How to troubleshoot network and internet problems in Windows

When you have problems with your network and/or internet connection, don’t hesitate to use the troubleshooting wizards that are bundled with Windows. They are easy to use and they can help you identify what’s wrong and how to fix your problems. In most cases, they will get the job done and help you more than expected. In this tutorial, we will show you how to start the network and internet troubleshooting wizards that Windows has to offer and how to work with them in order to fix your networking problems.

NOTE: This guide applies to Windows 10, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users.

How to find the network and internet troubleshooting wizards in the Control Panel

One of the easiest ways to access the network and Internet troubleshooting wizards is to open the Network and Sharing Center by going to “Control Panel -> Network and Internet -> Network and Sharing Center”. Then, click or tap the “Troubleshoot problems” link on the bottom of the window. While the Network and Sharing Center window looks a bit different, depending on the version of Windows that you are using, the “Troubleshoot problems” link is always on the bottom of the window.

Windows, troubleshoot, network, internet, problems

This opens the list of network and internet troubleshooting wizards that are available in Windows: Internet Connections, Shared Folders, HomeGroup, Network Adapter and Incoming Connections. If you have a printer installed on your Windows computer, you will also see a Printer troubleshooting wizard.

Windows, troubleshoot, network, internet, problems

How to use search to start the troubleshooting wizards

As always, you can also use search to launch the troubleshooting wizards.

In Windows 10, in Cortana’s search box on the taskbar, type the word troubleshooting and click or tap the search result with the same name.

Windows, troubleshoot, network, internet, problems

In Windows 7, type the word troubleshooting in the Start Menu search box. Then, click the Troubleshooting search result.

Windows, troubleshoot, network, internet, problems

In Windows 8.1, go to the Start screen, type the word troubleshooting and click or tap the search result with the same name.

Windows, troubleshoot, network, internet, problems

Clicking or tapping the Troubleshooting search result reveals the Troubleshooting window, where you find all the troubleshooting tools that are included in Windows. To display the troubleshooting wizards you are interested in, click or tap Network and Internet.

Windows, troubleshoot, network, internet, problems

Now start the troubleshooting wizard that interests you. If you don’t know what each wizard does, read the next section of this tutorial.

The network and internet troubleshooting wizards and what they do

You can start any of the available wizards, depending on the problem you are facing:

  • Internet Connections - this wizard helps when you are connected to the network but the internet doesn't work or you have trouble accessing particular websites;
  • Shared Folders - use this wizard when you have problems accessing shared files and folders on other computers and devices from your network;
  • HomeGroup - when you have problems viewing computers or shared folders that are part of the Homegroup, use this wizard;
  • Network Adapter - it is useful when you have problems with your wireless or wired network adapters. It helps with anything that is related to your network connection;
  • Incoming Connections - this wizard is helpful when other computers have trouble connecting to your computer's shared files and folders;
  • Connection to a Workplace Using DirectAccess - this wizard can be used when you have problems connecting to enterprise network domains. It is available only in Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8.1 Enterprise and Windows 10 Enterprise.

How to start the network and internet troubleshooting wizards from the Command Prompt

The network and internet troubleshooting wizards can also be started using the Command Prompt or the Run window. Execute the following commands inside the Command Prompt or the Run window:

  • To open the Internet Connections troubleshooting wizard: msdt.exe -id NetworkDiagnosticsWeb;
  • To open the Shared Folders troubleshooting wizard: msdt.exe -id NetworkDiagnosticsFileShare;
  • To open the HomeGroup troubleshooting wizard: msdt.exe -id HomeGroupDiagnostic;
  • To open the Network Adapter troubleshooting wizard: msdt.exe -id NetworkDiagnosticsNetworkAdapter;
  • To open the Incoming Connections troubleshooting wizard: msdt.exe -id NetworkDiagnosticsInbound.

How to use the network and internet troubleshooting wizards in Windows

Each troubleshooting wizard is different because it solves only the problems it's designed to solve. To help you understand how to use a troubleshooting wizard, we ran the Network Adapter wizard in order to understand what is wrong with our network connection. Using other wizards works the same way, using the same principles.

At the beginning of the troubleshooting wizard, before you press Next look for a link named Advanced.

Windows, troubleshoot, network, internet, problems

Click or tap on it. This reveals some interesting options. For example, the Network Adapter wizard can automatically apply repairs and run as administrator. Check the appropriate box to enable this feature and have it run as administrator, if you want to. Then, click or tap Next.

Windows, troubleshoot, network, internet, problems

The troubleshooting wizard detects all network adapters that are installed on your Windows computer or device and asks you to select the one you want to troubleshoot. You can also have it troubleshoot all network adapters. Once you are done making your choice, click or tap Next.

Windows, troubleshoot, network, internet, problems

NOTE: The Network Adapter troubleshooting wizard also displays virtual network adapters, if you have installed virtualization software that uses such devices (like VMWare, VirtualBox, etc).

The troubleshooting wizard starts the diagnostics process and displays a progress bar. When it detects problems, it also tries to apply the fixes it believes are appropriate and then verifies if the problem still exists. For some problems, it may require you to perform a certain action. In our example, it detected that our network cable is not plugged at one end. So we verified the network cable, plugged it in, and then pressed “Check to see if the problem is fixed”.

Windows, troubleshoot, network, internet, problems

Then, it verifies whether the problem still persists and it shows you the details about the problem and its status.

Windows, troubleshoot, network, internet, problems

If your problem remains unfixed, the Network Adapter wizard proposes additional options via the “Explorer additional options” button. If you want to view detailed information about the problem(s) it identified and what it has done to fix things, click the small link that says “View detailed information”. To close the wizard, press Close.

NOTE: If the troubleshooting wizard you have used hasn't detected any problems but you still have issues, you may have not used the correct wizard. In this case, try another troubleshooting wizard, which is better related to the problem that you are experiencing.

Troubleshooting problems with a wireless network

If you have troubles connecting to wireless networks, we recommend reading the following troubleshooting guides:

Conclusion

All modern versions of Windows provide a complete set of troubleshooting wizards which can help you identify the root cause of your networking problems. When we have issues, we use these wizards and, in most situations, they are able to identify the root cause and give us useful recommendations.

Even when they cannot help fix the problems we encounter, they provide information that is valuable to the technical support staff that can fix things for us.

About the Author: Ciprian Adrian Rusen
I love technology and I work in IT for more than a decade. I am the co-founder of Digital Citizen and its chief editor. Alongside my work as an editor, I am also an author. I have written and published 7 books, most of them about Microsoft products and technologies. They are translated into more than 12 languages. In 2014, I have been recognized by Microsoft for my technical expertise and involvement in the community with the title of Microsoft MVP - Windows Consumer Expert.