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Experienced users of Microsoft Windows are used to the idea of “rebooting” their computers.  Often called “restarting,” the process is akin to turning off your car, and then starting it up again.

If you spend much time fiddling about with your computer, such as installing or upgrading programs or hardware, you know what I’m talking about.  Microsoft Windows is so finicky, mainly because of its system of setting up and addressing files, that a common computer-geek gag line is, “You have done something.  You must reboot.”

The process of rebooting can be a very valuable tool to aid in troubleshooting and even repairing minor computer problems.  As such, I’m about to give away one of my computer-repairman “secrets:” learn how to reboot your entire computer/Internet system, including your computer, cable/DSL modem, and, if you have multiple computers sharing the same Internet connection, your router.  You can pay me to do it for you, but, honestly, I’d prefer if you learned how to do it for yourself.

Most folks don’t know that many of the components that make up their Internet access package are computers in and of themselves, and not just the big computer box alone. Your cable or DSL modem is, in essence, a small, dedicated-purpose computer.  It contains a microprocessor, which is the heart and soul of any computer.  It also contains a tiny operating system, just like your “big” computer contains the Windows operating system.  It also contains other circuitry, such as memory and a modulator/demodulator (MODEM).  Your DSL/cable modem is a computer.  It, too, can “crash” and need rebooting.

If you’re sharing the same Internet connection across multiple computers, then you’re probably using a router (I hope) of some description, and not just a simple hub, switch or “Windows Internet Connection Sharing.”  Your router is also a tiny computer, with a microprocessor, memory and an operating system.  Routers can also sometimes benefit from rebooting.

Rebooting a computer performs a vast array of tasks, such as restarting the BIOS (Basic Input Output System), executing hardware and software-related instructions (find the RAM, find the hard drive, find the keyboard, find the operating system, etc.) and a host of other functions that would take way too long to explain in this article.  It is, in essence, going back to square one.

So, here’s the big secret:  turn everything off, and turn everything back on again.  For the computer, clicking “StartShutdownRestart” (called a “soft” or “hot” reboot) will usually get the job done, although you may sometimes need to do a “hard” or “cold” reboot (StartShutdownShutdown) and completely turn the system off.  Also, unplug the power to your modem and router.  Wait a while (1-5 minutes).  Then, plug in the modem, and give it time to “settle down.”  Do the same thing to your router.  Lastly, power up your computer, give it time to load all of its startup processes, services and programs, and then see if your system has not somehow, marvelously “repaired itself.”  Voila!