Wi-Fi stops for a few seconds every few minutes?
September 14, 2006 3:25 AM   Subscribe

What does it mean if every few minutes my home wi-fi service stops for a few seconds? Is this a problem with the access point? connecting wire?

The issue does not occur with desktop plugged directly via ethernet cable from cable-internet connection. But I notice that access points' lights now flicker constantly (and extremely fast--not like the lights on the router). And wi-fi signal disconnects for a few seconds all the time. Do I need new access point?
posted by quintno to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have iTunes installed? I used to have a similar problem until I removed it, then it was fine.
posted by randomination at 4:00 AM on September 14, 2006

My guess is that there is something else interfering on the wireless spectrum, like anohter wireless router or a cordless phone.

Login to your router and try changing (if possible) what channel it's broadcasting on.
posted by filmgeek at 4:22 AM on September 14, 2006

You may have WEP or WPA settings enabled that instruct your access point to create and exchange new encryption keys with all its clients every X minutes, X being a variable you can generally set. Changing keys frequently provides more security, since the time to crack a key of a given length will be, say, Y minutes for machines of average computing power. Anytime the X period is less than the Y period, it won't be possible for attackers to generally mount brute force attacks on your encryption.

But that comes at some cost of throughput, and short, frequent periods during which the keys are being recalculated and exchanged. 5 minutes is probably pretty secure, even for WEP, but with better WPA or WPA2 encryption schemes, you may be able to go an hour or more securely.
posted by paulsc at 4:43 AM on September 14, 2006

If you are running Windows, it could be the Wireless Zero Configuration service. You can test this by opening a Command windows (Start/Run/cmd), and running ping -t www.yahoo.com. This will ping non-stop, and you will be able to see the periodic dropouts because the time will go really high, or it will timeout altogether.

Once you have observed the dropout, stop the Wireless Zero Configuration service (Start/Run/net stop wzcsvc), and see if the dropouts/timeouts go away.

If it is the culprit, stop it manually each time you login, or write a small script to do it automatically.
posted by SNACKeR at 4:55 AM on September 14, 2006

Response by poster: This is a recent problem. Wi-Fi has been running fine for years, with same unit.
posted by quintno at 5:05 AM on September 14, 2006

Have you updated your access point firmware lately? Some fo the older versions of Linksys WiFi 802.11b router firmware have problems operating with some current cable systems, and firmware upgrades resolve this. You could be having this problem suddenly if your cable system is being upgraded.

But as filmgeek guesses, you could also be having new interference problems, from a new radio frequency device in the 2.4 GHz range in your area. You could try moving your router a significant distance, more than 10 feet, or changing it's oreintation to see if you can overcome interference. You could spend a few bucks on a WiFi locator, then turn your WiFi router off and see if you get signal from another access point in your area, or just try turning off your WiFi router, and see if you can browse any other WiFi network. With more and more people "souping up" their access points, interference is getting to be more of a problem.
posted by paulsc at 5:32 AM on September 14, 2006

Most likely your neighbors have added wifi units and are clogging your channel. You can switch channels to find one that isnt as bad. There are three non-overlapping wifi channels 1, 6, and 11. Try a different one for a while and see how it goes.

You can also use netstumbler to see other wifi APs and what channels they are using, but it wont show you inteference from a new cordless phone or other device using the ISM spectrum.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:18 AM on September 14, 2006

I had identical symptoms with my network a few months ago. It caused me no end of trouble. The problem ended up being a @#$% D-Link router that I was using as an AP. It was randomly shouting garbage over my network and interrupting streams. Everything worked for about 2 minutes and then *splat*.

It could also be a billion other things though, so do this step by step. You use the terms AP and Router interchangably, but they may not be. If you have a separate router and AP, try connecting directly to the router and skipping the AP. Otherwise, try plugging into the router directly using ethernet. It sounds like you may have done this, but its not clear if the router was involved in your direct-plugging test.

If it works with a wired connection but breaks on a wireless it could be interference, a bad AP/router, or your system's setup. First, test the easiest: if it's a laptop, take it to a friend's house with known-good wifi, and to as similar a test as possible. If possible, emulate the WEP/WPA settings too. Next, see if you can borrow/steal that (working) AP and use it at your house instead of your setup. That will let you know if its hardware or interference.

If it is interference, there's not much you can do. If its hardware, consumer wifi gear is cheap.
posted by Skorgu at 8:11 AM on September 14, 2006

« Older Why does the hair on the right part of my body...   |   Bolt-down monitor arms? In Toronto? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.