Blog Post

The Home Wi-Fi Reboot: Don't Neglect It

Are you a web worker who depends heavily on a home Wi-Fi network? There are more and more of us, and I’ve written before about the importance of doing regular checkups on your wireless network to make sure you’re getting the best performance. Recently, my home Wi-Fi network was giving me some trouble, and I went down the steps in the trusty troubleshooting checklist and was able to get rid of the problem.

Here’s the common problem I had, and how I fixed it.

I frequently like to write and work on a laptop, so that I can move from room to room. A home Wi-Fi network is great for this, and I can even get a good signal outside my home most of the time.

However, recently I found my Wi-Fi signal getting dropped at regular intervals, which is really very annoying. In instances where that happens, you just use a sniffer utility to reestablish the connection, but it’s annoying to have to do so. I have a secure Wi-Fi network, and though I wasn’t exactly sure what the problem was, I knew it wasn’t interference from neighboring networks.

One important thing I learned a long time ago is that a Wi-Fi network needs a cycled reboot of all essential components on a regular basis. This means turn off the computer that your router is attached to, turn off your broadband, physically disconnect the modem and router connections, turn off and physically disconnect your access points, turn off portable devices hanging on the network, and then reconnect and start everything back up again.

I actually learned the value of that on a support call years ago when I got my first Wi-Fi network installed. It makes perfect sense. How many times have you solved a computing problem by rebooting, or shutting down an application and going back in?

After a cycled reboot, I was pretty sure that my dropped Wi-Fi problem was solved, but as an added step, I changed the channels on my router and access points. I learned about the importance of this through some reader comments to this post here on WWD.  I recommend taking a look at them and following the links provided if you’re having any Wi-Fi problems at home. Here is a good tutorial on channels and changes from Wi-Fi Planet.

After this second step, I never have had another problem with signal drops. Truth be told, I’m not exactly sure what my problem was, but I’m pretty sure I was running into some kind of interference. Many electronic devices in a home can create radio interference, so if you’ve been experiencing signal drops, try the steps described here.

19 Responses to “The Home Wi-Fi Reboot: Don't Neglect It”

  1. @Brian-have you ever heard of static electricity buildup? That often is a cause for rebooting cable modems and routers. Has nothing to do with the firmware or the settings.

    Also @Brian-you’re dumb.

  2. Woah, it’s getting feisty in here! Truth be told, I still need to power cycle my AirPort Express on a regular basis. No, it shouldn’t really need that, and it might be because it’s not configured correctly, but it regularly stops working and rebooting it is relatively painless and works. Weird, but that’s how it is.

  3. Brian wrote: “If you think you need to perform a regular reboot on your router, computer, cable modem or whatever you obviously have no clue how computers work.”

    What a retarded thing to write. It’s completely irrelevant what people know. It actually sounds more like you have no clue how computer OR how people work.

  4. Brian

    Written like a true Windows user. If you think you need to perform a regular reboot on your router, computer, cable modem or whatever you obviously have no clue how computers work.

    Please don’t post FUD like this on the Internet, you aren’t helping people.

  5. If you run a router that can take a Tomato firmware, it’s more than worth the time. I had to reboot my Linksys routers every few months for years (no matter the firmware versions, etc.), but that’s completely stopped with Tomato (not to mention QoS that actually works, traffic reporting, and all the other features that make this worth the effort anyway). Try it, or get a router that can run it and then try it – it’s that good!

  6. I never had problems until I put XP Service Pack 3 on two of my laptops, both of which connect via WPA. Rumor is there’s a minor change in data packets that can effect the ARP tables in some routers. I just downgraded to unsecured wireless which seemed to help – and make the neighbors happy.

  7. Richard

    I use Tomato on my second hand WRT54G and never reboot my router, which works fine 100% of the time. I used to use DD-WRT which also worked fine and very occasionally needed a reboot (maybe every few months).

    Properly designed software should not need a reboot – imagine the chaos if Cisco routers all through the Internet required a periodic reboot! Home networks should be no different, particularly if you are carrying VoIP calls and video streaming over them.

  8. I have dd-wrt firmware on my Linksys WRT54G router. It is set to reboot itself every day at 4 am. I haven’t had any problems with it for 5 months.

  9. I’ve never had a router that hasn’t required a reboot every now and again, though some seem to be worse than others. My (completely uninformed!) opinion is that they’re just cheaply made and so you shouldn’t expect great quality.

  10. “How many times have you solved a computing problem by rebooting, or shutting down an application and going back in?”

    Zero since I stopped using Windows, but I do find that either the base station needs power cycling (every 6 months or so), or more often the ADSL modem which is quite temperamental.

  11. Usually the reason for rebooting “down the chain” as it were is to ensure DHCP isn’t out of sync. It’s easier in many cases than using whatever manual procedure there is on each device. I can’t think of any good radio-related reason why you would need to reboot, though I will admit to doing it (superstitiously, I guess) when adding and removing antennas.
    Changing the channel – and direction, etc. – on the other hand can be very helpful. A little bit of investigation would probably also help you determine optimal placement and settings, at least until your neighbors change their set up.

  12. @Robert–not one problem across many routers. That is good. I don’t have ’em often, but problems can crop up with wireless. It’s radio, and it’s funky, IMHO.

    @Tony–going to a manufacturer’s site and getting the latest firmware is an excellent tip. I’ve done that, and was about to do it, but the combo of rebooting and channel change did the trick for me. I’ve seen posts all around the web from people for whom the channel change does it. Look in the link I supplied from Wi-Fi Planet for how effective that one tweak can be.

  13. This article makes sense, but for the wrong reasons. Most routers need to be rebooted because their firmware is crap. If you put something like Tomato or dd-wrt on your router, you’ll most likely have to reboot your router less often.

  14. IMHO something is wrong with your setup. I’ve got a mixture of computers with different wireless cards and never need to reboot. Been this way for a few different routers now.

    I’m not sure I’d promote “deal with it” as a solution to a problem. I know the majority of people get away with a handful a year at most.