DSL Modem Guide: Troubleshooting

dsl modemTechnology is great, until it refuses to work.  Modern DSL modems are a great example of technology that can truly be a godsend when it functions, but can seem like the devil’s own torture instrument when it will simply not work right.  Here are some basic tips to helping you troubleshoot a modem that is not working, so stop and take a few deep breathes before reading on:

Did Your DSL Modem Ever Work?

A great stating point in the troubleshooting process for a DSL modem that may not be working properly is to determine if the device ever worked.  If the device was working and now has stopped, you might have some very good information right there.  Sadly, the first question to want to ask is if your monthly fee was paid on time.  Telecoms around the country are cracking down more and more on customers that are not paying in a timely manner, so be aware of this if you want to eliminate the biggest roadblock to service.

If the DSL modem was working and has stopped you might want to see if there is an outage.  There is no sense in troubleshooting something that is not broken.  If the problem exists outside your property, you can do nothing about it.  If you call your ISP and their tech support lines are clogged or reporting higher than average wait times, then you might have your first clue that not all is well.  Even better, you may get to hear an announcement regarding what area or areas are impacted by an outage as well as any information regarding an estimated resolution time.

If the device has never worked, then you want to be sure that everything is wired up correctly.  A good place to see if that is the case is actually the lights, and that brings us to our next point…

Look At Your DSL Modem Lights For Help

Believe it or not, your modem lights are not just for show.  They actually serve both an informative and often a diagnostic function as well.  Be sure to look at them and watch the modem for a few moments to see if they change.  This can be very important troubleshooting information, and most modems come with guides that explain what each scenario may mean.  OF course, if your DSL carrier provided the DSL modem you can usually call their tech support group and ask them what it all means as well and typically get an answer from someone who has been trained to troubleshoot based on the lights.

Try Rebooting Your DSL Modem

It may sound strange but this one trick works so often that it is not funny: pull the power plug to your DSL modem, wait a second or two, then plug it back in.  Take a few moments for the device to reboot and get situated and see if it works.  Why this needs to be done from time to time to get electronics to work well is a mystery, but it seems to work a surprising amount of time.  If you are having to do it more than once a week, you should keep troubleshooting.

Insepct Your DSL Modem and Wiring

Touch your DSL modem.  Is it uncomfortably hot?  That could be a warning sign that there are problems or perhaps a bad device.  Unplug and reseat all the cables, and inspect the telephone wire that your modem uses.  Is it in good condition and shorter than 4 feet?  If not, replace it if the lights signal that the DSL is losing synch or not getting synched.

Dive Into Your Firmware

The software that manages the modem is referred to as the firmware.  The firmware is usually accessed via a special web page that may be listed on the bottom or back of the device, or can be found in your gateway section of your ISP info if you are hardwired directly in to the modem.  Not all modems support non-Internet Explorer browsers fully, so your best bet is to log in and use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to navigate to the firmware web page.  This is usually done by putting the address in the address bar and hitting go, and the address usually looks something like this:

If you cannot access the firmware, you might want to try a hard reset of the modem.

How Are You Connecting to Your DSL Modem?

Maybe the problem is not necessarily your modem, but how you are connecting to it.  If the modem lights all signal that everything is working, perhaps it is not the modem itself.  Perhaps it is the device connected to the modem or how the modem is connected.