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Home wireless network connection getting intermittent connections, help!

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / August 28, 2009 5:45 AM PDT
Question:

Home wireless network connection getting intermittent connections, help!


As a nontechie struggling to survive in a techie world, I look forward to reading the QOTW and responses every Friday afternoon. Thanks for all the insights, I frequently find solutions to things in your e-mails. I now find myself with a question that I hope is worthy of submission:

I have a very basic wireless system for my home--cable modem connected to a wireless access point/router, with a USB network adapter connected to my desktop PC operating on MS XP. The wireless connection has worked beautifully for 2+ years, but recently the connection breaks down and I get a message of ?acquiring network address,? which then turns into a message of ?limited or no connectivity.? The only way I can get the wireless connection back working is to run a hard-wire cable through the house from the access point/router directly into the desktop PC. After a few minutes the wireless connection will restore and work fine... for a short while, sometimes a couple hours, sometimes a couple days, then we have to go through the whole thing again. The access point/router seems to be broadcasting fine because my laptop connects and works without issue, but I need help stopping the calls I receive from frustrated family members trying to use the desktop... Save me! Thanks in advance.

Submitted by: Cory K. of San Marcos, California

Here are some featured member answers to get you started, but please read all the advice and suggestions in the discussion thread that our members have contributed to this question.

Home wireless problems --Submitted by RonPal
http://forums.cnet.com/5208-7589_102-0.html?messageID=3114231#3114231

Several possible causes --Submitted by Flatworm
http://forums.cnet.com/5208-7589_102-0.html?messageID=3114426#3114426

Home wireless connections --Submitted by ltoribio
http://forums.cnet.com/5208-7589_102-0.html?messageID=3114094#3114094

Wireless is inherently flawed. --Submitted by caskater4
http://forums.cnet.com/5208-7589_102-0.html?messageID=3114230#3114230

Try this instead... --Submitted by alswilling
http://forums.cnet.com/5208-7589_102-0.html?messageID=3115070#3115070

My experience --Submitted by Zouch
http://forums.cnet.com/5208-7589_102-0.html?messageID=3114130#3114130

This is probably a hardware issue... --Submitted by Watzman
http://forums.cnet.com/5208-7589_102-0.html?messageID=3114166#3114166


If you have some sound advice for Cory, please click on the reply link below and post it. Please be as detailed as possible when providing a solution or recommendation. Thanks!
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Intermittent Connections Help

Cory,

For a good while I had the same issues you are having with your wireless connections (my wireless laptop would be inconsistent about connecting to my wireless network). There may be other wireless networks in your neighborhood that may be causing interference, which turned out to be case for me. Check your available wireless networks list to see if your wireless network and some other(s) in the neighborhood are broadcasting on the same channel. What I did was go into my router web interface and change the router broadcast channel to one that was not being used by any other in-range network in the neighborhood. I think I might have changed my wireless laptop card to 'listen' on/for that channel too, but I don't directly remember. I have not had any trouble since.
I wish I could be more specific on directing you further, but things become more manufacturer dependent past this point (as to how to go about doing things like changing settings, etc).

Hope that works for you as well,

Carlton.

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Process of elimination
by download_fiend / September 4, 2009 12:06 PM PDT

Basically there are 3 components in this chain. First, the WAP. Second, the cable modem. Third, the USB adapter. You can systematically eliminate each in a test cycle. If this elimination process ends successfully, it should point to the top suspect. My guess is either your USB adapter or the USB port drivers on your laptop.

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It may be the USB Wifi Receiver

Try a different USB WiFi network adapter in the desktop to see if that fixes your problem. It appears from your description that the WiFi router is working fine. USB wifi adapters can be found for as little as $25 online from places like Amazon and eBay.

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connecting from desktop to laptop

I have been having the same problem for a very long time.my desk top is always connected but my laptop it have all kind of connection.I might not have any connection. It depend on how much time I allow my self.I connect by sharing or finding the address my company allow me to use.The second plan is to go to my desktop and reconnect in this order. It is a lot of trouble but this my only solution unless I want to call the cable guy every day

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Your Modem

I have used wirless and still use hard wire modems. I have found out like your about too that these modems wear out. Like battery's in your car, they need to be replace about every other year. Give or take some months. I know people that's had there's for a few years but lucky them. Just buy a new modem and your problems solved. More then likely.

