Airport Problems On A MacBook Pro
March 14, 2007 5:37 AM   Subscribe

How can I fix my MacBook Pro's Airport problems?

My MacBook Pro has been quite happily connecting to the wireless network in my flat, and at other locations since I bought it, but all of a sudden, no wireless for me.

The first sign of the problem was that when I selected Network from the Go menu, the window flashed up for a second, then disappeared completely - this persisted for a week or so, but since I could still connect to my other computer via Connect to Server... I didn't worry about it.

Now, though I can still see the list of available networks in the dropdown of the Airport menu bar item, attempting to connect to any wireless network (or at least all the open ones in my building and the two nearest caf├ęs I've tried it in) results in the following error:

There was an error joining the AirPort nework "[Name of network]".

If I try to connect to a password-protected network, I still get the password dialogue. All is well when I'm connected to my router via ethernet, so it seems to be an Airport-specific problem. I'm running 10.4.9 with all the latest software updates.

Really what I'm after is advice on diagnosing the problem beyond that rather unhelpful error message, and troubleshooting tips when it comes to Airport - I'd rather have a go at working out what the problem is and try to fix it before 'phoning AppleCare and risking being without the computer for a time.
posted by jack_mo to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Possibly of use.
posted by mcwetboy at 5:55 AM on March 14, 2007

After installing 10.4.9 I found my Powerbook had lost the login details for my wireless network; I had to choose Other... from the dropdown menu then redo the settings.
posted by malevolent at 6:15 AM on March 14, 2007

Response by poster: Sounds like an authentication problem.

It won't connect to open networks either, so I don't think it's that (unless there's some authentication going on with open networks too?).

Also, I should've mentioned that I've done all the following 'might as well see if this helps' type stuff:- trying to connect via Airport with a clean test account, resetting the PRAM, trashing SystemConfiguration and restarting, rebuilding the Network Port Configurations, deleting anything Airport-related in the Keychain, repairing permissions...
posted by jack_mo at 6:36 AM on March 14, 2007

Does it connect if you boot from an external HD (ie, with a totally different system?)
posted by bonaldi at 6:53 AM on March 14, 2007

Response by poster: Dunno bonaldi - I don't have enough room on my external HD to try.

Looks like a clean install of the OS is the next step, really, unless anyone else has a ninja trick up their sleeve. How annoying.
posted by jack_mo at 6:59 AM on March 14, 2007

I'll loan ya an external HD if you like. You don't want to reinstall the OS only to find out it's hardware all along.
posted by bonaldi at 7:13 AM on March 14, 2007

According to Macintouch's Reader Reports, there is at least one other person who had problems with Airport after the most recent update:
Mike McCallum
After I mailed earlier, I poked around and tried some things. When I tried to connect, the airport signal indicator in the menu bar would flicker. Looking at /var/log/system.log and /var/log/asl.log in real time, I found that it was reporting that the password ID was failing. In addition, I found that AP was looking for a bunch of networks I thought I had deleted. When I went into the System Preferences and tried to delete all my known networks (this has been found to work for people in the past), /var/log/system.log reported a configuration crash, and the changes wouldn't stick.

What I finally did was edit /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/ and deleted ALL the preferred networks there. I had to change the ownership to my user account, then back to "system" after I saved the changes. After that, I re-added my preferred network and all appears well again.

Jeez, what a pain!
Don't know if that will fix anything for you or not (particularly as you say you've already tried to completely rebuild the networking settings), but it's worth a try before rebuilding the OS.
posted by willnot at 7:19 AM on March 14, 2007

Something else is afoot; it's possible that a reinstall may help (although an archive and reinstall is much less painful than a full blown fresh copy.)

I keep a HD around with a clean install of the OS and some key apps (It's a testing sandbox.)

But I'd try the normal voodoo - permissions, cache cleanup (There's a program called ONYX that does this very well). I might also try a clean user.

I'd pick up istumbler and look at the number of wireless networks where you live - perhaps there are loads on the same channel.

I'm saying this, because you might go, do a clean install...only to find that it doesn't make a difference.
posted by filmgeek at 7:26 AM on March 14, 2007

You could also try an archive install before a clean install
posted by ReiToei at 8:47 AM on March 14, 2007

Response by poster: I'll loan ya an external HD if you like.

Cool, thanks bonaldi - I'll maybe take you up on that next week sometime. (I'll give an archive install a go first, and see if that helps.)
posted by jack_mo at 9:44 AM on March 14, 2007

Let me know if the archive install works (just out of curiosity)
posted by ReiToei at 10:43 AM on March 14, 2007

Response by poster: ReiToei - I didn't need to do an archive install at all in the end. Just before I was about to bite the bullet, I tried to join the network one last time and... it just works.

I'm now suspecting that filmgeek is right, and there are just too many networks in my building and the ones either side (I can pick up between 12 and 15 depending on where I am in the flat...)

Thanks for the advice everyone, and sorry for wasting your time!
posted by jack_mo at 7:17 AM on March 18, 2007

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