What is “Limited Connectivity” and how do I fix it?

"Limited Connectivity" displays when your computer is having problems completing its network configuration. It might as well mean "no connectivity".

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I have recently started receiving “limited connectivity” messages at our vacation condo. Looking on the web I’ve found a jillion ways to fix this problem and can’t believe all the advertising. I’ve found that cycling the repeater that is in our condo will usually clear this problem. What causes it and what do I do when cycling the repeater doesn’t work?

“Limited connectivity” happens when your computer can connect to the network … but it can’t.

I know, that wasn’t very helpful. But it’s actually accurate. Your computer was able to connect the network in one way, but was unable to complete the next step.

“Limited connectivity” happens when:

  • Your computer detects that a network is present and operating. That means that it detects that the network cable is plugged in, or that it was able to connect to a wireless access point.
  • Your computer’s request for an IP address went unanswered.

It’s that last one that needs a little explanation.

An IP address is how your computer is located on its network. The vast majority of machines are configured to connect to the network using DHCP to get what’s called a “dynamic” IP address. That means that rather than permanently assigning a specific IP to that machine, the machine “asks” for an IP address when it connects to the network.

Dynamic IP addresses are simpler to configure, and allow for IP addresses to be re-used when the machines that they were temporarily assigned to are taken offline.

If you check your IP on your machine and it starts with ’169.’ that’s a made-up IP address.

A DHCP request for a dynamic IP address is very simple: your computer broadcasts to all the devices listening on its network “Would the DHCP server listening please assign me an IP address!”. On each such network there should be one device that hears that request and responds with something like “Here ya go: you will be 192.168.1.4 – and by the way, when you want to talk to others on your network, here’s some more information, and when you want to send something to the internet, send it here.”

In other words your computer gets both its IP address as well as instructions on how to talk to the rest of the world.

At that point your computer is ready to communicate with the world.

So, what happens if no one responds?

Your computer will repeat that request (“Would the DHCP server listening please assign me an IP address!”) a few times, and then it’ll give up.

And declare that you have limited connectivity.

Connectivity is “limited” because your computer will likely make up an IP address. If you check your IP on your machine and it starts with “169.” that’s a made-up IP address. Only your computer knows about it, which means that no other computer knows how to contact yours. In addition, your computer doesn’t know how to find or send packets to anyone else.

Limited connectivity is extremely limited. In practice, it means no connectivity.

There are scenarios where, if you know what you’re doing and you’re willing to jump through some hoops, you can actually force communication while you’re in this state by doing things like manually configuring TCP/IP settings on your network card. But it’s not meant to be a long term solution at all.

So, what do you do?

DHCP is typically handled by your router, or in some cases your broadband modem. If you have a single PC connected to the internet, it may also be handled by your ISP.

Believe it or not, 90% of the time what you did is exactly right: reboot your router. Sometimes routers just “get into a state” and need to be rebooted. It’s silly, and in an ideal world shouldn’t be needed, but it is what it is. I probably reboot my router once a month, on average.

Wireless access points, those which are not routers but simply provide the wireless connectivity to a wired network, can sometimes also hiccup and fail in such a way as to cause this problem. I believe it happens when the wireless side of the device keeps working while the wired connection is, for some reason, inoperative. Again, a reboot of the device typically clears this up.

In either case, it’s easiest to then reboot your computer(s) to force them to request new IP address assignments from the now functioning router.

If the reboot resolves the problem, but then it reoccurs quickly, I would check with the manufacturer of that device to see if there is new firmware available for it. Even though we think of routers and access points as hardware, they are in fact small computers running programs, and the programs sometimes have bugs. Sometimes those bugs don’t manifest until something outside of the device changes. (I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that the new TCP/IP code in Windows Vista has
exposed issues with some routers, for example.)

If your firmware is up to date, and the problem repeats frequently, I would investigate trying a new router or access point to see if that clears things up.

