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How To Troubleshoot Lost DSL Connection

Updated on February 19, 2011

Troubleshooting When The DSL Connection Goes Down

When your internet goes out and you begin looking for the cause, most of us reach for the phone first. We automatically think there’s an outage or some kind of problem with the company providing the connection. Save some time by learning the breakpoints and troubleshooting steps everyone should know. Begin at the beginning. Look at what is causing you not to have your connection. Look at the lights; that will tell where to begin. Depending on which light is red or off or blinking will tell you where to begin your search.

Always use your breakpoints:

  • Lights

  •    DSL?

  •    Internet?

  •    Wireless or Ethernet?

  •    All Green?

  • Physical Connections

  • Lost Wireless and other possible interference

  • PC Issue

  • Filters

  • Jack

  • Bypass Router


When the DSL isn’t working. Look at the Lights.

When the internet goes down we go into tech mode and immediately begin getting under the desk to power off the equipment.

But there's a simpler way.

The first thing you do is look at your lights. If you have a modem and a router, look at them both. Know what the lights mean. If you’re calling your DSL provider and you haven't looked at the lights, that call can add to your frustration when you’re going back and forth. Your technical agent will have protocol and specific trial and error steps of getting to the root cause. If you know the steps, you can already cut that call down to a minimal time.

The lights are there for a reason. They tell you why you're not getting internet. Different modems and routers will have different pictures or words for each light, so knowing what the lights mean will help you understand the cause and also help the troubleshooting process if you do have to call your DSL provider for additional troubleshooting.

  • If the DSL is red, begin with lost DSL. May not be a line issue but can actually be your own equipment. Your first steps are to troubleshoot your own network.
  • If the internet light is red or off, begin with lost server. Probably not anything you can do here except to call the provider but there are some things for you to do first.
  • If DSL and internet are green, and wireless or Ethernet is blinking or off, then it’s your own network issue. Be aware, there is very limited help your provider, if any, can offer. This is your equipment and your responsibility.


Before rebooting my pc, I look at my connections.

Cords come loose and equipment fails. Nothing has ever been made that lasts forever. But before I begin troubleshooting, I begin with the easy solution first. Is my cord unplugged? Is my wifi turned off? Tech support is NOT free. Think about it. You pay a bill each month. If you call tech support, do you think the company is doing it out of the kindness of their hearts? You have to pay for it. And the more people call, the more your bill is going to cost. So, learn how it works and learn to do some basics on your own before calling the provider. The simplest and most cost effective test is checking the cords, the power is plugged in and the wifi has not been switched off.

I begin with my modem and router. I unplug the DSL cord and Ethernet cords and plug them back in. If that didn’t bring the connection back, then I unplug the power cords for 30 seconds. Then I move on to the next point. I’m going to attempt to resolve what I have access to. If I can fix it, the pride I feel and the costs I save will pay off in the long run.


Why are people shocked that they can get interference with the wireless signal?

Other wireless and non-wireless electronic devices can cause interference with a wireless network. Depending on the router you use will depend on which devices are more or less susceptible to one or another device. Some routers will be less likely to have interference that another device was constantly getting interfered with. You can reduce the interference by changing the channel of your wireless router. If your wireless light is blinking and you lose connectivity a lot, I would look at this as my first troubleshooting step. It’s not an internet problem, it’s a network issue.

To troubleshoot an interfering wifi connection, look at what is surrounding the wifi router; other wireless devices? Move those as far as possible from the router, at least six feet. Next other non-wireless electronic devices will cause interference as well; a microwave or garage door opener or speakers, etc. Move your router at minimum two feet from the router. Also, increasing the radius of your wifi signal or changing different settings in the wifi connection of your router settings. Write down the settings before changing them so you can change them back or print a screen shot of each screen. And then do the same when you’re done in case you ever have to hard reset your router back to default settings and you will know what the preferred settings were when you have to go back and put them back in.


Once I know the lights are all green on the modem, I look at my computer.

If you look at the modem and the lights are green, it’s not likely to be a line issue. In rare occurrences, the lights will be green but yet have a line problem; very rare. With the lights green, in fact, you are probably looking at a pc issue or interference.

Interference with wireless and interference with electronics are two different things. If you are not wireless or if you have already gone through eliminating issues regarding wireless, then interference with other devices could be to blame.

Ask yourself some basic questions on what’s happening. Any other phones, faxes burglar alarm, satellite or automatic sprinkler system, etc that uses other jacks could have a bad filter causing the issue. Even other non-phone jack electronic devices can interfere.

First, check the phone jack filtered devices by unplugging all the devices and if the DSL is back working properly, return plugging each device in, one by one, until you find the culprit. Replace the filter/device causing the issue.

Then, other electronic devices that are in proximity to the modem; do the same, and if the speed or connection returns while one is unplugged but happens again after plugging it back in, check to see how close in proximity the device is to the modem. If it’s close, try moving them as far as apart as possible to see if it will fix the issue.

