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Troubleshoot laptop wireless trouble

Watch out for interference and competition...

Article comments

QI am having a problem regarding wireless connection. I have an Intel Centrino Technology, Pentium M, IBM Thinkpad. My wireless net stops working after some time. I have to repair it again and again. But it creates a lot of trouble for me. Are there any specific settings for Intel Centrino Wireless Technology? I am using Windows XP Home Edition with Service Pack 2 Upgrade on the system. Norton Antivirus 2004 Upgraded on the system. Microsoft Anti Spyware on the system.

-- Absar Ahmed Khan

Troubleshooting wireless connectivity problems can be part art and part science. Check IBM's support web site to see if you have the latest drivers for the built in WiFi card. Also, see if there are any BIOS or other updates for the motherboard or other devices in the laptop. If you have to call IBM for help on this, they will have you go through these same steps before going further.

Look for interference
See if you can find any pattern to the problem. Does it happen at any particular location in your office or any particular time of the day? One common problem is 2.4 GHz cordless phones - which run in the same frequency range as WiFi. I have seen more than one case where a 2.4 GHz phone walked all over a WiFi connection. If you find this is the problem, you will either need to get the 2.4 GHz phone replaced with either a 900 MHz phone (my preference) or a 5 GHz phone (which may cause problems if you upgrade to 802.11a in future, because of the similar frequency range).

Try monitoring
If this isn't the problem, see if the software that came with your laptop has any type of site monitoring functionality. This is where you can see what other access points are within earshot of your laptop. If you don't see that type of functionality or if it doesn't show anything, try Netstumbler. The latest version works with most wireless cards out there, so there is a good chance the chipset in the Centrino laptop will work.

It is possible that another access point may be either on the same channel as your access point or is just enough stronger in signal to occasionally confuse your laptop as to what access point it should connect to. If you find this type of situation, see if you can change the channel number used by your access point, go to a directional antenna to focus the coverage of your access point to where it is needed or possibly change the SSID of your access point if it is the same as the one that may be causing interference.

Keep checking
You may find that it may take more than one of the suggestions here to fix your problem. The problem with the frequencies assigned to WiFi use are unlicensed meaning that no one using a service with these frequencies has more right than anyone else to be there. When you get your problem fixed, you should periodically check to see that all is well before a problem shows up again causing more trouble.


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