We've all been there... you are sitting at home and suddenly your life flashes before you.... Your internet is down! What will you do? How will life continue? Is this the end? Just kidding...
Sometimes though - especially if you are a cord-cutter like me losing internet can be a real pain. But, before calling your provider, I'd urge you to arm yourself with some valuable info. It could save you some time and heartache. Before we even start though. understand that this is a 10,000 foot view. This is VERY basic. There are tons of options and things you can do to troubleshoot internet connectivity and network in general. This guide is really designed for you to figure out ONE thing. Is it my provider? Is it my computer? Or is it some other thing out on the internet? In other words, DO I NEED TO CALL TECH SUPPORT? So here we go...
PING to the rescue
PING is an invaluable network troubleshooting tool. It is run from a command prompt or a terminal window. It's function is essentially just like yelling "hey! are you there?" and waiting for a response from the other side. Depending on who you "yell" these calls to - it can help you figure out where your problem is.
To get started, you have to open a command prompt. Do this by clicking your start menu and typing cmd and hitting the enter key. You should be presented with a window similar to this:
Now, we are just going to yell out to google and see if our computer can see them... If not, that's not usually a good sign. So as show below, we are going to type ping google.com and hit the enter key. (for the purposes of this blog post, please only type letters that are in BOLD letters.
As you can see above, google.com IS RESPONDING! You can see Reply from 184.108.40.206 which is essentially google saying "I'm here!" which is GOOD. But let's say you got the response below:
This means you might have a problem. Why? Because google.com might be one of the most reliable sites on the globe. The chances that google.com are down are REALLY REALLY LOW. So now we need to find out where the failure is, because most likely it is NOT google.com being broken. So our next command is called tracert and it will show us more information about where the difficulty is. So we are still going to use google.com for this. So now we type tracert google.com then hit the enter key.
So along the left, we see the HOPS to get to your destination. They go from 1 to 24 in this case. Picture my computer in Florida trying to yell at a computer over on the coast of California. It's not going to be from my computer -> internet -> google.com to get there in 3 hops. No, your traffic crosses all sorts of networks to get to google.com. But if you look along the right you can see:
1 NEEDS-MORE-COWB [10.30.1.1] (This is my Linksys Router and yes my WiFi is called "Needs More Cowbell")
2 192.168.1.254 (This is my provider's modem or router)
3 99-163-68-1.lightspeed.jcvlfl.sbcglobal.net [220.127.116.11] (This is the first hop after my router)
So I'm not going to go through every hop... but what does this command output tell us? Well, see down at line 15? You start seeing * * * Request Timed Out. over and over? This means we have a communication loss at that hop. That hop is FOURTEEN HOPS from your computer. That could be ANYWHERE, in this case that hop happens to be GOOGLE so the drops are happening at GOOGLE. This doesn't mean they are down, but it could mean they are most likely blocking PING across part of the network they own. Most importantly though, it's not really near your house or your home network. So calling tech support on this and having some tech come out to your house is going to be a waste of your time in most cases right? Same thing if this happens on hop #5... that's NOT your computer or your router right? It's off your network. Now, if you get Request timed out on hop ONE or TWO? You might need to reboot your router or routers in my case. Does that make sense? I'm just rebooting the things that aren't "talking" or yelling back on the network that are under my control. Because we can't control hop #15 can we?
So calling your ISP - this could help on a situation where hop #5 is dropping because they might be having an issue on their network. But lets go back to PING for a moment. Because if you ARE getting off your network but some sites aren't working. That is helpful for the tech to know. Like:
I can ping google.com
I can ping usatoday.com
I can ping amazon.com
I cannot ping facebook.com
I cannot ping instagram.com
But I will say as well, check out https://istheservicedown.com for a semi-good look into issues at major sites and providers. This site gets it's info purely from users reporting issues so it's not 100% accurate, but it can be a barometer or a 2nd opinion to look at.
Want to know more about a particular IP address you see in your tracert? Check out: https://www.ultratools.com/tools/ipWhoisLookup
If you enter the IP address, it will tell you owns the network, and it's rough location sometimes.
I hope this stuff is helpful. Hit me with question in the comments if you want.