General discussion

Help, my laptop suddenly quit connecting to the internet.

I have a Dell Inspiron Duo Laptop that originally came with Windows 7. I upgraded it to Windows 8.1 and finally Windows 10, which I've had been running for about, I don't know, a year? All of a sudden it quit connecting to the internet. A very tech-minded fried of mine told me that Windows 10 was not compatible with the Qualcomm Atheros WiFi Adapter that came with the computer. I gave it to him to see if he could find a new driver for the adapter and he said he could not. His only solution was to roll back Windows 10 to either Windows 8.1 or Windows 7. I've tried going to Settings, Update & Security, Recovery, Reset this PC, Get Started, but I don't see an option to roll back to a previous version of Windows. This is a PC that is used for mostly getting email and playing an occasional online game so nothing is lost if I have to reformat it. Right now it's a brick. By the way it only has two USB ports and no DVD drive. Any ideas? Thank you.

--Submitted by Bob K.

Discussion is locked
Reply to: Help, my laptop suddenly quit connecting to the internet.
PLEASE NOTE: Do not post advertisements, offensive materials, profanity, or personal attacks. Please remember to be considerate of other members. If you are new to the CNET Forums, please read our CNET Forums FAQ. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Reporting: Help, my laptop suddenly quit connecting to the internet.
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
- Collapse -
I usually plug in some cheap USB WiFi.

Post was last edited on July 1, 2016 5:02 PM PDT

- Collapse -
Cheap USB OK

I have used cheap USB wifi devices, as well, when there is no other possibility to do wifi. They come in two types, with and without an antenna. The ones with antenna provide the most reliable connection. Anyone who goes this route should strongly consider an 802.11ac USB wifi adapter. Why settle for less than the current standard, which improves over the earlier 802.11n?

- Collapse -
Why? Two reasons.

One is price and the second is that many hot spots are not AC.

- Collapse -
Chances are..

He could recover the entire factory operating system by simply doing a recovery. All DELL computers I've ever owned or worked on have this partition on the hard drive. He will have to backup his files of course, onto some other media, but he might regain his use of the device. However I'd bet, that if he does regain his network card function, he could connect to the DELL support portal and enter his support key, and look at what Windows 10 drivers are available and see if any of them have a newer date than the failure date.

It is always a good possibility the card failed too, but you can get those cheap online as a general rule - the user replacement guides are usually pretty easy for DELL laptops. Many times I have simply connected the laptop by Ethernet and fixed the problem that way too. He could do that with Windows 10, and run the DELL support tools to see if a better driver is available - the repair options are limitless on things like this.

- Collapse -
Is your tech-minded friend tech-mined enough?

Let's see now. You upgraded to Windows 10 and the Qualcomm Atheros WiFi Adapter worked OK for about a year. To work under Windows 10, the adapter MUST have had a driver that came as part of the upgrade package. To say that there is no driver for the adapter is poppycock.

When you upgrade to Win 10, you have 30 days to roll back to Windows 7. Past the 30 day period, you cannot do it any more.

You do not need a DVD drive to re-install Windows 10. But the real trick for you is to get the Windows install media onto a flash stick from which it can be installed. If you can get an Ethernet cable and direct non-wifi access to the internet (maybe your local public library?), you can download Windows 10 onto a flash stick yourself carefully following Microsoft's instructions. Or you can buy a Win 10 flash stick from someone who sells them, say for $25 or less. Also, write down the 25-character (groups of 5 characters separated by hypens) Windows 7 product key code from the sticker somewhere on the bottom of your laptop. Install Windows 10 but DO NOT ENTER THE PRODUCT KEY when asked for it the first time. Instead skip this step, then activate Windows 10 from the System app in the Control Panel later on.

With most Dell laptops, power on the system and keep pressing the F12 key to see the boot menu that allows you to boot from a flash stick. Use the arrow key to highlight the flash stick, then press enter. Quickly afterward, make sure you press any key to run the Win 10 install from the flash stick.

Post was last edited on July 8, 2016 4:30 PM PDT

- Collapse -
Reinstall Windows 10

I had similar problem. Reinstalling Windows 10 got my internet back! It worked.

- Collapse -
Good advice..

I tend to do what is easier first - like I suggested in a previous post - simply go to the DELL support portal while on Ethernet and see if any new wi-fi card drivers are available, or at least reinstall the original Win10 driver for that card. He could use device manager in an attempt to ID which card his particular model used. Sometimes there is literally a list of different w-ifi cards for any given product - but his DELL support key will narrow that as a general rule. This key is easily found on the case of the laptop.

The DELL site could also help him ID the original card that came with it so he could order a replacement. DELL user replacement guides are so easy that a caveman could do it. I personally end up ordering the actual card from NewEgg or other discount site. They are not usually very expensive.

