WiFi network issues when first connecting
February 4, 2004 2:21 PM   Subscribe

I use my work laptop at home, and have to switch network connections from local area connection to wireless network connection. The laptop finds the signal, but I always have to futz with the connection to really make it work. [more tech details inside]

Once it finds the signal, it says "wireless connection unavailable." I then go back to the connection window, open the connection and check "allow me to connect to the selected wireless network, even though it is not secure." I can't find a way to make the connection remember that, so I don't have to go back into the screen and check that off. Is there a way of setting that so it finds the signal, and when it connects it stays connected?
(network novice here)
posted by jmackin to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
What operating system?
posted by cmonkey at 2:39 PM on February 4, 2004

If you are using any software that came with it, software from the manufacturer, try uninstalling that and using only Windows. ALso try unchecking "let Windows manage my wireless networks." I know what you mean, I have a wireless network and a laptop, and it works great but is always a pain to get started. Also check options like infrastructure/ad hoc mode and WEP encryption.
posted by ac at 5:49 PM on February 4, 2004

Windows XP is really weird about connecting to unsecured wireless networks... it'll do it, but darn it, it's not happy about it. Assuming that your wireless network is at home, setting the router up with a 128 bit key and adding this connection to your list of preferred networks should solve your problem.
posted by ph00dz at 8:51 PM on February 4, 2004

also check around for stuff near the wireless access point that might be causing interference -- cordless phones, computers, etc.

at my old job I'd occaisionally see poor wireless preformance, most of which was solved when I returned the access point and got a new one. Sometimes access points are just bad. Honestly. I went through three wireless Linksys routers before I found one that worked solidly (and thus, can't recommend them -- i've had good luck with Netgear, btw).

There's a lot of points to start attacking your problem with.

1) Try rebooting. What does that do?
2) Try upgrading the firmware on the router. Any better?
3) If you have a setting on the wireless admin that you can make "always open", set it, unless you've got security issues.
4) Is it a proximity problem? I've found wireless connectivity is far under spec in actual use. Even though it is supposed to go X feet, it usually does half of that at best. If it works when you're right next to it and doesn't when you're farther away, that's your problem.
5) It may be a deal where, if the "futzing" is taking a moment or so to get going, that your computer is still getting DHCP info -- if you switch a connection type, it's sometimes a good idea to reboot anyways, even though anything over win98/me should be able to handle this. I guess that's number one. I mean, basically, the first thing I would do is reboot. Does that fix it? No? Then you've got another problem.
6) Same problems on the wire? No? Then it's definitely a wireless problem. Search google -- especially google groups (which searches the newsgroups) -- for related problems -- you might pick something up.
7) Does it work when you're right next to your wireless router? If no, then you can discard the proximity thing, and just start looking at software setup, hardware compatibility, etc.

Windows has been pretty clean with wireless once it starts working -- in my experience -- the trick is to get it to start working smoothly. If it doesn't go off right away, I'd be inclined to return anything I've bought that doesn't work -- simply because I've been an owner of so many bad access points. It does happen, I suppose.

Wireless connections, in my experience, are pretty much touch and go -- when they work, they work, and they work well -- when they don't, there's so many x factors that it's really difficult to find out what the problem is. I usually blame things on proximity. It might behoove you to purchase a wireless booster (linksys makes one) and we *did* see better connectivity at my work when we added that (although it doesn't really serve to help your bandwidth). The general idea is to reduce the amount of x factors you might have occuring in your environment. Try turning everything off that might be broadcasting on a similar band and see how things go -- i've heard 2.4 ghz phones (which are super popular for wireless) produce a lot of interference, for example.

With computers in general, I've had good luck with "try this, does it work, no? well, then try this?" You can also try to look up and see if people have had similar problems (google it as specifically as you can) but hey, it happens that sometimes problems are simply one off, and you have to track them down. Fixes are never singular when it comes to computers. Good luck.

and, by the way, to other folks who might be reading this: I've been suffering really bad flakiness with my Airport card (which is in a G4 TiBook, supposedly one of the *worst* wireless setups when it comes to throughput and connectivity). I've found that some spots work better than others, these "hotspots" being entirely arbitrary, like mobile reception in an area with few antennae.

if anyone has dealt with this Airport flakiness problem, I'd be interested in hearing about it -- I've googled a little bit and haven't found a surefire solution. It's not necessarily proximity, because I've had tons of problems with a friend's wireless network where I'll be twenty feet from the access point but get kicked off every ten minutes -- ie, have to restart the whole airport DHCP process. I'm about ready to chalk it up to good-looking bad design, but hey, if anyone else out there has suffered airport flakiness -- that's software, 10.3.2 to be specific -- and fixed it, I'd be interested in hearing about it. I've looked into most of the hardware troubles.

Most of the problems seem to come down to DNS. I'm not sure if my comp isn't getting DNS through DHCP properly, but it seems to be fixed when I'm in close proximity. Perhaps the airport card cannot work when you have less than three "bars"? I don't know.
posted by fishfucker at 3:01 AM on February 5, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the thoughts everyone ... i'll probably have to look into turning on the 128 bit key to stop that error from happening.

(yes, its windows XP, and same thing happens on reboot).
posted by jmackin at 6:18 AM on February 5, 2004

« Older Seeking tips on the best practices for maintaining...   |   How do I do an advanced search in Apple's Mail... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.