"The wireless" is not the radio.
September 29, 2010 6:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm a Mac. My husband is a PC. Please help us figure out a wireless connectivity issue.

Computer know-nothings here, pleading for help from those who know more than we do.

Our household computers: ancient Mac Mini, ancient Mac G4, Sony Vaio laptop. We recently added wireless via an Airport Extreme. Everything works fine, except...

Now we can't get the Vaio connected to the wireless. It will connect to other wireless networks, like at Starbucks, or our neighbors' unsecured networks. When I search for networks in range, it does see our home network, and gives it four out of five bars for signal strength. But when I try to connect, I always get:

"Windows is unable to connect to the selected network. The network may longer be in range. Please refresh the list of available networks and try to connect again."

The first problem I see is that the PC never prompts me to enter our wireless password. There may be problems beyond that, but I basically have no idea where to look.

The Vaio is running XP Home Edition 2002.

Please offer troubleshooting suggestions, and talk to me like I am your great-great-aunt Matilda who thinks the wireless is a radio.

If your suggestion is, "Get newer computers," we actually concur. But right now we're in a "use it till it breaks beyond repair" budgetary cycle.
posted by BlahLaLa to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Previous similar question.
posted by nomadicink at 6:54 PM on September 29, 2010

Or to put it more simply, you may need to download an update for the XP system, which will enable it to use the type of wireless network that the Airport Extreme is running.
posted by nomadicink at 6:56 PM on September 29, 2010

Also make sure that the wireless standards you are using are the same. IE, that the Airport Extreme is broadcasting on non-n channels (this is probably likely since you are using an older laptop but something to check out).
posted by AmitinLA at 7:01 PM on September 29, 2010

Response by poster: Okay, thanks so far. I'm embarrassed that I didn't see that previous similar question. But I followed that advice and downloaded & installed the patch. It improved things but didn't solve the problem.

Now what happens:
-- it recognized our network
-- when I choose "connect" it prompts me to enter the network password (yay!)
-- then when I try to connect from there, it says: "Please wait while Windows connects..."
-- then it works and works, and then the dialog box closes with no further message. And we're not connected.
-- I can still connect to the neighbor's unsecured network

Any further advice would be appreciated. AmitinLA, if this has something to do with the non-n channels, could you elaborate on your answer? Remember, talk to me as if I was a highly intelligent dog. That's the level you're dealing with here.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:40 PM on September 29, 2010

Yeah, the Windows XP laptop most likely needs an update in order to be able to chatter with the router.

You're going to open Internet Explorer (other browsers will not work) and go to http://update.microsoft.com/

It will do some stuff. Go through the process of installing the critical updates. Reboot. Repeat. Reboot. Repeat. So on and so forth until there are no more critical updates.

The problem is (I'd guess, as others have hinted) that you're probably missing some "service packs". Service packs are releases to an operating system after it is launched that address issues and add new features. The there have been 3 service packs for Windows XP. If you don't have any (or all) of these service packs, it's probably not going to work.

So, Windows Update will find and install these. It will take some time.

If that still doesn't fix it, we can try updating the wireless driver on the Vaio. Try this first though adn report back.
posted by kbanas at 8:13 PM on September 29, 2010

Yeah...Even if you got that first update, install all of the latest updates for XP, including Service Pack 3. Also make sure that the Airport Extreme's firmware is also up to date.

(And, really, your computer's not nearly as ancient as you're making it out to be. If it's really dragging along, you could probably use some more memory, which is cheap and easy to install. I've got a G4 PowerBook that you'll have to pry from my cold, dead fingers. It's still great for anything that doesn't use Flash.)
posted by schmod at 9:20 PM on September 29, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions. I am in the midst of all the downloads right now, and it's predictably taking forever. I would love it if you fabulously knowledgeable people would re-check this thread tomorrow -- I'll either mark it resolved or add follow up questions if it's still not working.

