Top 10 IP Camera Troubleshooting Tips

Author: IPVM Team, Published on May 18, 2016

Troubleshooting IP cameras can be tricky and frustrating. Despite everything looking correct, it can still take some extra effort to bring IP cameras up and operational. As IP video matures, the technology gets easier to configure, but it is still far from "plug and play". Every technician should have a few basic troubleshooting techniques up their sleeve to get IP cameras online and working. In this note, we detail the Top 10 basic troubleshooting tips for IP camera connections.

[Background: If you are not completely comfortable with IP networking, read our IP Video 101 training series first.]

The Top Ten Tips of Troubleshooting

  1. Reboot the camera
  2. Ping & discover the camera
  3. Check ARP tables
  4. Check for IP conflicts
  5. Verify camera power & connection
  6. Check the cabling
  7. Know the password
  8. Upgrade Firmware
  9. Look to the manufacturer for help
  10. Reset the camera to factory default

Tips Explained

1. Reboot the camera: Some consider the 'Golden Rule' of IT troubleshooting to first reboot the device before proceeding. Simply restarting the camera gives the chance for cache to flush, settings to recalibrate, and connections to be renegotiated. This step is the least difficult and cheapest to perform, one only has to remove power, wait 10 or 15 seconds, and then restore power.

2. Ping the camera and discover it: Type "cmd" into the Windows search box to open a DOS command prompt and the use the "ping" command to see if you can connect to the camera. For example, if your camera's address is 192.168.2.150, use "ping 192.168.2.150 -t" at the command prompt, if you receive "Destination Host Unreachable" or "Request Timed Out" replies that means you are not connecting to the camera via the network. There can be many reasons for that, the most basic being that the camera and the computer are on different networks or subnets. If you are receiving proper connection replies, use a web browser or the manufacturer's discovery utility to connect to the camera.

If you need help with this process, review this IPVM Basic Networking Tutorial on using manufacturer's camera discovery utilities, pinging cameras and setting your PC's IP address to be on the same network as the camera.

3. Check ARP tables to cross reference MAC and IP addresses: Knowing the camera's MAC address is a vital clue to discovering a camera's IP address, it's usually printed somewhere on most units on the camera or housing. It's good practice to keep a record of the MAC and IP addresses of installed cameras for troubleshooting purposes. In a similar manner to ping in Tip #2 above, the ARP command can be used to show the IP and MAC addresses of devices connected to the network, just type "arp -a" at the command prompt. You can find the IP address of the camera by knowing the MAC address and vice versa.

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4. Confirm IP Addresses are not conflicting: Take care that two devices are assigned the same address, because this often has the result of 'cancelling out' network access to either device. A simple "fat finger" while inputting the camera's address, gateway or subnet can cause all kinds of havoc. The ARP command listed in Tip #3 can help with this.

5. Verify Camera Power and connection: If possible, look at the camera to make sure it is powered up. Most cameras have LED's that indicate the camera's power status, and if it is connected to and transmitting data to the network. Many times these LED's may be concealed inside the camera's housing. If the camera is externally powered (non-PoE) check the power supply if no LED's are lit.

If it is a PoE camera and not powered, check to see if it is plugged into a PoE switch or midspan. Verify that the camera is receiving the proper wattage of PoE power, outdoor cameras with heater/blowers and PTZ cameras often require High-PoE or PoE+ 30W or 60W of PoE power that is higher than most standard 15W PoE switches provide, often requiring different wattage midspans. Some cameras that require >15W of power will boot up and connect with 15W, but not transmit images or respond to PTZ commands.

Another pitfall may be the PoE network switch itself. Some PoE switches do not have enough power to supply 15W to every port and will not supply power to another camera if it is already overloaded. To troubleshoot, connect the camera into a suitable PoE injector or midspan to see if that is the problem. An IPVM report on network switch PoE power problems illustrates this problem in more detail.

