Powerline adapters can be a great home networking solution, but it can also be frustrating when they don’t work properly. In this article, we’ll break down every single thing we can think of that you can try to 1) isolate why they might not be working; and 2) fix the problem if you can.
All modern powerline adapters will have three LED lights on them somewhere that tell you how well they are working, if at all. There is usually one button for power, another for pairing (adapters have connected to each other), and a third for data transfer (you’re actually sending and receiving data online through the powerlines).
Powerline Adapters have three LEDs (bottom right) which tell you their state of connectivity – powered on, paired and sending data
Although most modern powerline adapters should pair up automatically once you plug them in, if you are having problems then it is a good idea to follow the proper pairing process as per the instruction manual of your adapters.
This usually involves:
- Plugging both adapters into wall sockets (do it next to each other if you like just to get them paired).
- Pressing and holding the pair button on your first adapter for a few seconds. Will often start flashing.
- Within 2 minutes, pressing the pair button on the other adapter.
- When the adapters are connected the lights will stop flashing and turn solid on both of them.
- Your powerline adapters should now be paired up and free to move around the house as you want.
If you can at least get the pair lights to come on solid on both adapters, it’s a start, because it means the adapters can “talk” to each other over the house wiring. However, it doesn’t always guarantee you’ll get them working online.
Depending on how many of these LEDs are lit, this can give you a clue as to why your powerline adapters might not be working. If your adapters are paired, but no data is being sent for example, then it may be a problem with the broader internet in your home or area rather than the powerlines. Check your internet service and see if other devices can connect in the home.
We’ll try and cover the most common and/or most likely and broad reasons for powerline adapters not working first, followed by the less common reasons for them not working properly.
1. Quick Device Resets – An obvious thing to think of, but still worth trying as it can simply require rebooting your router and devices to get them to recognize internet connections in general.
Also try resetting the powerlines if they have a reset button on them. Try also unplugging them both for a couple of minutes and then plugging them back in again. Some of them also have a complete factory reset button that you push in with a pin as routers do. Try pressing that as well.
If none of these steps work, then we need to do a little more troubleshooting to see what’s going on.
2. Check Your Internet Service – This is another one to test out early on to try and isolate whether it’s the adapters that aren’t working or something else is wrong with your internet. Here are some things to try:
- Trying connecting through Wi-Fi instead to see if thats working
- Try also connecting directly by ethernet without powerline adapters. Does this work?
- If yes for both, then you know it’s the powerlines and/or house circuitry that’s the problem. Move to the next point below.
- If no for both, then it may be either your router or the internet in your area that’s the problem. Check with your ISP for service disruption, or contact them for repair or replacement if your router is broken.
- Check also that the ethernet cables you are using with the powerlines are not broken or twisted. Try using spare cables if you have one.
3. Test The Adapters in Different Locations – This is the first thing to test out, since if the circuitry in your house is in poor condition, or is not wired correctly, then the adapters simply won’t be able to communicate and this is why you can’t get an internet connection using them.
Here are some things to try:
- Check which lights are on on your adapters – power, pair, data.
- If no power – adapters or socket is broken – try a different socket.
- If powered but no pair, try in different places – see below.
- If powered, paired, but no data, check internet service and coverage.
- Try using the receiving end adapter in different wall sockets in the same room.
- If you can’t get them working, try in different rooms.
- If still no results, try them right next to each other in a pair of wall sockets. If they do connect this way, then at least the adapters do work; it’s more an issue of the circuitry in your house not allowing them to communicate across distance.
- If they don’t work even when next to each other, then the adapters themselves may be broken and need replacing. Check the warranty and/or returns policy for your adapters.
If your connection problems are pointing more towards the house circuitry being the issue, then there may not be much you can do about this. You may be able to get the adapters to “pair” using very specific wall sockets in the house (wiring can be complex this way), or not at all.
Things to especially look out for are older or much larger houses where the electrical wiring may be either old or worn, and also properties which run off separate meters/feed (eg. extensions and annexes). In these cases you’ll struggle to get the adapters to communicate through the wiring, and this is why they aren’t working.
