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How to troubleshoot if cable modem or router is broken?

 
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I have three computers connected via wired method to a 4-port Linksys router. Everything has been working fine for the last several months. Today, connectivity has been very erratic. Cable company says everything is fine on their end. I've done nothing differently, software or hardware wise to cause any changes.

If I unplug the router and then plug it back in, I will have restored connectivity for about 10 minutes. Then it's dead in the water. So I thought maybe the router is going bad?

But if I plug the cable modem directly into my computer, I get *NOTHING*. It thinks I'm working offline. I can't connect at all! So I thought maybe the modem is going bad?

But do modems "go" bad? Doesn't it either work or not work? Why would it work for a few minutes before dying?

I don't know much about the intricacies of networking. Everything plugs in, I don't do anything fancy, just want to get on the internet. All worked fine until today. Any tips would be helpful.

 
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When you plug your pc directly into the cable modem, you may have to configure the IP settings if they are not automatic from your ISP. But you will definetly have to power the cable modem off and back on after you connect your home PC. They tend to remember the MAC address of the last device they were connected to and won't just accept a new one because you plug it in. You can also check that the router is not getting hot. Sometimes if you stack these things they will get hot in a short period of time and start acting up.

 
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Thank you for the modem information, Bentkey, I hadn't recycled it after plugging it in. I will try that later. This morning (like yesterday morning) I've been on now for much longer than the 10-minute cutoffs I was experiencing all day yesterday, which makes me wonder about my ISP. But I will try plugging the modem in directly later on and running the Linksys router wizard again.

Hate to piggyback questions, but at the Linksys site they recommend upgrading firmware. I downloaded the newest firmware but haven't installed it yet. I've never upgraded firmware. Is this like installing new video drivers? Is this something I ought to be doing more often?

 
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I wouldn't upgrade the firmware drivers unless you actually have a reason to do it. If you botch it, you could render your router useless. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

In a case like this, I would recommend upgrading the firmware, too. The Linksys site should provide instructions for installing the upgrade.

Note: you weren't "piggybacking" this question-- it was related to your original issue! :D

 
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Is this like installing new video drivers?

Much more like like flash-upgrading your computer's BIOS, and as alc6379 mentioned, you shouldn't do it unless you're positive that it will fix your specific problem- a botched firmware upgrade can definitely turn your router into a paperweight.

A lot of manufacturers will suggest upgrading firmware, drivers, and the like as part of their "canned answer" to a wide variety of problems, but since you say that the router worked fine for months and that you've made no changes, I'd hold off on the firmware upgrade until you've eliminated any other possibilities.

Try bentkey's suggestion first; the modem does need to be turned off if you connect a different device to it, and yes- you may need to adjust the network settings on the computer.

Both routers and modems can fail in "soft" ways; a defective device could definitely exhibit the symptoms you describe.

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