15" macbook wifi failure
May 10, 2014 3:06 PM   Subscribe

I have a 2011 Macbook Pro, 15", a1286. recently, when i turn on the computer the wifi works for maybe one minute, then even though the airport signal stays strong, i can't connect to anything. I ordered a used wifi card off of ebay, and the same thing happens. so i'm guessing it's not the wifi card, but the flex cable, the antenna, a software bug, or (worst of all worlds) the logic board itself. I ordered a new flex cable, and i hope that fixes the issue. If it doesn't, has anyone else had this problem before, and would recommend anything? If it's not the cable i really hope it's a software bug. I'd hate to replace the logic board, otherwise known as "buying a new computer"
posted by camdan to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
If it was my laptop, I'd buy a USB wifi dongle rather than a new computer. They're really small these days--barely bigger than the USB plug itself. They're super cheap too. E.g. this one.
posted by ryanrs at 3:34 PM on May 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

So, I'm not a network or computer expert, however it's really unclear from your questions if you have tested your network connection? You can have a full airport connection (full bars) from your router, but still no internet.

Are other devices connected to, and working from the wireless connection? (Kindle, iPhone, etc.) Also you have to make sure they're actually using the wifi and not just have wifi on and using a data connection instead.

My bet would be it's your wifi router, not your computer. I had similar problems with my wifi disconnecting or not remembering my connection and it was my wifi router, not my computer.
posted by Crystalinne at 4:24 PM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Since you said "anything", i'm going to make the assumption that you've tested this on multiple networks and routers, AND in multiple locations(local RF interference, etc).

you've tried like, totally nuking the drive and doing a clean install of OSX right? because this kind of thing screams corrupted system file somewhere if you've already replaced the card.

You can probably avoid nuking the drive too, if you want. If you have a spare drive, or an external just install onto that then boot that.

failing that though, and it getting filed under "weird annoying inexplicable problem you can never quite track down", the $6 micro sized USB wifi dongle idea mentioned above is a totally workable solution that is cheap both monetarily and time wise.
posted by emptythought at 5:26 PM on May 10, 2014

[Note that I have not used the wifi dongle I linked above. Please do some research first to find a brand that works well with your mac.]
posted by ryanrs at 5:55 PM on May 10, 2014

Let's clear up your question. Please answer: Are you using a modem & router or using a USB wireless network adapter? Are you the only user on the network? Is this public or private wifi? If private, is the network password protected?

I'm going to assume you have a modem & router. First and foremost, unplug / restart your modem and router. This may seem simple, however, it's typically solves most connection problems.

Second. Test other devices on the network. This will pinpoint the source of the problem. (Tip: Use an iPhone with cellular data turned off and only use wifi. If not, ask a friend to come over and test with their computer / iPhone / anything that'll connect to the internet.)

Update with this information and I'll do my best to isolate the problem. I'm 99% sure it's not a computer 'bug'.
posted by Wynkoop at 10:08 PM on May 10, 2014

Crystalinne and Wynkoop, i've been using my backup laptop and it's had absolutely no issues. so it can't be the router.

emptythought, i haven't tried doing a clean install of OSX. i did install mavericks out of hopes that would clear up the problem, but it didn't. i have ordered a new flex cable, if that's not the problem i think i'll just get the wifi dongle. i may reinstall OSX at some point in the future, just as an academic exercise to see if that's truly the problem.
posted by camdan at 10:41 PM on May 10, 2014

mavericks has a new, lovely Wireless diagnostics app. Hold down the option key while selecting the wi-fi fan in the menu bar. choose wireless diagnostics. There is both an assistant and a set of diagnostics, including logs, signal strength meters, channel choosers, etc.

Play with that. you may be having channel interference (switch to 5GHz if you can...), you may find something else in the diagnostic reports...
posted by Mad_Carew at 11:25 PM on May 10, 2014

wireless diagnostics is telling me to turn my wi-fi on (it is on. i am not a moron, i swear)
posted by camdan at 2:09 AM on May 11, 2014

For what it's worth, I have also found that diagnostics thing on mavericks utterly useless. Inexplicably my 2012 mbp randomly loses signal and refuses to reconnect, and it always tells me that too. Amusingly, turning it off and on manually makes it instantly reconnect always.
posted by emptythought at 3:20 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had a similar problem with a macbook 2012. I am not tech savvy, so my first instinct was to call the service provider.

Like you, other devices (ipad, iphone and even my older computer) could connect to the wifi and stay connected in relatively stable ways.

The service provider sent a technician. He ran tests and decided to change the modem. He explained that the modem was likely "short-circuiting" and that it would be more apparent on the computer. I haven't had any issues with connections since they changed the modem.

Fortunately for me, I rent the modem, so changing it was included in my monthly fee.

All that to say, it could still be worth contacting the provider.
posted by Milau at 7:17 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

i've been using my backup laptop and it's had absolutely no issues. so it can't be the router.

Check and make sure your MacBook has the same network/DNS settings as the backup laptop.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:45 AM on May 11, 2014

Another test is to try to connect to wifi elsewhere. Head to a coffee shop or work or something where you know the wifi works. Just another testing idea. Depending on your router, you may need a better one if you have too many devices running on it.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:55 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Call apple and or google [your model number] and wifi issues...IIRC there were a few models back then that had this problem and they would fix for free...worth a call.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:19 PM on May 11, 2014

i'll go to a coffee shop tomorrow to rule out the router.
otherwise i googled my model for wifi problems. one guy said the geniuses came to the conclusion that a pinch or short in the antenna was causing the wifi card to burn out. others have done a "kext downgrade", which seemed to work.
anyways....if the computer doesn't work with a different router, and the new cable i ordered doesn't fix the problem, i'll try the kext downgrade. i doubt i'll go so far as replacing the antenna, as taking apart a monitor (at least for my old plastic macook) is a real pain. i'll keep you all updated.
posted by camdan at 10:32 PM on May 11, 2014

i installed the new cable this morning, with the old wifi card attached, and as of now it's working like gangbusters. i'm glad the wifi card hasn't "shorted out" due to some antenna problem another user was having, and i'm glad i don't have to have a usb dongle sticking out of my relatively new laptop.
posted by camdan at 8:00 AM on May 19, 2014

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