It's always the everlovin' windows machine.
August 15, 2010 2:28 AM   Subscribe

Why does Windows say it's connected to my wireless network but refuse to connect to the internet? Cast of characters: Airport Extreme, XP, Vista.

I have an Apple Airport Extreme 802.11n dual band, WPA2 Personal, password protected and connected to a cable modem. For the past year or so a couple of Macs, an iPhone, a Wii, a WinXP netbook and a Windows Vista laptop have connected to the net via the Airport. However, for reasons unknown and without changing any settings anywhere, the two Windows machines suddenly can't connect to the internet as of this afternoon. They both claim to be connected to the Airport: if I go to "Wireless Network Connection" on the XP machine, I see a full 4 bars of signal strength and a gold star and the word "Connected" next to the right network name but any attempts to bring up websites (in Firefox) returns Server Not Found. I tried connecting to various websites via their IP#s too (in case there's some DNS madness going on) but that also fails. All the other devices on my network are connecting to the net just fine.

A few other things I've tried:
• Bypassed the Airport with a wired connection between my cable modem and either Win laptop: I get net connection.
• Turned off the encryption/password on the Airport: I get net connection for all.
• Did a soft and then a hard reset of the AEBS: no change.
• Unplugged/de-batteried the cable modem long enough for it to reset, no change.
• Called cable co's cust support, had them reset the modem from their end, no change.
• Lamely poked at the network connection settings in Windows, re-re-re-entering passwords, I get bupkis.

I read this, but that seems to apply to a Window's machine that wasn't patched? Mine have been connecting for over a year under the same settings until today, when they didn't.


Note: please make your explanation like you're trying to teach a goldfish how to do this, I'm not at all familiar with any flavor of Windows.
posted by jamaro to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
The usual reasons this happens are either that:

1. the router has lost internet connectivity. In this case, the windows machines ARE connected to the router with a perfectly okay wifi connection, but the router itself is failing for some reason. Did you check the connection with one of the macs when the windows machines failed?

2. the router was restarted. In this case, windows doesn't realize that it has a stale connection (it will show itself to be connected). Usually running "repair" on the connection is sufficient to fix this.
posted by beerbajay at 3:58 AM on August 15, 2010

Did the Windows machines update themselves recently? Back out the last hotfix, reboot and try again.
posted by Roger Dodger at 5:48 AM on August 15, 2010

My dad had a virus that was causing similar problems---I think it was of the avscan variety.
posted by chiefthe at 9:28 AM on August 15, 2010

I had a similar issue recently with an underpowered laptop running Vista. It would connect to my SSID but I could not get online. The eventual fix I went with was simply assigning a static IP to the WiFi NIC and that got me going. In this case it was either some IP conflict on the network, or something went wrong the WiFi router side of things. Your issue sounds similar, so manually setting IPs for the machines in question might be worth a shot.

When you say "Turned off the encryption/password on the Airport: I get net connection for all", do you mean that even the Win machines can then get online? If that is the case it definitely sounds like a WPA2 password issue. Depending on how you manage your wireless connections, you may also want to try deleting whatever profiles for that connection exist adn re-creating them from scratch.
posted by m0nm0n at 10:00 AM on August 15, 2010

beerbajay: the macs, the Wii and the iPhone haven't lost internet connectivity at all. That's how I'm posting here, from a Mac connected to that Airport (which is the only router in this setup). Only the two Windows machines are affected. I clicked the repair the connection button/link several times yesterday, no go.

Roger Dodger: how do I do that?

chiefthe: how do I check if there's a virus? (The netbook is running AVG, the Vista laptop is running whatever flavor of anti-viral that my SO's corporation uses. Note that both of these machines connect perfectly fine with a wired connection. I don't currently have a way of testing them on a different wireless network).
posted by jamaro at 10:07 AM on August 15, 2010

m0nmon, late last night I thought they were both able to connect w/ encryption turned off but double-checking this morning shows only the Vista laptop is able to do so. The XP netbook remains unable to connect wirelessly. It's able to connect via Ethernet & a cat-5 cable.

By 'deleting whatever profiles' do you mean in the router or on the laptops? Hard resetting the router took care of it on that end, do I need to do something special on the Windows machines beyond "connect to wireless network, enter password twice" and clicking the 'repair this connection'?
posted by jamaro at 10:35 AM on August 15, 2010

To blow away a wireless network profile on vista, it's under control panel, 'view network status and tasks', 'manage wireless networks', select the one you want to remove, and click the 'remove' option. You can then reconnect and go.

We can assume your router is working ok, since the mac is working ok. It's likely the dns and dhcp are also working correctly as the windows pcs work ok over wired connection. Given they're using different AV, it's unlikely that an AV update broke it, or a virus took them both out at the same time.

There was a microsoft patch tuesday this week, so it's possible a windows update took down both machines, but seems a little unlikely across two versions of windows - cursory search not revealing any mass complaints.

Be worth checking the ip address records when supposedly connected to the wireless. Again on vista, control panel, network and internet, 'view network status', 'change adapter settings', right click on your wireless network connection, 'status', click the details button, and there should be an entry under IP address. Hopefully it will start with 192.168 or 172 or 10. If it starts with 169 then windows is not getting an IP address from the router, and it's not connecting to the AEBS properly. If it is getting an IP address, then it's something else; firewall on windows, bad driver, or maybe a browser problem?

You could try installing an alternative browser such as firefox or chrome, while connected via wire, and see if that fixes it? Also, check under the proxy settings of the browser to make sure it's not attempting to use either a fixed proxy, or an automatically detected one.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:34 PM on August 15, 2010

Hmm, on 2nd thoughts, a browser problem would also show up while wired. Scratch that part.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:35 PM on August 15, 2010

And yes, the WPA2 patch only applies to old windows XP machines. If you're running SP3 - as you should be - it won't affect you, and it wouldn't break vista anyway.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:38 PM on August 15, 2010

Last thought - update the airport extreme firmware?
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:42 PM on August 15, 2010

Yay! On the XP netbook, I followed ArkhanJG's advice to look at the IP address. It was filled in as (where x = more numbers). I clicked the radio button to have it automatically obtain a new IP address, logged into the wireless network and 'lo, it works, I have net under WPA2.

The Vista laptop went to work with SO (who is more than slightly grumpy about having to catch up on work at the office today instead of at home) but when he gets back, I'll try the same trick.

Thanks all!
posted by jamaro at 1:55 PM on August 15, 2010

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