How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

Mar 8, 2017, 4:04 pm EST | 4 min read

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

You pay good money for your speedy broadband connection, and it would be a shame if a poor hardware choice was hampering your network. Are network switches to blame for your slow connection?

We get a not-insignificant number of reader inquiries about network hardware, especially concerns over whether or not a network switch is to blame for home network problems—primarily issues with connection speed and stability. Despite the suspicion that so many people seem intent on casting towards the poor network switch, it’s very rarely the source of network problems.

Like all statements regarding technology, however, there’s always and exception or two. Let’s take a moment to rule out any of the problems you might have with a network switch that could actually impact your network speed.

Your Switch Is Actually a Hub

Hands down, with very few exceptions, when we’re helping someone troubleshoot performance performance problems after installing a switch, the switch is….well, not a switch at all.

You can read more about the difference between switches and hubs here, but here’s the gist. A hub and a switch look physically similar: they have X number of ports (typically in multiples of 4 like 4, 8, 16, 24, and so on) with one reserved for use as an input or a totally separate port labeled “uplink”. Despite their nearly identical appearance, however, the guts of the two pieces of network hardware are quite different.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layerThe old and ubiquitous Netgear EN104TP Hub is the bane of network administrators everywhere.

A hub is a “dumb” device in that it broadcasts whatever it hears on the input port to all the output ports. This leads to collisions between data packets and a general degrading of network quality. If you have a hub set up between your router and the rest of your network, you’re setting yourself up for a huge headache.

A switch, on the other hand, is much smarter. It actively manages the connections between the input port and the output ports, so you won’t run into the collision problem or any of the other issues that plague hubs.

If you purchased the device in question within the last few years, the chance is almost zero that it’s a hub. Historically, switches were expensive and hubs were cheap, but advances in technology have made switches so cheap that they don’t even bother making hubs anymore. If you fished your “switch” out of an old box in the corner of your basement or bought it dirt cheap at a surplus sale, look up the model number online and confirm that its not a hub.

Your Switch Is Old, But Your Connection Isn’t

Ethernet connection speeds are dependent on the quality of the cabling and the capabilities of the network hardware. Some very old switches are only capable of 10 Mbit/s, switches built from the mid-1990s forward are capable of 100 Mbit/s, and modern switches capable of 1000 Mbit/s (or “gigabit” speeds). The type of cables you use matter too: older Cat5 cabling can’t handle gigabit speeds, but newer Cat5e and Cat6 can. So if your connection is slow, you might have an older, slower piece of hardware somewhere in the chain. Check your switch’s model number and the cables you’re using (the type, Cat5/5e/6 will be printed right on the cable sheathing).

While 100 Mbit/s, despite being an older standard, is still plenty fast for most broadband connections, if your broadband connection is a screaming fast shiny new fiber connection then you don’t want to hinder your throughput with an old switch. If your internet connection is faster than 100 Mbit/s, you’ll want to upgrade your hardware (and potentially cabling) to take full advantage of it.

Your Hardware Is Failing

Speaking of old hardware, failures happen even with quality equipment. While sometimes hardware fails catastrophically (the power transformer gives up the ghost, a piece on the circuit board pops and releases all the magic smoke, etc.) many times network hardware dies a slow death that isn’t so much as snap, crackle, and pop but a protracted whimper.

For example, earlier this year I was troubleshooting my internet connection problems, layer-by-hair-pulling-layer, to figure out why my connection speed was 5% of what it should have been. Eventually, I traced the problem back to what seemed like an unlikely source (but that we later learned was actually a common point of failure): the Ethernet pass-through port in our Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) unit.

The port hadn’t failed completely, it had simply degraded in quality to the point where we were experiencing frequent connection loss and a fraction of the throughput we should. The same thing can happen to network switches. So when in doubt, remove the network switch from the equation to see if failing hardware is to blame.

Your Network Is Overburdened

In this last instance, the network switch isn’t at fault as much as it’s an enabler. Why do we use network switches, after all? Because we need to connect more devices, like computers and game consoles, to network.

More devices and more people using them means our precious bandwidth is split between more people. Suddenly, with everyone and their brother streaming video to their bedrooms, the pipe just isn’t big enough. That’s not the fault of the switch, though: just the devices connected to the switch. If you can’t upgrade to a faster connection, you can always deploy Quality of Service (QoS) at the router level to help manage the demand on your connection.

In short: if it’s not a hub, isn’t old or on fire, and your hardware and cabling are up to date, there’s very little chance that the humble network switch is the source of your connection woes.

