Your home or office network router is your link to the Web, email and other Internet resources, so the consequences of a malfunctioning router range from annoying delays to lost income. If your router keeps disconnecting you from the Internet, the problem could be in the router itself or it could be a symptom of trouble with your PC. The quality of your outside Internet connection also affects your router’s reliability.

Weak Wireless Signal

In order to maintain a reliable Internet connection from a Wi-Fi router, your PC must receive a strong signal. Walls and furniture between your computer and the router weaken the signal, making the connection slower and less reliable. Metal objects such as file cabinets and air ducts also scatter Wi-Fi. Signals from other electronic devices, such as microwave ovens, can interfere with Wi-Fi, especially if they are located near the router. A long distance between the PC and the router will reduce the signal as well.

Poor Outside Connection

Your router is connected to the Internet via a cable television, cellular data or Digital Subscriber Line service; conditions that affect the service’s network consequently affect your router’s ability to deliver data to your PC. Network outages due to storms, power failures and construction mishaps prevent your router from connecting to the Internet at all; marginal problems such as corroded or waterlogged outside cables will make the router behave erratically.

Device Conflicts

Your PC connects to a router through an Ethernet cable or wireless data link; the computer has an internal network card to support this connection. The network card translates data in your PC into electronic impulses or radio signals compatible with the router. If conflicts exist between your network card and other devices in your computer, such as video cards, the router cannot make a reliable connection. In this case, the problem lies with your PC’s device configuration and not the router.

Driver Software Problems

The network card communicates through special software called a “driver,” written by the card’s manufacturer and added into Microsoft Windows when you install the card into the computer. When a program such as a Web browser sends data from your PC, it passes the information to Windows, which uses the driver to pass information according to the network card’s exact specifications. Although it rarely happens, some driver software may have errors in its programming, causing it to send scrambled data to the router. If other devices work well on your network but your PC gets kicked off the Internet often, the problem may lie with the network card’s driver software. Virtually all network card makers provide software updates on their websites, so a visit to the manufacturer’s site may solve the issue.

Internal Problems

A router that has trouble keeping a connection may have problems with its own hardware or software. The router’s radio circuits may be transmitting a weak signal due to component failure or a poor antenna connection, for example. In addition, the router has its own built-in software called “firmware,” programmed in at the factory; firmware, as with any software, may contain programming bugs that affect the router’s reliability. You can update the router’s firmware by downloading new software from the manufacturer’s website and following their instructions; a software fix may resolve the problems you have with the device. However, if the problem is with the hardware, your only recourse may be to replace your router with a new one.