Wireless Network Hammerin

The wireless network in my house went haywire. It worked on three PCs, one had a horrible connection, and one can't connect. Between Hubby and me, we spent a lot of time researching and trying to figure out the problem. We narrowed down the possibilities few by doing tests. Hubby is the network king in our house and I learned a bit in working with him. In fact, I solved the problem... temporarily.

I believe the wireless on the router is bad. It works fine when we hook miles of cable to it (I've tripped over them, knocked things down, and chased after a toddler who grabbed one.). I'm tired of looking at the cables, so we're contacting the maker of this router as well as hunting for deals for a new wireless router with g (as in 802.11g).

Here are some of the tricks and troubleshooting tips I've learned in playing with the router:

  • Look at how many computers can connect and how many can't. This tells you a story. If all of them don't work, then the problem is most likely the router itself. Maybe it needs a simple hard reset. Try a soft reset first (turning it off and back on). If that doesn't do it, do a hard reset following the instructions for your router. Mine required holding the reset button while turning it off and back on and not letting go until about a minute after turning it back on.
  • If no computer wirelessly connects to the network, check to see if the router still works by connecting to it with a cable. If it works here, you know the router is still alive. It doesn't necessarily mean the wireless is dead. Obviously, if your router is strictly wireless and not dual like mine (cable and wireless), this won't work. Instead, you can test by bypassing the router and plugging your LAN cable directly into the DSL/Cable modem.
  • Do a little pingin'. It could be the ISP is down and not a router problem. Open a command prompt window (Start > Run > type "cmd" > hit Enter) and type "ipconfig /all" and you should get a response back with your IP address, subnet mask, default gateway and other items. What you are looking for is the IP address of the "Default Gateway."

At the command line, type "ping XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX" where XXX = the numbers listed as the Default Gateway. For example, my default gateway address is, therefore, I would type "ping" If you get a response, then your router is working. Next, try to ping a site. You don't need to know the IP address. You can ping by Web address. For example, type "ping www.marqui.com" and you should get a response with the ping times from an IP address. That IP address is Marqui's. How did your computer know this? Through DNS (Domain Naming Service), but that's another topic. If you can't ping a site on the Internet, the problem is most likely with your ISP.

  • Have a cordless phone? Some cordless phones disconnect wireless connections while you're using it. Stupid, but it happens. I have one that does just that and another that doesn't mess with it. Aggravating. I wanted to return the phone, but it was a "no return" phone. If I had known it would mess with the wireless, I would have never bought it. So I learned that the next time I buy a phone, to check to see if it will kill the wireless or not.
  • Ensure configuration is correct. Check the router's manual to complete this step.
  • Try changing the channel. If that doesn't work, change the SSID (aka name) and the channel. If your wireless' SSID is "Wireless" and is on channel 5. First, try changing the channel to 11 or anything other than 5. If that doesn't work, then create a new SSID like "Router" and pick a channel, any channel. It never hurts to reboot the router after each change, although when making changes to it, it resets itself. This step is what got our network working again.
The process for changing it depends on your router. For mine, all I had to do is enter its IP address (, for example) in the browser, enter the ID and password, and I am in. It's similar to a software or application screen. Enter info, select drop-down boxes, and click buttons to change / save.

  • Another good thing to know is to point your mouse over the wireless icon in the system tray. It provides basic information about your wireless connection. It provides information on the SSID, speed, and strength. The blacked out part in the image is where the SSID is located. Also, get more information by right-clicking on the icon and selecting "View Available Wireless Network" or "Open Network Connections."
  • You may have WEP turned on. This secures others from using your wireless because it requires a password. If it's on, verify each PC has it enabled and the correct password or passphrase.

This is a handful of what you can do. Other options are more detailed and complex. But this is a good start and will help eliminate a majority of possibilities.

Meryl K. Evans is the Content Maven behind meryl's notes, eNewsletter Journal, and The Remediator Security Digest. She is also a PC Today columnist and a tour guide at InformIT. She is geared to tackle your editing, writing, content, and process needs. The native Texan resides in Plano, Texas, a heartbeat north of Dallas, and doesn't wear a 10-gallon hat or cowboy boots.

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