WEP troubleshooting
August 3, 2008 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Do you have any ideas why I cannot add machines to my el cheapo Linksys WRT150N wireless router once I have enabled WEP?

I bought the wireless router about eight months ago. I have a tower I use as a workstation (it's connected directly to the router), and I enabled WEP and provided credentials (keys) to a laptop.

About a week ago, a laptop (the main one we use) was left on and unplugged while we were out (or something), the battery drained, and the laptop shut down. When I restarted it, the laptop could no longer connect to the Linksys router. For some reason I hadn't saved the access key (don't ask me why), so I had to reset the router in order to disable the security. The laptop can connect to the wireless router when there is no security enabled.

We live in an apartment building, and I'd rather not have an open network. However, for some reason our laptop will not connect when security is enabled.

To enable security, I either log into the web interface using the tower connected to the router, enable WEP, jot down the security key, and type it by hand on the laptop when trying to connect to the WEP-enabled router, OR I have inserted the Linksys startup CD into the tower, generated the security key, and then walked over to the laptop and typed in the key.

However, the laptop, although it can "see" the WEP-enabled router (SSID is being broadcast), cannot connect.

Or do I connect the laptop directly to the router, and set up WEP *that* way?

Any ideas on what I'm doing wrong?
posted by KokuRyu to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
you're not doing something silly like entering a hex key as a literal string? i've done that before...
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 9:06 AM on August 3, 2008

You should be using WPA, not WEP. As you noted, you want to have a relatively secure wireless connection. In that case, play with the WPA-PSK options on the router. WEP can be broken in a couple minutes by anyone who wants to; it's about as effective as a "Keep Out" sign in that people who don't want to trespass won't, whereas anyone who wants to enter will.

Make sure you set a unique SSID, also. It's possible your laptop is picking up the Access POint of a neighbor with the same SSID, and you're trying to apply your key to it. You want a unique SSID, anyway, because the WPA keys are hashed with the SSID.
posted by chengjih at 9:07 AM on August 3, 2008

Any reason why you're using WEP instead of WPA? You can create your own passkey and type that into the laptop - really cuts down on the frustration and potential for type-os. Also, WPA is much more secure than WEP.

Ugh... wi-if is either one of those things which works brilliantly or doesn't work at all for maddening and mysterious reasons.

Obviously shut down and restart everything. It doesn't hurt to disable and re-enable your wifi adapter on your laptop. Double check you settings, make sure the security matches up on each.

I've found that I really prefer a 3rd party program to Window's native wi-fi management. I use Juniper Network's Odyssey - I've found that it's just better at detecting networks and handling security. It's also a lot less vague than Windows.
posted by wfrgms at 9:08 AM on August 3, 2008

Oh yeah, building on chengjih's advice - make sure your SSID is unique, but better yet, don't broadcast it at all (you'll need to type it in at your laptop...)
posted by wfrgms at 9:09 AM on August 3, 2008

Switch to WPA-PSK. Make sure your laptop is using the microsoft wireless manager. I find the linksys one to be very flakey. The intel ones are also not as good.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:47 AM on August 3, 2008

You don't say how you are entering the WEP key into your laptop. This problem sounds as if you may be entering the WEP key into the wrong utility. Many laptops have two wireless connection utilities: the Microsoft one (which is disabled when you install a third-party wireless-card utility) and the one that came with your wireless card. You should only have to enter the WEP key once, not when you connect. The wireless card connection utility probably has a little icon in the Taskbar at the bottom-right of your screen (move the mouse over these to see which is which).
posted by Susurration at 4:06 PM on August 3, 2008

Response by poster: Update: Although I had changed my Linksys router's name (eg, KokuRyu1) in order to avoid confusion, for some reason the router changed itself back to "Linksys" and so didn't appear (someone else has a network named "Linksys" in my building). It took a lot of plugging and unplugging and fiddling (added to the plugging and unplugging and fiddling), and, hey, it's a holiday weekend here in British Columbia, so I've had it - I'm going away for a few days so I will try implementing security several days from now... I will let you know how it goes.

I'm using the native Microsoft utility on the laptop to enter credentials, as the wifi card is internal and so there is no other utility to use.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:36 PM on August 3, 2008

I have a WRT150N. May I suggest you install DD-WRT on it? It adds many features, not the least of which is the ability to increase the signal strength of the router.

Also GRC is good for creating passwords (For WPA2, don't use WEP).
posted by poopdbq at 10:39 PM on August 3, 2008

Ah, I skipped over the fact that you're using a Linksys. The first thing I do when I have a Linksys is install DD-WRT as per poopdbq's post. You Will Be Happier.

Just to note, I've seen some 150Ns with hardware issues involving the wireless radio, actually on a very high percentage of devices (2 out of 10 or so). But in those cases, the problems tended to manifest themselves in the first week or two of use.

In any case, go through the DD-WRT installation instructions for your model. Pay particular attention to reseting the router to factory defaults. Perhaps there's some NVRAM corruption someplace that makes it reset the router name, etc., that will get cleared up with a hard reset.
posted by chengjih at 4:03 AM on August 4, 2008

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