Wireless problems
June 5, 2005 10:17 AM   Subscribe

My laptop frequently drops wireless signals. At home I sit less than 8 feet from my wireless router, in the same room, and the signal comes and goes. I thought the problem was the router, but recently I've experienced the same problem in public places with free wireless. Other people connect with no problem, and my signal comes and goes, and I keep dropping the connection.

I have a Presario X1000 laptop with an internal wireless card, an Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG.

I called HP, but they told me that since I upgraded from XP Home to XP Pro, they can't help me. They say I should restore XP Home and that should fix it, but it doesn't make any sense to me. This has worked fine for close to a year - this problem has developed gradually over the last couple months.

Any ideas?
posted by kdern to Computers & Internet (21 answers total)
 
I certainly wouldn't accept that as an acceptable response from HP.
posted by nthdegx at 10:28 AM on June 5, 2005


I agree - but they have told me from the start that upgrading your operating system invalidates the warranty. I always figured if I had any serious problems I could restore the system software before taking it in.
posted by kdern at 10:36 AM on June 5, 2005


What happens if you manually drop the rate to something like 2Mb/s or 5Mb/s? Your card might just be very sensitive to signal interference at high transfer rates.
posted by cmonkey at 10:52 AM on June 5, 2005


I have a 2200bg as well with similar problems.. I saw a thread about it here with various things people have tried.
posted by blueyellow at 10:56 AM on June 5, 2005


cmonkey - Thanks for the idea. How do I do that?
posted by kdern at 11:00 AM on June 5, 2005


Is there a new driver for the wireless from HP? If not, there my be from HP.

I saw similar issues with a Vaio using the same wireless chip. It seems better now that I've installed the new generic driver from Intel. I thought it was my wireless AP untill I installed netstumbler and noticed that the signals on nighbors wireless APs also dropped at the same time my APs signal did.

Is there any reason HP support needs to know that you are on XP pro? I think the wireless config peices are identicial (except, perhaps, for support for various enterprise authentication options).
posted by Good Brain at 11:01 AM on June 5, 2005


You may want to open the door to the mini-pci area where the card is located, and make sure that the antenna connectors are snapped on properly. The card should work without the antennas connected, but it would be very poor performance like you're describing. The card is often located just beneath an access panel on the bottom of the laptop. Obviously, turn the power off and remove the battery before opening anything, but other than that, you should be able to do this easily.
posted by odinsdream at 11:37 AM on June 5, 2005


I had what might be the same problem, and for some reason, it was fixed by not checking one of the security checkbox settings. The router is set to only accept cards with the network code, so if it's connected at all I guess it's still secure, but for some reason, unchecking the box that forced this, ended the disconnect problems. I have no clue why, and I can't remember which checkbox it was. Sorry. Wireless isn't my thing. :(
posted by -harlequin- at 12:14 PM on June 5, 2005


Perhaps?
posted by whatisish at 12:21 PM on June 5, 2005


My Belkin 54G (plugged into 1999 laptop running Win XP Pro) kept having intermittent (like, 5-10 times a day) drop-outs connecting to the Belkin wireless on the other side of the room. And this meant a manual "repair" click.

Following a tip, I upgraded my Belkin (actually a broadcom in disguise) from its 2003-vintage Belkin drivers (most recent available according to the useless Belkin tech support) to May 2005 drivers Broadcom reference drivers (downloaded from HP's website as a "SoftPak".

Lo and behold, my wifi card changed its name from a Belkin 7010 to a "Dell TrueMobile 1300 WLAN Mini-PCI Card" and I haven't experienced a single dropout since. And this is on a dodgy laptop running SoulSeek, BitTorrent and eMule 24/7, usually several hundred simultaneous connections, and around 5 GB/day transfer.

Occasionally the signal strength drops to "poor" (especially when the microwave is on!) but the new drivers seem to be able to adjust the connection dynamically and recover transparently.

So my advice is to find out what actual chipset your wifi is running and get the latest drivers for it.
posted by meehawl at 1:33 PM on June 5, 2005


Is there a new driver for the wireless from HP? If not, there my be from HP.
make that: "...if not, there may be from Intel"
posted by Good Brain at 2:14 PM on June 5, 2005


A 2004 Salon article titled "We don't support that" gave an insider's account of how tech support (especially free tech support from the vendor) was designed to just get rid of you as efficiently as possible. I can't read the Salon article now due to their pay/ad system and apparently shoddy Mozilla/standards support, but as I recall the tactics included asking the caller for information about what they'd done with their computer. Turns out that if they had done ANYTHING (like install an application or even connect it to the internet) they could say "I'm sorry, we don't support that".

