‘The internet thingy’s not working’

How would I know what’s wrong with your computer? Let’s go through the list of usual suspects and find out…



I don’t know the answer to any computer problems! I keep telling my family this, but it doesn’t stop them phoning me constantly when their computer stops doing what it should.


I mostly leave them disappointed. This is because I am not good figuring out the right answer, first time over the phone. If I start to ask questions, there always seems to be a slightly disappointed voice on the other end saying, “it’s OK if you don’t know, I’ll ask the guy at work”.


Now this is quite unfair because the guy at work has the same problem as me: he doesn’t know the answer, but he has one major advantage over me – he gets the opportunity to solve the problem.


That’s right, I don’t know the answers to any computer problems. What I do know is a way of quickly working out answers.


Problems like not getting internet access, which is normally described to me as “the internet thingy’s not working”.


The problem could be with:

  1. The program you are using (eg, Internet Explorer).
  2. Your network adapter (the service that allows you to communicate with your network).
  3. The firewall software on your computer.
  4. Your network card (the piece of hardware with flashing lights that your network cable plugs into).
  5. Your local area network (normally the blue cables running around your office).
  6. Any hubs or switches on your network.
  7. Your gateway to the internet (the ADSL modem, router or firewall).
  8. The connection between your gateway and your ISP (the telephone lines).
  9. The connection between your ISP and the internet.
  10. The cables between Australia and overseas.


How am I expected to figure this out first time over the phone? Computers are complex things. Just because things have become easier to use doesn’t mean they are simpler.

Remember, an automatic car is more complicated than a manual, even though it’s easier to drive. Simplicity of user interface comes at a cost behind the scenes.


But here’s what I nomally do when faced with “the internet thingy’s not working”. I could call it a binary search skewed by expert knowledge, but it’s probably easier to call it a checklist.


1. Ask someone else on your network if they can access the internet.

If the answer is yes: aha, the problem is probably in your computer. If no, your network guy should be brought in to solve the problem.

2. Check whether the blue cables plugged into your computer are actually pushed in and have “clicked”.

3. If you are connected to the rest of your network via a hub or switch, make sure there are flashing lights on the front of it. (Powercords regularly get kicked out).

4. If you are working from home, check to make sure your ADSL modem or router has lights flickering on the front of it.

5. If everything is OK at a physical level, check to see whether other programs can access the internet. Can you still get email?

6. If nothing can access the internet, try this: restart your computer. This does wonders in a Windows environment.

7. There are lots more tricks up my sleeve to solve the problem, but if you have got this far and still can’t figure it out, then ring for the computer guy.


Unless of course you are a member of my family. In that case take a breath, remind yourself that Brendan doesn’t enjoy providing free computer advice over the phone and needs you to be really specific if he is going to help you.



To read more Brendan Lewis blogs, click here.



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