You’ll be up and running in no time

A faulty Wi-Fi connection doesn’t have to ruin your day. There are plenty of ways you can restore a lost internet connection. Follow these network troubleshooting tips and you’ll be up and running in no time.

1. Check Your Settings

First, check your Wi-Fi settings. Go to Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi. Switch Wi-Fi to the On position.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

Phones and tablets also have settings that turn Wi-Fi on and off. Make sure that it is turned on so you can connect to the network.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

You also want to check if Airplane Mode is turned on.

2. Check Your Access Points

Check your WAN (wide area network) and LAN (local area network) connections. In layman’s terms, these are the Ethernet cables that go to and from your router.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

If you suspect that the cables are the culprit, try swapping them out with new ones.

3. Go Around Obstacles

Walls, furniture, and other obstructions can be the reason why you’re unable to go online. Moving closer to the router can re-establish the connection. If moving closer to the router does not solve the issue, then at least we can remove it from the list of suspects.

4. Restart the Router

Sometimes restarting the router can help fix connectivity issues. This is even truer in cases where the router has not been turned off in a while. A quick restart can jolt the router back into working like it used to.

If that doesn’t work, you might also consider resetting the router. But only do so if you’re okay with it being restored to its factory settings. You will have to reconfigure everything including the SSID and password.

5. Check the Wi-Fi Name and Password

Check the network name (otherwise known as SSID) and password of the network connection. If you’re used to connecting automatically when in range of a router but are no longer able to, changes may have been made to the network while you’re away.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

It could be as simple as administrators updating the password or the SSID could have been changed to a different one.

6. Check DHCP Settings

Routers are usually set up as DHCP servers. This setting lets computers join a network automatically. With DHCP turned on, users will no longer have to mess with IP Address and DNS Server settings manually.

To edit your DHCP settings, go to Windows Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi. Under Wi-Fi, click Manage Known Networks. Select a network and click Properties.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

Under IP Settings, click Edit. From the drop-down menu, select Automatic (DHCP).

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

Note: Selecting Manual will let you set your DNS Server Address and IP Address settings manually.

7. Update Windows

Your network problems could be caused by your system. If that is the case, Windows could have possibly released a fix. Try updating your Windows machine to the latest release.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

Go to Windows Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update. Click Check for Updates. If there are updates available, Windows will download and install them.

8. Open Windows Network Diagnostics

Windows has a tool called Windows Network Diagnostics that lets users troubleshoot connection issues.

Go to Windows Settings > Network & Internet > Status. Under Change Your Network Settings, click Network Troubleshooter.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

Windows Network Diagnostics will run a couple of tests to see what’s possibly causing your Wi-Fi issues.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

Windows will let you know if it does not find any issue. Otherwise, you will be given a list of possible actions to take to resolve the problem.

This tool, or a version of it, should be available in Windows 7 to Windows 10.

Christopher Jan Benitez is a freelance writer for hire who provides actionable and useful web content to small businesses and startups. In his spare time, he religiously watches professional wrestling and finds solace in listening to ’80s speed metal. Read Christopher’s Full Bio

Well, it’s time to bust out your books from school and start putting the theory you learned to good use. Do you remember learning about the OSI model and the 7 layers? Let’s see how you can use the OSI model or a custom strategy to help you troubleshoot your computers and/or network.

Troubleshooting with the OSI Model

The OSI Model is a way of dividing network framework into 7 layers to help create a visual model of networking and protocols. Each layer has its own function and supports the layer under it and/or above it. From top to bottom the layers are:

When troubleshooting, it’s best to start from the top or the bottom and work your way through the layers.

For instance, if you notice that a cable is unplugged while you are troubleshooting, you want to start at the physical layer and work your way up. If the user reports they have a problem with a Word document you probably want to start at the Application layer.

Layered Troubleshooting

• Application Layer

This layer is used as a means of communication between the operating system, the application, and the end user. So basically how programs talk to your operating system.

An example of this could be a program that doesn’t function like it normally would, or if you get error messages when you run your program, or maybe it won’t let you save your work. This would be an application layer issue and that is where you should start your troubleshooting efforts.

Some of the protocols used at this layer are SMB, FTP, AFP, TELNET, SMTP, and DNS.

• Presentation Layer

The Presentation layer is used to create a standard for communication between the application and network formats. In other words, this is the translator.

This layer handles encryption, data compression and a few other things. An example of this layer is your wireless router at home using WEP, WPA or another type of encryption. The Presentation layer is translating the encryption on your wireless network.

• Session Layer

The Session layer is used to create and manage sessions across a network.

