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XPS 8700 Intermittant Loss of WiFi

by NJCurmudgeon / September 16, 2015 6:35 AM PDT

I recently bought a Dell XPS 8700 desktop (Windows 10). Within a week, I found it was not seeing any WiFi signals - neither my router nor any others in the building (I work from home in a seven-story apartment building). My old laptop was able to connect to the internet via the WiFi, so I knew it had to be the 8700. I updated the drivers, etc. all to no avail. I had opened the case to check that the network card was seated properly and that there were no loose wires. It was in firmly and I noticed the wires leading from the card up into the roof of the chassis. I understand that these are the "antenna" for the WiFi signal. While moving things around my office to accommodate the new computer and a larger monitor, I had set a pen caddy on the back top of the tower and had an external drive hooked up to the USB port on top, where there is an indented "tray" for devices. It occurred to me that one or other other might have been interfering with the antenna on top of the case. I removed them both and my internet returned.

After about another week or so, I noticed that the WiFi signal was dropping out again. Pages would take long to load and sometimes no WiFi routers were showing up in my list. The problem has gotten worse recently. It will lose connectivity completely for hours or until a reboot. Sometimes the signal is weak and pages take a long time to load. Sometimes it sees a dozen routers, sometimes just mine and a neighbor's. Sometimes none at all. There doesn't seem to be any pattern. Since I use the internet for my work, not having a reasonably reliable access has been a huge problem and I am back to working on my old laptop for some tasks.

At first I thought it was our service provider (Optimum), but while the 8700 is down, the laptop has signal. Further, I would not see my router, but should still see the others around me. I tried changing router channels, resetting the modem, etc. Working with a tech from Optimum yesterday, they ran various tests and we confirmed that the modem and router are working, even when the 8700 is not seeing anything. The internet does freeze up momentarily on the laptop from time to time, but I suspect it is more to do with the age of the laptop than the WiFi signal. Regardless, I am now 99% certain the fault lies within the 8700.

The only test I have not been able to perform has been to plug the tower directly into the modem. The modem and router are in the living room and the tower is in the home office. I don't have an Ethernet cable that's long enough and it isn't practical for me to bring the computer and monitor to the other room. Since the laptop sitting next to it in the office works, I am assuming it is not a problem with it being in another room.

I have seen posts on other sites that appear to indicate a faulty network card is a common problem with Dell XPS products.

So...a couple of questions for the folks here:

- Is there a way of testing if it is indeed the card aside from plugging direct into the modem? (If I have to buy a long cable, I will, though obviously I don't want to if I don't have to.)

- How would I open the top of the XPS 8700 case? I'd like to take a look at the other end of those antenna wires just to make sure there isn't anything problematic with them (a short, loose connection, etc.). Do they attach to anything or are the wires themselves the antenna? The side panel comes off easy and I was able to pry the face off, but that top seems to be on there secure. I don't want to break it!

- Assuming it is a faulty card, are there any tutorials available on how to replace it? I can see it inside and it looks like it's just a matter of two screws. Do I need to also replace the antenna? Or can I reconnect the existing wires to a new card (they look like 'snap' connectors)? If the antenna needs replacing too, I will need to know how to open the top to access it.

- Assuming it is a faulty card, are there any recommendations for a good parts source?

- Is there anything else that might be causing this problem?

Thanks for reading all this and if any further information is needed, please let me know.

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Clarification Request
could elaborate on this part more?
by James Denison / September 16, 2015 6:52 AM PDT
" I had opened the case to check that the network card was seated properly and that there were no loose wires. It was in firmly and I noticed the wires leading from the card up into the roof of the chassis. I understand that these are the "antenna" for the WiFi signal."

sounds a bit odd to me. You sure you're looking at a wifi networking card?
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Picture of part...
by NJCurmudgeon / September 16, 2015 7:09 AM PDT

I may be calling it the wrong thing. To be honest, this is my first foray into having to troubleshoot a problem like this and I am not an "advanced user" by any means! I am including a picture of the card I understand to be responsible for my WiFi. Someone on another forum identified the wires that come out the top and go up into the roof of the case as the antenna. Thanks...
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(NT) Still want to hear about distance, router details.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / September 16, 2015 7:23 AM PDT
In reply to: Picture of part...
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by NJCurmudgeon / September 16, 2015 7:43 AM PDT

Router is the one that Optimum provided:

Modem too:

According to WifinfoView, average router signal quality is 44.0, max speed 144 Mbps, channel is 6, but it's set to automatically select the best one.

Distance from the router to the computer is about 24 feet, roughly, with two walls and some other obstacles. Again, the laptop sees signal when the tower doesn't, so I am not sure that's the issue, per se, unless the receiver in the tower is less adequate than the laptop?

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24 feet. OK but what about security?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / September 16, 2015 7:47 AM PDT
In reply to: Details...

