How to check if your broadband is down

It might seem obvious that an outage has occurred, but there are easy ways to check if your broadband is down, or whether the problem is more localised

Friday, 3 July, 2020

If an internet search brought up this article, there’s every chance you’ve just Googled ways to check if your broadband is down.

In theory, it sounds simple. If there’s no internet connection on the device you were trying to use, then the broadband must be down, right?

Wrong.

There can be a number of reasons why connectivity might be unavailable, even though your wireless router is turned on and your ISP hasn’t declared an outage in your postcode.

Below, we consider some of these scenarios, before suggesting basic diagnostic tests to establish the root of the problem.

Reasons for loss of connectivity

It’s important to acknowledge that broadband outages are relatively rare occurrences.

Admittedly, Virgin Media is a familiar presence at the top of analysis website Downdetector’s weekly outage lists.

Even so, issues are usually localised and resolved within a short period of time, as they generally are for other ISPs.

There could be many reasons why you’d check if your broadband is down only to discover the problem lies elsewhere.

These are common examples:

  1. The phone line is faulty. Non-cable services rely on a functioning phone line. If there’s no dial tone on the house phone, the problem is bigger than a lack of broadband.
  2. One device has lost wireless connectivity. WiFi is a complex and occasionally unreliable method of connecting a computer to a broadband router, and it’s prone to glitches.
  3. One device’s connection has failed. This might involve an Ethernet cable, a Powerline adaptor, a microfilter in a phone socket or even hardware failure.
  4. The broadband router’s WiFi has stopped. Technical support staff usually ask you to hardwire a device to the router to differentiate connection issues from WiFi problems.
  5. You’re trying to visit sites or services which are offline. Don’t assume the internet is down simply because Instagram is unavailable, or Outlook displays an error message.

Checks and balances

These are some of the recommended ways to check if your broadband is down:

  • Test more than one device. If a hardwired desktop PC won’t connect, try a tablet which uses WiFi, or vice versa. If the problem persists, it’s probably broadband-related.
  • Using a 4G or 5G device, look at network updates on your ISP’s homepage. Similarly, check Twitter and Downdetector, to see if other people are reporting problems.
  • Consider if the router is overloaded. Some routers can only support a set number of devices at once. Platform-specific error messages could distinguish this from an outage.
  • Reboot the router. Are any lights flashing, or red/amber, or off entirely? The firmware powering routers may slowly fail, and a restart could eradicate issues once it restarts.
  • Ask your neighbours. Localised broadband outages can be caused by engineering works at the nearest exchange. Are other people experiencing this, or is it just your property?
  • Run a ping test. On a PC, press Windows + R and type “ping www.google.com”. On a Mac, ping the same address in the Network Utility app. Error messages indicate an issue.
  • Check the router’s IP address. Hit Windows + R and type ipconfig | findstr /I “Gateway”, or go to System Preferences > Network > Ethernet. There’s probably an issue if the IP doesn’t start with 192.
Neil Cumins author picture

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Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!