An example of this would be Remote Desktop. If a user reported they were unable to connect to your application server using Remote Desktop, then you might want to start your efforts at this layer.

NetBIOS and RPC are some of the protocols used on this layer.

• Transport Layer

Think of the Transport layer as a taxi driver. His or her job is to get you where you need to go and to make sure you arrive safely.

The Transport layer provides flow control and error handling on a network. Like the taxi driver making sure you arrive safely, the Transport layer makes sure that all transmissions were successful. If you get into a wreck in the taxi, that’s an error by the taxi driver!

The Transport layer also makes sure that all packets and transmissions are error free. Some of the protocols used on this layer are TCP, NetBIOS, RARP, ARP, and NetBEUI.

• Network Layer

This layer handles network addressing and routing. It translates IP addresses into MAC addresses, or computer names to MAC addresses. In a nutshell you would be troubleshooting mostly routers on the Network layer.

• Data-link Layer

The Data-Link layer is used to turn packets into bits, and vice versa. This layer also transmits data across a physical network link. Common devices on this layer are hubs, switches, NICs, and bridges.

• Physical Layer

I personally start at the physical layer most of the time because that is where I tend to find the majority of the issues. “The cleaning person knocked a cable lose” or “I moved my tower to the other side of my desk”.

The physical layer includes making a physical connection, physical cabling, or even a radio link.

It is good to be familiar with the OSI model and what protocols and equipment work on each layer. This helps you troubleshoot the root of the problem and gives you a very logical approach to troubleshooting.

Other Troubleshooting Methods

That’s just one of the ways to troubleshoot your computers or networks, but there are many other ways to go about it. How about making up your own troubleshooting steps for your specific environment?

Here are some ideas for your own troubleshooting steps.

Figure out the real problem — This always seems to elude IT people when getting phone calls from users. “My computer is broken” or “My printer doesn’t print” are the typical issues users report, so digging around for clues to figure out more information is always a good idea. We need to get as much information from the users as possible so that we can determine the point of failure.

Create a plan to resolve the problem — Now that we have more info from the users we can move forward and create a plan of action. Decide the best ways to go about implementing your plan of action and make sure to explore all possibilities to come up with the best solution.

Implement — This is where the rubber meets the road and you will need to put you plan into action.

Revisit and revise — Revisit the user after implementing your strategy and make sure the issue is resolved. If not, revise your plan of action accordingly.

Document — Document the final resolution for the issue for future reference.


There are many different ways to troubleshoot your computers and networks. You can use the 7 layer approach or create your own way of troubleshooting. There might even be a separate way of troubleshooting for your specific environment.

What other ways can you think of to troubleshoot computers and networks?

Today’s Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld’s Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect’s Editors

Ubuntu’s included NetworkManager software aims to make your network connections “just work.” Nevertheless, sometimes thing go awry. There are times you have to adjust or change your connection settings, especially when using a laptop—just like in Windows.

Luckily, you won’t have to pull up the terminal and type any arcane commands to make your Internet connection work.

Check the basics first

Before you blame Ubuntu, try connecting to the Internet on other devices. If they’re experiencing the same problem, it isn’t with Ubuntu—it’s with something else. For example, you may need to reboot your router, modem, or both. It’s always worth checking these fundamentals before delving into further troubleshooting.

Some laptops have hardware switches that can be toggled to quickly enable or disable Wi-Fi. If your Wi-Fi doesn’t seem to be working at all, check your laptop’s hardware Wi-Fi switch.

If you’re using a wired connection, ensure the ethernet cable is plugged firmly into both the computer’s ethernet port and the router’s ethernet port. Sure, this may seem a bit obvious, but it’s easy to miss a bumped switch or loose cable.

To fix signal strength problems with Wi-Fi networks, arrange your router, computer, and other objects in your house for the best possible Wi-Fi signal strength.

Configure your connection settings in NetworkManager

NetworkManager connects to Wi-Fi networks and automatically configures wired network connections when you plug in an ethernet cable. Before NetworkManager, you’d have to do this with terminal commands.

The popup menu for NetworkManager appears when you click on the connection icon (either wired or wireless) in Ubuntu’s notification area.

If something isn’t working properly, you may still have to configure NetworkManager. Click the network connection or Wi-Fi icon on the panel at the top-right corner of your screen to access the NetworkManager menu, then choose a network. If you need to view information about your connection for troubleshooting purposes—your computer’s IP address, for example—click Connection Information.

