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Thursday, March 3, 2011

What To Do When Wi-Fi Fails - Resolve Common Wireless Networking Problems

wi fi tips and trick troubleshooting networking
No matter what product you create or what service you deliver, your business is—at its core—a communicative enterprise. The unfettered flow of information is critical to the operation of your company; obstruct that flow and your business grinds to a halt.

One particularly aggravating form of obstruction results from a Wi-Fi networking failure. You installed Wi-Fi in the first place in order to avoid problems in workflow and data communication; now one of your most relied-upon tools has seemingly turned against you. Meanwhile, you and your staff—and a myriad of critical business processes— have come to depend on your wireless network. When it bogs down—or disappears altogether— those processes stop and your staff flounders.

We’ll provide a brief overview to help you troubleshoot some common Wi-Fi problems

Lost Connection For One Computer

Problem: A computer suddenly cannot communicate with the network or with the Internet, although it worked perfectly before. (Or computers continually lose—and then regain—network connections.)

Solution: It’s possible to leave either Windows or the router manufacturer’s utility in charge of your network communications, but not both. If you switch them (or if they mysteriously get switched by some other process), communication between the workstation and the network itself can cease, even if the network icon in the computer’s System Tray reports a good connection.

Before you do anything else, reboot the computer. Still not working? Briefly disconnect your firewall, just to be sure that the firewall itself is not causing the issue. (Still got a problem? Let’s move ahead, but first turn the firewall back on before you forget about it.)

In the Control Panel, go to Network Connection and select View Available Wireless Networks. Rightclick the Wireless Network Connection icon, select Properties, and then select the Wireless Networks tab. Check the Use Windows To Configure My Wireless Network Settings checkbox.

In Windows XP, another option is to go to the Control Panel and select Administrative Tools, and
then click Services. Right-click Wireless Zero Configuration to activate the Windows service. (If it’s already activated, try deactivating and then reactivating it. Still no go? Deactivate WZC and try using the manufacturer’s network management software instead.

Is the workstation in question a laptop? Many laptops have Wi-Fi switches; be sure that the switch (it may be a key-combination “soft switch”) is on. Hardware Wi-Fi switches located near the front of laptops are notorious for accidently getting turned off.

Try using IPCONFIG to reset the TCP/IP connections on the system: Go to Start, and then select Run. Type ipconfig /renew and click the OK button.

Use the PING utility to test whether your system can communicate with other systems on the network. Go to Start, and then select Run. Type ping and click the OK button. If the test fails, then it’s possible that your network drivers are corrupted or that the adapter is not working. (There are many other uses of PING, but they’re beyond the scope of this article.)

Finally, if you or someone at your company has changed the workgroup name, computers that are not members of that workgroup will be unable to see one another; change it back or update the workgroup
name on any affected computers.

No Connection For Many Computers

Problem: All of a sudden, none of my systems has network (or Internet) access

Solution: You know how 80% of computer problems can be resolved by rebooting? Shut down your modem and router, and then restore power to them in that order. This often resolves such issues.

It’s always possible that you really do have no Internet access, possibly because of a problem with your Internet service provider. Call to see if the ISP is receiving any reports of outages.

You can test the router itself by taking it out of the loop and connecting a system directly to your broadband modem. If the system can connect without the router, the router may be at fault; swap it out, if possible, and see if the problem is resolved. (Don’t leave the computer connected directly to the modem; without the router in the loop, you’re missing an important layer of protection against hackers.)

Wireless Network Unavailable

Problem: My wireless network doesn’t even show up in the list of available networks.

Solution: To show up in the list, your network must be broadcasting its SSID (Service Set Identifier)—in other words, the name of the network. If it’s not, and if you don’t wish to broadcast, you can go into View Available Wireless Networks as described above, select Add A Network, and then enter the name and other particulars of the network.

Slow Wireless Network Problem: My wireless network is very slow. Solution: If your wireless network is bogging down, it may be because multiple users are accessing multiple high-bandwidth streams. (This can occur when users are downloading large files or streaming video, for example, whether for personal use or for legitimate business-related activities.) If the network is simply being overloaded, you’ll have to either reduce the load or talk to your ISP about providing a bigger pipe.

It’s also possible that one or more systems is simply not getting a decent signal—even if the signal used to be acceptable. (Had any work done in the building? Moved any large equipment? Added equipment that might cause interference?) If range is the issue and you cannot move the system closer to the nearest access point, consider a repeater or a booster antenna. If you’ve expanded since the network was originally installed, it  maybe time to add more wireless access points.

If you’re not running 802.11n gear, consider upgrading. The 802.11n standard specifies the use of MIMO (Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output) gear, which can increase range and reduce interference. (Such things as Bluetooth devices, landline phones, and mobile phones can interfere with the Wi-Fi signal, slowing things
down.) Note that 802.11n gear must be used at both the transmitting and receiving
ends; simply installing an 802.11n router does little good if workstations are still running 802.11b/g
network cards.

Problems With Security Settings

Problem: My Wi-Fi network works fine until I attempt to secure it using WEP or WPA.

Solution: First, remember to use a hex key rather than a decimal key when using WEP; in decimal, it’s too easy to make a mistake entering the info. Of course, WEP is easy to crack; use WPA or WPA2 instead, if possible. Remember that 802.11b gear is not compatible with the WPA security protocol; if you have older wireless gear in your network, you’ll need to use the older security protocol— newer machines can understand the older protocol, but the older machines generally cannot work with the newer one.

Docking Issues

Problem: My laptop’s Wi-Fi works fine when the machine is docked, but fails when I undock it

Solution: Some laptops use a built-in wired network controller when docked and should switch to wireless when undocked. But depending on how you undock it, the system may not switch to Wi-Fi when you  undock; the result is that it’s still attemptingto access the network using the wired (but currently disconnected) card. Stop and restart the radio to reset and restart the correct network adapter. If that doesn’t work, you may need instead to reboot the entire system.

It’s also possible that the Undocked hardware profile is corrupt, in which case you can rebuild it by going to Control Panel, System, and then selecting the Hardware tab. Click the Hardware Profiles button. Remove the other (i.e., nonworking) profile. Then power down so that the system will shut down and rebuild the Undocked profile when you reboot. ▲

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