Why does my wireless hub signal degrade throughout the day?
January 19, 2007 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Why does the signal and connectivity on my wireless router degrade and improve throughout the day?

I have a Linksys Wireless G router daisy chained to an Apple AirPort on another floor that is wired directly to my cable modem. I have a couple of PC's linked to the LinkSys, as well as a couple of TiVo boxes. I have good wireless security enabled, and live in a reasonably remote location, so no one else is accessing it. I have been working from home a bit lately, and have noticed that my signal will degrade throughout the course of the day, sometimes improve, sometimes disappear and then reappear again in full force regardless of my level of internet activity.

Why does this happen? Is this normal? Have I not configured it correctly? Or do these things pursue mystical cyclical patterns throughout the day?

Inquiring minds need to know. It's not the worst thing in the world when it goes away, as I can always access the weaker airport signal in the basement, but it indicates to me that I have done something wrong. Can anyone help?
posted by Hypnic jerk to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
cheap chipsets - both AP and wireless end
bursts of interference
but mostly cheaper chipsets = cheaper performance
multipath interference (signal bouncing)
posted by evilelvis at 11:19 AM on January 19, 2007

Yep, good question - And one that I too would love to know the answer to.

I too have a Linksys router and find it is variable.

I received some good answers to a similar question previously:


I have so far tried the "changing channels" approach from 11 to 7 and this worked like a dream for the first night then dropped off again. I also downloaded "Net Stumbler" for free which shows which channels other local people are using so I can select a different channel.

I think next step for me would be to try the upgrading firmware line but I really don't know if this will help.

Hope this helps, but would love to know the "real" answer!
posted by pettins at 11:34 AM on January 19, 2007

Your access point probably doesnt put out more than 100 milliwatts. Your neighbors microwave, which operates around the same frequency, is well over 1000 watts. While most of that microwave radiation is contained, it still leaks out.

When my employer was developing a wireless product that operates in the same 2.4GHz ISM band, we were doing lots of testing in our office building. One of the engineers brought over a spectrum analyzer plot showing the background noise at 2.4 in the morning versus lunchtime. It was much, much higher, and that was a lab 100 feet away from the galley.
posted by kableh at 11:34 AM on January 19, 2007

Some of the Linksys routers have firmware issues that cause that problem. Upgrade to the latest firmware and it may solve your problem..it worked for me. ;)

Also, interference from other people's routers can cause significant problems that vary throughout the day depending on how much data they are transferring.
posted by wierdo at 11:36 AM on January 19, 2007

Thanks, all. I'll u/g the firmware this weekend and report back if it works.
posted by Hypnic jerk at 12:44 PM on January 19, 2007

I can't use my wireless connection at home at the same time I'm using my 2.4GHz cordless phone, and when a text message comes in on my cell I notice a dip in connectivity as well.
posted by loiseau at 1:03 PM on January 19, 2007

I've had persistent similar problems with my linksys routers in the past, and I saw somewhere that suggested that there is a problem with heat dissipation in the linksys enclosures.

I solved most of my degradation issues by making sure there was good clear airflow around the enclosure. You shouldn't have to force air into it, but that might help, too. (though you shouldn't have to make any modifications to them, until linksys gets their act together, this will continue to be a problem).
posted by toomanyplugs at 1:05 PM on January 19, 2007

It's ridiculously complicated!

802.11 can be one of several types of modulation. Recent cards can switch between all of them, depending on current circumstances. Link quality as reported by your system could have components either in the access point or the mobile portion. Something could be affecting one, the other, or both.

Ambient noise, interfering local signals, themal considerations, solar interference could all play a part in what you are seeing.

You could monitor it for several weeks, to see if there is a temporal correlation and use your observations to narrow down which contribution is most significant.

I never pay attention to ANY of mine unless I can't connect at all. I expect it to wiggle all over the place. I OWN a big ass spectrum analyzer (Tek 2754) but haven't bothered auditing my current digs (just moved in a few months ago). It is ONE way to investigate what you are experiencing.

Absent that, is the access point in the sunshine? There's a thermal contribution to investigate. Does it correlate with lunchtime (i.e., local microwave use probably high)? Is anything else happening at about that time?

You may never figure it out, but you could start zeroing in on it and eliminate some stuff over time. Take good notes and be observant. Post again when you get some data or email (in profile).
posted by FauxScot at 1:36 PM on January 19, 2007

Are both APs on the same channel? There are only 3 non-overlapping channels 1, 6, and 11. Make sure they arent overlapping. Use netstumbler to see which channels your neighbors are using.

What netstumbler wont show you is microwaves, old cordless phones, etc, but its better than nothing.

It may not be the routers at all. Maybe its the card in your laptop. It could be dying or the antenna could be coming loose. Who knows. Like Fauxscot wrote above its very complicated and the best thing you can do is work on the more obvious problems. If this is a serious problem throw another AP at it. Having three access points in your home each on one of the non-overlapping channels probably will help.

as I can always access the weaker airport signal in the basement

Most likely there is just something wrong with the linksys. Can you access its admin page when its 'down?' Maybe its the cat-5 cable. Maybe its internal. If you cant access it via the wired when its acting up then you might have to replace it. I hope you dont have both doing DHCP for the same subnet as that will cause a networking conflict. The linksys should be in access point mode only.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:15 PM on January 19, 2007

I've had persistent similar problems with my linksys routers in the past, and I saw somewhere that suggested that there is a problem with heat dissipation in the linksys enclosures.

had an issue years ago at my work with linksys routers that seemed to fail (dropped connections, not just lagged packets) after they overheated (this was in 2002. I have not noticed any linksys routers I've purchased since having similar problems). Returned 4 of them before we got one that seemed to work consistently. I would second making sure that the router is getting plenty of air.
posted by fishfucker at 12:12 AM on January 20, 2007

Ok, so I updated this firmware this morning, and moved the LinkSys to another channel, and so far (knocks wood), I am seeing five bars on my signal. I'll monitor it closely throughout the coming days, and ensure that it has adequate airflow. We'll see how it goes.

Thanks again for the help, all!
posted by Hypnic jerk at 11:31 AM on January 20, 2007

Linksys is the worst. I've had a few of their routers and will never buy another one.
posted by walla at 12:38 PM on January 20, 2007

What do you recommend otherwise? Belkin?
posted by psmealey at 4:54 PM on January 20, 2007

I recommend linksys. Their stuff is actually very nice for the price. The newer devices have a solid firmware and have decent features like QoS. Arguably, all this consumer level grade stuff is about the same. Belkin, linksys, d-link, and netgear seem to differ only in looks and marketing. If you want something nice then spring for a Cisco.
posted by damn dirty ape at 5:30 PM on January 20, 2007

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