- Collapse -
Makes sense

But the Dell Inspiron Duo Laptop has no ethernet connector so I would have to agree with R.Proffit and get some USB wifi or USB ethernet adapter

- Collapse -

I'd never buy a laptop that didn't at least have an Ethernet port!! Shocked

- Collapse -
(NT) I simply got a USB to LAN Ethernet adapter and all was good
- Collapse -
Roll back to windows 7 64 bit

Do you have a rational reason to be using windows 10? Windows 7 does the job just fine for what you said you use it for (email, web browsing). Why mess with something that was workimg just fine? Just because Microsoft says jump, doesnt mean you have to or should for that matter.

- Collapse -
Too late to Roll-back, so restore W7 as shipped.

As has been pointed out, you only have 30 days to roll-back from a W10 upgrade, and I suspect that would only take you back to W8.1 anyway Sad

But assuming you made a recovery stick when you got the machine in the first place, you should be able to restore Windows 7. It'll be way back-level, so will take some time to update to current W7, but at least it will work providing there's nothing wrong with the Wifi adapter. Be careful not to select the optional update that pushes you to W10!

If you like W10, you might want to test the adapter before going to the trouble of going back to W7.

- Collapse -
It worked for a year.

Since his laptop worked for a year, Win 10 per se is not the problem. Conceivably an upgrade killed it, in which case a Restore might bring it back.

- Collapse -

a driver rollback could solve the problem right there - if you can find device manager in Win10 that is.

- Collapse -
He's right - no reason to ever use Windows 8 or 10

He's right. If there is ANY rational reason, EVER, to use Windows 8 OR 10, noone has ever come up with it.

Windows 7 works perfectly. If you ever had a reason to switch, like Windows 7 finally became so out of date it wouldn't work, and my Linux computer has XP running just fine in VirtualBox, Linux distros are ready for prime time.

Windows 8 and Windows 10 are prone to sudden, system destroying malfunctions that leave your computer useless if you don't have the ability to reinstall.

If you would upgrade to Windows 8 or 10, you probably also didn't back up your system and don't have the means or the technical know-how to rescue your data in the event of an operating system failure.

A key to Windows 7 SHOULD have come with your computer. If it did, and if you can't roll back, you can download Windows 7 and reinstall it. Be very careful about updating it though as one thing it will update with will automatically install Windows 10 on your computer! I would find out which one or ones that is and pick your updates manually - a time consuming process.

You will have to have your tech friend rescue your data from your hard drive, or else use a new hard drive as well.


- Collapse -
People using Windows 10 usually buy new computers like socks

I forgot to suggest going out and buying another computer. Hard as such behavior (or even the necessary money at hand) is for most people to understand, most people who would use Windows 10 just go buy another computer, like it was a new pair of socks.

- Collapse -
You have got to be kidding

I have a hard time buying enough food, and I am running Windows 10. You really need to fix that bad attitude. Just because I got a computer that was nice for college, that does not make me rich. Just because someone owns a computer that will run the latest OS, that does not mean that they spent a lot of money (or any money at all) for it. Have you heard of presents? Have you heard of student loans? Have you ever heard of losing your job? No, most people who run Windows 10 do NOT have money to rush out and buy a new computer.

- Collapse -
I run an reclaimation service...

for indigent clients, and you wouldn't believe now many junkers we recover and give away to folks who need them badly - we do it for free. Check with the college IT department to see if someone is running a similar program in your area.

- Collapse -
Built in adapter burned out?

It's possible, maybe even likely, that the built-in wifi adapter burned out. I've had that happen on a couple of laptops. If that's the case, then you're back to the cheap usb wifi solution, which is both cheap and quick. If I were you, I would just do that and move on. There's really no point in agonizing over a Win 10 rollback.

- Collapse -
No internet on laptop

Are you sure you're not in airplane mode?

- Collapse -
Driver Issue?

The only way that I upgrade from one OS to another is to first check out ALL of the drivers for my devices. This is especially true with notebooks as they have a lot of internal devices you may not notice on a desktop such as touch pads and those little eraser looking things. That is, they are less standard. If the WiFi adapter came with your system, you might check the support/download site for the system's OEM (DELL) and then also check the support site for Qualcomm to make sure you have the LATEST Win 10 drivers. They may also have a support notice covering your problem.

- Collapse -
Good one Hforman

That DELL portal is pretty easy to use, and he could even do it on another computer by entering his support key and downloading a new driver, or even the older one, for re-installation. As per previous posts, one could use the Ethernet port as well.

- Collapse -
Something is fishy

If Windows 10 was connecting to the internet before, but it isn't now, then a lack of a driver is not very likely to be the problem. Check all of your settings to make sure that you don't have something changed or switched off. This would include making sure the wifi is on (most laptops have a way to shut it off and you may have accidentally done this), making sure you are not in airplane mode or something similar, and making sure that the wifi adapter is actually working. They do sometimes stop working.

