Have you ever had trouble connecting your Windows PC to a wireless network? Yeah, me too. It seems that the wireless capabilities of many Windows based machines can be rather finicky. But sometimes it’s not the computer’s fault.
Sometimes it’s as simple as turning the wireless card back on after someone inadvertently turned it off. Other times, the problem can be considerably harder to diagnose. This week has been one of those latter situations.
For background, we’re at a beachfront condo for Spring Break. The same condo where we had similar problems last year. There’s a wifi router in the kitchen and most of our devices connect just fine. But my kids’ Windows laptops? Not so much.
As was the case last year, they’ve been periodically getting limited or no connectivity, and the troubleshooting tool doesn’t help. I verified that the wireless cards weren’t being put to sleep to save power, I reinstalled the wireless card driver, etc. But nothing that I did improved the situation.
Ultimately, I decided that the problem must be on the network (router) side and so I focused my efforts there. Since I didn’t know the admin password, I reset the router (a D-Link DIR-601) to factory settings.
The only thing that helped was rebooting the router, but this was just a temporary solution. Sooner or later, they’d wind up losing the connection.
After a few false starts and some deep thinking, I stumbled on a solution… The DIR-601 is capable of 802.11b/g/n connections, but the Windows laptops had wifi cards that were only capable of b/g connections. Bingo.
I set the router to only allow b/g connections and suddenly all was right in the world. I suspect that resetting the router would put it back into b/g mode, enabling connections from the Windows laptops. But then someone would (eventually) connect with an iPhone or iPad and the router would switch to 802.11n mode, at which time the laptops would lose connectivity.
It’s been 24 hours since I made the change and all is well in our networking world. I am thus inclined to conclude that the wireless protocol setting was indeed the culprit, and that restricting the network to 802.11b/g was the solution.
For the record, the computers in question are a pair of Asus U47A laptops running Windows 7 and an Asus Q400A laptop running Windows 8. My MacBook Pro never had problems and neither did any of our iDevices, presumably because they have more capable (i.e., 802.11n) onboard networking so they didn’t get frozen out.