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Common Wi-Fi authentication problems: Troubleshooting tips and solutions

Wi-Fi authentication is a process through which a device proves its right to access the network. You’ll see an authentication error whenever your device fails to prove its identity to the network. In this article, we’ll look at what might cause this problem and the best ways to tackle it.

Common Wi-Fi authentication problems: Troubleshooting tips and solutions

What does an authentication problem mean when connecting to Wi-Fi?

A Wi-Fi authentication error appears when a device cannot securely connect to the Wi-Fi network even when using the correct password. In many cases, this problem occurs because your device fails to verify its identity to the Wi-Fi access point or doesn’t meet the authentication requirements set by the Wi-Fi network.

Whenever you are trying to connect your device to the Wi-Fi network, the device sends the request to connect to the router providing an encrypted password. The router then checks that password. If it matches, it connects the device to the network. If it doesn’t, the router displays a verification error and won’t let you connect to the network. If you’re using an Android device, you may notice that even if it connects to Wi-Fi, it cannot access the internet.

Common causes of Wi-Fi authentication problems and how to fix them

Authentication issues can occur due to both user error and configuration mismatches between the device and the Wi-Fi network. Read on about the three most prevalent categories of Wi-Fi authentication issues and how to fix them.

Incorrect password

One of the most common reasons why the Wi-Fi network fails to authenticate the device is an incorrect password. Though it sounds too obvious to be a problem, it’s not unusual for users to make typing errors or confuse passwords of different networks.

Whenever the authentication error pops up, your first step should be to double-check your Wi-Fi password to ensure you haven’t made any typos. If you’ve forgotten the password to your router, we recommend resetting it to the factory settings — you can do that by pressing the physical reset button usually found directly on the device. Afterward, you should also change the Wi-Fi password by accessing your router’s administrator settings. Otherwise, you can contact your network administrator and ask them to help you to retrieve or reset the password.

Network configuration mismatch

If Wi-Fi fails to authenticate your device, it might result from the mismatch between the device’s network configuration settings and the settings of the Wi-Fi router. This could mean that your device is using the wrong security protocol, the network name the device is using doesn’t match the network, or the device and router encryption settings are incompatible.

To verify that your device’s network settings match the Wi-Fi router’s configurations, follow these steps:

  1. Access Wi-Fi settings on your device. If you’re trying to connect to the network via your phone, you can do so by going to “Settings” and selecting “Wi-Fi.” If you’re using a computer, find the Wi-Fi icon in the taskbar and open the network settings.
  2. Access your router’s administration settings. Open your web browser and enter your router’s IP address in the URL (you can follow our guidelines on how to find your router’s IP address). Log in to the router’s administration interface using the username and password, which you can typically find on the router itself if you haven’t changed them to custom ones. If they’re not provided, you can contact your network administrator.
  3. Compare your device and network configurations. First, check if the name of the router’s Wi-Fi network is the same one you are trying to connect to on your device. The network name may be referred to as the service set identifier (SSID) in the router settings. Afterward, check if the network’s security protocol and encryption method match your device.
  4. Update device and network settings to match. If you notice that the network and device configurations don’t match, you should either update your device’s settings or reset the network settings on your router to align with your device. If you apply any changes to your router, you should disconnect your device from the Wi-Fi and reconnect to it again.

2. Technical authentication problems

Signal interference

Signal interference from nearby electronic devices, neighboring networks, or other physical obstacles can cause slow or unstable connections, which could lead to network authentication issues.

The easiest way to avoid signal interference is to reposition your Wi-Fi router. You should aim for amore central coverage area and a location away from other electronic devices that may interfere with the signal.

If the simple solution described above doesn’t work, it is probable that neighboring networks are still interfering with your Wi-Fi. Follow these instructions to change your Wi-Fi channel on the router and make the connection stronger:

  1. Access your router’s administration settings. Follow the instructions in the previous section to log in to your router’s administration interface.
  2. Check your Wi-Fi channel. Navigate to the wireless or Wi-Fi settings and look for the current Wi-Fi channel, called either “Channel” or “Wireless channel.” Take note of what channel you are using. We also recommend analyzing nearby Wi-Fi networks and their channels to see which one might overlap with your connection.
  3. Select another Wi-Fi channel. You can manually choose a less congested Wi-Fi channel from the dropdown menu or a list of options in the “Channel” section in your router’s Wi-Fi settings. We recommend choosing channels 1, 6, or 11 for 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks because they generally don’t overlap. Meanwhile, 5GHz network channels typically don’t overlap at all.
  4. Apply the changes. Once you save the changes in your router’s interface, the Wi-Fi connection on your devices may drop. Disconnect from the Wi-Fi network on your devices and reconnect again — they should connect to the new Wi-Fi channel automatically.

