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 (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: 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

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

Response by poster: 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

Response by poster: 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

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

Response by poster: 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

Response by poster: 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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