Why can't I connect to the internet?
April 10, 2012 6:11 PM   Subscribe

I just moved. Everyone in the house can connect to the wi-fi. I can not. Am I missing something?

I realize this question is totally bush-leauge, but I'm on my phone so I can't really scour google at lightning speed at the moment.

What could be the issue here? Here are some details:

- I am in the third floor bedroom. The wifi device is on the first floor.
- My android phone can connect to the wifi from my bedroom, but my computer can not.
- I was able to connect my computer this morning when I restarted the wifi, but when I came home from work this evening the connection was gone and would not reconnect.
- People in the house stream movies on xbox live on the first floor (like right now) - could this have an effect? This prevents me from restarting the internet at the moment.

I guess my first question is, is there a setting on my computer that I may have enabled/disabled that is screwing this up for me? The second question is, if not, what solutions come to mind here?
posted by windbox to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
Can you see the wireless/Wi-Fi router in your list of available wireless connections, or is it not showing up in the list at all? If you can see it and attempt to connect to it, do you get a specific error message? And are you on a Mac or a Windows computer?
posted by limeonaire at 6:15 PM on April 10, 2012

Response by poster: I'm on a Windows computer. The network shows up, but when I click to connect, an error window comes up that says "Windows was unable to connect to [network]." Then a link directs me to "Troubleshoot problems", and when I click it, a loading bar pretends that it's solving the problem for a few seconds before taking me to another window that says "Investigate router access point issues" and to unplug/restart, which is what I did this morning but apparently it was only temporary.
posted by windbox at 6:24 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you move the computer closer to the wifi? You might be too far away.
posted by bitdamaged at 6:26 PM on April 10, 2012

Response by poster: I can, though I'd prefer to be able to work in private at the desk in my bedroom instead of having to use my laptop in the living room every time...I'm wondering why my phone is able to connect and the computer isn't. I also thought they made wireless routers stronger than ever these days...
posted by windbox at 6:27 PM on April 10, 2012

Would it help (in the long run) to get someone who has admin rights on the router, to crank up the signal strength?
posted by AMSBoethius at 6:33 PM on April 10, 2012

Is it possible there's a limit on the number of active connections?
posted by mochapickle at 6:34 PM on April 10, 2012

I am in the third floor bedroom. The wifi device is on the first floor.

This is likely the problem. At the very least, try connecting downstairs and see how well it works. If it stops working when you get upstairs, then you know the distance is the problem. If so, you may need to put a bigger antenna on the router, or try positioning the antenna(e) to hit the upper floors better. (The signal radiates outward from the middle of the antenna, like so. So try angling the antenna back to aim it upward a bit.) Worst case, get a USB wireless adapter for your computer with an external antenna.

If it's not the signal strength, then we'd need more details about your computer and router to help.
posted by knave at 6:56 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Would it help (in the long run) to get someone who has admin rights on the router, to crank up the signal strength?

Not usually, no. If you increase the router's transmit power (Tx), you still have the problem of the computer's relatively weaker card and antenna. Since wifi is bidirectional, you'd need to be able to increase Tx at both ends to help. On the other hand, putting a bigger antenna on the router helps with Tx and Rx (receive), so it helps everyone in one shot.
posted by knave at 7:00 PM on April 10, 2012

if your phone can connect (from the same spot as your computer) but your computer can't i'm guessing you're not too far away. try turning off all of the devices in the house and see if you can connect then. it could be the number of active connections or your computer keeps trying to connect to an ip that is already used.
posted by no bueno at 7:04 PM on April 10, 2012

if your phone can connect (from the same spot as your computer) but your computer can't i'm guessing you're not too far away.

Not necessarily. The computer might have a metal chassis that interferes with the wifi signal, or simply a weaker transmitter or antenna than the phone.

it could be the number of active connections or your computer keeps trying to connect to an ip that is already used.

