Why does XP hate my network?
January 12, 2006 6:27 PM   Subscribe

Mixed wireless network: 3 Macs, one Windows XP PC. We're using 40-bit WEP encryption, and for some reason the Windows XP laptop simply cannot stay on the network... why that be?

We use the hex equivalent for the password, and the laptop can get on the internet when it's entered, but even so, XP still insists that the computer is "not connected" to the network, and every few minutes the internet connection gets dropped. Anybody have any ideas? It's not a reception issue; the laptop can be sitting right next to the router and this will still happen. It's got to be some kind of configuration thing I'm missing, but I was hoping somebody would know what this behavior is symptomatic of (i.e. the sporadic connection)...
posted by logovisual to Technology (6 answers total)
Does this work fine when the WLAN isn't encrypted? Otherwise, I'd have to say it's probably a driver issue. Upgrade the drivers for your wireless card/chipset, regardless.

Side note: if possible, switch to WPA. 40-bit WEP is a joke to crack.
posted by cellphone at 6:32 PM on January 12, 2006

Maybe try MAC address filtering instead?
posted by k8t at 8:11 PM on January 12, 2006

I would try upgrading your wireless driver. If the wireless driver comes with a utility for configuring connectivity in lieu Windows Networking, use that instead. I don't know why, but Windows stopped dropping my WEP-secured connection when I switched to the manufacturer-provided utilities or moved to a WPA standard.

Unless you are trying to connect a device that doesn't support WPA (some gaming devices do not), switching from WEP to WPA might work better. My sisters laptop has the same problem as yours when connecting to WEP networks, but works great with WPA.

Everyone says WEP is not difficult to break into. That's true, but unless your neighbors attend Black Hat conferences or you deal with top secret information, it's probably nothing to worry about. WPA is also easier to setup because you don't need to bother with typing in hex keys for every system. It's also easier to guess the password too.
posted by gaelenh at 10:01 PM on January 12, 2006

Have you upgraded to XP service pack 2? The wireless setup stuff in XP pre-SP2 was absolutely horrendously bad, with disconnects out the wazoo.
posted by antifuse at 2:07 AM on January 13, 2006

I would strongly recommend switching over to MAC filtering. In my experience, WEP and WPA encryptions (regardless of the encryption strength) cause service to go in and out on most consumer wireless routers. By contrast, MAC filtering seems to work much better.
posted by creeront at 8:53 AM on January 13, 2006

From personal experience, my WEP network became a lot more stable when I switched to WPA. Whether the increased stability was due to the change in security model or the accompanying driver update, I couldn't say.

As for MAC filtering, I would suggest against it if you are concerned about security. It is analogous to closing your front door but leaving it unlocked; it will stop passers-by from wandering in by mistake, but won't stop anyone who walks up and tries the knob. It is, however, better than SSID hiding which is the equivalent of taking the numbers off the front of your house.

To carry on the analogy, 40-bit WEP is a flimsy door chain that won't stand up to a swift kick, 128-bit WEP is a slightly stronger chain, and WPA is a locking deadbolt.

Is WEP good enough? It depends on what you're trying to protect and from whom.

If all the devices on your network support it, I would suggest WPA for ease of installation alone. Give it a strong password and it's virtually uncrackable.
posted by Monk at 12:00 PM on January 13, 2006

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