Throughout the year I hear from readers and friends sharing their technical struggles. Last year I wrote about how to avoid technical problems. This year, I’m sharing how to tackle the most common problems, including laggy internet, Bluetooth dropouts, and public Wi-Fi connection issues.
If you’ve suffered from one of these headaches — or are bombarded with questions in a similar way to official family IT staff — there’s good news: with patience, you can solve most problems yourself.
Most technical problems have simple solutions. No connection? Turn wireless settings off and on again. Not syncing? Sign out and then sign back into your account. Poor performance? Restart the device or clear browser cookies. Here are the settings and tools you need to become your own tech troubleshooter.
Tap on the source
The best place to get instructions is on an official support page. Visit Apple’s website for iPhones and Macs, Microsoft’s for Windows, and Google’s for Android and Chrome OS. Popular apps like Zoom and Slack also have good help resources.
Don’t rely on hearsay. For example, if you get your phone wet, people will tell you to dip it in uncooked rice. But Apple disagrees as the grains could get stuck in the phone. Instead, point any open ports down, tap to remove excess liquid, and leave in a dry, air-flow area.
If the problem persists, verify that the device is running the latest firmware. Software updates often contain bug fixes. If your device is no longer supported with updates, your best bet is to look for a newer model.
Browse your settings
The solution to your problem probably lies in a magical place called Settings. The solution is to turn a specific control on or off—or turn it on and out. But where to find the relevant menu or button isn’t obvious unless you use the Settings search box.
iPhone: After opening Settings, swipe down to reveal the search bar.
Android: Each device manufacturer has a slightly different settings interface. On Samsung,
Tap the magnifying glass icon in the top right. Other phones show the search box at the top of Settings.
Mac: Open System Preferences (formerly System Preferences). Search is in the top left (or top right on older macOS versions).
Window: Open the settings and the search box is at the top left. You can also type the settings: followed by the search term from the taskbar.
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No more public WiFi madness
Cafes, airports, hotels and other public facilities have their own Wi-Fi networks. When you select a network on your phone or computer, you’ll see a pop-up asking you to pay or provide credentials like your hotel room number. But sometimes you don’t see the pop-up. Fortunately, you can force the display.
iPhone or Mac: Type captive.apple.com into your browser.
Android or ChromeOS: Type google.com/generate_204 into your browser.
Window: Type www.msftncsi.com/ncsi.txt into your browser.
Still does not work? You may need to clear your browser cache, which can also fix other shaky website issues. Note, however, that after deleting cookies you often have to log in to websites again.
Chrome: On a computer, click the three buttons at the top right, then More tools, then Clear browsing data. From this menu, select “Cookies and other site data” and “Cached images and files”. On mobile, tap the three dots and then tap History to find Clear browsing data.
Safari: On a Mac, go to the Safari menu, then Preferences, then Privacy. Click Manage Website Data, select the website you want, and then select Remove or Remove All. On mobile, go to the Settings app, then Safari and tap Advanced, then Website Data. Select Remove all website data.
Fix Bluetooth errors
Connecting Bluetooth accessories to your phone, computer, or car can be a hassle. This fix recipe usually works: Turn off the Bluetooth setting on your phone or computer. Turn off the accessories. Re-enable Bluetooth on your phone or computer. Turn on the accessory and put it in pairing mode. Find the accessory name in the list.
Still does not work? Try removing the accessory from your phone or laptop’s Bluetooth menu, and then read it again.
iPhone: Under Settings > Bluetooth, tap the info button “i” next to the accessory name, then tap Forget this device.
Mac: In System Preferences, click Bluetooth. Hover over the device name and click the X button to remove.
Android: In Settings, go to Connected devices, then Connection settings, then Bluetooth. Tap the device name and then tap the X button to disconnect.
Window: In Settings, click Bluetooth & devices, and then click Devices. Next to the device name, select More options, and then select Remove device.
Bluetooth headphones can also cause video conferencing issues, so make sure you can access Settings from your computer’s menu bar:
Mac: On macOS Ventura, go to Control Center in the top right. On Macs with older system software, you can find the “Show in menu bar” option in the Bluetooth and Sound preferences.
Window: Pin Bluetooth and audio controls to your taskbar.
Speed up slow internet
Sometimes your WiFi problems at home are beyond your control: maybe your service provider can’t offer you faster speeds or maybe they want more money for it. And sometimes the solution is to buy a new router. (We recommend a mesh network if you do this.) However, before updating the service or hardware, try to fix the problem yourself.
First, stand near your router and go to Speedtest.net on your phone or laptop to check if it’s an internet issue and not a device performance issue such as a power failure. B. Too many open tabs. A bad rating would be download speeds under 15 megabits per second and upload speeds under 5 megabits per second.
If your router is tucked away somewhere, place it as centrally located outdoors as possible, away from metal furniture and large appliances. Also, lots of connected devices can slow down WiFi, so turn off devices that don’t need it (e.g. an unused Kindle).
If you’re in a pinch, connect your computer directly to your router with an Ethernet cable.
Optimize your notifications
Incessant pings from notifications can drive you crazy. When you turn on Do Not Disturb, all distractions—including important ones—are muted.
Notifications are a lot messier on iOS than Android, so we’ll just focus on iPhone users: All app notifications can be accessed from the main Notifications setting – you can turn everything on or off there.
But third-party apps like Slack, WhatsApp, and Gmail also have their own notification settings. If you’re not getting the notifications you expect, check your phone’s settings and the app settings for the culprit.
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Write to Nicole Nguyen at [email protected]
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