How to fix the “this site can’t be reached” error

More than likely, you’ve encountered the “this site can’t be reached” error while browsing the web. It’s a fairly common issue with many possible causes, including internet connectivity problems, browser glitches, or DNS server errors.

Let’s consider the most likely reasons you’ve encountered this error, examine how these issues occur, and detail the troubleshooting steps to get you back to browsing.

How to identify the root cause of the “this site can’t be reached” error

The “this site can’t be reached” error is a fairly generic message to inform you that your browser can’t find or connect to your target website. Its vague nature indicates multiple potential reasons for the error. Common, probable causes include:

  • A mistyped address in the URL bar
  • The server hosting your destination website might be offline

When diagnosing the cause of this error, always double-check the URL’s spelling. If a typo is at fault, you’ll resolve this problem quickly. But if the hosting server is offline, you can only wait for it to resume functioning.

In other cases, proper diagnostics can help you pinpoint why you’re encountering issues and determine the most efficient means of troubleshooting. So, read on to learn why you might experience the “this site can’t be reached” error and how best to resolve it.

Network issues and router troubles

Physical router problems

Physical problems with your router can range from an improperly secured ethernet cable to overheating or issues with its circuitry, CPU, or ports. These occurrences may interrupt your browser’s web access, resulting in an error message.

Incorrect router configuration

Incorrect router configuration can also disrupt the normal flow of network traffic and cause disruptions when attempting to access specific websites. For example, your router might block a network port that a website uses, preventing your browser from connecting to that site.

DNS cache issues

The problem may also stem from how your router handles Domain Name System (DNS) requests. When your home network devices send these requests, the router stores the DNS records in its cache.

This process improves DNS resolution speed for all network-connected devices, as they can avoid repeatedly querying external DNS servers. However, when the DNS cache contains outdated IP addresses, the browser fails to connect to the website’s new IP address, prompting a “this site can’t be reached” response.

An unstable connection

An unstable network connection may also cause this error. You may have an internet service provider (ISP) outage, misconfigured router settings, or router hardware problems.

Troubleshooting network issues and router troubles

Check the device’s connection

The first step to troubleshooting network issues is checking your device’s connection. If you use a wireless network, confirm that your device’s wireless connectivity is enabled and the connection is active. For wired connections, ensure the ethernet cable is connected correctly.

Reset the router and clear the DNS server cache

If your device is connected but you still encounter the error, the next step is to reset your router. First, unplug your router from the power source and wait a few seconds to let all residual power discharge. Then, plug the router back into the power source and wait for it to reboot.

Rebooting your router resolves network issues by re-establishing connections with your ISP and devices. It also resets the DNS cache, resolving any issues that stem from attempted connections to outdated IP addresses.

Firewall and antivirus software issues

Misconfigured firewall rules

Your firewall software protects your devices from malicious sites. It filters traffic based on source or destination IP addresses, packet contents, connection protocol type, and other attributes. The firewall blocks or allows traffic based on the rules you’ve set, so if you misconfigure your firewall rules, it might block legitimate traffic to or from websites you’re trying to reach.

Antivirus software mistakes

Antivirus software can also cause the “this site can’t be reached” error. It might mistakenly flag a legitimate website as a threat, preventing your browser from reaching that site.

Temporarily turn off firewall and antivirus services

While firewalls and antivirus software are exceptional security measures, they can sometimes block traffic or ports from harmless websites. To determine if your Windows-based firewall or antivirus software is blocking a site, try turning each one off temporarily by following the steps below.

First, press the Windows key on your keyboard to open the Start menu. Type “Control Panel” and press Enter to open it.

Then, in the Control Panel, click System and Security.

Windows System and Security options Fig. 1: Windows System and Security options

Next, click Windows Defender Firewall to access the firewall settings. Then, click Turn Windows Defender Firewall on or off in the left-hand menu.

Windows Defender Firewall settings Fig. 2: Windows Defender Firewall settings

There are options for private (home or work) and public networks in “Customize settings for each type of network.” Select Turn off Windows Defender Firewall (not recommended) for both networks.

Options to customize private and public network settings Fig. 3: Options to customize private and public network settings

Finally, click OK to confirm and apply the changes.

Note that permanently turning off the firewall isn’t recommended. You should only do so temporarily for troubleshooting, then re-enable it when you’re done.

To turn off the Windows virus protection, first, press the Windows key and type “Windows Security” to search for that app.

Then, select the Windows Security app from the search results and go to Virus & threat protection.

Next, in Virus & Threat Protection settings, click Manage settings.

Virus and threat protection options, including current threats and settings Fig. 4: Virus and threat protection options, including current threats and settings

Toggle the Real-time protection switch to Off.

Virus and threat protection settings, including real-time protection and cloud-delivered protection Fig. 5: Virus and threat protection settings, including real-time protection and cloud-delivered protection

As with the firewall software, avoid permanently turning off the antivirus software. Remember to enable it again after troubleshooting.

