Troubleshooting Wireless Connectivity
We’ve been working with wireless internet for well over a decade, and we still have not faced every connectivity problem that can possibly occur. Before we lost count, there were well over 100 problems that can stand between your wireless router and the device you’d like to connect. Sometimes the issues are easily resolved; but some make no sense whatsoever. Here are the top wireless issues we have encountered, and what you can do to resolve them.
A common misconception is that Wi-Fi stands for wireless fidelity but, in reality, it does not stand for anything. At the time Wi-Fi was invented, it operated under the standards of IEEE 802.11, which was not a catchy name. The term Wi-Fi and the ying-yang style logo were created by a marketing company called Interbrand.
Test other devices to ensure your wireless router or Internet Service Provider isn’t the problem
If you have a wired network connection somewhere in your home or office, verify that it still has Internet connectivity. Otherwise, check your iPad or smartphone to see if that device connects to the internet. If it does not, your internet is down. Contact your Internet Service Provider (“ISP” - Bright House, Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, etc.). Ask for Internet technical support. They can remotely check your modem or determine if there’s trouble in your area. That service is ALWAYS FREE. If someone asks for your credit card or any payment, you dialed the wrong number. Hang up immediately. The correct number will be printed on your bill. If your ISP also provides your wireless router (often built-in to newer modems), they can troubleshoot that device too.
Older laptops may face the WPA incompatibility issue
Computers or wireless adapters manufactured before 2006 support WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) encryption, and may not be compatible with current WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access) encryption. If your router is set up for WPA2 encryption and your computer only understands WEP, your computer may see the wireless network and attempt to connect to it, but your computer won’t be able to access the newer encryption. You can upgrade an older computer by adding a newer USB adapter that supports WPA, and that should resolve this issue. Here's a good one: http://amzn.to/2cXYjPU
“The Dropsies” – You’re connecting, but it drops frequently
If you are more than 20 feet away from your wireless router, your signal may degrade or disappear. Typically, the limit for most inexpensive routers is about 30 feet, and that’s “line-of-sight” (no walls or obstacles). Most routers are capable of sending a signal two to three times that far, even through walls and floors depending on various conditions. More pricey Wireless A or AC routers supposedly offer up to 150 feet indoors. You will also see 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz dual bands. The 5 GHz band is faster and less susceptible to interference, but due to FCC regulations has a much shorter range. Move your wireless device physically closer to your router to see if distance is your issue. If you have metal studs in your walls, or if you have a refrigerator, microwave, or a 2.4 GHz cordless home telephone in the path between your wireless device and wireless router, there may be interference that is weakening your wireless signal. Also, most routers, as with any radio transmitter, are directional. There is a certain pattern in which the signal will broadcast more strongly. Try physically turning your router 45 to 90 degrees in another direction and see if that makes a difference. Unfortunately, that could adversely affect those who never had a reception problem, now aligning their devices in an unfortunate position. As a workaround, wireless repeaters can increase your wireless range. However, we haven’t had much luck with repeaters, especially in vertical situations.
If the physical location of your wireless router and your wireless devices has not changed, then your wireless router or the wireless receiver in your device may have crashed. Your wireless router is essentially a mini computer, so it can actually crash. Cycle the power on your wireless router, give it a few minutes to acquire an Internet signal, then cycle the power on the device that could not connect to the internet.
It is rare, but occasionally the wireless adapter card in a PC can fail. My shiny new HP laptop had a wireless card fail in the first 30 days. During early stages of failure, you may experience random signal drops. It’s not too expensive to replace a wireless receiver in most computers. As a viable and less expensive workaround, external USB WIFI adapters are inexpensive and easy to install.
Other times, you’ll be successfully and strongly connected to your wireless network, but you’ll be unable to access the internet even after cycling the power. This seems to be a fairly common issue that occurs a few years after a cheaper wireless router has been in service and working perfectly. After checking with your cable or phone company and verifying that their equipment is not the problem, what’s probably happened is the circuitry that allows your internet connection to be shared inside your router has gone bad. It’s not cost effective to repair this, so replace your wireless router with a new one.