Also, Schmod, I do love my G4. It actually gets me lots of attention -- people always say they wish they had a great tiny Mac like mine!
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:09 PM on September 29, 2010

Response by poster: Okay, got all the updates, including Service Pack 3. Still no change: it asks for the password, tries to connect, then after a minute or so the dialog box closes with no further messages and I'm not connected. I can still connect to the neighbor's network.

Next steps? Keep the ideas coming, you who know so much more than me. I'll be raring to go...tomorrow.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:10 PM on September 29, 2010

If authentication is temporarily disabled on the Airport, can the PC then connect ?
The encryption on the Airport and the PC need to be configured to be the same. How is the Airport configured ? WEP ? WPA ?
posted by llc at 12:36 AM on September 30, 2010

This is probably something you've already done, but: have you restarted your PC? I know it's a pretty standard thing, but I was having more or less this exact problem when I was setting up my network- we have a Mac and a PC of similar vintages. My PC pretty much didn't want to know anything about the wireless network- and I thought I'd done everything I needed to to set it up- and then after restarting, hey presto- worked like a charm.
posted by Philby at 3:58 AM on September 30, 2010

There's a bunch of "advanced settings" in the network thingy on XP, I had to go in and change some of that crap to get a laptop to connect once. I'd suggest looking in there and see what's what, probably something needs to be checked or un.
posted by Blake at 4:09 AM on September 30, 2010

I'd recommend finding out exactly what Windows XP thinks the Network Key is. It may be different from what you want it to be (what the AirPort key is). The confusion about whether it's using ASCII vs. hexadecimal formats for Network Keys has caught me in the past.

There's a utility called WirelessKeyView which recovers all wireless network security keys/passwords (WEP/WPA) stored in your computer by the 'Wireless Zero Configuration' service (note that it doesn't work on third-party network config utilities; only Windows' service). Give that a run to make sure the keys are the same as the router's.

And say hi to John Hodgman for me.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 7:07 AM on September 30, 2010

What's the model of the Vaio?
posted by kbanas at 7:17 AM on September 30, 2010

Response by poster: Really want to keep working on this, and I appreciate the suggestions. Some questions:
-- how do I temporarily disable authentication on the Airport?
-- what sort of things in the "advanced settings" might I be looking for?
-- Windows XP thinks the Network Key is what I've been putting in. That is, since it's never actually connected, it's prompting me every time to enter the key. I am entering the password I chose when setting up the Airport.
-- the model of the Vaio is PCG-4C1L
Help! (Please!)
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:19 AM on September 30, 2010

The Airport configuration utility is used to set the password and network parameters. This utility is probably installed on a Mac. Did you use an install CD ? The utility is on that Mac. Here are some instructions :
The properties of the wireless network connection on the PC need to match how the Airport is configured.
posted by llc at 12:42 PM on September 30, 2010

Response by poster: Still no luck. Though I have accessed the configuration utility, I'm really not sure what I'm supposed to be looking for. Anybody with specific instructions?
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:14 PM on September 30, 2010

I am having this exact issue ("'Please wait while Windows connects...' -- then it works and works, and then the dialog box closes with no further message. And we're not connected.") with my HP laptop. My MacBook Pro has no problem connecting. I have no idea what gives, either, but I await further responses to this thread eagerly.
posted by woodvine at 9:26 PM on September 30, 2010

The PC can only have a conversation with the Airport if it uses the same parameters that the Airport is configured for. The second screenshot in the link above shows what the parameters can be. You need to bring up the configuration of the Airport on a Mac and the configuration of the wireless network connection on the PC and then compare the two. You can delete the password on the Airport and try to connect with the PC to verify that it is not an authentication problem.
posted by llc at 10:13 PM on September 30, 2010

Response by poster: (Just wanted to say that I'm in the midst of a busy weekend, but for anyone who is staying tuned in the hopes of a resolution, I will work on this as soon as I have a moment.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:26 AM on October 2, 2010

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