NetworkManager’s Connection Information windows shows all the details about your active connections, including network interface, security, and connection speed as well as your MAC and IP addresses.

If your local network connection isn’t working, ensure the Enable Networking and Enable Wi-Fi options are selected here in the menu. These options let you quickly disable and enable your connections, which is useful for putting your laptop into airplane mode. If you accidentally disabled either, you won’t have an Internet connection until you re-enable them.

NetworkManager allows you manage several network connections and use different settings for each.

Configure your connections by clicking Edit Connections. You’ll see a window with one or more connections, depending on how many network adapters you have in your computer. Select a connection and click Edit to modify its settings.

NetworkManager’s Edit Connection dialog lets you set or change all the details about your wired or WiFi connection.

Ensure the ‘Automatically connect to this network when it is available’ option is enabled on the General tab. If it’s disabled, NetworkManager won’t automatically connect to a wired or wireless network when you boot your computer.

NetworkManager uses Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) by default, so your computer will attempt to get connection settings—IP address, DNS servers, and default gateway—automatically from your router or Internet service provider.

For networks that require a static IP configuration, you’ll need to visit either the IPv4 Settings or the IPv6 Settings pane and select the “Manual” method. (If you’re not sure which you’re using, you’re probably still using IPv4.) Enter the details your connection requires here—your ISP or network administrator can tell you what to enter if you don’t know.

You can easily configure your connection to use manual settings and enter those settings in NetworkManager.

If, for some reason, your network only allows devices with a specific MAC address to connect, click the ethernet tab and enter that information into the ‘Cloned MAC address’ box.

Keep reading for more on checking Wi-Fi drivers and wielding diagnostic tools.

The third layer of the OSI Model, the network layer, is where most network engineers focus their time and expertise. As Darragh commented in my post on the data link layer, Layer 2 is cool but Layer 3 is the one that can take you places.

Layer 3, the network layer, is most commonly known as the layer where routing takes place. A router’s main job is to get packets from one network to another. Layer 3 protocols and technologies allow for network-to-network communications. A Layer 3 switch is simply a Layer 2 device that also does routing (a Layer 3 function). Another key aspect of routers is that each interface on a router has its own IP address, because each of those interfaces is on a different networks.

So much of what we do as network administrators — dealing with IP addresses and subnetting, routing protocols, firewall rules and Access Control Lists (ACLs), and many types of Quality of Service (QoS) — is enabled by Layer 3 technologies. Layer 2 may make you an expert, but Layer 3 is how you get in the money.

When troubleshooting network issues it’s helpful to understand if the issue is occurring at Layer 2 or Layer 3 of the OSI model. If you’re able to get local communications to work but the packets aren’t traversing your Layer 3 boundaries then you’ve got a Layer 3 issue on your hands.

When troubleshooting Layer 3 issues, Layer 2 technologies can sometimes be a huge help. For instance, if you can’t get communications from one side of a router to the distant side of an adjacent router checking for Layer 2 connectivty (like with CDP for instance) between the two devices can give you great insight into the problem. If you’ve never used CDP (the Cisco Discovery Protocol) it’s one worth getting to know as it can be very helpful in many different troubleshooting scenarios.

It’s not uncommon when visiting family for me to get asked to fix everyone’s computers. The way that I usually respond is that asking me to fix your computer is sort of like asking the guy who designs super highways to fix your car. Yes, cars do run on highways and yes, I do drive a car to work everyday but it’s not what I do. This is a great analogy, but there is one key difference between cars on highways and packets on a network and it’s at Layer 3. When you think about how cars get from one place to another — even with some of the experimental technologies for self-driven cars – the intelligence that gets the car from one place to another is all in the vehicle. With computer networks, all of the intelligence is at the intersections — the Layer 3 devices. All the packet (or car in this analogy) really knows is where it’s coming from and where it wants to go. The network does the rest.

While it’s important to have a solid foundation in Layer 1 and Layer 2 technologies, you can build a career on Layer 3 expertise. Don’t go short here — go to some classes, read a bunch of books, and most important — get some hands-on experience with Layer 3 technologies. Like I said, Layer 3 can take you places.

Josh Stephens is Head Geek and VP of Technology at SolarWinds, an IT management software company based in Austin, Texas. He shares network management best practices on SolarWinds’ GeekSpeak and thwack. Follow Josh on [email protected]_headgeek and SolarWinds @solarwinds_inc.