One Device Just Can’t Connect Anymore
Sometimes, no matter how perfectly you’ve set everything up, there will be one single wireless device in your home or office that will simply refuse to connect to the internet on your wireless network. And it may have connected before, but now it does not. And what’s really bizarre is that every other wireless device connected to the same wireless network works perfectly. This is another of those idiosyncrasies with wireless networks. The wireless encryption settings on that single computer or wireless device somehow became corrupt. The password to your wireless network may have changed, or your computer may be storing erroneous or corrupt data buried deep in your computer’s registry that won’t allow you to connect. Give up – you’ll spend hours on registry hacks, tweaks, and any advanced tricks you think you know, and they probably won’t work. Simply reset your wireless router with a new SSID and passcode, and reconnect all your devices to your new wireless network. Remember, although most home routers can theoretically support up to 255 devices, most cap out at about 100. Today, in a typical family household, that’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. Think computers, printers, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, thermostats, wireless cameras, security systems, alarms, radios, lights, gaming consoles, video streamers, and the list goes on. In my home, it’s not unusual to have 40-50 devices connected to our home router at once.
As a side note, we have seen about a dozen iPhone 6 units updated to iOS 9 which have lost their ability to connect to 2.4 GHz wireless networks. Most still do work with 5 GHz networks. Apparently Apple has decided the iPhone 6 is too old to fix this. You can read more about that here. https://discussions.apple.com/thread/7537095
Many laptop computers have a switch that enables or disables its wireless internet communications. This switch may be a real switch on the front or side of older laptops, usually a sliding switch with a left and right position. Depending on the particular model, there may be a LED light that will illuminate when in the ON position. When sliding this switch to the ON position, make sure you give your computer up to a minute to enable the wireless hardware and ascertain an internet connection.
Some laptops do not have a physical switch, but have a “Soft Switch,” otherwise known as a keyboard shortcut. This may be a picture of an airplane to put it in airplane mode, or may require holding down your “function” (FN) key on your keyboard and pressing a corresponding F key (F4, F6, or some other F key) depending on your make and model.
To add to this misery, HP, Sony, Toshiba and Lenovo as well as other manufacturers have bundled particularly buggy software that can override your physical or soft switches. One wrong move and you can potentially disable your wireless seemingly forever; or until you’ve figured out how to reverse what you’ve done. An inadvertent “finger fumble” can cause you to disable wireless connectivity on your laptop.
Occasionally, malware can corrupt your internal internet settings by inserting a DNS hijack or a proxy server, and you won’t be able to connect to the internet at all. See our MALWARE REMOVAL tips video for how to fix this problem.
Many websites, think those for banks and bill payments, can only be accessed by the latest browsers. Older Safari or Internet Explorer browsers in Windows XP or Vista can no longer access those sites. Fortunately, Firefox, as of this writing, still works with Windows XP, Vista, and most older Mac OSX operating systems.
Wrong time or date
If you’re connected to the internet but cannot view certain websites, your time and date settings on your computer may need to be adjusted. Secure websites verify your computer’s time and date before allowing you to access certain websites.
The ISP speed trick
Customer service representatives are paid to upsell. If you’re the only person using your internet connection and some knucklehead at your cable or telephone company says the reason you cannot connect is because your service is too slow, he or she is lying and trying to sell you an upgrade package. The best performing sellers get bonus money, so you can see why they’d try to do that. Speed has absolutely nothing to do with failing connectivity.
However, if you do have four kids all streaming video and playing online video games simultaneously, you might need to upgrade your speed and bandwidth to accommodate their needs. If you don’t have enough bandwidth, you’ll be frustrated when your Netflix or Amazon stream stops every few minutes to buffer. You probably won’t need the top of the line Titanium Lightning service – bump up to the next increment first and see if that works for your situation.
The next time you lose your wireless internet connectivity, revisit this article and the steps mentioned here. You just might save your sanity.
Should I repair my PC, or get a new one?
There are more things to consider when making the decision to repair or replace a computer than just cost. Since a decent non-bargain basement desktop computer starts at around $400 and a decent laptop around $600, most people consider replacing their system when a repair will cost $200 or more. In some cases, when your hardware is very slow and old, or if replacement parts like motherboards or processors are no longer available, you may not have a choice. Before you pull the trigger, there are a few hidden expenses and considerations to keep in mind before you buy a new PC.
THE HIDDEN COSTS OF A NEW COMPUTER
Consider these factors when deciding to replace your old computer:
All new consumer computers (those you buy in stores or online) are now shipped with Windows 10. Windows 10 has a completely different look and feel than Windows XP, Windows 7 or Windows 8, requiring some getting used to. If you’re a busy person, you may become frustrated quickly.