This doesn't make sense. The router will be able to assign unique IP addresses to up to 253 devices. However, wifi routers typically can't handle more than 20-25 devices before packet loss from collisions gets out of control.
posted by knave at 7:41 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wireless routers and wireless networks are pretty weird in my experience. Our wireless router was located on the first floor of our house, and it was pretty much impossible to connect even when computers were in the same room, much less a different floor, thanks to competing networks in neighbouring apartments, townhouses and office buildings.

So, I moved the actual internet connection to the second floor in order to connect my office computer directly to the router via ethernet cable (so I would never again have to suffer from internet connectivity).

The thing is, since the wireless router has been moved to the 2nd floor, we never have any wireless connectivity issues.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:58 PM on April 10, 2012

i'm using an older hp laptop pos and there is a little button up on the f key section know as f12, in my flailing i evidently hit that key and turned the wifi off. little red light, touch again and little blue light and it works.
posted by goutytophus at 8:58 PM on April 10, 2012

I assume the router does not use MAC filtering and that your MAC address is absent from the list? That would explain why just your computer, with its specific MAC address, could be having problems.
posted by forthright at 9:04 PM on April 10, 2012

First try your computer on the first floor as close as you can get to the router. Then the second floor. If it works there, then it's just a range problem to the third floor. Rather than spend 100 hours trying to troubleshoot that, you could buy a range extender. This is a wifi router that picks up the original wifi router signal and rebroadcasts it on a different wifi channel. Check Ebay and search "Netgear extender". Tip: if it is "Manufacturer refurbished" from Netgear, that is actually new, just in a plain white box with no manual, and the manual can be downloaded as a PDF. $30-50. You probably could put it on the second floor, it will have to plug in to AC power. It is pretty easy to set up, no wires needed to set up, just have your machine right next to it as you set it up. It leads you right through.
posted by caclwmr4 at 9:59 PM on April 10, 2012

What version of Windows? I remember there being a lot of connectivity issues with Vista specifically that required system and driver updates to fix. If so, google "vista" along with your error messages.
posted by people? I ain't people! at 3:05 AM on April 11, 2012

Your phone's connection might be a red herring that is confusing the issue. It might be able to connect, but then it might never actually use the connection because it is too weak and just silently failing over to cellular data. Check your computer and phone to see if they show the signal strength and signal-to-noise ratio.

As someone rightly pointed out, wireless access points have directional patterns. Older ones with dipole (stick) antennas on the outside are omnidirectional in a circle around them, but don't radiate very far in the up or down dimension. I'm not sure what kind of antennas the newer enclosed access points have, but I'd guess that they are mostly the same unless the specifically say different.

If it has removable antennas, maybe a corner reflector (or some other directional) antenna might work. What you do in that case is install it in one corner of the building and point it at the furthest away spot that needs reception. A non-diectional antenna puts out (and receives) signal at the same "loudness" from all directions- 100% signal over 360 degrees. A directional one sends and receives much more in one direction and not another, splitting its maximum power output in a more beneficial way. The pattern might be 150% signal in front of it, 75% on the sides and 25% to the rear.

If you can, try to move the access point to the center of the building in all three dimensions. If that doesn't work for everyone, you are going to have to set up a second access point. (You don't need to buy a unit that is specifically an access point, because every wireless router I've seen has the ability to turn into an access point via software. Either a specific "router or access point" option, or by turning off its DHCP server and NATing. So what you do is get one of those (my $25 Belkin n150 works great), set it up to be an access point, set it up to use a different SSID and wireless channel than the original router, and try just literally pointing it at your room upstairs. That might be enough. Or you'll have to run a longer cable to get it closer to your room. You need to use non overlapping channels.

A wireless extender might work, but may not perform all that well.

(or, just read this.)
posted by gjc at 7:06 AM on April 11, 2012

I echo the "version of Windows" question. Earlier builds of Windows XP don't support WPA2. If you can provide the model numbers of your wireless router and your laptop that might help narrow down any possible hardware problems as well.
posted by vsync at 12:44 PM on April 11, 2012

« Older I don't know anything about their race, history...   |   How do I get audio streaming Netflix to my tv? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.