I've found odd drop issues when the security is mixed. Such as WPA+WPA2. Pick one but WPA is busted. That is, even I can get past that in 5 minutes. WPA2 please but for testing I use none.

Since we don't know what's in the walls, all bets are off here. Time to get a bigger boat. I mean that USB thing James noted.

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by NJCurmudgeon / September 16, 2015 7:54 AM PDT


It's an older building (1927) with pretty thick masonry walls. Great for muffling sound, but maybe also WiFi signals!

I am thinking of trying the dongle. It's a cheap enough thing and I don't have to open the computer to try it.

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That's not a setup I use or deploy. (WPA+WPA2)
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / September 16, 2015 7:58 AM PDT
In reply to: Security

You can research what's up with WPA. Move to no security for testing and WPA2 PSK for security. You may encounter machines that have WiFi connect issues with the mixed security.

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I'll try it
by NJCurmudgeon / September 16, 2015 8:15 AM PDT

I switched to WPA2. No security isn't an option, but there is also a WEP. If I don't see a difference, I will try the dongle route. Thanks!!

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Wasn't it
by NJCurmudgeon / September 16, 2015 8:19 AM PDT

Still having the same problem with WPA2. So I guess I need to go dongle shopping...

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old masonry, as in old red bricks?
by James Denison / September 16, 2015 8:13 AM PDT
In reply to: Security

Those were baked from red iron clay, so yes, they can do a lot to block signals. A bit of history, I remember a lot of those old bricks came from factories down South like Alabama (Birmingham?) where there was a lot of iron rich red clay which made the best bricks, especially for road use. People use them for firebricks, and they are especially valued, particularly the ones used as pavers.

When I lived in Tampa a few decades ago, some areas almost had a war with the city who wanted to reclaim them and replace with asphalt paving instead. The bricks stayed and now considered an "historic" area.

Augusta pavers.

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Thick as a Brick
by NJCurmudgeon / September 16, 2015 9:34 AM PDT

The building was built in 1927 using brick. A lot of the interior walls are fire-brick. When we moved in, the cable guy had to get his extra heavy duty drill to make the hole to feed the cable through the wall! It also makes hanging pictures or shelving difficult between the plaster and the brick. There's a reason there is a picture rail along the wall near the ceiling. It's great for muffling sounds, though, which is good in an apartment building, and we hardly need to turn the heat on in winter. But I'm sure it doesn't help that the signal has to go through two of them to get to me.

I was wondering if it wouldn't help if, when I get the dongle, I also get a length of USB cable that would let me mount the antenna near the office door where it might be better-able to see a stronger signal?

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Yes. Here's a graphic about WiFi, doors, etc.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / September 16, 2015 9:49 AM PDT
In reply to: Thick as a Brick
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here's on Dell site for that model
by James Denison / September 16, 2015 7:29 AM PDT
In reply to: Picture of part...
Dell Wireless-N 1704 802.11bgn, 1x1, 2.4GHz + Bluetooth 4.0

I'm assuming that "N" stands for the frequency used and your router may not be "N" capable, but older "B & G" frequencies only. Since "N" uses a wider frequency band, it would fade in and out with the more narrow B & G if it worked at all. If the internal card can't be set for B & G or expected to use it automatically when detected, there's the Etek I mentioned.

It should also be able to restrict to B & G according this page.
Applies to
Dell Wireless 1704 802.11b/g/n (2.4GHz), Bluetooth 4.0+HS

Maybe there's a setting you need to manually change to restrict it to that frequency range instead of it automatically searching for the proper frequency and channel used.
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black wire near grounded screw
by James Denison / September 16, 2015 7:57 AM PDT
In reply to: Picture of part...

Is it touching it? Can that wire be moved away from that screw toward the white wire? I can't tell if it's touching the grounded area around the screw or not.

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I saw that too
by NJCurmudgeon / September 16, 2015 8:04 AM PDT

That's an old picture. Since then I moved the wire more vertical (not near the screw) and it doesn't seem to have made a difference. Good eye, though!

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Clarification Request
How recently did you buy it ?
by itsdigger / September 16, 2015 4:53 PM PDT

Maybe let Dell fix it

All Answers

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This is where I try the laptop at other hotspots.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / September 16, 2015 6:42 AM PDT

I don't see any router detail, distance, channel, but when I see this issue I try the laptop on other hot spots. As to the good parts source my clients either get the Dell card or just plug in some USB WiFi stick.

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It's a desktop
by James Denison / September 16, 2015 6:48 AM PDT
Get one of these and solve the problem.

I got one for my daughter and it really pulls in the signals. Forget about the internal card. If it was that good, it would have had the antenna outside the back anyway.
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by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / September 16, 2015 6:52 AM PDT
In reply to: It's a desktop

Desktop WiFi. What a mess. How many times have I found these without a good external antenna? Lost count.

