Two of the Kindle’s most appealing features are its wireless connection, which lets you download new books any time of the day from most places in the US, and the rapidly expanding treasure trove of ebooks available on Amazon. So it’s a sad, sad day when you switch on your Kindle’s wireless and get…nothing. No bars, no signal, no Whispernet, no instant access to that literary treasure chest.

What’s a Kindler to do when her wireless is kaput?

There are several possibilities to explore:

  1. Your location.
  2. Kindle hardware and software glitches.
  3. The problem’s with Amazon.
  4. Your wireless is kaput.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to troubleshooting Kindle wireless problems.

First things first

Your wireless probably isn’t kaput.

I know that having the Kindle wireless die completely is something many Kindlers worry about; after all, this is recent technology and the company’s first hardware product – who knows how reliable it is and what sort of longevity we can expect?

Chances are, though, that even if you can’t get a signal for a whole day or for several days in a row, the wireless in your Kindle hasn’t died, but that something else is afoot. There are several other possibilities worth investigating first.

1. Are you in Kindle’s wireless coverage area?

Amazon’s Whispernet comes to you courtesy of Sprint’s EVDO network, so you can only use your Kindle’s wireless when you’re in the network’s coverage area.

As you’ll see from the map, urban coverage is pretty good (orange indicates high-speed, green areas get lower-speed connections), but rural folk are left off the map in many places. (Click the image to visit the Kindle coverage map online, where you can search for a particular address.)

Even if you are under Whispernet’s spell, all sorts of things can have an effect on the signal. Bad weather, hills and dales, other wireless devices in your house, that concrete bunker you’re in. Try moving about, going outside or just waiting until the storm passes, then check your connection once more.

Whispernet coverage map

Click the map to use the interactive Coverage Tool.

2. Is your Kindle having a bad hair day?

Your Kindle is like most computing devices: sometimes it’ll stop working temporarily, usually for no apparent reason. The simplest solution is often the most effective: turn it off and then back on again.

  • Here’s what Amazon suggests you do: Shut the Kindle down, not by using the power switch but by doing this: Select Menu –> Settings –> Menu (again) –>Restart.  [Thanks to Geekgirl’s reader Ellen T. for this tip.] This usually works. If not, keep going.
  • Flick both the power and wireless switches to the off position, wait a few seconds, then switch them both back on.
  • Sometimes switching the wireless on is not enough; you won’t get a connection until you actually try to connect. Give the Kindle a nudge to go online by clicking the menu button and choosing Shop In Kindle Store.

Still no signal? You may be tempted to try pushing the reset button on the back of your Kindle (under the cover). The word from Amazon is: Don’t! It’s not likely to help, and when you press the reset button, troubleshooting info stored on your Kindle, which might potentially help with fixing errors on your device, is erased.

3. The problem’s at Amazon’s end

The Whispernet is not infallible. Sometimes it silently disappears for a while, then just as quietly returns after five minutes, five hours or even longer.

If you’ve tried various physical solutions and your Kindle is still wireless-less, try patience. It usually works. I’ve had no connection on a fair few occasions – one time for two days – but the signal has always returned.

If your Kindle is brand new, there’s another possibility: Amazon failed to register it properly on its network. If you’ve just received your Kindle and the wireless won’t work at all, give the Kindle support line a call on 1-866-321-8851 to make sure everything’s hunky dory.

4. Your Kindle’s wireless really is dead

If you’ve run through this troubleshooting checklist and you still can’t get a wireless connection within the Whispernet coverage area, your wireless really may be kaput.

If your Kindle is less than a year old or you’re covered by an extended warranty, give the Kindle hotline a call: 1-866-321-8851 from within the US, 1-206-266-0927 if you’re calling from afar.