Wireless Connection Troubleshooting 2

Connection difficulties arise from any number of issues, including both hardware and software; even poor positioning of an access point or its antenna can be enough to significantly degrade a signal.

This tutorial part 2, presents these issues in a condensed FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) format, hopefully easier to read and will help you more quickly find the information you need to solve your problem.

My NIC doesn’t support Wireless Zero Configuration. What do I do?

You can still set your card up manually. Do the following:

  1. In the Connection Properties dialog box, click Configure, and then click the Advanced tab.
  2. Set the following parameters: your network SSID to the right value, WEP to Enabled or Disabled, the correct mode or network type, data rate to Auto or to a rate that is compatible with the protocol you are using (such as 11 Mbps for 802.11b), power save to Off or Disabled.
  3. Close the Properties dialog box.
  4. Click Start>Programs>Administrative Tools>Services. If your computer doesn’t have this item on it, you need to enable that option using the Advanced section of the taskbar Start menu properties, or get help from someone who can access this utility.
  5. Disable the Wireless Zero Configuration service and set it so that it doesn’t start up automatically.

My computer seems okay. What could go wrong with my connection itself?

Your wireless connection is exactly that, wireless, so it’s unlikely that bad air is going to be the problem. The things you need to check are your antennas. If the location you’re in is known to work with a similar system, then the antenna at the access point is not the problem, but the antenna for your NIC might be.

For an external antenna (if you are lucky enough to have one—many PC Cards don’t) perhaps you’ve neglected to connect the antenna to the card. Little things (unfortunately) mean a lot. If your NIC has an internal antenna, as many of them do, you can’t really check the card to see if that’s the problem.

The best you can do is to test another card and see if that card works. For your purposes, a broken internal antenna is the same as a broken NIC.

My computer’s fine. What could go wrong at the access point?

Actually plenty, glad you asked. Access points suffer from many of the same problems that your computer does:

  • They can lose their address if they rely on DHCP from another server for their address.
  • They can have a problem with a wired network connection in the form of an Ethernet cable or hub.
  • If the transmitter/receiver is a repeater or an access point repeating a signal, the device could have lost its wireless connection.
  • The device itself could be malfunctioning or flaky.

How do I fix addressing problems?

Let’s test some of the potential problems with addressing. First, open your management software for the device in question and determine whether the device is listed and has a correct network address.

One problem you might run into is that your device loses its DHCP lease and can’t reestablish it. Dynamic IP addresses are convenient, but in most cases they aren’t really necessary for small home or small office networks.

If you have an incorrect static address, fix it in the software. Physically restart your device by either clicking the Restart button in the management console (which more often than not is browser based), pressing the device’s restart button, or removing and then reinserting the device’s power cord.

Strange as it seems, restarting can not only get you another DHCP lease for your AP’s internal NIC, but it resets the small operating system inside the AP and that can often solve a troublesome problem—at least until the time when the same conditions occur to make the AP go silent again.

For many DSL and cable modem customers, short DHCP leases can be a problem. For example, Comcast has a system where it issues 7-day or 1-week leases. But when network traffic and demand for leases are high, shorter leases are given out by the cable modem.

The solution to this problem has been to restart the proxy server a few times until one of the longer leases has been obtained. This is trial and error, but the approach has proven effective.

You can also pull the power plug out of the device, count to 10, and then put the power connector back into the device. Software restarts are fine, but we recommend that you do a hardware reset prior to moving on to the next issue.

I can’t locate my access point/router/repeater in the management software, or I can’t log into it to view its settings. What do I do now?

Oh boy! You’ve misplaced your device’s address or can’t remember the password. If you can’t remember, you have to start over with the device. Many wireless access points, routers, and so on have small holes that you can stick a pin or the tip of a paper clip into to reset the device.

They may even say Reset on the outside. This is a RESET button, and not a restart button. When you press the reset button you are returning the device to its default conditions, default IP address, default network settings, default password (or no password), and so forth.

The good news is that now you know the password and IP address. The bad news is that now you have to return the wireless device to its former condition of grace.

That means that you are going to have to change a computer’s IP address to match the subnet of the default address, enter the name of the wireless network (SSID), select either DHCP or an appropriate IP address, pick the correct channel for the device, and set up encryption and other features.

When you restart your wireless device, don’t forget to change your computer’s IP address back to something appropriate to your network, or you won’t see the wireless device even if it is working correctly.