Why are my wireless routers flakey?
August 18, 2006 4:08 PM   Subscribe

Why are my wireless routers flakey? I have a Comcast cable modem, which I use with a wireless router to create both wired and wireless networks. I have tried 3 (!) different wireless (802.11b/g, WEP) routers (Belkin F5D7230-4, Netgear WGR614, Apple Airport Extreme). In each case, the wired connection has been stable, but the wireless signal periodically disappears without warning. It's not just an interference issue, because power-cycling the router fixes it immediately.

When this happens, it will be impossible to connect wirelessly to the router from any machine, even if the laptop is right next to the router. Power-cycling the router fixes the problem immediately. Without power-cycling, the signal never returns. This happens at least once a week, and sometimes daily.

Possibilities I've thought of:
* Interference (but that would not explain why power-cycling fixes the problem)
* Flakey hardware (but 3 routers in a row have the same problem. Is there any way the modem or a client machine could be responsible?)
* Malicious intervention (If someone cracked the WEP key, could they bring down the router somehow?)
* Power spikes

None of these seem very likely...
posted by beniamino to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
What about your cable modem? That hasn't been ruled out yet, and it seems central to all your routers' problems.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:16 PM on August 18, 2006

have you changed channels on the base stations? is anyone else around you running an access point? how many computers do you have that are wireless, and are they running the latest drivers for their cards?
posted by mrg at 4:27 PM on August 18, 2006

Blazecock Pileon: It could be the cable modem. I just don't know how a fault with the cable modem could knock out the wireless network, but leave wired connections intact.

mrg: The current base station (Airport) is in channel-hopping mode (is that bad? I don't think the other ones did it). There are a couple of other APs around, but nothing very active. The clients are all up-to-date (though one is an ancient 802.11b card). There doesn't seem to be any relationship between a particular client being used and the network failing.
posted by beniamino at 4:35 PM on August 18, 2006

I had a Belkin F5D7230-4 with stock firmware once and it did this. Seemed to have to do with WPA. Changed to an open source firmware, boosted the power levels, now the connection stays up even when the microwave goes on in the open-plan kitchenette.
posted by meehawl at 4:55 PM on August 18, 2006

Funny this was posted.

I have three linksys waps.. a WRT54G, WRT54GS v4, and a WAP11. All three exhibit this same issue. I live in an apartment building with 15 units, and I can only see one other wireless network. It is completely random, but seems to happen atleast once a day.

My problem isnt power (I have it on a good APC UPS). What do I do to test the cable modem for problms? I would love to get this resolved as well. Its flipping annoying.
posted by SirStan at 4:55 PM on August 18, 2006

My Airport Express did that once after a power surge. Do you have them on a power strip?

Hackers are also a possibility. There's a new avenue of attack they just found where they hit the firmware in wireless devices, rather than the OS itself. I thought it was mostly just theoretical still, but it's been long enough that real exploits might be circulating. Are you in a high-tech area?
posted by Malor at 4:57 PM on August 18, 2006

Oh, and you mention a WEP key... DO NOT USE WEP. It is completely insecure. It can be cracked in five minutes or less. Use only WPA, preferably WPA2 with AES encryption.
posted by Malor at 5:02 PM on August 18, 2006

My WRT just did it again. I am plugged in via ethernet and I am on just fine, but wifi isnt showing up. My other wap is showing up fine (channels 2 and 9)
posted by SirStan at 5:56 PM on August 18, 2006

Happened to us for a while. We changed power strips and it never bothered us again.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 6:01 PM on August 18, 2006

Malor: OK, updated to WPA2. Yes I'm in a high-tech area (SF Bay Area)

DieHipsterDie: Good iea, I'll swap the power strip too -- though it seems bizarre that a power problem could make only the wireless fail.
posted by beniamino at 6:18 PM on August 18, 2006

I had the same problem. My connection would just stop every hour or so. Comcast technicians always blamed it on my home network and were generally unhelpful.
So I solved the issue permanently by switching to Verizon.
posted by bink at 6:42 PM on August 18, 2006

To minimize the possibility of channel interference -- and assuming that your router and cards support it -- try changing your ID to Israel or something where you can access channels 12-14. Try channel 13. If the channel doesn't drop, there's a good chance it's not competing routers. If it still drops, then it's something else.
posted by meehawl at 6:53 PM on August 18, 2006

Comcast has used several differenct Cable Modems. Some are more stable than others. The original RCA unit did what you described. The one I just recieved 3 months ago has been very stable. Have you reviewed your Router's Device Log. Also, are you able to reset the wireless system from your Router's Management Tool.
posted by ptm at 7:46 PM on August 18, 2006

I just installed DD-WRT, and upped my WAP's output from 20mW to 150mW and haven't had the problem return.

Take that neighbors.
posted by SirStan at 10:06 PM on August 18, 2006

FWIW, installing a new surge protector apparently fixed this. I have always believed those things were useless...
posted by beniamino at 10:33 AM on January 21, 2007

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