The OSI Model Series

Josh Stephens is the founder and CEO of Bearded Dog, an Austin-based strategy consulting and development company, specializing in tech innovation and IT management best practices. Follow Josh on Twitter @josh_stephens.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

The Open System Interconnection (OSI) model defines a networking framework to implement protocols in seven layers. Use this handy guide to compare the different layers of the OSI model and understand how they interact with each other.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layerThe Open System Interconnection (OSI) model defines a networking framework to implement protocols in seven layers. There is really nothing to the OSI model. In fact, it’s not even tangible. The OSI model doesn’t perform any functions in the networking process. It is a conceptual framework so we can better understand the complex interactions that are happening.

Who Developed the OSI Model?

The International Standards Organization (ISO) developed the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model. It divides network communication into seven layers. In this model, layers 1-4 are considered the lower layers, and mostly concern themselves with moving data around. Layers 5-7, called the the upper layers, contain application-level data. Networks operate on one basic principle: “pass it on.” Each layer takes care of a very specific job, and then passes the data onto the next layer.

The 7 Layers of the OSI

In the OSI model, control is passed from one layer to the next, starting at the application layer (Layer 7) in one station, and proceeding to the bottom layer, over the channel to the next station and back up the hierarchy. The OSI model takes the task of inter-networking and divides that up into what is referred to as a vertical stack that consists of the following 7 layers.

Note: Click each hyperlink in the list below to read detailed information and examples of each layer or continue scrolling to read the full article:

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

Did You Know…? Most of the functionality in the OSI model exists in all communications systems, although two or three OSI layers may be incorporated into one. OSI is also referred to as the OSI Reference Model or just the OSI Model.

Application (Layer 7)

OSI Model, Layer 7, supports application and end-user processes. Communication partners are identified, quality of service is identified, user authentication and privacy are considered, and any constraints on data syntax are identified. Everything at this layer is application-specific. This layer provides application services for file transfers, e-mail, and other network software services. Telnet and FTP are applications that exist entirely in the application level. Tiered application architectures are part of this layer.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layerLayer 7 Application examples include WWW browsers, NFS, SNMP, Telnet, HTTP, FTP

Presentation (Layer 6)

This layer provides independence from differences in data representation (e.g., encryption) by translating from application to network format, and vice versa. The presentation layer works to transform data into the form that the application layer can accept. This layer formats and encrypts data to be sent across a network, providing freedom from compatibility problems. It is sometimes called the syntax layer.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layerLayer 6 Presentation examples include encryption, ASCII, EBCDIC, TIFF, GIF, PICT, JPEG, MPEG, MIDI.

Session (Layer 5)

This layer establishes, manages and terminates connections between applications. The session layer sets up, coordinates, and terminates conversations, exchanges, and dialogues between the applications at each end. It deals with session and connection coordination.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layerLayer 5 Session examples include NFS, NetBios names, RPC, SQL.

Transport (Layer 4)

OSI Model, Layer 4, provides transparent transfer of data between end systems, or hosts, and is responsible for end-to-end error recovery and flow control. It ensures complete data transfer.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layerLayer 4 Transport examples include SPX, TCP, UDP.

Network (Layer 3)

Layer 3 provides switching and routing technologies, creating logical paths, known as virtual circuits, for transmitting data from node to node. Routing and forwarding are functions of this layer, as well as addressing, internetworking, error handling, congestion control and packet sequencing.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layerLayer 3 Network examples include AppleTalk DDP, IP, IPX.

Data Link (Layer 2)

At OSI Model, Layer 2, data packets are encoded and decoded into bits. It furnishes transmission protocol knowledge and management and handles errors in the physical layer, flow control and frame synchronization. The data link layer is divided into two sub layers: The Media Access Control (MAC) layer and the Logical Link Control (LLC) layer. The MAC sub layer controls how a computer on the network gains access to the data and permission to transmit it. The LLC layer controls frame synchronization, flow control and error checking.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layerLayer 2 Data Link examples include PPP, FDDI, ATM, IEEE 802.5/ 802.2, IEEE 802.3/802.2, HDLC, Frame Relay.

Physical (Layer 1)

OSI Model, Layer 1 conveys the bit stream – electrical impulse, light or radio signal through the network at the electrical and mechanical level. It provides the hardware means of sending and receiving data on a carrier, including defining cables, cards and physical aspects. Fast Ethernet, RS232, and ATM are protocols with physical layer components.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layerLayer 1 Physical examples include Ethernet, FDDI, B8ZS, V.35, V.24, RJ45.

DID YOU KNOW….? Two similar projects from the late 1970’s were merged in 1983 to form the Basic Reference Model for Open Systems Interconnection standard (the OSI model). It was published in 1984 as standard ISO 7498.