6. Check the Cabling: If the camera's link and/or activity lights aren't blinking, it's likely a cable. A high frequency of connection issues center around cabling problems. Basic IT troubleshooting places a huge emphasis on checking transmission cables. Since the final assembly is only as robust as it's weakest link, checking data cables for kinks, frays, shorts, and bad terminations is a very basic troubleshooting step. Cable and patch panel connections made in a hurry by hand can get crossed wires or connectors come loose.

Sometimes the power wires to a PoE camera in the cable may be powering the camera up, but the data wires may be crossed or not connected preventing network connection. To troubleshoot, use a cable tester to test the cabling or use a known good cable to connect to the camera and see if it connects. If a patch panel is used, check the patch cable, that often gets overlooked.

7. Know the password: If you can ping the camera, but cannot connect to it with the VMS, web browser or discovery tool, it might be because of an incorrect login or password. IPVM maintains a list of camera manufacturer's default passwords that might help. If the defaults do not work, someone probably changed them and you will need to find out what they were changed to in order to connect.

Increasingly, IP camera manufacturers are forcing users to change the default password upon first login. This increases security but increases the risk of troubleshooting issues as looking up the default password will not work. If you suspect the issue is forgetting the password, either (10) factory default the camera or (9) contact the manufacturer.

8.
Upgrade Firmware: If the camera is powered up, online and you can reach the camera's web page but you are having other problems (like not being able to connect to the VMS), check the firmware of the camera against the current firmware available. If out of date, you may want to consider upgrading the firmware. This sometimes solves problems but upgrading firmware can other times cause problems so be careful with this (see: IP Camera Firmware Upgrade Directory).

9. Don't be a hero, call for help: If you have tried the above steps and still cannot connect to the camera, visit the manufacturer's website for specific model troubleshooting guides and if those do not help, call the camera manufacturer's tech support line. Many times they know "tricks" specific to their hardware and can remotely connect to your PC via the internet to diagnose. Don't be afraid to ask for help, many times technicians waste hours tracking down a problem that the manufacturer's help desk representative can fix in a few minutes. The manufacturer's technician can also start an RMA process to return the camera if it is faulty and needs to be repaired or replaced under warranty.

10. Factory Default the Camera: Some consider this the most drastic troubleshooting step to take. Unlike Tip #1 that restarts the camera, factory defaulting removes all setting and configuration and returns the device to it's 'factory default' settings. Most IP cameras have a pin hole / reset button on the back of the device that enables factory defaulting the camera (note: not all).

Unfortunately, camera operating systems can sometimes become corrupt, or errors in the configuration can cause a camera to 'become lost'. Defaulting a camera takes it back to a fixed reference point where reconfiguration can begin. However once you default it, the camera loses all settings and history which may be vital for further troubleshooting. It may be best to wait until after calling tech support before trying this step.

11. Consider HD Analog: If you consistently have issues or if you want a simpler setup experience, consider HD analog. With HD analog, like old NTSC / PAL analog, cameras are not computers and immediately connect to recorders, without needing passwords, firmware, IP addresses, software integration, etc. However, HD analog has its own limitations compared to IP (most notably in maximum resolution, advanced functionalities, breadth of support). But some users, especially those with simpler systems, less IT trained techs and desire for lower costs may do better with HD analog.

Conclusion

This list is not all inclusive, but are the most common steps to getting a stubborn IP camera to cooperate. Many of our readers will have other great troubleshooting tips, and we encourage you to add to this list in the comments section below.

[Note: this article was originally published in October 2013 but was updated in 2016 ]

Comments (13)

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Many enterprises segregate their networks using VLANS with managed switches. Sometimes network teams move vlans around or move cables to different ports on switches. They can inadvertently rmove a camera from a working VLAN for the VMS system to a different network thus rendering it uncontactable. Ensure that proper cabling is in place. And keep up to date documents of network design.

If those all fail:

#11 - Try swapping out the user with a known-good one ;)

Nice!

To expand on #9, most mfrs provide a discovery utility that only finds their cameras, like axis ip utility, or dahua config tool.

They work by broadcasting at the Ethernet layer directly and will find anything with their company's MAC prefix. they require u be on the same switch segment tho.

After that they will let u change the IP address. It's really the quickest way to go if u have the utility.

