Why does my wireless router keep dropping connectivity?
August 12, 2014 6:33 PM   Subscribe

My Linksys WRT54G router keeps losing internet connectivity, even though the wireless seems to be fine. Halp?

I have a several-years-old Linksys WRT54G router. I have two Mac desktops, a Mac laptop, a Chromebook, an iPad, and two iPhones that regularly connect to the wireless network. Lately, every couple days or so, the internet connectivity goes down. The actual wireless network is fine, all the computers can connect to it without a problem, and Network Preferences shows that it's connected to the internet, but nothing loads.

I'm quite certain it's not the cable modem since all other internet-connected devices work fine. Plus, the one thing that does get it working again is to reset the wireless router, then re-input the network name and password, which is what I've been doing.

Occasionally, I get the "another computer is using this IP address" error but it doesn't seem to coincide with connectivity going down.

I've tried updating the firmware but it didn't help. Same with changing the Local IP address.

Those are the two main things I've tried, and I've exhausted all the Google searches I can think of.

Is it time to get a new router or is this fixable? I'm sure more info will be needed, but not sure what else I might need to provide right now.
posted by Ms. Toad to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is someone on the network using torrents? Does rebooting the router fix the problem (in the short term)? If you've flooded the upstream, or maxed out the routing table with lots of connections, you'd see symptoms like this.
posted by pompomtom at 6:49 PM on August 12, 2014

When I had that router it would get knocked offline when my upstairs neighbor used her microwave. The 2.4ghz bands are pretty crowded not just by wifi but bluetooth, cordless phones and baby monitors. If you live in a building or close to other houses, you router might be getting interference causing the issue.

If this just started to happen it could be a new neighbor and finding a better channel might help. Your newer devices should be able to use the 5ghz spectrum which is much less crowded so if you changing channels on the old one doesn't work.
posted by birdherder at 6:55 PM on August 12, 2014

Are you running stock Linksys firmware or a replacement (DD-WRT, Tomato, etc..)?

While the problem is occurring, can you perform a traceroute to a well-known address? (for example, open a command prompt (Windows), Terminal window (MacOS), or shell window (other Unix) and execute the command "tracert" (Windows) or "traceroute" (MacOS and other Unix)) and tell us what happens?

Finally -- is it significantly hotter than normal in your living space at the moment? Does the WRT54G seem notably hot to the touch?

on edit: the prior poster's comment about interference is quite possible. it should be easy to test by seeing whether you can ping and receive replies during the period when you are otherwise unable to connect to the net. (Like the traceroute command described above, ping is a command-line utility available in a command prompt window (Windows) or a terminal window or shell (MacOS or other Unix.)

your first goal of troubleshooting should be to find out where your traffic is getting stopped when the outages occur. if you want more information on how to do that, I can explain in greater depth.
posted by Nerd of the North at 6:56 PM on August 12, 2014

If you have compressed air (e.g., Dust Off or equivalent) available, give the LinkSys a good blast. They collect dust, which can cause overheating problems.

I've noticed that wireless gear has a lifespan of 3-5 years. Once troubles set in, they never completely go away, and when they get bad enough, it's time to replace.
posted by dws at 9:16 PM on August 12, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks! I'll give some of these solutions a shot. We aren't torrenting (though we stream Netflix a lot). Rebooting does fix the problem for the short term.

It's not especially hot right now (the router stays in the cool basement) and the router is not hot to the touch.

I am using stock Linksys firmware.

Interference is possible, but I live in a house without neighbors who are too close, and this happens when I know my near-neighbors aren't around. But I'll try a different channel too.

Nerd of the North, if you have a bit more detail on tracing where the traffic is getting stopped, that would be helpful!
posted by Ms. Toad at 5:46 AM on August 13, 2014

I had the same problem with a similar Linksys router. I think the problem was that it was old and malfunctioning. I ended up replacing it. In my experience, wireless routers have a limited lifespan of a few years. When they start to break, they tend to get flaky, rather than breaking completely. The flakiness increases in severity over time, until you get to the point where you have to power-cycle the thing every few hours.

Routers are very cheap these days. Get an ASUS router. They have a good reputation.
posted by alex1965 at 7:57 AM on August 13, 2014

Two things you say together make me wonder.. I'm quite certain it's not the cable modem since all other internet-connected devices work fine. .. Occasionally, I get the "another computer is using this IP address" error ..

Do you have more than one router in your house? Are there things using your cable modem that aren't going through the one Linksys router? If so, that's a fairly complicated configuration that can be made to work but could also cause problems. In particular you should never ever get a "another computer is using this IP address" error and it suggests you might have two different routers (or something) handing out DHCP addresses on your local network.

OTOH Linksys WRT-54G hardware is flaky, I used to figure they had a lifespan of about 18 months. If you decide the router is broken then I also recommend the ASUS routers. The RT-N16 is the ol' reliable replacement for the Linksys you have. The ASUS RT-AC66U is a good high end router, or the RT-AC68U if you really don't care what you're spending. All of those come with fairly decent firmware (based on an old Tomato build) and are upgradeable to third party firmware.
posted by Nelson at 8:48 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding buy a new router. The Asus hardware mentioned is very solid.
posted by gregr at 8:51 AM on August 13, 2014

Nelson has the right answer here:

You should not have more than one router on your home network. When your linksys goes down, all of your internet should be going down.

Either dump your linksys and use the wifi on your cable modem or put your cable modem into bridge mode and run everything through your linksys.

You're going to have all kinds of weird internet problems otherwise.
posted by empath at 11:59 AM on August 13, 2014

Response by poster: No, only one router (unless I'm using the terminology incorrectly). The wireless router is connected by ethernet to the cable modem (which doesn't have wifi). I don't know what else could be handing out DHCP addresses. We've had this same configuration for a few years without problems, so it doesn't seem to be an issue with the configuration.

I did a traceroute when the problem occurred again today, and got this if it's useful:

traceroute to (, 64 hops max, 52 byte packets
1 ( 4.093 ms 4.206 ms 2.141 ms
2 * * *
3 * * *
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64 * * *

Sounds like a new router is the solution; just wanted to make sure that was indeed the issue.
posted by Ms. Toad at 12:21 PM on August 13, 2014

My apologies for suggesting you had a more complicated network, although I'm still confused what you meant by "all other internet-connected devices work fine". Anyway if that exact setup used to work and is suddenly flaking out now, I'd blame the router. I forget if the stock Linksys firmware will show you uptime on its internal status page. If it does and the router is rebooting itself at odd moments, it's almost certainly failing.

For future reference, that traceroute doesn't tell you anything except the Internet is down (* * * means unreachable). If you see more interesting data when the network is up, then the IP address in hop 2 or 3 is at the other end of your cable modem. You can ping that to see if your ISP link is working.
posted by Nelson at 2:04 PM on August 13, 2014

FWIW - I had a LinkSys router (different model IIRC) which would drop internet (not wireless) like clockwork. I upgraded it to DDWRT and the problem magically went away.
posted by plinth at 4:56 PM on August 13, 2014

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