If you’d like to improve your signal strength further, consider using mesh network systems or Wi-Fi extenders to amplify and extend the range of your wireless network coverage.

Firmware or software updates

Another common router or device issue causing authentication problems is outdated firmware or software. Issues may also arise if you’re using the device with an older firmware version while trying to connect to the router with more recent authentication protocols or vice versa. Your device might also fail to successfully implement the latest updates.

You may need to perform some software troubleshooting to determine the problem. Check for updates for your router and devices to avoid authentication errors caused by firmware or software vulnerabilities — you can do so by accessing your router’s settings and running the latest version of firmware updates. Also make sure to update the device’s Wi-Fi drivers and software so they are compatible with the latest authentication protocols.

3. Advanced authentication problems

MAC address filtering

Certain Wi-Fi routers use media access control (MAC) address filtering, allowing only pre-approved MAC addresses to join the network. A MAC address is a unique identifier given to each networked device by the manufacturer. The network administrator usually creates a list of MAC addresses allowed to join the network, which filters the devices and prevents unauthorized access. Even if the device uses the correct SSID and password for the network, Wi-Fi will block its connection without the approved MAC. So if your router doesn’t have your device’s MAC address in the approved list, authentication problems will likely occur.

If you suspect your device’s MAC address has not been added to the router’s approved list, you can manually add it yourself by following these steps:

  1. Identify your device’s MAC address. Go to the device’s general or network settings and search for “MAC address,” “Physical address,” “Ethernet ID,” “Wi-Fi address,” “Wi-Fi MAC address,” or “Ethernet MAC address.” The naming of a MAC address can differ depending on the device.
  2. Access the MAC address filtering settings in your router’s interface. Go to your router’s settings using the instructions provided previously and navigate to the wireless or security settings section. Search for the “MAC address filtering” or “MAC address control” settings.
  3. Add your device’s MAC address to the approved list on your router. Search for the option to add a device to the approved list and add your device’s address in the designated field. Save or apply the changes.
  4. Reconnect your device to the network. Your device should be able to connect to Wi-Fi now that its MAC address is on the router’s approved list.

If the provided instructions fail to help, you can try to disable MAC address filtering altogether. To do so, go to your router’s Mac address filtering settings and choose to “Disable” MAC filtering. However, keep in mind that this action will remove a layer of security from your network, so we recommend disabling MAC filtering only as the last course of action.

Security protocols and encryption issues

A Wi-Fi network may fail to authenticate your device because of the security protocols’ vulnerabilities or incorrect encryption configurations. You can solve this issue by checking if your device and router use the same security protocols and changing them if needed.

Typically, the security protocol needs to be changed on the router. Access your router’s settings and navigate to the security protocol section, where you can choose from WEP, WPA, WPA2, and WPA3 protocols. If your router and device support it, always choose the latest WPA3 protocol to make your devices less susceptible to cyber threats.

Hidden network SSIDs

Sometimes Wi-Fi networks may not appear on the available networks list because their name (SSID) is hidden. Usually, it only requires manually adding the correct SSID to the Wi-Fi settings to find and connect to the desired network. However, if you don’t know or have forgotten the exact name of your router’s SSID, you can check it by visiting your router’s administration settings or checking the network’s name on other connected devices.

You can also enable SSID broadcasting on your router to make things easier. If you’re not sure how to do that, you can visit our guidelines on turning SSID broadcasting on and off.

Why is it important to resolve Wi-Fi authentication issues immediately?

Failure to securely connect to the Wi-Fi network can cause more severe problems than a bad connection or no connection at all. Wi-Fi authentication is a safety measure that prevents unauthorized access to the network, securing your home Wi-Fi from hackers and helping to protect your devices from online intrusions when you are using public Wi-Fi. Unresolved authentication issues may leave the network vulnerable for hackers to exploit. Once they get into your network, they can potentially infect your device with malware, use your network to conduct illegal activities online, or steal your sensitive data.