Q: My Dell Inspiron 5520 laptop with Windows 10 has been losing its internet connection via Wi-Fi. I wondered if it was a Wi-Fi problem; the laptop is 50 to 60 feet from the wireless router, and is separated from it by several walls. But recently my HP desktop PC has also lost its internet signal, and it’s in the same room with the wireless router.
AT&T, my internet provider, hasn’t been able to solve the problem. But AT&T previously told me that I’m about 3,000 feet from their “source,” about as far as the internet signal goes. Could that be a factor? In addition, the outages typically happen between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Could they be caused by more people using the AT&T internet service at that time of day? What can I do?
—Randy Hampton, Destrehan, La.
A: The problem is most likely caused by your AT&T internet service. But your PCs or Wi-Fi network might be involved.
Here’s why your AT&T service is probably be to blame:
— You are about 3,000 feet from AT&T’s “network node,” where customer telephone lines in your neighborhood connect to AT&T’s fiber optic network. In most cases, that’s the maximum distance for getting a reliable internet signal. If your internet signal is weak, it could fail.
— The network node could be overloaded in the early evening when your outages have occurred. If you and your neighbors simultaneously use AT&T’s internet service (or AT&T’s fiber-based TV service if it’s offered in your area), that might cut off a weak internet connection.
Here’s why the problem might be in your home:
— The laptop that frequently loses its internet connection probably has the weakest Wi-Fi connection because of the distance and the number of walls between it and the wireless router. In addition, the laptop wasn’t designed to run Windows 10 (see tinyurl.com/ycwuhdg7). While the laptop may have worked well until now, new Windows 10 updates might have caused problems.
— TVs in your household might be using too much of your internet capacity for streaming video.
What can you do? If the issue is AT&T, you can get a different internet provider, or use the internet at a different time of day. To see if the problem is in your home, move the laptop closer to the router and avoid TV streaming while using PCs. Consider buying a new Windows 10 PC.
Q: I used to be able to listen to a preview of an MP3 song before buying it on Amazon.com. But now the sampling option isn’t available for most songs. I have the same problem when using the Internet Explorer or Google Chrome browser. What’s wrong?
—Ernesto Barba, Colorado Springs, Colo.
A: This problem has reappeared several times in the past four years, perhaps as a result of Amazon and browser software changes. There seems to be no single fix, but try changing the settings in the Chrome browser.
To do that, go to the web address line and type “chrome://flags/#prefer-html-over-flash.” On the resulting page, disable “prefer HTML over Flash” (both are formats that deliver music to your browser), and enable “Run all Flash content when Flash setting is set to ‘allow.’” Then restart the PC.
Steve Alexander covers technology for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Readers may write to him at Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55488-0002; email: email@example.com. Please include a full name, city and phone number.