Browser-related problems

Outdated data

The “this site can’t be reached” error may also be due to browser-related issues like outdated data. For instance, if your browser cached an old redirect, it may attempt to access the site using an outdated URL. If the old URL is no longer valid, you may encounter the error because the browser can’t find the intended destination.

Stale sockets and DNS information

Browsers also use keep-alive sockets to maintain open connections to web servers, even after you’ve loaded a webpage. They reuse these connections for subsequent requests to the same website and may implicitly cache associated DNS information in these sockets. Your browser can’t access the website if the DNS information is stale.

Troubleshooting browser-related issues

Clear the browser’s cache

Clearing the browser’s cache deletes the old data. If you’re using Google Chrome, open a Chrome browser window. Then, click the three vertical dots (menu icon) in the window’s upper-right corner to open the Chrome menu.

Next, in the menu, click Settings. On the Settings page, click Privacy and security. Once there, click Clear browsing data.

Privacy and security settings Fig. 6: Privacy and security settings

Then, in the Clear browsing data window, select Cached images and files. You can also choose the time range of data you want to clear.

Clear browsing data options Fig. 7: Clear browsing data options

Finally, click Clear data. Chrome begins clearing the cache.

Use Tracert to check hop level issues

If you’re on Windows, use tracert to check for the hop levels between your network and the website you’re trying to access. This allows you to pinpoint exactly where the connection breaks down.

In your command prompt, type tracert [], replacing [] with the actual site you're trying to reach. For example:


You’ll see a list of hops, which are essentially the stops your request makes on its way to the site. Each line represents one hop and shows you how long (in milliseconds) the hop took.

Tracert Fig. 8: Tracert

If tracert completes all hops and reaches the site, the issue might not be network-related. In that case, check your browser or firewall settings. However, when it stops at a certain hop and can’t go further (represented by Request timed out), that’s where the problem lies. This could be a network issue.

If the issue lies within your home network, which is usually the first couple of hops, reboot your router or check your local network settings. If it’s beyond your home network, it’s likely an issue with your service provider or a problem on the route to the site. You might want to contact your provider.

DNS server issues

DNS latency or downtime

If the DNS server is slow or isn’t working, your browser might find an incorrect IP address for the website you want to visit, causing the “this site can’t be reached” error.

Troubleshooting DNS server issues

Restart the DNS server

When a website changes its IP address, it saves the changes in the DNS server’s configuration files. However, you must restart the DNS server to enact these changes during the resolution process. This process varies depending on your operating system (OS).

To reset the server on Windows, press your keyboard’s Windows key and search “command prompt” to display the application. Then, right-click the result and click Run as administrator.

Finally, in the command prompt, run the following command:

net start DNS

Change the IPv4 DNS address

If the problem persists, consider switching to a different DNS server, such as Google Public DNS or OpenDNS. These public servers are often more reliable and faster than your ISP’s default DNS server.

To change the IPv4 DNS address in Windows, first click Start or press the Windows key. Then, type “Settings” and press Enter.

Then, in the left-hand menu, click Network & internet.

Next, scroll to the bottom of the page and click Advanced network settings.

Network and internet settings Fig. 9: Network and internet settings

In Network adapters, select the network whose DNS server you want to change. Click View additional properties to view the network’s properties.

Advanced network settings, including Bluetooth Network Connection and Wi-Fi Fig. 10: Advanced network settings, including Bluetooth Network Connection and Wi-Fi

Next, click Edit in the DNS server assignment section.

Wi-Fi properties Fig. 11: Wi-Fi properties

Then, type the preferred DNS server address in the Preferred DNS server field. Typical public DNS server addresses include the following:

Server Name Preferred Address Alternate Address
Google DNS
DNS settings Fig. 12: DNS settings

Finally, click Save to save your changes.

If the original DNS server was the issue, changing the DNS server resolves the “this site can’t be reached” error.

Troubleshoot advanced network settings

If you’ve tried all the previous troubleshooting methods and the error persists, you can use more advanced solutions like resetting the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) or DNS settings.

Reset the TCP/IP settings

TCP/IP is a framework that governs how devices and applications on a network communicate. When you reset the TCP/IP, you restore your computer’s network configuration to its default settings, which might resolve network issues.

To reset the TCP/IP stack on Windows, first, run the command prompt as an administrator.

Then, type the following command to reset the TCP/IP settings:

netsh int ip reset

Reset the DNS settings

Resetting the DNS helps resolve issues resulting from outdated DNS records.

To reset your DNS settings in Windows, first, run the Command Prompt as an administrator.

Then, type the command below to flush the DNS.

ipconfig /flushdns

Finally, restart your computer, clearing your computer’s DNS cache.

Reinstall your browser to resolve persistent issues

While it’s more invasive, reinstallation often restores the browser to its default settings. This method is helpful if you’ve extensively changed the browser’s settings or experimented with features that might cause conflicts.


The root cause of the “this site can’t be reached” error can range from a simple typo to server hardware issues. As a result, it’s crucial to understand how to diagnose the issue and problem-solve accordingly.

While not comprehensive, the potential issues and solutions we’ve discussed help you narrow down your error message’s source so you can troubleshoot it most effectively.

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