Windows 10 may not recognize older printers, scanners, or older software, so you may need to spend several hundred MORE dollars replacing those items too. Budget at least $150 (plus ink) for a good printer/scanner/copier.
If you borrowed some software like Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop, you will need to borrow it once again to install it on your new computer. If your friend or relative can’t find that software, you may have to spend $120 - $600 to replace it.
If you need someone to transfer your data (pictures, emails, addresses, documents, downloads, spreadsheets, Windows Mail files, Quickbooks files, family tree research, videos, and music), there is a charge for that too. Depending on the condition of the hard disk drive in your old PC and how much data you need to move, prices can range from $59 to over $700, averaging about $99.
CD and DVD drives are now obsolete, and many new computers are shipping without one. If your software, music, or movies are on CD or DVD, you may need to purchase an external USB unit.
If your system has viruses or spyware, moving infected files to your new PC can transfer the malware to your new computer, so you may need to pay for a virus cleanup.
Once you get your shiny new computer home, count on several hours connecting to your internet, loading your software, setting up your e-mail, and installing any games or peripherals. Although this doesn’t sound cumbersome, it can surprise you. Some folks report spending upwards of two entire days and $500 extra getting things back to where they were. All the sudden, a replacement computer doesn’t sound like such a great bargain.
REPLACING A HARD DRIVE
If your computer is less than 6 years old and your hard drive is in its early stages of failure, it may be worthwhile to replace that hard drive. Processor technology has changed a bit, but speeds have not increased as dramatically as they used to. Here are the advantages of repairing your existing computer:
You can keep the operating system you’re used to. Licensing applies to the original hardware, so if you had Windows 7, you can keep Windows 7. It will be supported through the year 2020.
Your printers, scanners, and other hardware will still work, so you won’t have to replace them.
No worries about replacing your software in most cases, unless your operating system has to be reloaded due to substantial damage, corruption, or malware infection.
If you replace your hard drive early enough, you can keep your software installed just like you remember it! Qualified technicians, like us at Computer Care Clinic, can perform a “clone” procedure, which is like making a perfect photocopy of your hard drive. All your programs and data copy over, we fix any issues, and you’re back exactly where you were.
You’ll be better adjusted to your old keyboard and mouse, allowing you to be more productive much faster.
WHAT COMPUTER SHOULD I BUY?
If you have decided to purchase a new computer, you should resist the temptation to purchase it in a big-box store. Why? These stores are only allowed to carry consumer grade computers. Over the past decade, as computers have become cheaper, production processes have been forced to cut costs, so quality has been affected. Consumer laptops and desktops are simply not as reliable as the business class counterparts. Companies like Dell, HP, and Lenovo all offer business class product lines. These are the same computers used by your local governments and large businesses like Grumman, Harris, and KSC. Large corporations lease business class computers by the thousands and expect them to last for at least three years, so manufacturers design their business computers with a higher standard of quality. Even if you don't run a business, you can benefit a great deal from the reliability of a business class unit. While CPUs, memory, and hard disc drives are fairly consistent across all consumer and business product lines, and even Apple, business laptops typically offer a tougher chassis and more reliable components from the keyboard to the screen to the motherboard. You can easily see and feel the difference. Always opt for a business class computer over a consumer unit. You’ll have to order it online, but it’s worth the wait.
You may have been swayed by a stylish friend, neighbor, co-worker, or family member to switch to the “dark side” and consider an Apple computer, like a MacBook Pro or a fancy all-in-one iMac. Without going into too much philosophy, here’s why that’s not always a great idea:
The Mac operating system, El Capitan, is nothing like the interface found on an iPad. There is no touch screen and no intuitive navigation, especially if you’re coming from the Windows environment. We’ve had several people trade in gifted Apple computers because they were too difficult to figure out.
Apple computers may cost twice as much as comparable PCs, even though they use very similar hardware to what you’d find in a typical PC.
Failure rates of Mac hard drives and motherboards are similar to those in the PC arena. They all use the same exact hardware.
Apple does not produce a business-class computer – there’s only one product line.
PC software will not run natively on a Mac, unless you install Windows on a Mac, which is silly.
Some older printers and other hardware will not run on a Mac.
Let us know if there’s any other information we can provide to help you with your decision.
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