macbook wifi degrading connection
July 12, 2009 11:09 AM   Subscribe

My 13" Macbook loses wifi connectivity, but then regains it when I reboot. I'm wondering if I can fix my wifi problems with some sort of software tweak, or whether I need to do the heavy lifting.

The connectivity started getting worse when (presumably) the neighbors got new routers. As a result, I can't use my macbook in the east side of the house, but the middle and west side have been ok.

Recently it will lose connectivity even in the middle of the house. When I reboot, I can connect for a while, then it degrades again.

What is happening when I reboot?

I have used Kismac to scope out my neighbors. Some of them have their routers set to automatically choose channels, and I can see them fighting with each other. I have tried changing the channel on my own router, a Linksys wrt110 with upgraded firmware. Unfortunately, it doesn't have an external antenna jack.

Talking with my neighbors about choosing different channels will be hard because a) we don't have that kind of relationship and b) I'm pretty sure that they don't know how to do it.

Our previous router was a linksys 80211b, and if I have to I can connect it to our primary router and place it beneath the dead zone in our house.

I am not averse to just running cat5 to the dead spots in the house. However, given that my connectivity improves when I reboot my machine, I wonder if there is a driver fix, or a replacement wifi card (80211n?) that will rectify the problem. Heck, I'd even use a usb wifi thing if that would help.

Thanks, and sorry for the length of this post.

Oh, and it would appear that this is a common problem, i.e. slow connection that eventually drops.

I have a 2ghz intel core duo macbook with 2gb of ram.

AirPort Card Information:

Wireless Card Type: AirPort Extreme (0x168C, 0x86)
Wireless Card Locale: USA
Wireless Card Firmware Version:
Current Wireless Network: thundermonkey
Wireless Channel: 1

System Software Overview:

System Version: Mac OS X 10.5.7 (9J61)
Kernel Version: Darwin 9.7.0
posted by mecran01 to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Use a different wireless channel. That setting is made exactly because other wireless routers are causing interference.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:11 AM on July 12, 2009

ooooh, one more datapoint: late at night, say, after midnight, the connectivity is better in the middle of the house, but still dead on the east side.
posted by mecran01 at 11:14 AM on July 12, 2009

I've tried different channels and it hasn't helped.
posted by mecran01 at 11:17 AM on July 12, 2009

Also, what is particularly irritating is that my wife's cheapy Toshiba Satellite works great, presumably because the wifi card is less sensitive.
posted by mecran01 at 11:18 AM on July 12, 2009

I've got to attend a three hour meeting, but will return. Please don't interpret my silence as apathy.
posted by mecran01 at 11:29 AM on July 12, 2009

Just like most other people who have wifi setups...I'm guessing that moving your wireless router isn't an option (even if you had a longer ethernet cable to go from the router to the wireless. Just in case its an option, I suggest moving the airport extreme to a more central location (or near the dead zone) in your residence. But I'm sure thats not an option.

I don't know the specifics of your setup (your house setup, interference, etc ad nauseum). I can think of 2 other solutions that would definitely help you if you think spending a few bucks is worth it.

1. Get an antenna. I don't know which airport you have...but if I remember correctly, you can get an antenna. With the antenna, you have 2 omni-directional one that boosts signal in all directions, or a uni-directional antenna that would do it in one direction (the one area of your residence that it isn't working.

2.Get an airport express. It works as a bridge, with your current airport extreme, and could provide signal in the area that you aren't getting. Your best bet would be to place this halway between your airport extreme and the area you aren't getting signal.

I'm pretty sure #2 is cheaper than #1.

The good thing about these easy solutions is that if you still aren't getting the signal strength you are looking for, you can always return the airport express and extenders.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:52 AM on July 12, 2009

Is your Macbook modern enough that you can switch to a 5.0ghz network? Switching from the extremely common 2.4 (G/B) to the hardly used 5.0 ghz network did GREAT things for my network woes.
posted by schwa at 12:28 PM on July 12, 2009

What schwa asks. There are 10 wireless B/G routers plus cordless phones, microwaves, etc that would cause my MacBook Pro to lose its signal. I upgraded to a Airport Extreme with wireless 802.11n on the 5 ghz chunk of spectrum and don't have the problem anymore. I'm the only person in range using this chunk of bandwidth. And it is super fast for streaming video/music/copying files. I have my old linksys b/g router plugged into the new router broadcasting in 802.11g for my piece of shit work computer and my iPhone which don't have 802.11n radios. The newer Airport Extreme base stations have two radios so they can do both the 5ghz and 2.4ghz at the same time so you don't need the second router.
posted by birdherder at 2:05 PM on July 12, 2009

It sounds like 5 ghz is the way to go, and I can probably get work to pay for an upgrade to my macbook card. Also, I *can* move the router, as long as I don't mind doing some ugly external cable routing. Hopefully that won't create a new dead zone. I will look into the extender option as well. Thanks everyone for these tips, and it is enormously useful to have this advice on one page now to refer back to.
posted by mecran01 at 3:21 PM on July 12, 2009

Before you move the router you might try rotating it.
posted by flabdablet at 6:32 PM on July 12, 2009

Flabdablet: I've tried the rotation thing too. I wish I had the guts to modify an internal 802.11n card and use it.
posted by mecran01 at 6:08 PM on July 13, 2009

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