May 18, 2024

Tech Talk in McHenry County: How to troubleshoot home networking problems

With so many people working and learning from home, internet access is more crucial than ever. Here’s how to troubleshoot some basic networking problems.

Our home networks are under increased strain at the moment. You probably have more people surfing and streaming at the same time than you did before. Newer routers have what is called QoS (quality of service) capabilities, meaning they can be configured to prioritize certain computers or certain services. You could prioritize your work computer, for example, so it receives the best performance.

Viruses and adware can use up network resources by constantly “calling home.” Don’t install mobile apps unless you’re sure they’re reputable. There are a lot of dodgy apps out there, and they also can slow down your network. Quitting apps when you’re done, instead of minimizing them, frees up memory and network resources. Having 30 browser tabs open at once, all of which are streaming videos, is going to slow things down for sure.

Another good way to get a boost of network speed is to update all software and apps on your computer, tablet or phone. Check your router’s firmware to see if it needs to be updated, as well. Rebooting your router and all connected devices also can smooth out network performance.

Sometimes the most complex problems have simple solutions. Check your network cables and make sure they’re tight. Loose cables could result in slow or intermittent network signals. I also recommend using a surge protector for your router and modem. Brownouts and blackouts can send these devices into a slow cascade of failure.

Ask yourself if you have any devices that don’t need to be connected to the internet. For example, if you have a smart TV, but you don’t use any of the internet services, you may be able to disconnect it, which will reduce the strain on your network.

Still having network problems? If it’s a wireless connection, think about router positioning. You want your wireless access point to be in a high central location away from potential interference. That means you probably don’t want it sitting on a shelf in a tucked-away corner of the basement. The top of a living room bookcase, however, might be ideal. Test a few different spots to find the best coverage.

If you have a large space to cover, consider wireless repeaters or a mesh network. These technologies boost signals over a larger physical area. They can be especially helpful in fixing those “dead spots” in your home where you can’t get a wireless signal.

It’s a good idea to assess the age of your devices. If you’re using an old router with a newer computer, you may not be getting full use of the computer’s modern network interface. Older routers and modems also may prevent you from getting top speed from your internet provider. Check with your provider to find out if they can replace your modem, and what routers they currently support.

Similarly, if your computer is old but your router new, you could buy a plug-in network interface to give your computer a boost of network speed.

• Triona Guidry is a computer specialist and freelance writer offering tech support, web design and business writing services. For computer help, visit her Tech Tips blog at