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More inadequate than faulty?
by NJCurmudgeon / September 16, 2015 7:20 AM PDT
In reply to: Ahh.

Yeah, the one with the issue is the desktop tower. I have a laptop that is working, and what I am using now. It's sitting next to the tower, so it's seeing the WiFi signal from the same distance. I don't know what it has inside it for the WiFi (fortunately it never gave me cause to have to look!), but it's whatever came built-in (no external antennas).

So what I am reading here is that the WiFi receiver in the Dell XPS 8700 may be more inadequate than faulty? That's important for me to know since I don't want to spend the time and money replacing the card only to have the same problem!

You're recommending bypassing it altogether with one of these dongle adapters?

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My bet is new card will be same issues.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / September 16, 2015 7:27 AM PDT

Smart TVs for example show a distance issue. Consumers slam the makers for this since laptops work better. A laptop has the edge due to where the laptop has its antenna and more.

I see that details are not happening so I respect your need for privacy. Try the item that James offered.

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Deatils sent
by NJCurmudgeon / September 16, 2015 7:45 AM PDT

I posted details. I had to go get them first. I am only somewhat familiar with this stuff...I know just enough to get myself in trouble! Happy

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Replied up above.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / September 16, 2015 7:49 AM PDT
In reply to: Deatils sent

24 feet alone is good but walls mean we're never sure.

I guess I should have shared I finally found a way to demonstrate signal loss to clients. I installed WiFi Analyzer on my Android phone then can let them see the signal drop as they move from the router/hotspot to final destination.

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Yes, you can't go wrong with that Etek
by James Denison / September 16, 2015 7:34 AM PDT

It beats those USB dongles that look like flashdrives or the buttons. I've tested it against a zydex, a panda, and it pulls in the most signals due to those great antennas on it. I got it because youngest daughter complained when grown daughter came over with her newer laptop into the living room where router is and blasted youngest and her desktop off the internet, LOL. Peace was achieve with Etek.

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Windows 10?
by NJCurmudgeon / September 16, 2015 7:50 AM PDT

Thanks for the recommendation. The model shown in the link says it's plug-n-play for Windows 7 and 8. Do you know if it would work with 10? Or would I need a different model?

Thanks again - I've received more help on this forum than any of the others, including Dell's!

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I don't know about W10
by James Denison / September 16, 2015 8:19 AM PDT
In reply to: Windows 10?

I have it in a virtual drive under linux, but as a guest system it would just pick it up the host linux system, and that means linux would be making it work and sharing that resource to the win10, so that won't work to test it out. I'll see if it recognizes the Etek, the linux may just share the device itself instead of sharing the connection. I do think since each get a separate IP from the router the device itself is shared. Let you know in a bit.

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It loads and there's also a newer version
by James Denison / September 16, 2015 12:16 PM PDT
In reply to: I don't know about W10
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Thank you!
by NJCurmudgeon / September 16, 2015 2:06 PM PDT

Cool! Thanks for checking on it for me.

So does this bypass what was built-in or augment it? I need to go to an office supply store tomorrow anyway and will check out what's available. Otherwise I will order it online.

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should be able to bypass the other
by James Denison / September 16, 2015 4:35 PM PDT
In reply to: Thank you!

Let us know how it goes, helps others who search the forums too. If not, undo two screws and unplug it. The wires may slide off. If not and the USB works OK, clip the wires, no need to bother with the "antenna" whatever/wherever it is.

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Seems to be working but...
by NJCurmudgeon / September 17, 2015 4:52 PM PDT

I ended up getting a Netgear AC1200 High Gain WiFi USB adapter this afternoon. Thus far, it would appear to have done the trick, though time will tell for sure.

I have noticed one odd issue that I don't know if it is related or a new problem...I have a Bose speaker connected via Bluetooth. It stopped working with the computer, though it says it is paired. I click on "Remove Device," it gives me the expected "Are you sure..." box, I click "yes" and nothing happens. It remains in the list as "Paired." I've rebooted, turned off the speaker, etc., but it won't work and it won't let me remove it.

I don't know if this is a coincidence or related to the addition of the adapter. I don't believe it should be messing with the Bluetooth? I suppose I could pull the adapter out, and see if it makes a difference. The only thing is that I am in the middle of doing a bunch of file uploads for a client that got log-jammed because of the WiFi woes and I can't afford to kill that for a while.

Sooooo...I figured I would toss this out there and see if anyone has any ideas.

I've seen this floating around on two other forums but it doesn't seem to have helped:

Go to START icon and type in services.msc and select services.

The dialog box that opens has a long list of stuff but look for BLUETOOTH SUPPORT SERVICE. Double click to open. Make sure it is AUTOMATIC. Go to the LOG tab. Choose THIS ACCOUNT and type in LOCAL SERVICE. A list of password (a 15-dot string) would appear. Delete all the password in the PASSWORD and under CONFIRM. Choose Okay.

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