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Home Wireless Connections

After successfully installing (for someone else) a wireless network supported by a wireless router and a USB wireless adapter, I got a call from the user to redo the installation. The wireless router had failed and had been replaced. So I went back to reinstall the network connections and left. Subsequently, I received a call indicating that the user was once again experiencing problems.

So I returned for another attempt. This time I came prepared to mount the router on the opposite side of a wall of the room in which it was located. But before taking that step, I decided to play with the antenna. What I discovered was very surprising. Positioning the router's antenna parallel to the USB wireless adapter (horizontal), made all the difference in the world!

I do not have an explanation for this phenomenon, but a varied the position of the router's antenna several times. The USB wireless adapter was fixed in a horizontal position, and the signal strength for the wireless network was always stronger when the router's antenna was also horizontal.

Leo Toribio
Pittsburgh,PA

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About orientation on antenas
by Alain Martel1 / September 4, 2009 9:33 AM PDT

The signal from any antena is inherently polarised. If your antena is vertical, it's signal is polarised verticaly.

If the receiving antena is horizontal, it will do a lousy job capting that verticaly polarised signal.
Take an analogy:
If you take two polaroyd filters, light will go trough perfectly when they are oriented the same way, but will be bloqued if you turn one 90 degrees. The same apply to antenas.

Also, any antena gives it's stronger signal along a plane that is perpendicular to it's length. The signal strength been almost zero along it's axis, and so is it's reception capacity along that same direction.

The signal will be at it's strongest when the two antenas are parallel to each other, and siting with ther bases in about the same plane.

Conversly, if the two antenas are on the same line, the transmition can drop to none.

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Home wireless network

I had a similar problem and it turn out that the router was bad. Do you use the reset button on the back of the router that can cause problems for netgear router. Disconnet the router power from the back of the router for one minute and reconnect the power if your poblem clears up and does it again I would change the router

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Intermittent wireless connection.

I had this same problem. Easy solution: I replaced my old Wireless-G Router with a new "N" router and the problem disappeared. I now have a stronger signal with greater coverage and have only had to reset the connection one time in nine months of usage.

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Home wireless network connection intermittent connection

I had the same exact problem with 'cheaper' wireless modems. I went through two different 'cheaper' modems and still had the same problem. I then bought a Linksys expensive wireless modem and the problem went away and never returned. With the Linksys wireless modem, my signal strength almost doubled for my 2 wireless laptops and the physical distance from the modem that I could roam almost doubled. Hope this helps

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Interference

Have you aquired any new 2.4 GHz telephones as these will cause interference with your wireless network. Are you using channel 1,6 or 11 for wireless in your router, these are the best channels to use.
Try changing channels as a neighbour may have installed a wireless router using the same channel as you thus causing interference with your network.

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My Experience

Hi Cory,

I'm not sure I have an answer to your question but I have seen the same problem, so here's what I found. It may or may not help you get to the bottom of your problem.

I've had a wireless network for several years now. My initial configuration was a cable modem plugged vis an Ethernet cable into my "server" (a Win XP machine running Internet Connection Sharing). That machine had an RJ45 Ethernet cable out to an unmanaged switch, I had an access point plugged off the switch. DHCP and NAT were running on the "server". The access point initially was an 802.11B unit and my laptops were also 802.11B (11 Mb/s). Subsequently, the access point was replaced under Belkin's excellent lifetime warranty programme (the power unit failed) with an 802.11G unit (54 Mb/s). Recently, for reasons we don't have time for here, I replaced this setup with an 802.11N1+ (300 Mb/s) router into which the cable modem was directly plugged, eliminating the "server". DCHP and NAT are now provided by the router. None of these configuration changes made any noticable difference to my wireless network, which seems to tie in with your symptoms.

When I first set up the network, I never saw any wireless drops within the house. At that time, my bandwidth was 600 Kb/s. There were then only a couple of other networks in the area - at least, those broadcasting their SSIDs. Subsequently, my cable provider increased the bandwidth to my present 10 Mb/s speed. The number of networks in my vicinity have also increased to up to about 15 - again, those broadcasting SSIDs, there may be more.

I started to get connection drops about 18 months ago, particularly on the laptop with a built in 802.11B NIC. Same symptoms as you, acquiring network address, followed by a reconnection but some services, Youtube in particular and some downloads, don't restart and a page reload in the browser is necessary.

