There's more than one solution to a common wireless problem

If your PC's wireless connection hangs while attempting to acquire a network address, there may be more than one way to fix it.

Life would be so much simpler if each problem we face had a single solution.

Of course, "simple" and "computer" are two words you rarely find in close proximity, except when you hear someone say, "My life would be so simple if I didn't own a computer."

For about two weeks, my notebook computer balked at linking to my wireless router. It would eventually connect, taking its own sweet time about it. Vista's Network and Sharing Center showed that Windows was struggling to acquire a network address.

A quick Web search indicated that I wasn't the only one experiencing this problem. One forum described three different solutions to the glitch: re-enter your network's encryption key; delete your network place and recreate it with a new name; and update or replace your wireless adapter.

Other forum posters suggested starting the DHCP client service, cloning the MAC address, changing the DHCP IP to the same setting as the wireless router, even disabling TCP/IP (I don't recommend this technique). I knew I was going nowhere when someone seriously suggested buying a longer ethernet cable.

If you're using Windows XP with Service Pack 2, there's a special patch for this problem, though it may have been installed on your system as part of an automatic Windows update. Of course, this wasn't going to do my Vista notebook any good.

What struck me was that these very different solutions all worked for somebody, but not everybody. What ultimately worked for my laptop was doing nothing. Yesterday I booted the machine and was pleasantly surprised to see right off the bat the network icon in the system tray show the little blue bubble in the bottom-right corner indicating that the Internet was there waiting for me.

So what's the moral of the story? I guess it's that two people can experience the same problem but require different solutions. Or maybe that some problems may indeed go away if you ignore them.

For me, the moral is, "Don't believe everything you read in tech forums."

About the author

    Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.


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