Powerline adapters and circuitry is a complex issue. Here is a quick summary:
- Powerline adapters will not work between separate residences and apartments within the same building that are on separate feeds.
- Powerline adapters may or may not work across different circuit phases within the same house. Most of the time they will, but there are exceptions.
- When they do work across phases, there can sometimes be a drop in speeds each time they cross over to a new phase.
- They will not work when trying to connect two places supplied by separate meters/feeds.
- See our full article on using powerline across different circuits for a very detailed breakdown of this issue.
If you can’t get them working at all, then you may need to look at other home networking solutions, like range extenders or Wi-Fi Mesh Systems.
See our full articles that compare Wi-Fi extenders/boosters to powerlines and extenders to mesh systems for a look at these other wireless based options you can use for better internet in the home. Running long ethernet cables directly is also an option, but not one that some people want to do because of the DIY and hassle involved.
If you can’t get powerline adapters to work at all because of your house wiring, then you might need to look at other products like Wi-Fi Range Extenders instead
4. Check How You’re Using The Powerline Adapters – This is another important thing to test out, since homeplugs do work best when used in certain ways and not other ways. Here are some key pointers to look out for:
- Make sure you’re using the adapters plugged directly into wall sockets and not into extensions or power strips, which can stop the adapters communicating properly. Always go directly into the wall socket. Models with a passthrough plug socket are available to make sure you don’t lose the plug socket you are using them for.
- Also make sure you aren’t using them close to high power consumptions devices like washers, dryers etc. Moving them away from these devices often solves signal problems.
- They also do not like being close to devices with a switching power supply such as phone and USB chargers and dimmers. They also don’t like devices with an electromotor.
- Plug any high interference devices (not the adapters) into surge protectors or extension leads if necessary.
- Some adapter types can interfere with each other if on the same home network, particularly older models; check they are on same Homeplug AV/AV2 standard.
- Also be careful mixing powerline adapters – whilst you can do this, all adapters need to be on the Homeplug AV standard. See our article which covered this. If one or more adapter isn’t homeplug AV certified, then they may not work together. Using the same models, or at least the same brand, is the best option.
- See our article on when powerline adapters won’t work for more on each of these points.
Powerline adapters don’t work well in power strips or extensions, or next to high power use devices
5. Check You Have Modern Powerline Models – A more minor point but still worth mentioning. The older “homeplug” powerline models from the early and mid 2000s were often not very reliable and had lower theoretical transfer speeds of 200Mbps or less. If you’re still using these models then it’s best to upgrade to newer ones which have much better performance.
Modern powerline adapter models should have theoretical transfer speeds of 500 Mbps or less – look for AV500/AV600 standard or higher. This tells you it’s a decent modern powerline adapter. If you’re still on an older AV200 model or less then this might be what is holding you back; powerline technology took a huge leap in the 2010s and beyond and the newer models work much better than the older ones, which had very limited performance and reliability.
See our powerline adapters page for a breakdown of some good modern TP Link adapters; we also have pages on Netgear and Tenda powerline models.
6. Using Powerline Adapters in Garages & Other Outdoor Buildings – This can be another common problem that can lead to them not working. Powerline adapters can often work in garages, as long as they are wired off the same meter as the main house, and you keep them away from interference from other devices as you would in the house.
Here are some things to watch out for using powerlines in garages and other detached buildings:
- Keep them away from high power consumption devices like drills, saws, and other things with an electromotor.
- Be aware that the speeds you get might be less than in the house, because of distance and other factors like interference.
- Powerline adapters can work on different “rings” on the circuitry, but usually not if the garage is fed off a totally different meter to the house.
- Using circuit breakers, RCD and other devices can also interference with powerline adapters.
- Again, having newer models helps with interference and reliability issues.
- See our article on using powerline adapters in garages for more on these factors.
If you can’t get them to work at all in garage or other outdoor buildings, then you might have to look at some other options. See our article on solving weak Wi-Fi in garages for more ideas on getting better internet coverage there.
Anyone tried all these steps and literally still can’t get them to work – leave a comment with as much detail as possible and we’ll reply if we have any suggestions.