Possible causes? Well, there have been times when the download speed has exceeded my contracted 10 Mb/s - the ISP offers 10 Mb/s by throttling back its higher speed premium services, and indications are that this is overrunning the 802.11B NIC in the older laptop. Turning it off and using an 802.11G PCMCIA NIC reduces the frequency of drops dramatically. So one step I'd recommend, if you haven't already done so, is to make sure your NIC bandwidth and router bandwidth match and that both are higher than your cable modem supplies.

Another cause of my problem is also increased wireless interference from the increase in the number of networks drifting through my house and a significant number are N class routers being supplied by BT here in the UK. Most people just use the default settings that come with their routers and so most people are transmitting on Channel 11 here. I've experimented using alternative channels and have found a more stable connection on one of these. You might want to try this approach - usually, you can specify the primary (and secondary for N class) channel in the control panel for your router.

Caveat: I'm certainly not a networking expert (it is all cocoa tins and wet string isn't it?), you what helped for me may be useless for you. I'm sure other members will have more educated suggestions!

Good Luck!

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Check the WiFi Network You are connected

One possibility is that there are several WiFi networks within range and those instances when you have "limited connectivity", your computer is picking up another network. You can check this by dragging your mouse over the wireless network icon on the task bar (at the lower right corner). Of course the network icon will show in the task bar only if this was requested. You can do this by enabling the two check boxes after taking this route My Network Places->View Network Connections->Properties (by right clicking on the WiFi connection. You can avoid the computer selecting another network, by selecting your home WiFi network to be the first in order of priority. I would strongly recommend that you give your own name to the WiFi network, than use the default, if this has not already been done.

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This is probably a hardware issue .....

This is probably a hardware issue, and your post suggests that the first place to look is the wireless network adapter that you have installed on your desktop.

That said, if using a cable rather than a wireless connection is not terribly inconvenient, a wired connection is always better than a wireless connection. It is:

-Faster
-More reliable
-More secure
-Usually cheaper

But, obviously, if you can't conveniently run a cable (and I'm talking about a permanent setup that does not have cables stretched across the middle of rooms and hallways), then you may have no choice.

Anyway, it sounds like your wireless network adapter is becoming marginal. It could also be the router. Other possibilities are that some other piece of equipment is creating interference, or that something is passivly affecting signal transmission from the wireless router (or access point) to the desktop. A last possibility is that a neighbor has installed a wireless router (or a cordless phone, or ......) on the same frequency (channel) as your system, and that it is interfering with your setup (try changing the channel !!!).

A couple of peripherally related comments:

My luck with the life of Wireless routers has been very poor, especially with one of the more popular brands ("brand L"). Very few of them have lasted a year, and honestly I think that they have a strong tendency to overheat and destroy themselves. I've had better luck with "brand D", but still have experienced a high failure rate.

Also, you didn't mention it, but, please, do not operate an unsecured (unencrypted) wireless network. That is asking for big trouble.

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Use 117 Volt house wiring
by LionsMike / August 31, 2009 5:11 AM PDT

You can now purchase 2 units for about $100.00 which plug into your house wiring and cat5 RJ45 cables to allow you to use the 117 volt wiring in your home to connect a computerthrough a router or just use a crossover cable and connect two computers without a router. these are new and I have not heard any feedback good or bad yet.

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Use 117 Volt house wiring-new ?
by alias Winston Smith / September 5, 2009 12:14 AM PDT

Interlogis PassPort has been out since at least 2002 to utilise household wiring..
The older system used serial ports to link computers.
The technology has improved but it isn't new

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Totally Agree
by EscapePod / September 4, 2009 9:38 AM PDT

I agree with the comments by Waltzman and LionsMike.

When it comes to the routers, I've used both brand L and N for a long time, before switching to the now more reliable brand D. The most amusing part is that brand D, on the newer protocol "N" worked best with "any" brand of PC adapter.

On one desktop on the other side of the house that I cannot run a network cable to (at least not very easily), I use the Netgear Powerline system, and it works extremely reliable (for over two years now) and fast.

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Renew IP connections

Open a Command Box by going to Start > Run > Command
In the Command Box type ipconfig /renew
This will renew the ip address on all adaptors.
Exit the Command Box, reboot, and see if this solves your problem.

