5. Troubleshoot Wireless Networks
tends to be temperamental, not to mention annoying and
tear-your-hair-out frustrating. So, what do you do when you can't
connect to a wireless network you've just set up?
instinct might be to attempt to connect again through the "Connect to a
network" window. Or, if you're connecting to a network with a hidden
SSID (described in the previous section), you may click the Set up a connection or network link to attempt to enter all the information about your network again.
Of course, Vista will either let you complete setting up this network
only to have it not work, or complain that a network by that name
already exists. Arrgghhh.
Instead, you should go directly to the little-known Manage Wireless Networks window (Figure 10) via a tiny link by the same name on the left of the Network and Sharing Center window.
Figure 10. Use the Manage Wireless Networks window to fix broken wireless
connections or delete wireless networks you no longer use
you'll see all the wireless networks you've ever saved or set up
manually, whether they're in range or not. Double-click a network in the
list to show the Wireless Network Properties window (Figure 11).
Figure 11. Open the Properties window for a wireless network you've saved to
change the connection options or modify the encryption passphrase/key
Here's how to solve some of the more common wireless connection problems:
Windows cannot connect to xxx.
can be caused by a variety of problems, but Windows won't tell you
which one. The most likely cause, at least when you're connecting to an
encrypted network, is that you entered the wrong WPA passphrase or WEP
key. If the network is hidden, you may have typed the wrong SSID (or if
there's more than one hidden network in range, you may have selected the
you ask Windows to diagnose the problem, it'll probably suggest a weak
signal, but that's unlikely if the network is showing up in your list
with at least two signal-strength bars. More likely, it's not a real
network (perhaps someone else's laptop errantly set to accept incoming
connections), or it's using MAC address filtering.
Non-broadcasting network won't show up.
If you see an entry named Unnamed Network, select it, click Connect, and fill out the details of the hidden network. But if you've already set up this network and it still isn't showing up, then you've encountered a nasty little problem in Windows Vista.
Broadcasting (non-hidden) network won't show up.
you're mixing old and new equipment, make sure none of it is set to work
only with its own kind. For instance, many 802.11g routers have a
setting that either permits them to talk to older 802.11b devices, or
restricts them so only g-class devices can connect. If this is the case,
make sure your router and all your devices are set to work with the
widest range of standards.
make sure both your router and your other equipment are communicating
on the same channel (channel 6, 2.437 Ghz, is the typical default).
Windows tries to connect to the neighbor's network first.
the Manage Wireless Networks window and delete the entry for your
neighbor's network if it's there. Next, double-click the entry for your
own network to show the Properties window, turn on the Connect automatically when this network is in range option and turn off the Connect to a more preferred network if available option (unless it's grayed out). Click OK, and then drag your network to the top of the list (or use the Move up button just above the list).
After disconnecting, Windows immediately tries to reconnect.
Just click Disconnect
again; Windows rarely does this more than two or three times. If the
problem persists, open the Manage Wireless Networks window and delete
the entry for this network.
A network called xxx already exists
see this error if you try to set up a new wireless network with the
same SSID as one already saved on your PC. If you've already used the Manually connect to a wireless network
option to set up your network, don't go back to that if it doesn't
connect. Instead, open the Manage Wireless Networks window and
double-click the network to modify that entry's settings.
On the other hand, if you're setting up a new network that coincidentally has the same SSID as a different wireless network you've set up previously, see the next topic.
Handle two networks with the same SSID.
Windows distinguishes one network from another by its SSID; in other words, its name. Say you've named your home network wirelessnetwork, and you've got it working. Then, you take your PC to work and learn that the SSID there is also called wirelessnetwork. When Windows sees wirelessnetwork, it tries to connect with the encryption passphrase it already knows, and not surprisingly, fails.
best solution to this problem is to rename your home network to
something more unique, but this won't help if both networks are
administrated by other people. In this case, you have to make some
changes. First, open the Manage Wireless Networks window, right-click
the network you have saved, and click Rename; this changes the name of the network entry while leaving the SSID intact. Next, double-click the saved network, turn off the Connect automatically when this network is in range option, and click OK. With that out of the way, you should be able to connect to the new network by the same name and save its encryption settings for next time.
If you frequently connect to different wireless networks, use the Network and Sharing Center to quickly switch between Public and Private modes.
Windows loses its wireless connection when the phone rings.
you're using a cordless telephone, it's likely the older 2.4 Ghz
variety. 802.11b/g/n wireless networks operate on the same frequency, so
move the cordless base station away from the router. For best results,
replace your old phone with a new WiFi-friendly 5.8 Ghz model.
Windows connects, but the Internet doesn't work.
you seem to be getting a solid wireless connection, but you can't load
any web pages or check your email, open the Network and Sharing Center,
shown in Figure 12.
Figure 12. The Network and Sharing Center shows the status of your LAN
connection, your Internet connection, and your sharing options, and
provides links to most of Windows' networking tools
If it says Local and Internet on the Access
line, then the problem is likely not with Windows, but rather with your
Internet connection. Check your router status and restart your
DSL/cable modem, if applicable. If you're on a public network, you might
need to sign in or pay a subscription fee for full Internet services, a
fact that might be clear from the first page your browser loads or
perhaps suggested by the SSID. Of course, if other PCs on the network
have Internet access, then try restarting your PC and temporarily
disabling any firewall software that may be interfering.
But if you don't see Local and Internet here, but rather Local only
or something similar, it means Windows wasn't able to get a valid IP
address. This can happen if you're connected to an ad-hoc network
(basically just another PC) instead of a true hotspot, but odds are that
you need to mess around with your PC's TCP/IP settings .
Everything works until you enable encryption.
your router's configuration page and determine the current firmware
version, which is usually shown on the home page or the Status page.
Then, visit your router manufacturer's web site and see whether there's a
newer firmware available; if so, download it and use your router's
firmware upgrade feature to ensure you have the latest bugs and bug
fixes. Likewise, make sure you're using the latest drivers for your
wireless equipment on your PC.
that doesn't help, it's likely that either your router or your wireless
adapter in your PC is not fully 802.11i-compliant. This means you'll
have to downgrade your encryption to one of the weaker standards
explained in the "Choosing the Right Encryption Scheme: WEP, WPA, or WPA2?" sidebar.
Beyond SSIDs and encryption, a wireless connection is not much different than a wired connection.