

Router lights

Your router will likely have different icons that represent various features, such as power, downstream, upstream, internet, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, etc. Another example? The router’s WPS button. If you want to learn more, here’s all about your router’s WPS button.

Depending on your router, you’ll likely have an activity light next to these icons to help you determine if things are functioning. Here’s a few ways to interpret these:

  • Green is good. This could be blinking or solid and it usually means it’s either booting up, connecting, or already functioning normally. Keep in mind, sometimes this light may be blue or white instead, depending on the model.
  • An orange/amber light can indicate connectivity issues. For instance, it could mean that the internet port is being used but there is no actual internet connection. This could be a sign that your ISP is having problems or there are local outages.
  • Red or unlit activity light means that there is no connection. You may not even have power to the router, in which case you would want to try a few things to make sure your actual power source isn’t what has been compromised.

Try updating your firmware

Updating your firmware is important to avoid things like security vulnerabilities or even just to make sure the system is working correctly. It’s something you should do fairly regularly, to stay abreast of such problems. Here’s how:

  1. You’ll need your router’s IP (internet protocol) address. This is usually on a sticker attached to the bottom of the actual equipment. Meanwhile, here’s a great guide to what exactly IP addresses are.
  2. You can go to your preferred browser and type in your IP address in the address field
  3. You’ll be nudged to enter your router’s username and password
  4. Look for the firmware update setting. It may be under Administration, it all depends on your specific router
  5. Check for an update and apply it if there is one
  6. Wait for the update to install

Running diagnostic and speed tests

Here are a few things to try to determine if your ISP or your actual router is causing the problem:

  • Using a speed test tool, directly plug an Ethernet cable into your router and test your speeds. Then do the same but test your speed with the Wi-Fi instead. If the result is both tests are slow, it’s probably your ISP rather than your actual equipment.
  • If you discover the hardwired Ethernet cable connection is considerably faster, though, it could be a problem with your network. Wired connections are typically faster than wireless so maybe you should move your router, try to see if its interference from other networks or physical obstructions, or think about getting your Wi-Fi extended further into your home. Speaking of cables, if you’re unfamiliar, here’s everything you need to know about Ethernet cables.

Plug an Ethernet cable into your router. Can you get a signal on another laptop or PC? If not, you don’t have access and should call your internet service provider. Similarly, if you can load pages through a wired connection but not otherwise, then your Wi-Fi network is probably the cause of connection issues. There could be an outage or other ISP cause.

Contact your provider

It’s one thing to learn how to restart router and modem devices, but that doesn’t mean it will solve your problem. You’d be surprised how frequently slow internet speeds or full on outages are the fault of service providers and the only thing you can do is wait. That said, if your router is the problem and power cycling or rebooting hasn’t helped, your internet provider will still be able to give you some pointers on what causes you to lose connection. They may even walk you through how to do a full router reset to completely wipe your wifi router to factory settings. Some can even troubleshoot your router remotely.

If nothing is working, you can request an entirely new router and modem (for good measure) just to be sure there’s nothing funky going on with the actual hardware. Hopefully, that will get you back online. If not? Might be time for a new internet provider.

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