Troubleshoot sluggish or non-working Wi-Fi

Hint: The problem might not be with your computer. Before you tear your hair out, try this simple fix.

I'm a big fan of working at offsite locations--meaning my local Wi-Fi-equipped coffee shop. In fact, I'll often spend the afternoon hunkered down at Panera Bread, iced tea in one hand and a French Toast bagel in the other. (It's bad form to set up shop without buying something.)

Today, however, Panera's Wi-Fi wasn't up to par. It took me several minutes just to get connected, and Web pages were agonizingly slow to load. This wasn't just excessive traffic; something was amiss.

So-called expert that I am, I quickly ran through my troubleshooting checklist. First I disconnected and reconnected. No soap. Then I rebooted. Same result.

That meant it probably wasn't a problem with Windows or my PC. So I pulled out my iPhone and tried connecting it to Panera's network. Aha! Deja vu: everything was slow, slow, slow. The culprit was obviously on the network side.

I'm not an IT guy, so it's not like I can go in the back and start tinkering with the router. However, I am a customer, and that means I can complain.

Well, not complain, but inform. I spotted the manager, told him the network was running really slowly, and asked if there was anything he could do. His answer was exactly what I hoped it would be: "I can reset the router."

As I've mentioned in the past, the majority of Internet connectivity problems in the home can be resolved by power-cycling the modem and router. And the Wi-Fi network in a coffee shop or restaurant is usually no different from what you've got at home. So it stands to reason the same fix would apply.

And sure enough, a few minutes later Panera's Wi-Fi network was humming along like usual. Why my fellow laptop users didn't hoist me on their shoulders and buy me bagels, I'm not sure. But at least we were all able to get back to work.

The moral of the story: if you encounter flaky Wi-Fi at your favorite coffee hole, ask an employee to reset their gear. That might just be the fast and easy fix.

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Rick Broida

PC World (US online)
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