This article was last updated on April 23, 2019

Why your internet is so slow

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

  • Tweet
  • Share
  • Email

The latency of a network connection represents the amount of time required for data to travel between the sender and receiver. While all computer networks inherently possess some form of latency, the amount varies and can suddenly increase for various reasons. People perceive these unexpected time delays as “lag.”

High latency can also cause high delays. For example, your video game might experience high latency, which causes the game to freeze at times and not deliver a live update of the other players. Fewer delays mean that the connection is experiencing lower latency.

Network lag happens for a few reasons, namely distance and congestion. In some cases, you might be able to fix internet lag by changing how your device interacts with the network.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

Latency and Bandwidth

Latency and bandwidth are closely related but are two separate terms. To understand what causes high latency, it’s important to differentiate it from high bandwidth.

If your internet connection were illustrated as a pipe carrying data, bandwidth would refer to the physical size of the pipe. A small pipe (low bandwidth) can’t hold much data at once, while a thick one (high bandwidth) can transmit more data at a time. Bandwidth is often measured in Mbps.

Latency is a delay, measured in ms. It’s the time it takes for information to move from one end of the pipe to the other. It’s also called the ping rate.

The Speed of Light on a Computer Network

No network traffic can travel faster than the speed of light. On a home or local area network, the distance between devices is so small that light speed doesn’t matter. For internet connections, however, it becomes a factor.

Under perfect conditions, light requires roughly 5 ms to travel 1,000 miles (about 1,600 kilometers). Furthermore, most long-distance internet traffic travels over cables, which can’t carry signals as fast as light due to a principle of physics called refraction. Data over a fiber optic cable, for example, requires at least 7.5 ms to travel 1,000 miles.

Typical Internet Connection Latencies

Besides the limits of physics, additional network latency is caused when traffic is routed through servers and other backbone devices. The typical latency of an internet connection also varies depending on its type.

The study Measuring Broadband America (posted in late 2018) reported these typical internet connection latencies for common forms of U.S. broadband service:

  • Fiber optic: 12-20 ms
  • Cable internet: 15-34 ms
  • DSL: 25-80 ms
  • Satellite internet: 594-612 ms

How to Fix Latency

Latency can fluctuate in small amounts from one minute to the next, but the additional lag from small increases can be noticeable. The following are common reasons for internet lag, some of which are out of your control:

Replace or add a router. Any router eventually bogs down if too many clients use it at the same time. Network contention among multiple clients means that those clients sometimes wait for each other’s requests to be processed, causing lag. To fix this, replace the router with a more powerful model, or add another router to the network to alleviate this problem.

Similarly, network contention occurs on a residence’s connection to the internet provider if saturated with traffic.

Avoid simultaneous downloads. Depending on the speed of your connection, avoid too many simultaneous downloads and online sessions to minimize lag.

Don’t use too many applications at once. PCs and other client devices become a source of network lag if unable to process network data quickly. While modern computers are sufficiently powerful in most situations, devices can slow down if too many applications run simultaneously. If you think you have too many programs open, close a few.

Running applications that don’t generate network traffic can introduce lag. For example, a misbehaving program can consume all the available CPU, which delays the computer from processing network traffic for other applications. If a program doesn’t respond, force it to close.

Scan and remove malware. A network worm hijacks a computer and its network interface, which can cause it to perform sluggishly, similar to being overloaded. Running antivirus software on devices connected to the network detects and removes these worms.

Use a wired connection instead of wireless. Online gamers, as an example, often prefer to run their devices over wired Ethernet instead of Wi-Fi because Ethernet supports lower latencies. While the savings is typically only a few milliseconds in practice, wired connections also avoid the risk of interference that can result in significant lag.

Utilize local cache. One way to reduce latency is to utilize caching in your browser, which is a way for the program to store recently used files so that you can access those files locally the next time you request files from that site (no download is necessary).

Most browsers cache files by default, but if you delete the browser cache too often, it takes longer to load the same pages you recently visited.

Other Causes of Latency Issues

Some latency issues can be fixed, but the following are latency issues that aren’t usually in your control.

Traffic Load

Spikes in internet use during peak usage times of day often cause lag. The nature of this lag varies by the service provider and the geographic location. Other than moving locations or changing internet service, an individual user can’t avoid this kind of lag.

Online Application Load

Online multiplayer games, websites, and other client-server network applications use shared internet servers. If these servers become overloaded with activity, the clients experience lag.

