Readers offer cures for home Net outages

  • Article by: STEVE ALEXANDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 2, 2011 - 11:30 PM

If you've ever had your home network lose Internet connectivity without warning, you've got plenty of company.

Several readers responded to last week's column about a California man who periodically lost his home Internet connection, but regained it after unplugging, then powering-up his home network's Netgear router.

Some readers had different ideas than I did. I suggested that he ask his Internet service provider if his router and Internet modem were compatible with the provider's network. I also said the maker of Netgear routers recommends eliminating firewall software on home PCs and relying on the router's firewall -- a risky strategy, according to security experts.

Frank Bulk of Sioux Center, Iowa, brings a technical perspective as the manager of the Internet help desk for Iowa phone company Premier Communications.

"The more likely issue is a bad router, a bad power supply for that router or a [design] bug in that router," Bulk said. "Very rarely is it the cable or DSL modem."

The easiest and least expensive solution is to upgrade the router's "firmware," a bit of computer code you can download from the manufacturer's website, he said. If that doesn't work, adjust the router's settings back to their "default " position and try reinstalling the router on your network. If neither solution works, you probably need a new router or a new router power supply -- but most likely the former.

"Sometimes a faulty power supply results in an intermittent [Internet outage] issue. But it's quite rare, about one in 500 in our experience," Bulk said.

Todd Young of Inver Grove Heights says the fix for a Netgear router can be as simple as restarting it the right way.

"Hold down the reset button for a total of one minute. For the first 20 seconds, leave the power cable plugged into the router. For the next 20 seconds, unplug the power cable. For the last 20 seconds, plug in the power cable again," Young said. "I have personally used this to fix a Netgear Wi-Fi router, and it has been working for two years now with no issues."

John Mares ofDassel, Minn., points out another potential cause of Internet connection failures. Wi-Fi routers share the radio spectrum with some types of cordless phones. By that he means not cellphones, which use a much different part of the spectrum, but wired home phones that have wireless handsets. These cordless phones should be kept at least 6 feet from a Wi-Fi router, he said.

For more information, see a PC Magazine article on solving wireless router connection problems at tinyurl.com/3zvv9y8.

E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander @gmail.com, or write to Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Include name, city and telephone number.

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