There are 40 comments:

  1. Eeveevolve Reply

    You also get ‘limited connectivity’ if you connect to your router but do not imput a wep/wpa key or the wrong one.

    Basicly you are connected to the router, but it doesnt want to know you without the correct key.

  2. Rahul Reply

    I had this experience in a public library’s hot-spot. I was assigned an IP and it is an open (no security) wireless connection. Yet, I got limited connection. May be the router was kaput like Leo says. My trouble was that whatever I did with my computer, I got the same IP and same “no connection”.

    Ultimately I had to take the course Leo suggests as a short term solution – manually configure TCP/IP setting. I went on to assign myself an IP and got full connection pronto.

    You have got to know your settings. Computer systems are still not ignorant friendly.

  3. peter Reply

    For me i have a personal experiment at this problem, and see that “limited connectivity” caused also when there was a malfunction on the main lines of the Internet network , any way thank you leo for useful article.
    http://www.fosdir.com

  4. Eli Coten Reply

    Although I don’t usually get the “limited connectivity” errors, I find that some routers (I have a Speedtouch one) drops the wireless whilst keeping the ethernet somewhat active, though in this state the router is extremely slow, sometimes unresponsive and I usually either wait for it to reboot itself – though I still haven’t figured out how or why it does that – or just restart it manually.

  5. Stuart Ball Reply

    We also get the “limited connectivity” when our ISP broadband feed isn’t working. Since Comcast and Insight swapped coverage areas in the Midwest this year, this has been happening while they do their maintenance.

  6. Mr James Morrison Reply

    I had Limited Connectivity for at least five months, I had to re-boot every time I looked at my computer, I tried everything I could read about,but then I put my computer in for a service as I needed help, they sorted it right away, it was my Panda Antivirus plus Firewall that was at fault, it was running but blocking use of the computer,Panda is now running perfect.hope this helps, JIM.

  7. Michael Horowitz Reply

    If you have Windows XP, from a command prompt enter “arp -a”. If you get a response like:

    Interface: 192.168.1.77
      Internet Address Physical Address   Type
      192.168.1.1       02-10-40-4c-3c-8c dynamic

    then your computer is able to talk, at the lowest level, with the router. That’s a good thing.

    In this example, the router is 192.168.1.1 and the computer where I entered the command is “Interface” or 192.168.1.77.

    If you don’t see any IP addresses other than the Interface one on the first line, then the problem is likely hardware rather than software. Is a wire unplugged? Is the WiFi radio turned on? That sort of thing.

    This should work with other OSs and other versions of Windows too as ARP is a TCP/IP thing rather than a Windows thing, but the command syntax may differ.

  8. Mr Anonymous Reply

    My internet connection was working one day and failed to connect the next day with limited connectivity. I tried everything I read from the web but was unable to resolve it. Fortunately, I check the list of install softwares/update and found that the last thing installed on the laptop was an antivirus update. When I uninstall the update, things started to work again.

  9. Kevin Reply

    I always wondered where that 169.x.x.x ip address came from thx

  10. Mark Reply

    Thanks for the article. I was having a terrible time installing a linksys wireless N adapter while using a linksys wireless N router. They should be compatible, right? I had already tried rebooting the router, but after reading your article I decided to try rebooting the router again… and it worked. What a pain tho!

  11. Tarek Reply

    Is there a checklist of things (even menial things) I can go through to overcome the limited connectivity?

    I think I may have changed some settings to connect to a different network, and now that I’m home I can’t connect to the internet even though I have done before, and other computers still can.

    I have checked the IP settings and have compared the settings to the other pcs but I’m not getting anywhere.

    Is there a defaukt settings option on the connection options? That could possibly work.

    I’m on vista too.