That said, upgrading from XP Home to XP Pro is a pretty big jump so I could see how they reasonably would not support
that.

I agree with the other posts that you shoud check the antenna connections and upgrade the card firmware and OS drivers. But also verify that you are connecting to your own wireless network. I had trouble once that was traced to my laptop connected to a distant, weak network instead of the one right next to me. Good luck.
posted by intermod at 3:21 PM on June 5, 2005


Make sure that 802.1x Authentication is disabled for any Wireless Networks you try to configure. This can be a connection dropper. You configure this in preferences for the network in Wireless Properties.

I'm checking right now to see what the support policy is on your notebook.

Check your e-mail, too.
posted by id at 4:29 PM on June 5, 2005


... or not, since it's not listed.

Let me keep doing some more footwork for you.
posted by id at 4:30 PM on June 5, 2005


That said, upgrading from XP Home to XP Pro is a pretty big jump so I could see how they reasonably would not support
that.


Are you being sarcastic? I can't tell. The differences between Home and Pro are minimal at best, and are invisible to the average user. They certainly don't involve wireless.

For all intents and purposes, they're the same OS. Especially if you're not connecting to a network, and on a single-processor system. I'm blown away that Dell's says upgrading your operating system from Home to Pro invalidates the warranty.
posted by Jairus at 4:46 PM on June 5, 2005


...and more on topic, every Dell notebook I've ever worked with has had terrible wireless reception. I would guess that your problems are related to the manufacturing, and not any single driver issue.
posted by Jairus at 4:47 PM on June 5, 2005


I just woke up. Replace 'Dell' with 'Compaq/HP', please.
posted by Jairus at 4:49 PM on June 5, 2005


Ok, doesn't look good. Looks like Windows XP Home was the only supported version of Windows shipped with that machine. The big problem is that this could be OS-related. One of the components of your wireless stack or driver could be corrupt.

In other words, you may have to use your quick-restore CD's because you need to. And that means losing all your data. So, I hope you've been backing up.. (=

Otherwise, you can certainly call support back, and just tell them you have XP Home. There really is no difference between the two. In fact, articles just came out on the net on how to change the Home install to Pro by flipping two bytes in a text file. Serious.

Just be warned that support may actually say, 'Reinstall.' that will be their answer. And... it's kinda valid. It's a guarantee that if it keeps up after a reinstall, it's hardware.

Here's another Microsoft document that could be related: Link

Good luck!
posted by id at 4:59 PM on June 5, 2005


Just be warned that support may actually say, 'Reinstall.' that will be their answer. And... it's kinda valid.

Windows XP may not be the most advanced OS out there, but even it wouldn't require a full re-install to deal with a bum network driver. That's just silly, and it would be a brush-off by HP tech support.
posted by cmonkey at 5:41 PM on June 5, 2005


cmonkey-

Sometimes it's not the net-driver that's broken, but the actual network or wireless stack- the suite of applications and helper programs that work in concert to bring wireless to your Windows machine. If there's registry corruption or data loss, then these programs will break- and there's only two ways to fix that- use System Restore to rollback to when it worked, or reinstall Windows. You can't regenerate registry information from scratch- it's install and hardware dependent.
posted by id at 5:45 PM on June 5, 2005


Sometimes it's not the net-driver that's broken, but the actual network or wireless stack- the suite of applications and helper programs that work in concert to bring wireless to your Windows machine. If there's registry corruption or data loss, then these programs will break- and there's only two ways to fix that-

I think you're confused about your terminology: network stacks live in the kernel space (unless, of course, you're talking about a well designed microkernel, but you're not - you're talking about Windows). Applications live in user space. If a network stack were to live in user space, the context switches would cause brutal performance problems. Applications and "helper programs" have nothing to do with network stacks, or wireless drivers, aside from modifying kernel variables.

Also, the network stack has little to do with wireless. The wireless driver behaves like any other network device driver: it passes the frames along so the kernel can decide what to do with them. Sure, the kernel may expose certain hooks so a wireless driver can inject things at arbitrary points in the chain, but as far as the network stack is concerned, it's just another driver.

Now, I don't doubt that Microsoft is crazy enough to have their TCP/IP stack depend on the registry, but I do doubt that it's possible to break that integral part of the kernel so badly that the entire operating system needs to be reinstalled.
posted by cmonkey at 7:05 PM on June 5, 2005


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