When you call IT support because you’re facing internet connectivity issues, the first thing you will be told is to shut down your router, wait for 10 or so seconds and boot it up again. It may sound like a tired trope, but rebooting your router really is the solution to a lot of problems you might be facing.
It might not look like it at first glance, but your router is a computer — it has RAM, a CPU and storage. When it starts acting up, maybe there’s a memory leak due to a bug in the computer’s programming, maybe the CPU is overheating or maybe the RAM is all clogged up. So yeah, turning it off and on again does work.
In this article we will tech you how to reset a router so you can try this solution before calling tech support.
Resetting vs. Rebooting
Rebooting your router can fix most of the problems that affect the average person daily, but it’s hardly a bulletproof solution. When things go wrong, you need to get your hands dirty and reset it. This is distinctly different from rebooting your router.
Rebooting is simply turning your router off and on again, while resetting takes more drastic steps. This includes removing any custom settings (like passwords and DNS servers) and reinstating them back to default.
Issues that may cause you to consider resetting your router include:
- Constant connectivity issues that persist even after rebooting your router. Remember, your modem is just a tiny computer. Once in a while, it will crash, just like any computer.
- Security breaches: In 2018, the FBI sent out an announcement urging everyone to reset their routers because a Russian-made malware was suspected to have infected hundreds of thousands of routers all over the world. Resetting your router clears any software that may have taken a free ride on your router’s hardware.
- Forgotten passwords are perhaps the most common reason to reset a router. If you don’t have access to your WiFi connection and can’t access the router dashboard either, then you have to reset the router. Since this reverts it to factory settings, the original password (which is printed at the bottom of the router) should also be restored.
It’s important to understand the difference between rebooting and resetting your router because the two terms aren’t interchangeable. While resetting doesn’t have any downsides, performing it rather than rebooting takes a considerably larger amount of effort and time.
How to Reset Your Router
Resetting your router while it’s still connected to the modem might cause more internet connectivity problems, so it’s always a good idea to disconnect it first. If you have no idea what that is, most routers should have at least two cables connected to them — the modem and the power cable.
The power cable transfers electricity to the device while the modem reports directly to the ISP. It’s the cable that’s not the power cable (or LAN cable) that you want to disconnect.
There are tons of different ways to reset your router, including calling your ISP and having them reset it manually. The easiest and most convenient of these are power cycling, hard resets and soft resets.
Power cycling involves turning off your router and reapplying power to it. This can fix most common problems, including connection drops, overheating and undetected memory leaks. Power cycling doesn’t erase saved passwords and such, but is more drastic than rebooting.
To power cycle your router:
- Turn the router off by either unplugging it or using the power switch.
- On battery-powered routers, remove the battery, wait for about 10 seconds and put the battery back in.
- For normal routers, unplug the router from the wall, wait for about 10 seconds and plug it back in.
It may take a bit longer than usual for the router to start up, so don’t freak out. A few things inside it haven’t had power for a while, so they need time to get back up and running.
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Soft resets work best when you have internet connectivity issues. If your router is overheating or suffering from a memory leak, this won’t help. However, it’s much faster than any of the other methods, so it’s worth a try.
It differs from power cycling because you won’t have to mess with the router’s software or power connection. It involves disconnecting the router from the modem, i.e. resetting the connection with your ISP.
To perform a soft reset, disconnect the router from the modem, wait for about 10 seconds and connect it again. If you’re not sure which the modem cable is, it’s the one that’s not the power cable (or a LAN cable).
For some routers, particularly Linksys routers, soft resetting your router needs a little more work:
- If you have access to the browser or mobile-based modem console, log in and look for a “disconnect/reconnect” option. This resets the connection between your ISP and router without having to mess with any cables.
- The second method also involves logging into the modem console and searching for a “Restore Factory Settings” or something along those lines. It’s essentially the same as a hard reset, without actually hard-resetting. Do note that you will get rid of any custom settings (passwords, blocked websites, MAC filters, etc).
- For some routers, the “Reset Security” option achieves the same effect. However, this resets the WiFi name, channel number and encryption type. Everything else is left unchanged.
This is the most severe type of reset. It might take some time to get everything back up and running, so only resort to this when nothing else works. If you’ve forgotten your password or network keys, this is the only remedy you have. It removes any customizations and sets them back to what they were originally.
Again, you might want to disconnect the router from the modem to avoid having to repeat the whole process.
To perform a hard reset:
- Make sure the router is turned on, then turn it to its side or back and look for a small hole with “reset” labeled on it.
- Insert a paperclip or toothpick into the hole and hold it down for about 30 seconds.
- Release the button and power the router back up.