Q: You recently wrote about the periodic loss of a home Wi-Fi signal (see tinyurl.com/zl62sq2), but it was specific to a user of AT&T’s internet service. As a Comcast customer, what can I do about the frequent loss of a Wi-Fi signal?
Ann Downes, Inver Grove Heights, Minn.
A: Losing a Wi-Fi signal is common. Here are a few solutions:
Weak signal: Check the list of available networks to see how strong (number of bars) your Wi-Fi signal is. If it’s low, the computer and Wi-Fi access point (in your case, the cable modem) may be too far apart, or may have too many walls between them. Move the two closer together.
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Alternatively, you can buy an antenna-equipped $30 to $50 Wi-Fi adapter (receiver) that plugs into a USB port and can pull in a weaker signal (see tinyurl.com/zk7my7s).
Or you can buy a $40-and- up Wi-Fi range extender (see tinyurl.com/kuwkq3j) that will rebroadcast your existing Wi-Fi signal to parts of the house where the signal is currently weak.
Wireless interference: Wi-Fi uses the same public radio frequencies as garage door openers, microwave ovens and cordless phones, so keep your PC as far from those devices as possible.
You can also get radio interference from a neighbor’s Wi-Fi. That can be fixed by switching your cable modem-router to a different Wi-Fi frequency (see tinyurl.com/hyz8vee.) Every modem-router brand is different, so consult your owner’s manual about how to change the channels.
Hardware issues: The cable modem-wireless router or the computer’s Wi-Fi adapter could be failing. To check the router, see if smartphones or Wi-Fi equipped TVs can still connect to it. Check the Wi-Fi adapter by running the Network Troubleshooter in Windows 7, 8 or 10 (see tinyurl.com/zusrw7d). For a Mac, see tinyurl.com/h6muwvt.
Software problems: Computer software conflicts can interfere with Wi-Fi or wired internet connections. To test for this, connect the computer to the router via cable. If there’s still no internet connection, a software conflict is probably the cause. To fix that, use Windows System Restore (see tinyurl.com/2qhd77), which returns PC settings to the way they were on an earlier date, and also eliminates software installed after that date. The Mac Time Machine program can restore your operating system to an earlier date if you’ve already used it (see tinyurl.com/jlej3jc). If none of this works, see the answer to the next question.
Q: Either my Web browser or my Wi-Fi internet connection stops working after I’m online for about five minutes. Comcast found that my cable modem-router is creating a strong Wi-Fi signal, and a repair shop found no problems with my four-year-old Dell laptop, an Inspiron model 17R 5721 that runs Windows 10. What’s wrong?
Don Hansen, Vadnais Heights, Minn.
A: You can try the wireless interference and software problem solutions in the previous answer, but Windows 10 may be the cause. Your laptop, which came with Windows 8, isn’t on Dell’s list of PCs that can be upgraded to Windows 10 (see tinyurl.com/zttmt8w). You may need to revert to Windows 8.1 (now about $50.) That will erase your hard drive, so back up your data. You'll need to restore your data and reinstall your programs afterward.