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wireless acting funky

I have found that the best way to stop a wireless connection from acting up or not connecting at all is to go into device manager and remove the wireless device.. then reboot the machine. Windows will recreate the device and then it will connect without issues.. I've done it on a hundred plus laptops over the last couple of years and it almost always solved odd behavior in the network connections..

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wireless acting funky
by MattAbe / August 28, 2009 5:25 PM PDT
In reply to: wireless acting funky

I had the same probem 2 days ago. I switched off the
modum in the evening and switched it back on the next morning (RESET)
and it started working.
If you get the same problem after reset ask your provider to change the wireless modum for you.
Matt

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Utilities
by farcry1010 / August 28, 2009 10:36 PM PDT
In reply to: wireless acting funky

If it is a linksys it might have came with the linksys utility which is garbage. Uninstall from add/remove programs. then go into device manager and unisntall the usb network adapter. Unplug the device, put the support disk containing the driver in the cd/rom but dont run it, then plug the usb adapter back in again then choose automatic install of drivers and choose cd/rom for location. This will allow you to use the windows configuration utility. This is just one way to isolate the problem. I just found from experience that linskys software is horrible. The other posts are helpfull too. Once that is all done just set the configurations up to match your router. The best security for speed and protection is wpa2 with AES protection. So you might have to reconfigure router.

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Home wireless router expired

This happened to me a while back. The wireless router really had expired. I replaced it with a new Netgear wireless router (different band from the failed one) and positioned it in a location where all sides have good air space for cooling. This one has been running fine for about 1 1/2 years.

Other likely issue: the signal strength coming from your service provider may be too weak. They can check this out.

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RE: Home wireless network connection getting intermittent..

Hi Cory...since you didn't elaborate on what changed when you're network started having problems....have you ever tried running your laptop at the same location where your desktop is to see if the problem is the same with both devices? If you're laptops are running around through different areas of the house, they are going to get different signal strengths.

Are you using the default broadcast frequency? Trying moving it to the highest frequency allowed. (Channel 9, 10, 11 in the Basic Wireless Settings) There could be some interference from other devices in the house running around the 2.4Ghz range (cordless phone).

Did you recently move the desktop in another location within the house? You know those walls can hinder the signal.

Since your laptops aren't having a problem it sounds to me like there's something to do with maybe signal interruption or the drivers in your desktop. I know it's a pain...but remove your network device, uninstall and re-install the drivers. Download the latest drivers at your vendors website.

If you're using one of those older wireless routers with the "rabbit ear antennas" you can replace them with more robust antennas which can be purchased at Fry's.

Good luck!!!

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Intermittent wireless connection

I'm having a somewhat similar problem - According to Linksys, it's my router - it's 6 years old and prone to this problem (since it's out of warranty) - or did they say that to get me to buy the 29.95 "latest issue" product (which they slyly said cost 70-100 in stores) Hmmm. It's my Vista equipped new HP laptop that is having the problem - seems ok while I'm online, but when I log off the laptop and power down, the next time I power up, there's no connection, unless I power cycle the router - then all is well for the session. While I wait for other responses to this thread, I'm offering the possibility that you too, may have a router who's time has come, as a wireless piece of equipment, although the cable part will continue to work just fine.

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Your wireles system

I was having the same problem and the way I solved the problem was by connecting the desktop PC directly to the modem with all the other machines in the house connecting with a USB adapter or an added wireless card. Juat locate the modem to an area close enough to use a Cat5 cable where the cable wont be in the way. Since I switched to this configuration I've not had a repeat of the lost connection.

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Wireless is inherently flawed.

Hi Cory,

I'm going to assume that your wireless equipment is in fact working perfectly normally since you only have trouble with connectivity with certain computers. So given that let's dive in to your problem.

Believe it or not but intermittent connectivity is a very common problem with wireless networking. In fact, it's a common problem with all wireless devices.

It's not necessarily that these devices break down after a couple of years of use. Remember that electronics are not like cars; they don't break down easily because of wear and tear. Most electronic devices will last longer than you or I. The real reason that wireless devices stop working over time is because of competition.

As you probably know all wireless devices use radio signals to operate. Unfortunately there is a finite number of radio frequencies in existence. Even worse, each type of product you buy (i.e. cell phone, wireless router, etc.) is limited to a very specific range of frequencies it is allowed to work on.

So as more people buy and use the same type of wireless devices the radio waves become more congested since each device is competing for access to the same radio frequency. At some point the radio waves are so congested that traffic crawls to a halt and you end up with intermittent connections or no connection at all.