  12. BOIE SAN LUIS Reply

    Limited no connectivity this so simple you need to contact your network provider to provide you for the following : the IP address, Submet mask, Default gateway, and pefereed DNS server number after you acquired all click START – NETWORK CONNECTIONS – PROPERTIES – on the Description uncheck the Notify me when this connection has limited or no connectivity and check the show Icon on notificationare when connected Then highlight the Internet Protocol(TCP/IP)tab -go to Properties – General tab, click Use the following IP address and input the number given by your network provider, Subnet mask, Default gateway and the tab Use the following DNS server addresses and then input Preferred DNS server number given by the network provider then press OK that will solve your problem

  13. Divjot Singh Reply

    I have connected to the new modem i bought, the LAN icon says its connected to a network but its limited connectivity.The status of LAN shows that no packets are received by my laptop.I have checked pinging the modem, but its not working. How is it possible that LAN says its connected but the modem is not responding while i do the ping test in the command prompt.
    what do you suggest?
    Operating system is Vista Business.
    Modem manufacturer is Seimens, Model no. SL2_141.

    Regards,
    Divjot.

  14. M Hardee Reply

    Started getting this error message after a teenage visitor in our home downloaded games to one of our pcs. He had asked to check his email but once on the computer decided he wanted to do other things. We tried using AVG and other s/w to “clean” the PC. But, never were able to fix it using any of the suggestions we found on line.
    Tried changing wireless adapter (USB to PCI) but never was able to get the error corrected. Called cable company & their technician couldn’t troubleshoot and resolve and they found no problem with the router/cable modem. So, last effort was to carry the pc to the vendor where it was purchaed & have their tech check it out. He found that Window XP was corrupt and re-installed. This kid had downloaded Win32Heurvirus onto the PC. We did switch to the PCI wireless card and have had no problems since reconnecting this computer to our wireless network. I did not see this solution on any of the sites where I researched this problem….hope it helps someone

  15. R Lukaszczyk Reply

    I need some help on this one. I have a desktop (running XP) connected to a DSL modem and a laptop (running Vista) that is on a wireless connection. Everything has worked very well for the past year with no connection problems. Last week, I clicked on an automatic update for my Norton software (upgrade from version 2.0 to 3.0). The update worked fine and then prompted me to restart. The restart didn

  16. Oliver Reply

    thanks so much for the information!
    i love the conversational style of your writing. it made this issue very easy to understand.
    i just reset my router and wha-la! it works…
    oh why aren’t all computer problems this easy to fix?!

  17. Michael Hoffman Reply

    I am trying to connect directly to an external drive via ethernet cable and experiencing a Limited Connectivity issue. I have tried using ipconfig at the command prompt to release and renew and it didn’t help. I have even changed cables, trying 8 different ones and problem still exists. Is it supposed to be Limited if plugged directly into the PC, by passing any router? I have tried all three of my PC’s and they all say Limited Connectivity with this external drive which i never had a problem with before. Do I need to use a cross over cable instead of a straight through? It should be able to connect to it without the use of a router.

  18. Bill Sinclair Reply

    I have a similar issue. I have a westell wireless router supplied by Verizon DSL. It works fine and has for years. I also have an airlink101 repeater so I can use my laptop in the back yard. My laptop ( Winxp sp3) has no problem connecting when in range of the westell router and all works fine. However, when it connects through the airlink I get limited connectivity. Now here’s the weird part. If I disable WEP all is fine, works great. But when I enable WEP it does not. I have reset the passphrase repeatedly on both routers to be sure they matched. Any Idea what may be causing this because I really do not care to run the wireless without security.???

    Well for one thing you should not be using WEP. WEP turns out to be easily crack-able, and about as good as no encryption at all. Try using WPA instead. Perhaps the airport doesn’t do WEP any more?

    - Leo
    14-Jul-2009

  19. Jen Reply

    I am having trouble with the wireless network connection on my HP laptop. No matter where i’m tring to connecty I recieve the Limited connectivity problem. I tried connecting in several places where others can conect to the internet, and I keep recieving the problem.

