iMac Dropping Wi-fi Despite All Efforts while other devices work fine
April 19, 2013 5:17 PM   Subscribe

I have an iMac using Snow Leopard. I use my apartment public w-fi and it has worked fine up to a few months back. It started dropping wi-fi no matter where the Mac was positioned in the apartment while my PC and a few other tablets worked fine consistently (tried them at times when the Mac stopped to a several minute crawl or gave me message of no connection).

I have read several threads all over the net from Apple boards to other boards and have done the measures of 1)renewing DCHP lease 2)clearing the setting of airport 3)deleting plists 4)emptying cache 5)deleting keychain 6)resetting PRAM. I fogot that i initially played the game of turning Airport off and on a lot. I've done these steps on several occasions for it to either work for minutes to a day or so and then back to zilch. I took it to my workplace where there is public wi-fi and it worked flawlessly. The caveat on that as it might matter : I did a reinstall of Snow Leopard from my disc at home and then took it to work and went through the software update to bring it back to the current version of SLeopard. In the quick update I saw some sort of airport file added (i think, as it flew by real quick). So I now have my totally updated iMac back home and it has worked for a week and it has started ALL OVER AGAIN. I called my publc wi-fi provider through our complex and they couldn't diagnose the issue but thought it could need a repeater though it worked find for 7 months prior. I'm willing to try any tips. Thanks for any input and have a good weekend.
posted by snap_dragon to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If it worked fine on another network, i would be really hesitant to place the blame on anything but their network being the issue here.

I'd start with going and grabbing something like this and seeing what your signal looks like, what the SNR is, etc. If the signal is low just spend a subway sandwich amount of money on something like this and call it a day.

Have you tried running pings directly to external IP adresses when these issues are happening? A big question here would be is OSX showing a grey wifi icon, or are you simply getting timeouts/no connection messages in the browser. If it's that, and the pings are going through, i'd try just switching your DNS servers. I've had a MacBook Pro that wouldn't play nice with a wifi network that everything else in the house was fine with, and giving it different DNS server settings and eventually just a static IP fixed the issues. It's worth noting that machine had also worked normally on that network for months beforehand as well.

And, on that note, trying a static IP would be my next course of action here.

Over that bridge though, it is not unheard of at all for the wireless cards in iMacs(or, any system for that matter) to just fail randomly after the machine is a few years old, or even younger. That's part of the reason i'd be super curious to try the USB wireless card after i had done what you listed and what i suggested.
posted by emptythought at 5:40 PM on April 19, 2013

ok, you have already invested some time in trying to solve the problem. I need more info.

Which iMac?

How old is the iMac? Still under Applecare?

If yes, sadly... drag it to The Apple Store, the "genius bar" people will take a look and test.

Have you tried connecting to a different wi-fi connection? what happened?

iMacs do have some heat related issues, heat can cause chipsets to fail, but I'd say that's a less than 10% chance.

I'm guessing the simplest answer... the network you are connecting to is so-so not great especially at peak hours of usage. Shared bandwidth is like water pressure... it's subject to # of people using at one time.

If the router or firewall are not set up to manage bandwidth, one friendly neighbor downloading a big file could be killing the connection for everyone.

At work 4 people streaming Pandora or Spotify can drag our network down pretty far. So you are probably feeling the weight of Hulu an Netflix at home.

I'd try testing at an unusual time... 6am, after 10pm and see what happens. If you are consistently connecting on "off" hours... it's the connection.
posted by bobdow at 5:53 PM on April 19, 2013

Response by poster: @Emptyythought, I tried the Google DNS and way back and totally forgot to list that in my grabag of things tried. I will try your two suggestions and then if those don't work, will move on from there.

@bobdow - the Mac is a 2008 mac and past Applecare (but yowza, I would have been on the phone to Apple in a heartbeat otherwise! Or to the less-impressed genius folks, though I shouldn't say that to harshly as they have the job to fix my problems. It just seems like I have had better help on the phone with Applecare. But i digress.) My computer has worked GREAT at peak hours of use on weekend nights, being able to even quickly download purchased music or other files. (I say purchased purposely and honestly as there has not been an filching that might cause this to be a jinky Mac that can happen from torrents or what have you...though not sure those thing would affects airport connections.) the worst, it is either a bad card, or bad network, or bad computer. I will hopefully figure out what it is and will let repost if possible.

If anyone else has input that you think is missing, please feel free.
posted by snap_dragon at 6:08 PM on April 19, 2013

I was having a very similar problem, except with 10.8. THIS is what helped me, but since you are already 10.6, maybe not......
posted by starman at 7:11 PM on April 19, 2013

How frequent are the drops? If they're the same time every day, roughly once every 24 hours, then most likely your DHCP lease is expiring and either the router or your Mac is failing to renew it. I had this problem with some older iMacs I supported years ago, and the only solution I found at that time was to switch them to static IPs.
posted by bizwank at 10:17 PM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

For the record I'm having a similar problem on a 2- nearly 3-year-old MacBookPro running Snow Leopard on a home wifi connection used only by me, iPhone and iPad stay connected fine.

I'm keeping my eyes peeled for answers to this.
posted by tel3path at 6:22 AM on April 20, 2013

Response by poster: @bizwank - I am not *exactly sure how to switch to a static IP with public wifi...meaning I don't know where to put some information. I know to go into Networks, create a new location, choose airport, but not sure what else to do. I am sure I have the information in front of me but not sure which goes where. If you or any others have a quick how-to, I will try it.
posted by snap_dragon at 7:44 AM on April 20, 2013

Well the most important part of the equation is obtaining a static IP, ie. one that is properly routed to the internet but not within the DHCP pool. You might be able to do some sleuthing to figure this out, but the easiest thing to do would ask whoever maintains the wifi for one. You could even offer up that it's just for testing purposes, and if it doesn't do the trick you'll go back to DHCP like a good user.
posted by bizwank at 11:03 PM on April 20, 2013

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