Why, why, wi-fi?
October 26, 2007 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Why does my laptop's wireless network fail to work after resuming from standby, requiring a reboot?

The laptop in question is a Dell Vostro 1400 laptop, integrated Dell 802.11g adapter, Windows XP SP2. The adapter works fine and can detect and connect to the networks with no issue, normally. But it freaks out sometimes.

I'll give you a typical scenario:

I open the laptop on my lunch break at work and connect to my office WiFi network (802.11g, WPA, static IP). Works fine, stays connected through lunch. Shut the lid and take the laptop home after work.

Get home, open the laptop. It resumes from standby and I set the IP to DHCP. It sees my home network (802.11g, WPA, DHCP) and tries to connect to it, but fails. I've tried repairing/disable/re-enabling manually, hard-disabling the adapter from the laptop's front switch and re-enabling, and stopping the WZC service (which refuses to restart). When I do a repair, it takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r to disable/enable the adapter, and stalls at "Connecting" for several minutes, before it finally bails and errors out. No matter what, it won't reconnect until I reboot.

When I reboot it works fine (though the network services seem to take a long time to start). Even if I reboot with the IP still set to my work's static IP, I can change it to DHCP and it connects fine. (Point being that it requires a reboot for the interface to even work, and doesn't appear to be related to static IP vs DHCP)

Even stranger: If I reboot, it works fine until I shut the lid and go to standby again. If I resume, there's a 50/50 chance of it working again. It might work, it might not. It might work for 30 mins and then flake out, and nothing works but a reboot. Last night, for instance, I put the laptop in standby at home, then brought it to work today. I started it from standby during lunch and changed my IP and it connected fine. It died an hour later and wouldn't come back until I rebooted. Eh!??

I think it's a "bigger" network adapter issue. I also have a bluetooth module in the laptop and it works fine all the time, but if the WiFi drops then the Bluetooth doesn't work either. That's not even the same adapter! Is there a service that's flipping out or something?

Please throw any suggestions my way. It's not specifically related to one or even two wifi networks; it happens on whatever network I'm connecting too. It seems like it has to be an adapter issue!

Note that this system was originally Vista but I replaced it with a fresh XP install. Dell does have up-to-date XP drivers though, which I'm running.

posted by sprocket87 to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I had pretty much the same problem with my Thinkpad T60p.

I finally replaced the internal WiFi card. The original was "self-branded", and I replaced it with an Intel Pro Wireless 3945 (I think). Then the problem totally went away.
posted by gregvr at 1:52 PM on October 26, 2007

Response by poster: gregvr, thanks for the response. That was one of the first thoughts that ran through my head, and something I'm afraid of. I'm not sure the internal wifi adapter is user replaceable in the Vostro.

I might try using a USB wifi adapter as a test.
posted by sprocket87 at 1:55 PM on October 26, 2007

Mine was mini-PCI. It was harder than, say, adding memory, but it wasn't too hard.
posted by gregvr at 2:05 PM on October 26, 2007

Best answer: Try actually disabling the wireless before you suspend and re-enabling when you resume.

But otherwise, yeah it's the wifi adapter and/or drivers. I'm a network admin for about 40,000 users over ~700 access points. This type of problem is very common.

Assuming your Dell matches what's on their pages today, it's a re-branded Broadcom 1390. This might be a good point to start looking.
posted by zengargoyle at 5:09 PM on October 26, 2007

I have a very similar problem with a thinkpad A31p. I have two... one has an integreted wireless (B) and one a linksys PCMCIA (G) adapter. They are otherwise IDENTICAL, down to each having cloned HDDs. (Kind of a long story.)

The integrated adapter works perfectly under all scenarios. The PCMCIA adapter must be removed if I power down the unit, and when reinserted after XP boots, it is properly discovered, activated and functions well. If I leave it installed and power down, it behaves exactly like yours when I power back up, including the repair process you descrine.

I have suspected that there is something in the THinkpad related to the power down of peripherals and have tried different power control settings to no avail. I feel like this is a problem I could fix, but the workaround is so simple for me that it's not worth the day it would take to figure it out.

Anyway, the info is presented so you'll have a data point to add to YOUR debug. I am sure other people have similar stories. My problem is extremely repeatable.

Good luck. I will follow this thread wiht interest to see if someone else had fixed it.
posted by FauxScot at 6:08 PM on October 26, 2007

Make sure that you're plugged into the wall when you do this, as I'm sure you must be. If you're trying to do what you describe from battery power, there's a setting in XP (under the power resource management). Tell it not to power off any systems when on battery power.

You might also want to see what the differences are in your 'net start' menu.
Run 'net start' from cmd. Do this first when your wifi is working. Then, when it isn't working, go check net start again and see what's missing.
'net start service' will start any service that isn't called automatically.

As for why it flakes out randomly, sink me.
Note: I am a systems/network admin, but I am not your sysadmin.
posted by lilithim at 6:55 PM on October 26, 2007

Wireless is just a flaky technology. Suspending and hibernation are flaky technologies. Combine the two and you have lots of extra opportunities for flakiness to happen. If I were in your shoes, I'd be trying out PCMCIA wireless adapters until I found one that worked. Intel networking stuff is generally among the least flaky, in my experience.
posted by flabdablet at 10:53 PM on October 26, 2007

You could check the following Operating System Service:

Control Panel
Admin Services
Component Services
Wireless Zero configuration

The wireless may have become disabled by the standby, try and disable and re-enable to see if it brings your adapter back on line. The other thing I've done with my Sony Vaio system is to turn the wireless adapter sitch off and then back on - it's located on the front panel - so that it reinitializes.
posted by ptm at 2:12 AM on October 27, 2007

Go into your power settings and check out what gets turned off after a certain amount of time. Sometimes the hard drive power is linked to the wireless conduit as well so if one gets shut down it doesn't always power on the wifi line as well with the HD spin up.

Check your settings and set them to sleep/disable to never. See if that remedies it.
posted by PetiePal at 8:29 AM on October 27, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the comments. I'll continue testing your suggestions, but I get the feeling that the Dell 1390 is just a poor adapter and I need to upgrade to the Intel 3945.

Thanks especially to zengargoyle for that link; it confirmed that others have been having the same problem with this laptop/adapter, and that it is upgradeable. It also informed me that they're cheaper to buy on eBay than Dell would've included it in the laptop for!

They're selling for $15-20 shipped on eBay. I think I'll be placing an order shortly :)

Thanks again all; I'll try to update when I install the Intel adapter.
posted by sprocket87 at 1:50 PM on October 27, 2007

Just one more thing to add to this thread.

I also have experience with a new T61 with the new Intel 4XXX wireless card installed. Again, it wouldn't resume from sleep correctly.

In this case, it would look like it connects, says "connected", but then very quickly says "this connection has limited or no connectivity".

I disabled the 802.11N aspect of the card, and now it works fine.

Just another thing to try sometime.
posted by gregvr at 5:06 AM on October 28, 2007

Response by poster: Well I ordered the Intel 3945 card and it arrived yesterday. I installed it without issue and it's been working great so far. It will be another day or two before I'm 100% that the problem is gone, but so far, so good!

Thanks again for the insight and recommendations.
posted by sprocket87 at 7:18 AM on November 1, 2007

« Older Poetry about migraines / headaches / chronic pain...   |   Is Fox juicing their broadcast? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.