September 01, 2015

TAPAs: Troubleshooting WiFi

Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene

In this issue, we will focus on tips to troubleshoot a WiFi network in your home or office. As you undoubtedly know, wireless networking has become more and more common in homes and offices. It seems like the more wireless networks we have, the more problems people have with them. The tips in this article work for both home and business use. This article will focus on problem solving with your wireless network. We previously published tips on setting up your network. In this article, we will start from the premise that you have a wireless network running in your home and office, but you have problems with the signal received by some of your equipment and/or connecting to the network.

1.  Check Your Settings

If you cannot connect a device to the network or cannot get through to the Internet, start by checking your settings. Make sure you have turned on the WiFi setting on your device. Also make sure you have selected the correct network and properly entered the password. While many you can set most devices to automatically reconnect to a network to which they have previously connected, sometimes that does not work. Sometimes a system update or another event can change your settings, so double-check to make sure they match your expectations and the network’s requirements. Try reentering your password as well. If all appears in order, try telling your device to forget that particular network (which will mean that it will not automatically reconnect) and then reconnect manually (if that works, it will reconnect automatically going forward).

2. Turn It Off

This is as basic as it gets, but it solves a great many problems. We start by rebooting our device to see if that solves the problem. If it does not, we move to a more involved procedure. Power down the devices you are connecting to the network and then power down the network itself by turning off the router and the modem you use to connect to the Internet. If you have more devices plugged into your router, power all of them down. Even if the device has a power switch (not all do), pull the plug. It makes no difference which end you disconnect (the end to the device or the plug that goes to the electrical source), but if you choose the former, first mark the wires to ensure that you do not plug a power block into the wrong device—it may not work at all and you could fry the device (not all power blocks produce the same output, even if they have similar connectors). After you pull the plug on everything, wait a minute or two, and then start reconnecting devices to the power source, exercising caution to ensure that you plug the right power connector to each device. When you reconnect, start with the device closest to the Internet, and proceed one by one until you get to the devices you will connect to the network. Ideally, you will have the patience to wait until one device indicates it is live and connected before powering up the next one. Once you have your network up and running again, you can power up your devices and connect them to the network.

3. Location, Location, Location

Yes, we used a tip by the same name in the article on setting up your network. The fact that we felt it important enough to use as a tip in setting up the network should offer a clue that you can improve performance by relocating either the router, a repeater, or booster and your device on the network. This process is one that requires you to experiment with different corrections to find the situation that works best for you. As your router will likely have to remain by your primary Internet connection, moving the connecting devices may prove the easiest to accomplish. If your network performance shows intermittent problems, look for other wireless connections and electrical devices that could generate interference (fans, microwave ovens, etc.) and try to keep them as far away from each other as possible. Try to make sure that the router is at least three feet away from other signal generating devices.

4. Change Your Signal

If you cannot move your equipment far enough from the interference, try changing the channel on which your router operates. If you have multiple systems that are not connected devices (for example, a wireless router for your network and a separate router for a wireless alarm system), you want to make sure that each operates on a different channel. You can also try switching the frequency if you have a router that operates on more than one frequency (2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz are the two most common). Be sure to consider different channels and frequencies in connection with any relocation of the router or your connecting devices, as different frequencies and channels may perform differently at the same location.

5. Give Your Network a Boost

If you still have connection problems after going through the procedures suggested in Tips 1–4, you may have a dead spot in your network. A dead spot means you get little or no wireless signal to your devices in certain locations. If you have that problem and cannot solve it using the process in Tip 2, consider adding a piece of equipment called a repeater (sometimes also called a signal booster or a range extender). These devices (usually around $50) get set up solidly within the range of the primary router, but between the primary router and the dead spot. They receive and rebroadcast the signal from the router. If set up in a proper location, they can create or increase the signal to your dead spot, curing the problem.

Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California. A frequent speaker on technology topics, he is editor-in-chief of GPSolo magazine and GPSolo Technology eReport. Recently, he coauthored (with Ashley Hallene) Technology Solutions for Today's Lawyer and iPad for Lawyers: The Tools You Need at Your Fingertips. In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, he has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He holds faculty positions at California State University of the East Bay and the University of Phoenix. He may be reached at You may also get updated technology information from his blog: Ashley Hallene is a petroleum landman at Alta Mesa Holdings, LP, and practices Oil and Gas law, Title Examination, Due Diligence, Acquisitions and Oil and Gas Leasing in Houston, Texas. She maintains a diverse solo practice on the side. Ashley is the coauthor of the technology overview Making Technology Work for You (A Guide for Solo and Small Firm Attorneys) along with attorney Jeffrey Allen. She has published articles on legal technology in GPSolo Magazine, GPSolo eReport, and the TechnoLawyer Newsletter.  Ashley is an active member of the American Bar Association’s General Practice Solo & Small Firm Division, ABA’s Young Lawyer Division, the Texas Young Lawyer’s Association, the Houston Young Lawyer’s Association, and the Houston Association of Petroleum Landmen. She frequently speaks in technology CLEs and is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Technology and Reviews Department of the GPSolo eReport.