Why is my wireless disconnecting on my Windows 2000 pc?
April 13, 2004 2:15 PM   Subscribe

Problem with a wireless card on Windows 2000. The manufacturers and Google have been no help. Ask Metafilter will solve it though, won't you...? [more inside, of course]

I have a small desk downstairs on which sits a laptop. It doesn't move much. Until this weekend, it was an old Acer running Windows 98. Plugged into this was a Netgear MA521 Cardbus wireless card, which linked up perfectly with a Linksys router two floors up in the attic. Never had a single connection problem with it, signal strength always around at least 70%.

This weekend, I replaced the laptop with a slightly younger Sony Vaio. That was running Windows 98 but not very well, so I did a clean install of Windows 2000. Wireless card was installed and ran perfectly. Until, that is, I installed the relevant Windows Updates. Now, the connection drops every few minutes. There it goes again, in fact. There's no warning; no drop in signal strength; and the connection is picked up again almost immediately - as soon as the connection goes, the card scans through the channels until it finds the right one, and instantly connects. Downtime is no more than fifteen seconds. But it's intermittent, happens more often when I'm surfing then when I'm not, and is bugging the hell out of me. I can't find anyone else who's suffered this, and I don't know if it's card related, OS related, or laptop related.

Can anyone shed some light on what the problem is, or how I might solve it? All drivers, etc, are up to date.
posted by humuhumu to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
Try rolling back the wireless drivers. If I remember correctly, you can do it in the add/remove programs dialogue.
posted by apathy0o0 at 2:49 PM on April 13, 2004

Make sure nobody's stepping on your signal. If you find other wireless networks in proximity, consider changing the channel on your router.
posted by coelecanth at 3:35 PM on April 13, 2004

Both 2000 and XP have an obnoxious habit of dropping and resetting the connection whenever the signal is interrupted in the slightest, as soon as the driver reports media disconnected Windows 9x doesn't do this (in fact, I believe the 9x network stack isn't even aware of media connectivity, which is how things ought to be). Ostensibly this makes plugging and playing of networks better, but in reality it means that networks with occasional intermittent connectivity problems -- like wireless networks -- are more infuriating to use.

If using a different operating system isn't an option for you, and you're stuck with Windows 2000, I have a couple of suggestions:

First, poke around in the configuration panel of the network card. Often under "Advanced" there are power management or powersaving options -- disable them. A wireless link operating in PM mode is somewhat more prone to making the driver think it has diconnected when just a few packets are lost.

If that doesn't cover it, consider looking around for earlier drivers. You can try Windows 2000's "Roll Back Driver" feature, but i've had mixed results with it. You might have better luck trying to download an earlier driver -- ideally a much, much earlier driver. A lot of early drivers for wireless hardware are clunkier to configure but don't report media disconnect.
posted by majick at 3:47 PM on April 13, 2004

This drove me fuckin' crazy... all it is (probably) is the "Enable 802.11x authenication" box under the properties for a given wireless network. The update added that option to your wireless properties and checked it. When you uncheck it, all will return to normal and life will be good again.
posted by ph00dz at 4:23 PM on April 13, 2004

If changing 802.11 authentication doesn't fix it, you might take a look at this article from Ars Technica: "The gist of this is as follows: if your wireless network is set to not broadcast your SSID, Microsoft's wireless manager will periodically drop your non-broadcasting WiFi connection in response to the presence of a broadcasting SSID-based network."
posted by brool at 5:59 PM on April 13, 2004

The SSID is being broadcast, so it's not that. I used to see another network around but haven't noticed it in a month, and not since I installed Windows 2000. Encryption has been turned off. Power saving is off. Still losing the connection.

I can't seem to find the "Enable 802.11x authenication" box. The card's properties / utility don't have this setting. Is it present on W2K? I'll search for earlier drivers...
posted by humuhumu at 11:32 PM on April 13, 2004

Okay, I think this thread is dead but I'm going to post what appears to be the solution in case anyone else comes back here and wonders...

I uninstalled every recommended Windows 2000 update from Microsoft (as it appeared to be after installing those that it had problems): but no luck.

I tried every combination of SSID broadcast / encryption / different channels: no luck.

I then managed to find an older version of the MA521 drivers (1.0 rather than the 1.3 that were most recent): and tada! what seems to be a working connection. At least, it hasn't gone down in a few hours... with something like this you're always just waiting to be proved wrong.

So: it seems to be some combination of Service Pack 4 for Windows 2000 (wasn't able to uninstall that) and the 1.3 drives. Or the period of the moon on the first Monday after Easter. Or something...

So thanks for all the help, folks. Your suggestions *did* make the difference.
posted by humuhumu at 11:30 PM on April 14, 2004

« Older Air Travel post 9-11   |   It is bad for a single woman to aspire to be a SAH... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.