The simplest way to imagine this is a freeway that constantly has new cars drive on it but no more lanes can be added to compensate. At some point there are just too many cars on the road.

Manufacturers constantly try to invent new ways to alleviate congestion. A good example of this is frequency hopping. Frequency hopping is when a device detects congestion and tries to use a different, hopefully unused, frequency to communicate as an alternative.

To make things worse new devices that become available may utilize radio frequencies that were originally given to older devices. Then you end up with signal problems because manufacturers expect that you've moved on from those old devices already. An example of this is using an old 2.4Ghz based cordless telephone while you have a 2.4Ghz based wireless router. You either end up with lots of static in your phone calls (which most people think is due to the phone going bad) or dropout problems with your wireless PC.

So what's the solution? Unfortunately there really isn't one. Despite all of the convenience that wireless provides the more we rely on it as a foundation for our technology the more likely it is to be unreliable.

In short use a hard line. It never fails.

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Solution to interfence
by darrenforster99 / August 28, 2009 6:45 PM PDT

There is actually a very good solution to all this interference from other devices.

It involves the companies selling the products to be more careful about how they make the products.

Most of these cheap companies don't care what the device interferes with as long as they get a sale.

Yet if they used correct filters, and directional antennas and taught people how to direct their signals where they want them to go and not spew their signal out here there and everywhere, then we'd all have a lot less interference.

Just turning the antenna from vertical to horizontal can reduce quite a lot of the interference by 99% as the more things use horizontal polarization, rather than vertical (probably because most people are used to seeing antennas sticking upright (like on old mobile and cordless phones).

Add to that making the antenna's directional by putting a metal sheet behind the antenna where you don't want the signal to go will reduce even more (the same way the deflector works on a TV antenna).

Also all this stopping the signal from going to where you don't want it to go not only clears up the airwaves, also helps prevent people from accessing your network.

At the moment with all these non-directional go anywhere wireless devices, the wireless freeway as you describe it is going into a wireless knot, with traffic going here there and everywhere, it would be like allowing cars to drive any which way they wanted to get from point a to point b and ignoring all one-way signs, no entry signs, no lane control, etc so guess what happens - everything crashes into each other.

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Well said...
by obersturmfuhrer / August 30, 2009 7:12 AM PDT

I think, above all these other great suggestions on this particular subject, that this gentlement summed everything up quite accurately within his post.. He is right; wireless in inherently flawed, simply due to that nature of x-mission betweem router, computer, and vice-versa. I am still experiencing these similar connectivity issues, and seems my only remedy is to reboot both the modem and router (using Dlinnk Wireless N router (stay away from LinkSys for god sake, please!!!) I have tried everything ,, next to thrwoing my comp out the window.. tried all the ipconfig /XXX strings, and rebooting laptop,(brand new HP HDX premium series) and nothing works to re-estaablish the connection. The laptop "sees" the connection as vaild, butI get no browser activitty or download activity, which means I must resort to resetting the modem and router, as I mentioned abouve.. I will soon be reaching the conclusion of the simple fact that I must simply keep rebooting the R & M... Only other alternative is to do a hard-wire connection, but Im not sure about that due to the fact that all my hardware is in a room approx. 50' away. (around walls and such) so If ANYONE has a real viable alternative please help me as well!!!

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New Hardware Device?
by mkhedmond / September 4, 2009 11:04 AM PDT
In reply to: Well said...

I just saw a device that you plug into the electrical outlet and then hardwire to your computer, thus using your home's electrical system for your network. Had not seen this before but it would seem to be better than running a cable.

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EASY ACCESS TO INTERNET ANYWHERE IN YOUR WORKPLACE/HOUSE
by dev jhugaroo / September 4, 2009 8:44 PM PDT
In reply to: New Hardware Device?

yes i agree .for me the DLan Duo by DEVOLO DOES THE JOB VERY WELL ..YOU ARE PROVIDED BY 2 ADAPTERS ..1 PLUGS INTO MAINS NR YOUR PC ...CONNECTED WITH ETHERNET CABLE TO YOR LIVEBOX ..ROUTER
THE OTHER 1 PLUGS WHEREVER YOU LIKE PROVIDED IT SHARES THE SAME ELECTRIC CIRCUIT AS THE ROUTER/AND YOUR ADAPTER NO 1 YOU R DONE


DEV

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