Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
 
Anyone here a WiFi expert?

My new netbook shows the same symptoms as my other laptop, not being able to connect to some WiFi hotspots. What happens is that I select a WiFi hotspot to connect to, it stays a long time on the "waiting to acquire network address" step, and finally gives me "limited or no connectivity" error message. All I know is that somehow my laptop doesn't get a valid IP address from the network, but I don't know what I can do about it. The same laptops have no problems whatsoever to connect to my home WiFi and to some hotel WiFi networks, but then fail to connect at other locations.

Anyone here got an idea whether that is just a problem of the networks I try to connect being borked, or whether I could connect to them if I just changed some setting on my laptops under Windows XP?
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First you need to ensure that you're actually connecting to a wireless network and not another PC.

There's a weird XP quirk where a machine often transmits the names of networks it has previously tried to connect to.

See:
http://www.wlanbook.com/free-public-wifi-ssid/

So, on the Connect to a Network page on your laptop, take note of the icons. Make sure you're not connecting to an ad-hoc network.

So, if you've found a network that is a real network and you still get limited connection, there's a few things to try.

1) Right click on that little network icon on the bottom right of your screen and click repair.

2) Try dropping and reconnecting.

3) Update your network card drivers, it could be possible that your card needs an update.
 
Sometimes I have luck switching from the utility that comes with certain laptops that manages wifi connection (intel proset, toshiba's version, etc) and letting windows manage the wireless connection. I have also had luck going the OTHER way. Skip windows management and use the tool that came with your laptop.

Also, sometimes, if you do not have a strong enough signal, it will say connected, but it isn't strong enough to get a IP response back from their router.
 
Not getting a valid IP address is usually the network's fault and not your own. Living in London, I can connect to "the Cloud" most of the time, but sometimes I get an invalid IP; asking my coffee house cohorts if they are able to connect, I quickly realize the problem is with the network and not with me. I use both an iphone and a MacBook to connect.
 
Not sure if it will help any, but I was having some real issues with about four computers at home after I replaced my ADSL modem+wireless router. The machines worked, then they stopped. Then I had to almost uninstall and rip out the cards before they would work again.

Turned out that the new router was able to use up to channel 13, but my wireless adapters on the PCs (and laptops) could only go up to Channel 11... The router was set to "Auto" which for no apparent reason decided 13 was the best to use: Once I fixed it to channel 3, all the PCs were happy (and my kids stopped hitting me with heavy objects).
The PCs were showing that they could detect a signal, but they wouldn't connect at all, so perhaps you have a similar issue.
 
You may also want to verify that you have the latest drivers for your wireless card. Who is the manufacturer of your wifi card?
 
More simply what's probably happening is that DHCP leases (IP addresses being "rent" to you for a limited time to go to the internet) aren't released properly.

What you can try: right click on the Networks icon, select properties, find your way into the TCP / IP settings. Where you have "obtain an IP address automatically", change it to manual and assign it an address like 192.168.1.33, hit apply, then disconnect from the wireless network. Set the IP back to "obtain an IP adress automatically", reconnect to your hotspot and you should be sorted.
 
I've had luck a few times by forcing the card to 802.11b-only operation, so it's worth a stab. I've always assumed it was just confusing old gear that didn't understand the card trying to probe for 802.11g.

It's found in the configuration for the card itself. I don't have XP in front of me to remember the path via network, but you can get there through Device Manager. Right-click the wireless adapter, properties, go to Advanced tab. Paw around for modes and force it to 802.11b-only.
 
Some solid replies so far... Here's my take on it:

I used to be on a helpdesk for a company that used HP/Compaq laptops. I found, that putting them into hibernation / sleep mode would mess with the wireless system. So I'd have them do Squiggle's steps 1) and 2) first. If those didn't work, I'd have them power down for a few seconds to reset the hardware. A full shutdown, mind you, not just a reboot.

This also a brute force version of Gwaendar's suggestion. :)
 
Marty's suggestion is the number one fix for all my connection hassles.

Check which channel your wireless nic is set for in the Driver's properties.

Setting it between 10 and 11 usually helps in 95% of issues I have had connecting.
 
If a new machine... are you actually switching on the Wi Fi?

Sounds stupid, but I have seen many people make this mistake.

There is a physical switch on most new laptops... be sure it is on.
 
As I said, it works in many cases, just not in all of them.
 
gwaender sounds like he knows more than me, which isn't hard, but I was going to say something somewhat similar:

The times that I've had the problem you're describing, I've needed to go to my TCP/IP properties and stop trying to claim a specific IP address, and DNS servers. When I set all that stuff to "automatic", it typically clears this problem up.

Hope that (or something!) helps. =D

Fedaykin98
 
Gwaendar said:
"More simply what's probably happening is that DHCP leases (IP addresses being "rent" to you for a limited time to go to the internet) aren't released properly.

What you can try: right click on the Networks icon, select properties, find your way into the TCP / IP settings. Where you have "obtain an IP address automatically", change it to manual and assign it an address like 192.168.1.33, hit apply, then disconnect from the wireless network. Set the IP back to "obtain an IP adress automatically", reconnect to your hotspot and you should be sorted."

A better way to do this is type

ipconfig /release
ipconfig /flushdns
ipconfig /renew
ipconfig /registerdns

This will clear your old DNS cache too.
 
J.Random wrote:
A better way to do this is type

ipconfig /release
ipconfig /flushdns
ipconfig /renew
ipconfig /registerdns

This will clear your old DNS cache too.


Lovely, have been thinking about looking the command line version up for a while and never got to do it.
Here comes a nice little .bat file to do it quick and clean. Thanks a bunch.
 
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