If you check everything out and it is fine, then you don't really have to worry about reinstalling. If you want to keep Windows 10, then you can reinstall it without any outside media. If you want to go back to Windows 7, then that is also possible.

If you want to go back to Windows 7, then first look for a restore partition. Most manufacturers include them on the hard drive. You can restore from that partition. Look for your exact model on the manufacturer's site and download a manual. It will tell you if a restore partition exists and how to use it. If there is no restore partition, or if you have removed it, then you will need the number from the Windows 7 sticker that was originally on the computer and an OEM CD of Windows 7 (check your computer to see if it is 32 bit or 64 bit-- you will need this information). Many computer repair shops have copies of OEM Windows CDs and may be able to provide you with one or you can ask friends to try to locate one for you. Before you go this route, be sure to go to the manufacturer's site and download any drivers for your computer because Windows will not have these included. You will need to install them right after installing Windows.

If you'd rather just keep Windows 10, then it is far easier. Go to settings, then update and security. Choose recovery and then click on "get started" under "reset this PC." You said you checked this. This will actually perform what amounts to a reinstall without removing your drivers and files. You will need to reinstall programs. If you want to replace a driver, then you will need to remove it and reinstall it.

I suggest trying the easier and less extreme suggestions first, then working your way to the more extreme measures. Also, if you do remove Windows 10, I suggest that you get a software tool that will tell you what the key is BEFORE you go back to another Windows version. Find and make a note of the Windows 10 key, which is different from the previous keys. This will allow you to put Windows 10 back on the system later, if you choose to do so.

- Collapse -

You will need an external CD or DVD drive (they plug into the USB ports) if you have to go as far as reinstalling Windows 7. They are not expensive.

- Collapse -
check for wifi switch

I like your suggestion of checking for a wifi switch. Two of my laptops come equipped with a tiny slider switch on the front edge of the laptop. This turns wifi on and off and I find this is very easy to do accidentally.

- Collapse -
Yes, mine does too

Also, many have ways to turn the wifi off that involve touching keys in a certain order or using an unusual gesture on the keypad. I haven't seen many, but I haven't really had as much experience with laptops.

- Collapse -
f3 key

my inspiron laptop used the f3 key to switch wifi on and off.

- Collapse -
Many good suggestions here..

Sometimes the easy solution is the one to check first.

- Collapse -
What Changed?

That's the first question you ask in any formal problem analysis. If your Win 10 system was working and now isn't, something changed, you need to identify what.

Check the whole WiFi chain. Put your laptop beside your router, Can the Laptop see it? If so, then something is blocking the signal. If not, can any other WiFi device (another computer or smartphone) see the router? If not, your problem may be in the router. We had an incident here, where our ISP introduced some changes to the exchange from which the ADSL signal is sent along the phone line. Regression testing? Don't be silly, what could possibly go wrong?!!!
Anyway, during the weekend's mayhem, they sent a software update to all their own brand routers and a by product was that it turned off all the wireless transmitters! Took an hour or two to find that!

Whike you are there, plug in an Ethernet cable to the router just to check you have some signal.

But assuming your router has a wireless signal transmission, the problem is, indeed, in the laptop. Try deleting the wireless network interface adaptor and rebooting to let Windows re-install it. Sometimes works to refresh to a generic driver - or at least the one that was working before.

Still not working? Check the Windows Network Adaptor settings and reset them if necessary.

Can your network adaptor see any other networks (assuming you don't live out in the boonies)? If not, then the likelihood is that your adaptor has failed. You could buy another one and either you or your techie friend fit it. This is NOT a cheap option with proprietary parts.

The cheaper option is, as others have said, to get a USB wireless adaptor. I did this to replace an old 803.11b internal adaptor that kept getting knocked off by stronger 11n signals around. There are many such adaptors to choose from. I have a Netgear G54/N150 wireless USB Micro Adaptor, which happily transmits a full five bar signal through the length of my 22 metre house, including 3 stud walls (it's 130 Mb/s at the far end). I like it because the actual radio transceiver is half an inch wide, a quarter of an inch thick and extends out of the USB port by a quarter of an inch, so you can leave it plugged in all the time, without the risk of knocking it off.
Disclaimer, I have no connection with Netgear, most of my network gear is another brand. This thing works for me, Y.M.M.V.

Good luck!

- Collapse -
It just occured to me..

That he may have possibly been connecting automatically to the wrong wi-fi router in his location, and it was shut down, or WPA2 encryption was enabled on the neighboring router. This happens all the time to my clients who don't realize they are sponging off their neighbors until something like this occurs. I have fixed I don't know how many of them this way.

CNET Forums