If your webpage is:

  • slow opening AND all your programs are slow opening, you could be having a pc performance issue and not an internet issue. Check your task manager for CPU usage and run a virus scan.
  • redirecting to another page, it’s a virus.
  • saying webpage cannot be displayed, clear cookies, cache, temp internet files and history.
  • not going to certain web sites, possible virus, clear cookies, remove saved passwords.
  • going to home page but not navigating to another page, check your proxy settings and remove the proxy and do an immediate virus scan.

If you are using Internet Explorer and are having a lot of issues all the time, you may want to reset or restore it to remove the bugs if the latest upgrade hasn’t fixed the issue (go to, download the latest Internet Explorer). The next option is to download another browser, most are free. If you like it, use it. If not, download another one. Once you have downloaded another browser, you can now uninstall Internet Explorer and reinstall it through your other browser; do not forget to install another browser before uninstalling Explorer.


When DSL is out, what could it be?

Don't jump to conclusions.

Immediately, we all think, the lines are down. Well if the DSL light is red, you have a 50% chance of being correct. You have a lot of breakpoints between your pc and the internet. If you have filters, you want to eliminate the one junction in your breakpoint, the filter.

Yes, the filter can go bad, just like any other working device.

Some of us use a dual filter that functions like a splitter, giving you the ability to plug in a modem and phone or fax, etc. The filter is not used if you are not plugging in another device to the other side.

There are rare instances a filter would help the connection if you're not using the other side for another non-modem device.

So when the DSL light is red and you are using a filter, remove the filter from the jack and then unplug the modem's cord from the filter. Plug that cord directly into the jack and be patient. Give the connection, at minimum, 2 minutes before unplugging it. If the DSL turns green, try putting the filter back the way it was and see if the light turns green, if it does, the filter is still good and it was a temporary glitch. If the DSL light turns red again, the filter is bad.

You are responsible for your filters. In most cases, you have purchased them in the original kit when ordering your DSL service and modem. In this case you would call the sales office of the provider and ask that department if they supply the filters, which is not likely. Filters can be purchased at most electronics supply stores.


After checking the filters, then what?

The Next most common reason for losing internet besides the modem and a line issue is the phone jack itself. Once you have looked at the lights and determined the DSL is red or blinking and you’ve already bypassed the router and removed the filter, the next test is the wall jack.

This is only going to work if you have DSL and home phone service. If you have a dry loop DSL, which is internet without phone, this may not work, depending on the wiring of the home.

You do not need the computer attached to the modem for your indicator lights to tell you if the DSL is picking up signal.

By unplugging the Ethernet from the modem and then unplugging the DSL and power cords from the sockets, leaving them attached to the modem, you can then move the modem to plug in the data cord to another phone jack and plug in the power. Leaving the modem plugged in for a few minutes and watching the DSL light will tell you if the move worked. If the DSL turns back to green, the jack has something wrong. This is your network, not the internet provider’s responsibility. The water company is not responsible for your pipes in your home. Be prepared to pay some fees if the jack is the cause and you can’t live with the modem in another location. If you think you’re going to run a long phone cord from one end of your home to the next, think again; the wiring for broadband DSL signal does not travel long distances.


The hardest part is the last part.

When losing connection to the internet, the last thing on my list is the hardest when you have DSL. Especially if your DSL is a PPPoE that requires a username and a password. Again, the lights are important here. Before doing this step, know the lights. If the DSL is red, you’re not going to do this step. If the lights on the modem are green and the lights on the router are not, this is the next step.

Not that this is hard, but it’s time consuming and a pain because now you have to go through a bunch of steps just to eliminate whether the router is the cause or not.

It’s called bypassing the router.

The first thing I want to know before performing this is to know my password and user id and other settings for the network. When you’re setting up your DSL connection, write down the info and if you don’t have it, call the provider and see how you can find it.

Once you have the info, you can now bypass the router to see if that’s your point of losing the connection; keeping in mind that it’s a lot of work and a pc or modem may not just begin to work after removing the router from your configuration but it requires a lot of steps to attempt to be able to re-use the modem after disconnecting a router.

Returning to the modem after using a router; in some instances the modem will connect and you will be surfing after plugging the Ethernet into the pc from the modem instead of it going to the router but sometimes a modem has been put into bridge mode for the router to work. If that’s the case, you are hard resetting the modem to get the modem out of bridge mode. After disconnecting the router and connecting the Ethernet straight to the pc, hold in the reset button for 30 seconds. This still may not work if your modem is being stubborn. Some modems still won’t let you into its user interface. You may have to force the DNS settings and if you don’t know how, you need to do some research.


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    • profile image

      topaz blue 

      6 years ago

      Great hub content!

      Voted up!

      Many thanks

      Topaz Blue


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