Is my Powerbook resetting the wireless router in my house?
April 15, 2006 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Weird, weird connectivity problem: apple powerbook to Comcast wireless internet.

Up until this past Thursday, everything was working just fine - I could get onto the wireless network in my house and everything was peachy. However, my computer (for reasons that still elude me) just freaked the fuck out on Thursday - pinwheeling, taking 10 minutes to perform simple tasks such as saving and closing a text file. Foolishly, I tried to run Software Update, hoping that the latest version would make it stop doing this crap (it had been acting goofy for about a week - since the last time I ran software update. I believe I was running 10.4.5 at first, updated to 10.4.6.) - but it hung at the end of the update. Rebooted, then it would hang at the first screen (grey background with apple logo and a little pinwheel) for hours. Occasionally it'd get as far as loading a blue background with a mouse pointer, but nothing else. Anyway, I called in a friend of mine who knows how to fix such things, we wiped my HD and reinstalled OS 10.4 from CD, and though I lost some data I was able to salvage the important stuff, and now the computer works just great.

Except for one thing.

Now, when I try to connect to the wireless network here at home, it will connect to the network, at full signal at first, then the signal decays to nothing and it disconnects. Five seconds later it'll find it again... and the cycle repeats ad infinitum. Even when I do have signal, I can't get through to the internet. (I can't even ping WTF?) Ok, so my AirPort settings are hosed right? Wrong, because when I'm on campus, I can connect to any one of the various networks I encounter on a daily basis without a problem. (I unfortunately have no idea what hardware these networks are using. Our router at home is a D-link DI-524.) But here's where it gets really weird.

Whenever I try to connect to the network at home (but not at school), the internet breaks for everyone else in the house. Inspection of the wireless router leads one to believe that my computer is causing the router to reset itself - the lights will stop blinking like there's traffic going through, then all the lights will light up (even the ones for the wired ports on the router, which are never used) and then all but the power light will go off. This cycle just repeats itself whenever my computer is attempting to connect. How on earth could my computer be telling the router to reset itself, and why does this only happen at home, not at school?

I haven't run Software Update since I installed 10.4. I may do that while I'm up on campus today, but since that's the only place I can get internet, I'm posting this before I do that. Has anyone else had anything remotely similar to this issue, and how did you fix it? Not having internet access at home is driving me nuts!
posted by salad spork to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Sounds like it could be interference. Did you get a new wireless phone? Do you keep your cell phone on you while you're using the laptop now and you didn't before? Is someone operating a microwave? Did your next door neighbor just get wireless and put it on the same channel?
posted by tiamat at 12:31 PM on April 15, 2006

Try plugging your Mac directly into the router and see if the problem persists. (You may want to open terminal and run a ping to or somewhere outside your network while your doing this, it will tell you exactly when the connection drops).

Assuming the problem does persist, it may be something with your router, not your Mac. The computer shouldn't be doing anything that would cause the router to reboot. If the router IS rebooting, i would try resetting it, and possibly getting a newer firmware.

But i doubt this is what is happening. The most likely case is that you are not actually connecting to the router. If i were a betting man, i would say that you don't have the correct WEP key.

The way 802.11B and G work, your machine will show a connection but no traffic will be allowed. This is because your machine is making a connection, but since it's not passing the correct password to the router, it doesn't let it get any further.

A direct connect will solve two things here; 1.) it will let you connect and see if the router is rebooting. 2.) it will let you log into the router (without a WEP key) and either update the WEP in the router, or tell you what the key is so that you can enter it into your Mac.
posted by quin at 1:11 PM on April 15, 2006

Response by poster: I know I have the correct WEP key - it worked before just fine, and I've typed it in so many times I have it memorized.

I've also tried plugging the computer directly into the cable modem, bypassing the router - and the same problem happened. So maybe it's the cable modem, not the router? But it works just fine for the other computer in the house (which is a WinXP PC). It's only when my computer tries to connect that it stops working.

I've tried resetting both the router and the cable modem - to no avail. I guess updating the firmware on the router or cable modem would be the next step? How would I go about doing that?
posted by salad spork at 2:45 PM on April 15, 2006

First thing you do is create a new 'test' user in OS X.

Set the router to distribute IP addresses via DHCP.

Set up ethernet in the Mac to obtain a DHCP address automatically.

Verify that other computers can successfully obtain an IP address from the router using DHCP. If not, your router is b0rked.

Connect the Mac to the router using ethernet.

Does it obtain an IP address?

If NO, you need to reinstall OS X again. If the problem persists on a clean install you have a hardware problem.

If YES, try to do the same thing wirelessly.

If that works (it probably will) you have a configuration problem on your regular account which you need to fix.
posted by unSane at 3:18 PM on April 15, 2006

Hmm, the plot thickens. Ok to upgrade your firmware, go here.

But i find it hard to believe that would be the cause of all your problems. There is one other thing that might be worth looking into. There was an issue with apple computers not being able to log into third party routers. The solution apple proposed was to put a $ in front of the WEP key.

You say it happens when you plug your Mac directly into the cable modem? Are you able to connect to the internet before the it fails or is there no connectivity at all? One thing that might be worth trying is with you Mac directly connected, try pinging If that fails, try pinging

i mention it because you said that using your Mac knocked the other machines offline and caused the router to reboot (maybe) . When you are directly connected to the modem, does it reset? does it work at all?

If it does, what happens when you re-introduce your dlink router, but use an ethernet connection to it from your Mac, does that work or do you get the same resetting issue?
posted by quin at 3:33 PM on April 15, 2006

BTW, all of unSane's suggestions are excellent. i'm really hung up on the fact that when you attempt to connect, you knock the other connections off-line.
posted by quin at 3:35 PM on April 15, 2006

here is a possible explanation for knocking the other connections off line:

The Mac is set up in the Network Preferences to obtain a PPPoE connection. When it connects to the network, it sees the Cable Modem and immediately tries to dial in via PPPoE.

This of course knocks the previous connection down.

However it can't establish a PPPoE connection because it either has the wrong settings or the wrong MAC address or because the router tries to hang on to the previously obtained PPPoE connection.

This would explain why you had network activity but were not able to ping anything, and why the Mac knocks the other machines off the network. It would also explain why the cable modem looks like it is restarting, since it is actually trying to make another PPPoE connection.

The solution here is really simple: make sure 'Connect Using PPPoE' is UNCHECKED in both the Airport and Ethernet sections of the Network Preference Pane.

If I was a betting man I'd lay odds this is the problem.
posted by unSane at 4:13 PM on April 15, 2006

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the suggestions. Oddly enough, software update fixed the problem. Must have been something in 10.4.0 that was causing the issue. I'm still a little baffled, but I'm online, so I'm not going to complain.

Thanks again :)
posted by salad spork at 6:32 PM on April 15, 2006

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