Why won't wireless networks show up?
September 17, 2005 6:53 PM   Subscribe

Strange laptop wireless problems following Windows XP Home upgrade to Pro....

My girlfriend bought a new Dell 600m laptop for law school and it came with XP home. The law school requires XP Pro to connect to the network, so I upgraded it for her, and the next morning she took it to school, where they had her modify some things to connect to the network. After this she noticed that when she viewed the available wireless networks it would continue to show networks she had previously connected to, even though they were impossibly far out of range (ie the law school network while she was at home). The networks were displayed with full strength, but she could obiously not connect to them.
I tried messing with some configuration things, and managed to somehow clear the list of networks, exept for the law school network. The problem is that now it doesn't show any networks besides that one. So she can't reconnect to her home network, and is worried that she might not be able to connect at school on monday.

Any wireless gurus with an idea how to fix this?
posted by borkencode to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
For starters, I've always found upgrading from one version of Windows to another to be very error prone. I'm not sure why, but I'm sure others will agree with me here. So the first thing I'd do, if you haven't already, is do a clean reinstall of Windows XP Pro. Backup her data, and make sure you go through a full format processes of her hard drive. Once XP Pro is loaded restore her data. The "File and Transfer Wizard" will come likely come in handy here.

I'm assuming that she needed XP Pro's "feature" of being able to connect to a domain style network. I haven't had any problems connecting to my wireless network at work which is a domain, and then bringing my laptop home and connecting wirelessly at home. Actually, I find that Windows XP Pro SP2 has excellent Wireless features. So the fact that you are having problems makes me think something went wrong during the upgrade, or there is some faulty hardware at play here. Good Luck!
posted by nickerbocker at 7:10 PM on September 17, 2005

I disagree. Upgrading Windows is often a dicey undertaking, but XP Home to XP Pro is a cinch.

One thing I do to make the list of wireless networks refresh itself is right-clicking on the little tray icon and clicking "repair". Might be worth a shot.
posted by evariste at 7:44 PM on September 17, 2005

Response by poster: I've tried the "repair" function several times, doesn't solve anything. I've also uninstaled and reinstalled the drivers for the card. I figured a clean install might be the solution, but I hope that there's another, easier, way.
posted by borkencode at 9:17 PM on September 17, 2005

I had a problem with the same symptoms and it ended up being that certian routers like belkin pre-n and my wifi card do not get along. maybe you can try a different brand wifi card.
posted by psychobum at 10:14 PM on September 17, 2005

Do repairing the connection, or refreshing the list of available wireless networks not do anything?
posted by Boobus Tuber at 10:57 PM on September 17, 2005

Did you just rely on XP Pro's drivers for her wireless card to work? Go to Dell's site and download the latest driver -- even if you already did, run the install again.

Does the BIOS see the card? You may have it accidentally turned off in the BIOS.

And I'll also say that a clean install of XP Pro is a good idea. You never know how things could get screwy with upgrading.
posted by k8t at 6:44 AM on September 18, 2005

There's probably an easier way. First, go to control panel, administrative services, services, and ensure that "Wireless Zero Configuration" service is set to automatic and is running. then double click the wireless network icon in the system tray, which will bring up the status dialog.
Click Properties. On that dialog box, click wireless networks. Make sure that "Use Windows to configure my wireless settings" is checked. The box below will show a list of every damned wireless network you've ever connected to, and they never go away by themselves. I assume this is what you cleared before. If not, remove all but the networks you want to keep.
If your home network isn't showing, then use the button above the list to View Wireless Networks while you're in range, find the home network, and click it to connect. If that doesn't work, then go back to the network list and click add, and manually enter the network data (SSID, password if any, etc.). Windows tends to automatically use the Authentification system; if you can see the network but can't connect, try unchecking the "Use...authentification" box. If it connects, then read the help files on setting up WEP or WPA encryption and such, and configure that.

Doing the above should allow you to connect. If any of the dialogs I mentioned are missing, then you probably will have to reinstall all or part of windows.

Good luck!
posted by RelentlesslyOptimistic at 8:26 AM on September 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Repairing the connection/refreshing the network list does nothing.

I followed the advice of downloading and reinstalling the drivers from dell. Along with the drivers, the setup installed the intel PROSet/Wireless configuration tool, which CAN see the networks, but windows still can't.

I've tried restarting, stoping/starting the Windows Zero Configuration service, to no avail. Although any attempt to change the settings in the "Wireless Networks" tab results in a "At least one of your changes was not applied successfully to the wireless configuration. " error message.
posted by borkencode at 6:10 PM on September 18, 2005

Response by poster: Also, manually entering in a network results in the same error message as above.
posted by borkencode at 6:11 PM on September 18, 2005

I suspect you're probably screwed, and will have to do a clean install. The only other thing I can suggest is to borrow a wireless card from someone and see if the performace is the same. I'd recommended Dell laptops to clients until they all had problems with wireless cards not working at all or with weak signal.
posted by RelentlesslyOptimistic at 5:27 AM on September 20, 2005

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