If the finder can't find it its a probably a physical cable problem. not sure if it works with wireless products since layer 2 broadcasts are usually not repeated by access points...

c

I would also put somewhere in the list: "check the logs".

For example, a System Report on an Axis camera will tell you all kinds of information, and in the preventive maintenance programs we set up, we include a periodic review of those reports. Other brands of cameras also have logs and reports.

As a general practice we also establish network monitoring of the cameras and switches, and syslog monitoring for the cameras where supported, and check those logs periodically - and also check them as an early step in troubleshooting.

One of the advantages of logging is that you can often find when a problem started, and match that up to some event or change such as a power outage or network reconfiguration.

Of course the particular starting point depends upon what kind of trouble it is. If the camera won't power up, obviously you can't get a report out of it. ;-)

great list!

I really, really like comprehensive troubleshooting-step lists... back in the day, I used lists like this that I made up for every new tech I hired - for each type of issue - whether they were new at support, or already perceived themselves as 'veterans'.

Two important things to add (imo) are:

1. The importance of the 'isolate & eliminate' principle when troubleshooting. i.e. you must isolate one item at a time when troubleshooting in order to eliminate this as the source of the problem. Seems simple and obvious, but I've seen and heard techs many times who change two things at the same time while trying to find root causes. Makes my head explode when I hear it. You prove nothing if more than one variable is changed before validating anything.

2. The order in which you perform these troubleshooting steps. I've seen plenty of 'veterans' spend an inordinate amount of time troubleshooting stuff because they don't understand the percentages: the 'likelihood' of each step helping to determine the problem. IMO, you should troubleshoot based on what is 'most likely' to be the root cause (based on experience). When you have a big support crew with hundreds of calls daily, this becomes huge...

For the list above, I would put them in this order:

#6 Verify Camera Power/Connection
#2 Ping Camera
#8 Know UserName/PassWord
#3 Check ARP Tables
#4 Confirm No IP Conflict
#5 Disable Antivirus/FW
#1 Reboot Camera
#7 Check Cabling
#10 Factory Reset Camera
#9 Call Support

I'm curious if others would use a different order of steps - and why.... :)

I fully support "isolate & eliminate". I have seen people putting in multiple "variations" and creating a different magnitude of problems. It is important to handle an issue an a time and ensure something fully tested before moving on.

These are great articles - too often we get mired down in the technical minutia or escalate issues to higher levels and the simple question is asked "Did you restart?", and almost like a Seinfeld episode, we cover our incompetence with an elaborate excuse.

KISS keep it simple Sam/Sally. Begin at the beginning and things more often than not get resolved sooner.

Thank you John, I saw this I was hoping soneone had a little more detail. Ill cull the info and add more.

Regards,

Todd

I would also add "Check the date/time on the camera". If the date/time is off more than a few minutes from the VMS it will not be able to authenticate properly when you try to import the camera into the VMS. This is especially true for ONVIF camera devices.

Ideally a central NTP time source should be configured for all servers and cameras. If the camera NTP server IP address is not set properly or the time zone on the camera is not set properly, the camera won't often import into your VMS (like Milestone).

This is an interesting topic. I had a really bad time with Pelco Cameras. They don't allow you to set a time manually. They must sync to an NTP. So here is the dilemma. When you are on a network which can route to your companies NTP source that is fine, but stack your cameras behind a protected VLAN and you get into some trouble. You will need to setup your recorder to act as the NTP source otherwise you will never get the cameras configured in your VMS, (should it require times to be in sync). Milestone is one, Ocularis (Seetek is another). Maybe it would be a good article for IPVM to call for input on what camera manufacturers require NTP to be mandatory. Further to that maybe a tutorial on setting up NTP for private VLANs where you cannot route to corporate or internet time servers.

I like to take the network out of the picture and carry a PoE injector in my laptop bag. Then I can create a 2 node network consisting of my laptop and the camera (assuming PoE of course). I'll still need to know the IP address of the camera, but I've removed any other variables. As someone stated earlier, most manufacturers have "camera discovery" software that you can use and may not even have to know the IP address (the software will find it for you and let you change it if necessary).

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