  20. Brendon Reply

    I am unable to connected to he internet my computer say’s, ipv4=internet and ipv6=limited. I tried all types of fixes for it but still has a problem with “software loopback interface” what is that. how do i connected.

  21. Peter Reply

    Thanks Leo. Your explanation about limited connectivity was very helpful. I am so happy to have found your website.

  22. john small Reply

    IN XP, IF I GET “LIMITED CONNECTIVITY” I GO TO CONTROL PANEL THEN NETWORK CONNECTIONS THEN IN LOCAL AREA CONN , RIGHT CLICK, DISABLE. THEN ENABLE, THEN ALL OK……. I WANT TO KNOW HOW TO FIX TO SAVE ME DOING ALL ABOVE.

  23. joe Reply

    hi leo i already have a bt broadband router that my son uses for his laptop using a wireless connection but the problem i have is that my computer shows limited connectivity when i try to connect. can you help as i think i may have missed something when i installed my bt software cd thanks any help is gratefuly appreciated

  24. Alex Reply

    Hi Leo,
    I’m getting limited connectivity on my Inspiron 1525 laptop for my Wireless connection, but there’s another computer in my house which has a perfectly good wireless connection and we’re both using the same router and everything, it’s just that the other computer isnt a Dell, and uses Windows XP, whereas I have Vista. Any insight would be appreciated.

  25. Neo Reply

    Hi Leo,
    I have a router which keeps gving me limited connectivity on all the 5 different PC’s which I have tried it on; hence I searched for the firmware update online and it was available for update, unfortunately I need to still access the router setup/admin in order update the firmware but still faced with the same limited connectivity issue. Is there another way to update the router firmware?

  26. tj Reply

    I hope this works because I have tryed evertying for the last few day’s and nothing has happened my internet only works when Im by my router when I’m away from it…it connects but has limited connectivity.

  27. M. Kearns Reply

    Alex, I’ve got the same exact problem. Two lap tops one running XP and the other Vista. Same network and the Vista connection is crap. Have you fix your problem. I need some help, I’m pulling my hair out trying to fix it.

  28. Ben Reply

    Leo, I appear to have a similar issue as other postings, I’m trying to access via wi-fi a hot spot. (BT openzone) I have not had any issues previously in accessing this site but over the last couple of days I have not been able to connect with the messages limited connectivity and unable to repair dynamic IP address. Windows Vista is the operating system, any suggestions? – reboot has not worked

  29. Alan Reply

    Could be your ISP disconnecting your router if you have had to many downloads, but don’t expect them to tell you that

  30. dilbagh Reply

    Leo Sir,
    I have desktop computer (A) with internet connected via Nokia mobile. ICS is enabled on this PC and it works as a host. PC A has nvidia network adapter installed. Another PC (B)which is client with Realtek8139 network adapter connects with the host (A) through cross cable and everything works fine (The internet and file sharing with all icons displaying such as network connection. Now when I connect this third PC (C) in place of (B) as client with same cross over cable and same realtek 8139 network adapter card there is limited connectivity on the client pc (C) and I’m unable to share file & folders and the internet, but host pc (A) show LAN connected with no sharing of folders. workgroup is same on each pc (A,B & C). I have tried the following on the third pc (C):
    winsockfix utility, netsh commands, disconnected mobile and restarted after switching it off for 5 minutes. Third pc (C) shows no error in terms network card and cross cable and sending packets or frames (datagrams) but does not receive any from host, likewise host (A) is also sending but no receiving packets. Tried static ip on client (C)but to no avail. I’m turning nuts over this issue for the past one week. If someone could help out. Thanks a lot in advance. I have tried everything on the planet but still struggling.

