Wifi repeatedly stalls, how do I even start troubleshooting this?
November 16, 2015 1:09 PM   Subscribe

My laptop (and only my laptop) keeps randomly losing its internet connection after 20 minutes. Disconnecting and reconnecting to my wifi fixes this temporarily, but I haven't got a clue how to even approach fixing this.

Everything seems to be working okay except for my laptop's connection to this network. My phone and ChromeCast seem to run fine, but my laptop will have the internet randomly stall after 15-20 minutes. I don't get any errors popping up that would suggest the internet connection is lost; webpages simply no longer load, videos stop playing and so on.

I can temporarily fix the issue by disconnecting and reconnecting to the wifi, but I'd like to try to fix the underlying issue so I don't have to do this anymore.

I don't experience this issue with my laptop on other networks, and none of my other connected devices have this issue on my home network. I have a TP-Link Archer c20i AC750 router and MacBook Air. I experience the issue on both the 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz networks.

Does anyone have any ideas what could be causing an issue like this? Googling hasn't been very successful for me.
posted by jamincan to Technology (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I had this issue with my Macbook Pro at work, and after haunting the Apple help threads, and trying every solution offered, I finally took my computer to a Genius Bar, where the tech deleted lots of junk from it, including Chrome. All has been well ever since. YMMV.
posted by bearwife at 1:18 PM on November 16, 2015

What does your log say? Did you try this troubleshooting page which also explains how to get the log?
posted by gorcha at 1:24 PM on November 16, 2015

It seems that you've tested other devices on this network, so have you tested this machine on another wifi network? I'd go to a friends house or like, a starbucks or panera bread or something and just kill time on the wifi for a couple hours and see if it happens.

However, it is worth noting that sometimes you end up with a combo of device/laptop and router that just don't play nice together. That machine works fine on other networks, and that router works fine with other devices. I've replaced routers out of frustration in that situation before and never had a problem again.

But yea, i'd test out that machine on a couple other networks first to isolate the problem.

On preview, chromecast(unless it's the very newest version that just launched a few weeks ago) does not support 5ghz, does your phone? AC routers should be simultaneous dual band, so the laptop is probably defaulting to 5ghz or hopping between them/aggregating. I would probably try disabling AC and 5ghz(just setting it to 2.4ghz N only) in the router config and testing that as well.
posted by emptythought at 1:36 PM on November 16, 2015

Some things to check:

Get the Thunderbolt ethernet adapter for the Air and use it for a while. This eliminates wifi from the equation and will let you know if that's where you should be looking to find the problem.

Check the log of your modem. I had/have a connection that continually drops due to "T3" and "T4" time-outs. For me this is a bad connection (too much line noise) which is caused on the ISP's end. It happens more frequently on a computer as my phone isn't taxing the line as much, I think.

Check the router. I'd do a factory reset and update the firmware. Set a new SSID and password to truly start from square one. New ethernet cable from the modem to the router.

Perhaps temporarily leave security off the router to see if that's causing any issues. Enable WPA2 after that.

Fully update your Macbook Air. Update to El Capitan if you haven't already. Do a malware scan with Malwarebyte's free software.

Nuke the Safari cache and install Chrome/Firefox so you may try alternate browsers.
posted by bluecore at 1:40 PM on November 16, 2015

It is probably that your wifi network is on the same channel as others nearby. That causes very similar symptoms in some laptops. Grab some wifi analysis software from the Mac App Store (there are a few) and have a look. It's likely there are a few networks bunched around, say, channel 1. You'll probably need to change the channel in the wifi router's admin page to something that's relatively empty. This does wonders, I find.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 4:31 PM on November 16, 2015

Ok, so MacBook Air. What version of the OS? Have you been running the OS updates and security patches? Do you have Adobe Flash installed, and is it updated to the latest version? What about Java?

If you are running Mac OS X 10.10, make sure you are updated to at least 10.10.4. The reason? The networking configuration/monitoring/whizbang process called 'discoveryd'. In the 10.10.4 release, they dropped back to the more functional mDNSresponder, in part, due to tons and tons of problems that discoveryd was having. These two processes are part of the underpinnings of the OS that control, among other things, how your computer handles DNS resolution and switching from one network to another. Apple pulled it out of 10.10 after many many many bugs and problems were reported by users, and in 10.10.4, they replaced it with mDNSresponder.
posted by daq at 5:13 PM on November 16, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for the help, I'll have to wait until tomorrow to try some of the things mentioned here.

I am currently running OS 10.11.1 and this is a brand new router and modem. I also use Chrome as my browser.

I did run the Wifi Diagnostic utility. It picked up a dropped connection, although the wifi icon was happily showing a connection despite this. I looked at the log files and it's mostly meaningless to me, unfortunately. The utility suggested a few best practices, all of which I was already using (including setting the channel to Auto - perhaps I should override that?).
posted by jamincan at 9:37 PM on November 16, 2015

I would definitely override the Auto channel. (I might be fetishising this, but it's always worked for me.) Now I'm on my laptop, I can see the analysis software I use is called Wifi Explorer. Just knowing the environment you're in can help with range and speed and such, the dropouts not withstanding.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 7:21 AM on November 17, 2015

> brand new router and modem

Make and model of each would be good for offering more solutions.
posted by bluecore at 12:21 PM on November 17, 2015

When my MacBook Pro started intermittently losing wi-fi, it turned out to be the Airport cable. Not the Airport card -- the cable connected to the card.

My symptoms were like this blog post. I thought about it because you said the wifi icon shows signal even after it's dropped, which happened to me.

Mine would usually drop internet after about 20 minutes, IIRC, but the time between drops varied -- a few times it was hours, a few times just a couple of minutes. I started recording the time between drops to make sure. Is yours always 20 minute intervals, or does it vary?

How often do you use your laptop on other networks? Is it possible that an intermittent drop just hasn't happened when you've been away from home?

Do the typical troubleshooting rundown -- restart everything, run software updates, change channels, reset the NVRAM, etc. But if none of it helps, take it somewhere that can check the Airport cable (like an Apple Store Genius Bar). And if they replace the card, ask specifically whether they also replaced the cable. (They didn't with me the first time, and it kept happening.)
posted by snowmentality at 10:07 AM on November 18, 2015

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