WIFI Connectivity Troubleshooting
Problem = Limited to no wireless signal
If you encounter problems connecting to your wireless network there are a couple of steps you can use to troubleshoot the issue.
Step 1: Ensure the wireless router you are attempting to connect to has its WIFI enabled.
If you can not find your wireless network name (SSID) when scanning for the network, the wireless router may not be transmitting a wireless signal. If you are able to see networks other than your own, most likely there is an issue with the wireless router.
Note: Look for the WIFI symbol on your router and check that the light is on; this shows that your router does have WIFI enabled.
Step 2: Ensure your wireless device is working properly.
If you are not able to see any networks when scanning for networks, there may be a problem with the wireless adapter. If you are using a computer with built in WIFI or a ZyXEL wireless adapter, make sure that the wireless device is installed properly. For computers with built in WIFI, make sure that the “WIFI switch” or WIFI function is set to ON (consult your computer’s user manual for information on enabling WIFI functionality).
Also, check that your wireless adapter is installed correctly. It should light up when plugged in and the wireless icon should appear in the system tray at the bottom right corner. Also, you should see an icon labeled Wireless Network Connection in the Network Connections window which can be found in the Control Panel.
Step 3: Check your signal strength.
If you can see your network, but are having problems connecting to it, it is possible you are getting too weak of a signal. Check how strong the signal strength is for your network in order to troubleshoot connection problems. If your signal strength is less than 70% or less than 3 out of 5 bars, you may need to take steps to increase your signal strength.
Here is how to find your signal strength.
On Windows XP:
1. Look for the wireless connection icon at the bottom right corner of your screen in the system tray (or go to Network Connections in the Control Panel and right click on Wireless Network Connection).
2. Right click the icon and select View Available Wireless Networks
3. The list shows all available networks, find your network and look at how many green bars are shown next to it.
On Windows Vista:
1. Look for the network connection icon at the bottom right corner of your screen in the system tray.
2. Right click the icon and select Connect to a network.
3. The list shows all available networks. Find your network and look at how many green bars are shown next to it.
On a Mac
1. Click on the WIFI icon at the top right corner of your screen.
2. Find your wireless network on the list and look at the signal strength next to it.
Factors to check when getting low signal strength.
Many things can affect WIFI. Any number of factors can hinder wireless distance and performance. Here we will cover what to look for when attempting to troubleshoot poor wireless signal strength.
Factor 1: Acceptable distances for WIFI
The distances listed here are in best case scenarios. That is, there would need to be no major obstructions or interference factors. This is almost never the case since in real world situations there are always some interfering factors. Here are the different WIFI standards and their corresponding distances. You can find what wireless standard your router uses in its user manual
Note: Most routers today use 802.11g and 802.11b. 802.11n is newer and is beginning to be used in the latest wireless devices.
100 feet indoors – 300 feet outdoors
60 feet indoors – 175 feet outdoors
100 feet indoors – 300 feet outdoors
300 feet indoors – 500 feet outdoors
*802.11n routers may need specific configuration in order to reach their maximum possible distance and speed.
These distances are intended as an example of Maximum distance possible. This means that you may be able to connect to your network, but it may have too low of a signal strength for a stable connection. A good rule of thumb for most normal indoor environments is that a wireless signal will most likely be strong enough to connect to at around 50 feet. For the strongest signal possible, you will want the distance to be 30 feet or less without any major obstructing factors.
Factor 2: Objects that obstruct wireless signals
WIFI is a type of radio signal that can travel through some objects. WIFI is able to travel through walls or other obstructions that are not very thick or dense.
Thick walls such as concrete can greatly diminish the strength of a wireless signal. Also metal structures (pipes, reinforcement beams) can block wireless signals.
Every time a wireless signal passes through an obstruction is strength is diminished. WIFI is not able to travel as far within a building because each time is passes through a wall, the signal becomes weaker.
Factor 3: Interference problems
WIFI is a type of radio signal, which means that it can be affected by other wireless or electrical devices. Things like cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, and other WIFI signals can interfere with your wireless connection and diminish its possible distance. Also, sources of strong electrical signals such as PC towers, televisions, and microwaves can disrupt the wireless signal.
Make sure that your wireless devices are not very close to sources of electricity such as these. Steps for troubleshooting radio interference can be found below in the Troubleshooting Single Strength section.
Troubleshooting Signal Strength
Step 1: Make sure you are in range.
Refer to Factor 1 of Factors to check when getting low signal strength. Make sure you are within an acceptable distance to your router. If you are not able to get connected at the distances you require (and the router is functioning properly) there are some options to remedy signal issues.
One way would be to position the wireless antenna of your router in a place where it can send its signal more clearly. If moving your router is not a possibility, you can purchase an extended antenna such as the EXT-105 which will allow you to get the best signal.
Another way of extending your wireless signal is to use a second wireless router to extend your wireless signal by using a function called WDS.
Using WDS, you can wirelessly connect a second router of the same type* so that it can rebroadcast the signal. This can help cover a larger area of your home than would be possible with one wireless router.
*An important note about WDS is that it can only be used between two or more of the same model of router. WDS is not a wireless standard and does not work between different devices.
Step 2: Dealing with wireless interferences
If your low signal strength seems to come from wireless interference, here are the possible solutions to that problem.
For situations where your signal is being impacted by other wireless equipment, one possible fix is to change the wireless Channel Number. This can only be changed on your wireless router. Wireless adapters simply accept what ever channel number is being used. By changing your channel number you may be able to lessen interference from other devices which are using a similar wireless channel. The best wireless channels to use are 1, 6, or 9 because these channels do not conflict with each other in the wireless spectrum.
Step 3: Test the connection in the best conditions
To be sure your wireless devices are operating correctly, bring them into the same room to test their connection. Even if you have no Internet connection to your wireless router, you will be able to wirelessly connect to it. You can unplug your wireless router from the modem and bring it into the same room as the computer you are attempting to connect to. Simply plug in the power for the router and then try connecting to it with your computer. This way you will be able to tell if the wireless devices are working correctly. If a wireless router and wireless device are in the same room and have a “line of sight” to each other, they should be able to get a strong signal strength and be able to connect to each other. If both devices still do not have good signal strength when in the same room as each other, make sure that there are no points of interference like cordless phones.
Note: When bringing your wireless router and device closer together, make sure they don’t get too close. It is possible to get poor signal strength if your wireless router and device are less than 3 feet from each other.
Step 4: Update your router firmware
Some wireless issues can come from incompatibilities between wireless devices. These incompatibilities are usually addressed with periodical firmware updates for your wireless router.