Does my Netgear router suck or is something else going on here?
October 9, 2008 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Why is my brand new iMac (connecting to the internet wirelessly) having trouble staying connected when I download large files?

I don't think my particular question has been addressed in previous posts.

I am having a connection problem with my wireless router and my husband's brand new 24" iMac (running Leopard), which seems to happen when too much data comes through at once. I've also had the problem when using my old Powerbook G4 (Tiger), but it hasn't been as bad with the Powerbook.

We have a Mac Mini that's connected directly to a Netgear WGT624 router and Comcast cable. It's password-protected, but otherwise has no special settings. The Mac Mini has no problems with the direct connection. The Powerbook has had issues staying connected when we go to sites that are image-heavy, but rarely seems to have problems downloading large files otherwise.

With the new iMac, though, the connection dies several times per hour when visiting image-heavy websites, downloading large files, or downloading newsgroup headers. The visual evidence of the signal doesn't immediately disappear (the menu bar icon), the rate just slowly decreases to zero. Every time that happens, we have to unplug the router and plug it in again after 10 seconds or so. Usually that reestablishes the signal, but sometimes it has to be done two or three times before the signal returns.

The thing we've noticed with downloads on the iMac that we haven't seen with the Powerbook is that the download rate seems to level off at a higher rate than before. It will typically reach its highest level right before the wireless connection dies. For instance, on a 10MB download, the rate reached 400+kbps, which I don't think it ever did before, and then promptly died.

We've had the problem when using Firefox, Safari, various FTP programs, Unison (newsgroup reader) and with torrents.

We don't really know where to start to figure this one out. Is it just a crappy router or do we need to somehow change our settings? Thanks!
posted by lbo to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
I had this problem in 2006 with a new iMac working on an old Airport base station.

The proper place to ask these questions is apple's support forums, eg here
posted by troy at 11:09 AM on October 9, 2008

I can tell you I have the same problem with my Macbook and a Linksys wireless router. Torrents downloaded to the laptop via wireless kill the connection 100% of the time. Downloading to my Linux server on the wired network poses no problems at all. I suspect this is an issue with the consumer-grade wireless routers, not our Macs. I just learned to use the wired network for torrents, etc.
posted by autojack at 11:22 AM on October 9, 2008

It's almost certainly your crappy router given that all your wireless devices have problems while wired devices don't, but you may be able to improve the situation with a router firmware update and/or a change of channels. Failing that, you might just be running into one of the plentitude of little compatibility issues between wireless devices of varying chipsets, which isn't always fixable by twiddling settings.
posted by majick at 11:24 AM on October 9, 2008

This is an Apple problem, though they haven't stepped up to fix it yet.

We have been having this issue for the past year with various Apple laptops and wireless routers and I see similar reports all over the net as well.

We've seen this issue with various Linksys routers (multiple except our ancient 802.11b router) and D-Link routers trying to fix the problem.

It's not due to any cell phone or microwave in the house.

We'll have other machines still on the net and be rock solid (and older Powerbook g4 and a Sony laptop) but 2 of the other newer apple laptops have the same exact problem you describe.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:41 AM on October 9, 2008

I had some problems with a crappy router, invested in the Airport Extreme, and have had ZERO wireless problems with my Mac since.

posted by MythMaker at 11:43 AM on October 9, 2008

Recently I was working on my neighbor's non-mac, Linksys wireless setup to pull about 30GB of music from one PC to the other and the wireless router wouldn't stay connected longer than a minute or so at a time. It was almost unnoticeable with run-of-the-mill websurfing, but as soon as the connection dropped out during the large file copy, the entire operation would fail. I ended up bringing my wireless router from my house, hooking it up there, and pulling the files over that way.

Which is to say, it might not be the Mac at all. I think it's the router. Try borrowing a friend's known-good router for a couple hours and if your problems go away, then it's time to go buy a new router.
posted by BeerFilter at 12:30 PM on October 9, 2008

It might be that your connection to the router via the air interface isnt so hot. I would first change the channel of your router to one of the three non-overlapping channels (1, 6, 11). So if its on 6, I'd move it to 11. If it keeps doing this with 11, then try 1.

If that doesnt fix the problem I would check to see if there are any firmware updates for that router.

If that doesnt fix it, then I would start looking at new routers.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:31 PM on October 9, 2008

Oh, I'd first unplug any cordless phones or anything other you suspect might be on the 2.4ghz channel (x-10 camera, etc).
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:32 PM on October 9, 2008

I was having similar problems with my router. Instead of allowing the router to dynamically assign IPs to my connected devices I assigned static IPs to each device (via mac address). Since then I have had zero issues.
posted by birdlips at 12:36 PM on October 9, 2008

Best answer: I'm sorry to say it, but Netgear equipment is a bad, expensive joke. You might try a firmware update or firmware replacement, or replace the router entirely.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:33 PM on October 9, 2008

Netgear consumer routers suck. The problems they have with BitTorrent are due to the large number of connections (which the Netgear routers choke on). Their pro equipment is a lot better, but in any case I would ditch the Netgear router and get a Linksys.
posted by kindall at 2:45 PM on October 9, 2008

In my experience, Linksys routers also suck unless you put third-party firmware on them, which you should do.

The best router I've ever owned has been my D-Link DGL-4300. Over three years and I still haven't wanted or needed to replace it with something better.
posted by kindall at 8:18 AM on October 11, 2008

Response by poster: I updated the firmware and all is well so far. If it fails again we're going to go for a new, non-Netgear router. Thank you all for your suggestions!
posted by lbo at 7:28 AM on October 13, 2008

« Older You can lead a cat to water...   |   RF Position tracking? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.