Where oh where has my wifi gone?
September 23, 2008 10:20 AM   Subscribe

What the WiFi?! My wireless network has gone insane, and it's about to give me a nervous breakdown. Please, please, PLEASE help.

My wireless network has gone berserk over the last six months. Prior to this current rash of craziness, it worked flawlessly for two and a half years, now it's doing this:

1. Internet drops in and out in a cyclical pattern. I have access for five minutes, then nothing for two or three, then it's up again for five, down again for two. Up and down, on and off, over and over and over. Over the course of the day, however, the downtime tends to win out.

2. I have no cordless phones, microwaves, or any other device (that I know of) that might be interfering with the signal.

3. When the internet is down, I'm still able to access all the other computers on the wireless network. The network is comprised of five computers - four that connect to the router wirelessly, and one that's wired.

4. When the internet is down, I'm usually able to still use IM (adium), and 50% of the time Google sites still come up.

5. I've gone through three routers over the last six months. Two WRT54Gs, and one Dynex. The problems persist regardless of the firmware (I've tried Tomato, DD-WRT, and the proprietary versions for each router). The linksys routers were version 2 and 7.

The wired computer always seems to have internet access, which leads me to believe it's something in the wireless transmission, but what?! I've tweaked all sorts of settings in the router -- turned security off and on, increased and decreased MTU, bumped up transmit power, etc. -- but none of it seems to make a difference.

Does anyone have any clue why my wireless has gone batshitinsane?
posted by bjork24 to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
Have anything large been built near you in the last 6 months? They built a new fire station about two blocks away from us and we began experiencing the a similar problem with cycling wireless connectivity problems, though I don't know why. (Solution - I moved for other reasons. Sorry.)
posted by cimbrog at 10:36 AM on September 23, 2008

Chances are that your wireless router is serving out DNS servers. Check those DNS servers to see if they are still up and responding properly. OpenDNS is a good alternative for free, reliable DNS servers to use.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 10:36 AM on September 23, 2008

mrbarrett.com has a good suggestion - but i doubt it will really help your particular situation, since your router uses the same DNS for wired and wireless connections and your wired connection seems to be working just fine.

So far you've done a decent job of attempting to brute-force a solution by trying different routers and firmware offerings.

Perhaps it's time to look at the other end of the invisible wire...
What devices are you trying to connect to your router, does their wireless work in other locations, and have you had friends with wifi-enabled laptops have the same problem? Also, have you temporarily tried using the router without any security (WEP/WPA/WPA2/Disabling SSID Broadcast/etc. enabled and then turning them back on one by one? There could be a setting that your client devices don't like. Also, make sure that your client devices all have the latest drivers/firmware.
posted by terpia at 11:10 AM on September 23, 2008

I had almost identical problems to yours with my Wireless-B router. I was told wireless routers have a finite lifespan of 2-4 years. I upgraded to a Wireless-N router and the problems vanished (as an added bonus my range has been expanded).
posted by xmattxfx at 12:31 PM on September 23, 2008

Check for DNS-munging malware on any connected machines.

My step-father had a very similar problem, and it turned out to be an idiot's virus -- er, I mean TROJAN -- that was checking his DNS settings every five minutes or so and then replacing the ISP's DNS server entries with its own, located in -- wait for it -- Russia via a crafty little self-replicating chron job. This was a MacBook running Leopard.

1) Do a hardcore virus scan;

2) Expunge!

3) Wash your hands after using the filthy parts of the Internet.
posted by CheeseburgerBrown at 12:44 PM on September 23, 2008

Have you added any other devices to your network which may be DNS/DHCP servers?

For awhile I would have odd issues every-time there was a power outtage - turns out it was a NAS-storage device which would decide it had to be the DHCP server.

Alternatively, if your WiFi router is consumer-quality (DLink/Linksys) the power adapters tend to "flake-out" over time.
posted by jkaczor at 3:25 PM on September 23, 2008

Have you tried connecting directly to a web site thru their IP address - ie Google English is This bypasses the DNS Server. Signal interference from an outside source or a trojan changing your DNS Server look real similar. But the signal interference won't connect under any circumstances.

You also didn't give a distance from the router. Does this occur when your wireless PC is in the same room as the broadcasting router?
posted by ptm at 3:02 AM on September 24, 2008

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