Device not connecting to WiFi? Here’s what to do first.


Of all the issues you may have with your Wi-Fi connection, not being able to get your laptop or phone online can be one of the most frustrating. You have a working gadget and a healthy wireless source – that should be tech heaven.

Well, uh, establishing a connection isn’t as easy as it looks.

And that’s exactly why there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We’ll walk you through a few possible answers, but be aware that the further you scroll down this page, the more likely your problem will require a professional solution or a call to your internet service provider.

Check (and double-check) your credentials

You swear you’re typing the password correctly and you’re about to smash the router against the wall when you realize you’ve locked caps. As obvious as it may seem, unexpectedly incorrect login information is a common cause of Wi-Fi connection problems. Breathing and checking the correctness of your credentials can save you many frustrating minutes of typing and retype a wrong password.

[Related: How to choose safe passwords—and remember them, too]

First, make sure you read every character correctly, which is especially important when someone shares a password with you on a handwritten note. When typing, tap or click the eye icon to the right of the password field to see what you’re typing in real time. Most interfaces have this feature, but you should avoid it if you’re in a crowded public space because someone might peek over your shoulder.

Second, remember that credentials are case-sensitive, so alternate between uppercase and lowercase diligently.

Third, pay attention to your keyboard. Start by checking that your caps lock is off – most laptops and mechanical keyboards will turn on a light to let you know of this potential problem. If not, look for on-screen prompts or verify by typing something in a visible field (like an address bar).

If you’re using your keyboard to type with more than one alphabet, make sure it’s set to your default, or you might be hitting the wrong keys without even knowing it.

Make sure you’re in range

Wi-Fi coverage can vary for many different reasons, from the strength of the signal emitted by the router to the thickness of the walls in your home. It doesn’t help if, in an attempt to disguise its unsightly nature, the owner of the router has placed the gadget in a deep corner or covered it with books or other knick-knacks.

Move closer to the router and make sure its antennas are up and unobstructed to help you establish a connection more easily.

Activate your device’s Wi-Fi mode

Again, this may seem obvious, but any gadget that you connect to a WiFi network should actively search for that connection. This will only happen when its WiFi mode is enabled.

If you have an iPhone or iPad, you’ll want to access the Control Center menu – open it by swiping down from the top right corner of your screen. There, press the wifi icon (it looks like three curved waves stacked on top of each other) to turn it on. On Mac computers, you’ll find the same icon to the left of the clock, in the upper-right corner of your screen. On Android phones and tablets, you can swipe down with two fingers from the top of your screen. Depending on the brand of your device, you will see a three-wave Wi-Fi icon, or you will see an option called the Internet. Tap it and turn on the toggle switch next to WiFi. On a PC, you’ll see a three-wave angled Wi-Fi icon when you click the up arrow next to the clock in the lower right corner of your screen. Click on it to activate it.

Check if the router is online

Sometimes you manage to connect to WiFi, but still cannot connect. It’s probably because the router is offline and emitting an empty signal. There’s an easy way to tell if this is the case: check your router’s lights.

Most of these gadgets have a series of lights that mean different things. The one you are looking for has a symbol that looks like an antenna with waves coming out of it. If the LED under this symbol is a color other than green, or if it flashes regularly, the router is not receiving an Internet signal.

To solve this problem, you can try the classic method of turning it off and on again. When you do, be sure to wait 10 seconds before turning it back on – that’s usually how long it takes for routers to request a restart instead of picking up exactly where they left off. When you turn the router back on, give it a minute to reboot and keep an eye out for the same light you saw before. If the red light turns green or if the steady flash changes to irregular flickering, the router is now online.

If that’s not enough, there may be a problem with your internet service provider. Check your ISP’s social media to see if they’ve mentioned any outages in your neighborhood, or perhaps any scheduled work you may have missed. Calling their customer service will also provide answers, but probably after a lot of waiting.

Power off and on your device

Sometimes the problem isn’t the router, the thickness of the walls, or the ISP. Sometimes the problem is you, and by that I mean your gadget. It’s okay, it happens. A quick way to fix this problem is to restart your device, and when you do that, make sure you do it right: go to the menu on your phone, tablet, computer, or gadget, then turn it off or choose To restart.

When your device comes back to life, be sure to give it a minute until the reboot is complete and things are back on track. Try connecting to Wi-Fi again.

Update your operating system

If restarting didn’t work, you might be facing a bug. If you’ve been postponing a system update, now is exactly the right time to finally install it.

Start by plugging in your device. If you have an iPhone or iPad, go to the Settings app, tap General, so what Software update. Your device will tell you if it’s up to date or if there’s a patch waiting for you. On macOS, go to System Preferencesso what Software update. Your computer will automatically scan for anything new and let you know if there’s one ready to download and install.

[Related: Stop putting off your device updates]

If you are an Android user, the specific path will depend on your device brand, but you will usually find this option by going to Settings, Systemso what System update. The screen will present the results of the last search for new software to install. If you want to check again, press the Check for update button in the lower right corner of your screen. Finally, on a device running Windows, navigate to Settings so what Windows Update. As in the previous examples, you will be able to see if there are patches ready to install or if your system is up to date.

There are a myriad of reasons why your gadget is not connecting to WiFi. These are the most common, but sometimes there can be others – there are also hardware issues (where your device’s antenna has been damaged in some way, for example) and routers with a limited number of simultaneous connections. Yet, more often than not, if you go through this checklist, you will be able to get back online.


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