Troubleshooting Wireless Home Network Random Disconnect
After a TON of consternation and A LOT of crappy information out on the Internet, I think I have finally solved a wireless networking issue that has been the bane of my home wireless network for too long.
Wireless Network Keeps Disconnecting
You’ll see those words or some just like them on message boards and forums all over the Internet as the home based network administrator struggles to find a solution to a seemingly bizarre. Wireless network issue. Often they will blame Windows or Windows XP or Vista too. They are kind-of-sort-of right, but not really.
If you read the answers, you’ll find a wide assortment of pseudo-experts throwing out impressive sounding, but utterly useless answers. The typical exchange starts out with the “network pro” suggesting something mind numbingly simple that all but the most naive computer user has probably already tried. Change the channel, or make sure you have the same WEP passwords on all your computers, or the most common of all, update your drivers.
Folks, update your drivers is a throw away answer that does not come close to troubleshooting the issue. This is what people at help desks tell people who call in because they hope that it will somehow solve the problem without having to do any actual work. Yes, you should update your drivers, but this should never be any serious person’s full answer.
So I became an expert on Intel Proset wireless troubleshooting, and Netgear wireless router troubleshooting, and Trendnet troubleshooting. Nada, zip, zilch.
Browser Elections and Wireless Networking Issues
No, really…Well, sort of. I know a lot about the answers to people who ask about intermittent wireless network dropping because it was the exact same problem I was having. After looking for an answer long enough I found out that it happens to all kinds of wireless network cards whether Intel, Linksys, Netgear, D-link, Trendnet, you name it.
Depending on where you looked though, that was one of the places the blame was pointed. “Oh, Netgear sucks, get a real router.” Some people even insisted matching up hardware, “Oh, you can’t use a Netgear card with a Linksys router.” And some people even insisted that you can’t use USB wireless adapters. No, no, no!
Here is the deal. I have one desktop PC running Windows XP Pro. It’s a sweet machine. Then, I have two laptops that are a few years old, but perfectly good for what we use them for. They are Dell Inspiron 600m with Intel 2200/BG wireless built into them. The desktop has a D-link USB adapter and the wireless router is a Trendnet. Ironically, the reason I bought the Trendnet was a seemed to be having some problems with my Netgear one.
All the computers connected just fine to the wireless network, so it wasn’t some dumb thing like mismatched passwords. The problem is they would sometimes drop off the network.
It seemed like it was random. Sometimes, I would go hours with no issue, other times it seemed like I was getting disconnected every few minutes.
I tried everything. I updated the drivers. I updated the router firmware. I changed from WEP to WPA to WPA2. I tried Windows Zero Configuration Wireless utility. I tried the Intel Wireless manager. I tried the D-link wireless manager, and every combination of the three. Nothing seemed to work.
Then, one day, I got what would turn out to be my big break. One evening, I had been working on my desktop computer when my wife joined me and turned on her laptop computer. Bam! I was off the network. I didn’t think anything of it. I reset my connection. Then, I heard a big sigh from my wife. When I asked, she had just been kicked off the network. Shortly thereafter I caught a bigger break when my Event Viewer logged a network disconnect and a browser election event at the exact same time. Yes! The problem is the computer browser, I thought.
Unfortunately, as I searched the Internet with my new keywords, I found out that it didn’t make a difference. The same half-helpful ding-dongs answering the wireless connection drops questions were the ones answering the computer browser makes the wireless connection drop questions. The answer was always, “What kind of router/card,” followed by “More details/Log files” followed by “Maybe it’s your cordless phone” and ultimately either “Buy a new router/card” or nothing, the thread would just end. Truth is, the person sounding like the expert probably never had a clue what could possibly be the issue.
Finally, I found the solution to this frustrating problem.
Whew, this is getting long. Keep going here in Part 2 – Windows Random Disconnect from Wireless Network Solution.