  31. nes Reply

    sir,
    ipconfig /release ipconfig /renew and i used this program winsock to reset ip

  32. mike Reply

    A little more detail is that the 169.xxx IP address which is called a local host address is in fact a temporary IP so that the computer can talk to the router in order to setup a secure connection(hopefully). Think of the 169.xxx as a temporary PIN that the router gives to the computer. Once that computer connects through DHCP the 169.xxx is released and can be used for another computer. I too occasionally have the limited connectivity and the only way I’ve been able to “fix” it is to reboot. What drives me nuts is that my teenager never has the problem with his computer, so I’m of the opinion it may have something to do with the network card in my laptop. It only happens 1 or 2 a month so not a big deal, just frustrating.

  33. bbro300zx Reply

    My desktops work fine and they are hardwired to the router. My laptop works fine with a wireless connection. My wife gave her newer laptop to our son and I have upgraded the ram,battery and hard drive in the old Toshiba. It is running a lot better but is giving me the limited connectivity message. I think it might be time to try to update the firmware. I am wondering if the wireless card, or chip or however they do it on the laptop is bad. Of course maybe a fw upgrade might bring it back to life.

  34. Andrew Reply

    Sir leo, one thing to add to the thread if all else is not working and u have a firewall (norton, comodo etc) installed and it has been accidentally set to block all. Your network will not be able to assign an ip to the pc and u will get the limited conectivity message. Very frustrating if u dont know it was turned to block all. Thought i would share just in case someone else encounters this issue.

  35. Jimmy Durchslag Reply

    Another relatively quick fix that has worked for me on XP (but is somewhat annoying) is to go to the settings:network connections: wireless network connections, choose “view wireless networks,” disconnect from the “limited connectivity” network and then reconnect. This has worked for me to get a good connection on a couple of different laptops in different Wi-Fi spots and should be a lot simpler than rebooting the router. I probably need to set the ip config etc. as suggested to eliminate the problem.

  36. jacky (Indonesian) Reply

    thank you sir …
    I’ve solved the problem ….

    problems:
    My PC’s IP address = 192.168.1.100 (for LAN with cable)
    and everytime i want to turn on wireless, always appears caption “Limited Connectivity” …
    finally after I checked, it turns out by chance the wireless network router gives an IP on my PC = 192.168.1.100, This is what causes the “LIMITED CONNECTIVITY”

  37. Roger Reply

    I ran into the problem of being unable to connect to the internet getting the “limited connectivity, unidentified network” message. The message further indicated I was connected to our wireless home network with limited connectivity but the end result was no internet access. The short answer to my solution was to unplug my CISCO router, plug it back in and the problem was solved.

    Below is more information about my specific case. The problem arose on our laptop running Vista when it suddenly stopped connecting to the internet, getting the above messages about limited connectivity, unidentified network. At this same time, one of our TV’s that connected to Netflix via a Blu-ray player, also stopped connecting being unable to find the network. I was still able to connect to the internet using our desktop computer running Windows 7 64 bit (not a wireless connection), was still able to connect to Netflix on another TV and was still able to connect to our wireless network and the internet with an iPad.

    Researching this issue on the internet, there were many possible causes and suggested solutions. None of those solutions worked for me and I’m just glad it just occurred to me to simply disconnect the router and then plug it back in. About a week prior to the issue, I had installed Norton Internet Security on the laptop and thought this may be the cause of the problem but uninstalling it did not resolve the problem. I have reinstalled NIS and it works fine since employing the solution that worked for me. Before finding my solution I also looked at our router firmware but it was up to date and determined that was not related to the problem. Also tried some of the other ideas related to internet connection properties but again none of those were related to the issue.

    Not sure if my solution will work for others but it’s a pretty easy step to take when looking to resolve this problem.

  38. Dusan Reply

    Wow. thanks leo! this has happened at least 3 times to me now, and the first 2 times were very annoying since i didnt know how to fix it. now it’s fine. again, thanks!

  39. Christina Reply

    I have been seeing the limited connectivity error message lately. I have a windows vista laptop with virgin mobile broadband to go usb drive stick. I restarted the computer and took out the usb, but it hasn’t fixed the problem. I’m going to try looking at the antivirus and firewall setings, but is there anything else you can suggest? Thanks!!! :)

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