Wireless Than Perfect
December 9, 2007 4:34 PM   Subscribe

Help a couple of decidedly incapable computer users get their wireless connection working again.

My girlfriend has an IBM ThinkPad, and she has used its wireless connection for many years. Unfortunately, the computer recently had some problems, and once we restarted it, we weren't able to connect to the internet. Every time that we try to connect to the wireless network, it tells us that no networks can be found (which makes no sense, because we're using the wireless on a different computer to post this) and asks us to make sure that our wireless switch is on. Unfortunately, this is the first that we're hearing about a wireless switch, so we have no idea how to even check for that sort of thing.

Hivemind, guide me through this.
posted by Parasite Unseen to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
Here's a picture of the wifi switch on a thinkpad.
posted by dereisbaer at 4:41 PM on December 9, 2007

yeah I consider myself very computer literate, but I have sometimes struggled for almost an hour with my Toshiba with this exact problem- before discovering I had accidentally moved the switch to "off" taking it in and out of my bag.

So nothing to be embarrassed about if that is the case.

If if it "On", you should at least see networks, b/c even if yours is down someone else in your 'hood must have on. If you see your network but can't connect, right-click the little network icon in the toolbar and choose "repair."

If that doesn't work, unplug the router (if you have one) and modem, wait 10 seconds or so, and plug them back in. Then you might have to "repair" again.

If all that doesn't help, consult someone more knowledgeable than me.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:48 PM on December 9, 2007

Response by poster: That was helpful, dereisbaer, although the ThinkPad that we're using is older and apparently needs to use Fn+F5. Alas, even when we use it and turn the Wireless Radio to On, the wireless symbol doesn't light up and we still can't get it working. Is there something here that I'm missing?
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:54 PM on December 9, 2007

Response by poster: We've attempted hitting Repair, and each time we attempt it it runs through before giving us the following message:

Windows could not finish repairing the problem because the following action cannot be completed:
Connecting to the wireless network.

For assistance, contact the person who manages your network.

Any thoughts on this?
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:58 PM on December 9, 2007

Have you tried reinstalling your wireless drivers? Sometimes a fie gets corrupted in a system crash.
posted by COD at 5:06 PM on December 9, 2007

There's a chance the problem is on your wifi router's side; you might try power-cycling that if you haven't already. Are you able to connect to the same wireless router from a different machine?
posted by whir at 5:09 PM on December 9, 2007

Response by poster: We haven't tried reinstalling the drivers. The thing is, we were having the same problem on the computer that I'm using to post this as well, but then we were able to get it fixed, so I don't think that it's a issue with a crash, because this computer never crashed. For some reason, the solution that worked for this computer isn't working for the other one.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 5:10 PM on December 9, 2007

Response by poster: Are you able to connect to the same wireless router from a different machine?

Yeah, I'm using that router to post this right now.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 5:11 PM on December 9, 2007

If the radio icon isn't turning on---it's not turning on the radio. That icon should be lit up even when there are no networks in range and when not connected. No idea what to tell you about what could have happened---reinstalling drivers could work, even just removing the drivers via device manager and rebooting could force it to reinstall and work fine for itself. Are you getting the onscreen popup that says "Wireless radio ON"? It's slightly possible your hotkey/function key thinger could not be working, but I doubt that.
posted by TomMelee at 5:29 PM on December 9, 2007

Wait when you say the wireless symbol doesn't light up---you mean the LED powered one on the keyboard, or the the windows setup one on the taskbar? I was assuming you meant the LED one, but now I'm thinking you mean the windows network notifier thinger.

To hard reset your router, you need to use a paperclip or something else to press in on the "reset" button on the back of the router until all the lights come ON and then go off. Please note that this will remove your WEP/WPA setup (if it's on) and reset your router password.
posted by TomMelee at 5:32 PM on December 9, 2007

Normally I would hesitate to recommend System Restore, since in my experience it usually breaks things. But I recently ran into a customer laptop with multiple Windows registry-corruption-related issues (including broken wireless) and used System Restore in a last-ditch attempt to avoid a Windows reinstall. Restoring to a checkpoint made the day before the problems first appeared actually fixed everything.

Before you reach for System Restore, though, try doing a complete power-cycle. Since it's a laptop, this will involve shutting it down, unplugging the AC adapter, and removing the battery. Leave it sit for half a minute before putting the battery back in and switching it all back on.
posted by flabdablet at 5:41 PM on December 9, 2007

Here's a helpful troubleshooting resource from Microsoft. Judging from the error you get when repairing, I suspect it's a driver or XP wireless utility issue, not the switch.
posted by Soup at 12:16 AM on December 10, 2007

If the switch were the problem, the wireless card would be completely disabled-- it would not even look for a network, nevermind being capable of reporting having problems connecting to one. It defeats the purpose of having a switch if the wireless card remains active and searching for networks (thus drawing power) even while toggled off.

I have two ideas that were not suggested.

(1) Encryption. If you're running XP before SP2, you don't have all the advanced encryption types (WPA-PSK, TKIP, etc.) If your router is running one of these encryption protocols then you won't be able to connect, since your OS will not support it.

(2) SSID. Rather than letting the computer search for all wireless networks and choosing yours from a list, try manually specifying the SSID for your network in your wireless config and setting that as the default network. That way if something wonky with your SSID broadcast is going on, your wireless card should still be able to find your network.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 4:02 AM on December 10, 2007

« Older Tort against third party recipients of the...   |   Why did CPUs stop getting faster about 5 years ago... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.