Wireless Interference

Satellite, fixed wireless broadband, and other wireless internet connections are susceptible to signal interference from the rain. Wireless interference causes network data to be corrupted in transit, causing lag from re-transmission delays.

Lag Switches

Some people who play online games install a device called a lag switch on their local network. A lag switch intercepts network signals and introduces delays in the flow of data back to other gamers connected to a live session. You can do little to solve this kind of lag problem other than avoiding playing with those who use lag switches.

How Much Lag Is Too Much?

The impact of lag depends on what you’re doing on the network and, to some degree, the level of network performance that you’ve grown accustomed to.

Users of ​satellite internet expect long latencies and tend not to notice a temporary lag of an additional 50 or 100 ms. Dedicated online gamers, on the other hand, prefer their network connection to run with less than 50 ms of latency and quickly notice any lag above that level.

In general, online applications perform best when network latency stays below 100 ms; any additional lag is noticeable to users.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

OSI ( Open Systems Interconnection ) model was developed by ISO ( International Organization for Standardization – Technical Committee 97 ) in 1978. This model was fixed a little bit and published as “OSI Reference Model” in 1984. OSI model, which is accepted by all world very quickly, basicly defines how network devices communicate together. Before OSI model , every vendor was using its own specific computer network. They were defining all the rules according to their product’s working principles. For example IBM was using their own devices only and no more brands other than IBM was working on this network.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

But after years , many vendors started to develop their own devices too. And it was a big requirement that providing communication between different vendors. OSI ( Open Systems Interconnection ) model defined protocols which is not specific to vendors and provided communication between different vendors which use their model. This model doesn’t change according to a hardware, computer network type or software. It became an industry standard very quickly. OSI ( Open Systems Interconnection ) model consist of 7 layers which define network communication. These layers are ;

  1. Physical Layer
  2. Data Link Layer
  3. Network Layer
  4. Transport Layer
  5. Session Layer
  6. Presentation Layer
  7. Application Layer

As you can see from the figure above, Application Layer ( Layer – 7 ) is the highest level of the model while Physical Layer ( Layer – 1 ) is the lowest. First three layers are defined as “Media Layers” and Layer 4-5-6-7 are defined as “Host Layers”. Information is began to sent as “Data” at Layer – 7 and divided to “segments” at Layer – 4 ( Transport Layer ). This segmentation provides the receiver device can get the information with the right sequence. Address values are added to “segments” at Layer – 3 and our information’s name is a “packet” anymore. MAC addresses are added to “packets” at Layer – 2 and “frame” structure occurs. Finally, “frames” are converted to bit series at Layer – 1 and it is ready for transportation anymore.

Layer – 1 : Physical Layer

Physical Layer defines the structure that our data in a cable. Datas are transported as “bits”. This layer defines how “1” and “0”s will be converted to radio, electric or light signals. Sender converts the bits to signals, and receiver converts back them to “1” and “0”s again. For example a “hub” is working on Layer – 1 of the OSI Model because it sees the data as an electric signal. Lots of hardwares work in this layer like Cables, RS-232, USB, DSL and etc…

Layer – 2 : Data Link Layer

Data Link Layer defines the rules to reach the Physical Layer.Access methods like ethernet or token ring works on this layer. These access methods processes the data due to their own protocols. Information ( data ) is a “frame” in this layer. Frames provide us sending the data in a sequence. Most of the process which is made at Data Link Layer is processed on network cards.Provides error detection to data which comes from Layer – 1 also. In this Layer technologies like ethernet, HDLC, token ring, L2TP are used.

Layer – 3 : Network Layer

Network Layer is the layer which router information is added if the packet is needed to sent to a different network. In this layer messages are addressed and logical addresses are converted to physical addresses too. Internet Protocol ( IP ) works in Layer – 3 so that ip routing too is made in here. Protocols like IP ( IPv4 and IPv6 ) , ICMP , ARP and IGMP works at Layer – 3.

Layer – 4 : Transport Layer

Information is labeled as “segment” in this layer. Transport Layer provides us the transportation of the information. Protocols like TCP and UDP work at this layer. This layer also provides QoS ( Quality Of Services ) too for the upper layers. Error detection is made for some protocols ( like TCP ) SCTP and DCCP protocols also work at this layer.

Layer – 5 : Session Layer

Session layer provides connection between applications on two different computers. If one computer is in a communication with lots of computers, session layer provides to choose the right computer to communicate also. This is made with dividing the informations with different sessions. NFS, SMB, ISO 8326, ISO 8327, ITU-T T.6299 and Netbios work at this layer.

Layer – 6 : Presentation Layer

Presentation Layer converts the data to the way that receiver computer can understand it. So that different softwares can use the data of each other. This layer defines “how the data is presented”. Format of the data is defined in here too. In addition processes like encryiption, zipping, de-encryiption are made at Layer – 6. In this layer picture formats ( like jpg, png etc. ) , ASCII, EBCDIC work.

Layer – 7 : Application Layer

Application Layer provides an interface between computer application and network. Only application layer doesn’t provide any service to others. This layer provides applications working on network. HTTP, FTP, SMTP, DNS and SNMP protocols work on this layer.

OSI Model provides efficent troubleshooting too. For example if a device is down in the network, troubleshooting begins from Layer – 1 ( like checking the cable of the device. ) After if there is no problem in Layer – 1 , Layer – 2 is checked ( If device’s MAC address appears in the MAC address table or not ) If there is a problem here, Layer – 3 is NOT checked ! If Layer – 2 is OK too , Layer – 3 is checked ( If device’s IP address appears in the routing table of router or not ). This method is used up to Layer – 7 with the same method.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

We’ve all run into the dreaded taskbar icon that denotes Windows 10 internet connection issues. There are various reasons this can happen, but if you’re really struggling, the quickest fix is to perform a full Windows 10 network reset.

From the Anniversary Update onwards, Microsoft offers an easy way to reset Windows 10 network settings to their defaults. While you should always try other fixes first, such as running Windows network diagnostics, it’s a handy last resort.

This network fix will reset your WiFi adapter, WiFi passwords, Ethernet adapter, VPN connections, and virtual switches. It can solve most software-based issues as a result, but if you don’t know your WiFi password you’ll want to look elsewhere for a remedy.

With that warning, here’s how to perform a Windows 10 network reset, both via the network and internet settings menu and the netsh winsock reset command.

How to Reset Your Windows 10 Network via Settings

As mentioned, recent versions of Windows now let you perform a full Windows 10 Network reset via the settings interface. This greatly simplifies things and is the recommended route for most people.

Press the “Start” button, then click the setting cog in the bottom-left corner, above the power menu.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer
Go to Network and Internet settings

This may be stylized as “Network & Internet” in your Windows 10 settings app.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer
Click “Network reset”

Making sure you’re in the “Status” tab in the left sidebar, scroll until you see the “Network reset” text. Click it to begin the process.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer
Press “Reset now” when ready

Before you do so, make sure you have saved content you were writing on any websites and are aware of what will be changed. This network fix will reset WiFi adapters and remove your VPNs, WiFi passwords, and virtual switches.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer
Click “Yes” to the confirmation dialog

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

How to Reset Network Settings with the “netsh winsock reset” command

If you need to reset network settings on Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, or are getting an error, you may need to use PowerShell to get the desired results. If you’re a power user, this can also be faster.

Though netsh winsock reset is the main command we’ll be using, we’ll also use netsh int IP reset to reset the TCP/IP stack.

    Run PowerShell as an administrator

Press “Ctrl + X” to open the Quick Link menu, then click “Windows PowerShell (Admin)”. Note that it is necessary to use the administrator version to run this command.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer
Run the “netsh winsock reset” command

The netsh winsock reset command is the first step of a full Windows 10 network reset. It helps to recover the computer from any socket errors that may have arisen from settings corruption or malware.

Type netsh winsock reset in your PowerShell window when ready and press Enter to run it. It will return a success message and a restart prompt. Do not restart your PC quite yet.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer
Reset your TCP/IP settings

To perform a full Windows 10 or Windows 7 network reset, we should also reset TCP/IP. The command for this is netsh int ip reset . Type it in the same PowerShell window and press Enter on your keyboard.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer
Reset your IP configuration

We can now renew Windows’ IP address configuration. Run the following command:

ipconfig /renew How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer
Flush your DNS

It can also be useful to flush your PC’s DNS settings. This is particularly true if you have modified your DNS at any point, for example via faulty VPN software or by pointing it to Cloudflare or Google DNS. Type ipconfig /flushdns and press Enter.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer
Run a full network device cleanup

You may also want to perform a full network device cleanup. This will remove all of your networking devices, VPN client software, and virtual switches. Make sure you have your network drivers downloaded locally just in case you can’t connect to the internet to download them afterwards.

In PowerShell, enter netcfg -d . You can now restart your PC to apply the changes.

How to troubleshoot your internet connection layer-by-layer

Now that your network has been reset, you may want to read our guide on how to set up a VPN in Windows 10. If you have a bandwidth cap, don’t forget to set up your metered connection.