3 Tips for Solving Wireless Connectivity Problems

In this Ask the Admin, I’ll show you a few of tips that might help when you are experiencing problems connecting a device to a Wi-Fi hotspot. You should also always make sure that the device you’re using has been updated and patched with the latest OS and firmware updates for your wireless hardware.

1. Wi-Fi and Password Complexity

Routers using the WPA2 standard and AES encryption will accept complex passwords with special characters, such as “!@*& etc., as part of their configuration settings, but there are many client devices that will refuse to connect all the time the password contains special characters.

If you are configuring a Wi-Fi router, take my advice: By all means use a long password, but make sure that it only contains letters (upper and lowercase) and numbers, and no special characters. If you include special characters in an attempt to improve security, you’ll likely lock out some devices.

2. Update the Wireless Adapter Driver

After upgrading a notebook to Windows 8.1, the updated Wi-Fi drivers supplied by Intel worked abysmally. While I was able to connect to my home office Wi-Fi network without any issues, connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots was a hit-or-miss affair. Fortunately a month after the initial release of Windows 8.1, Intel released another driver update, and I was able to connect to hotspots more reliably.

3. Reset the Wireless Adapter in Windows

There are occasions when even from a cold boot Wi-Fi adapters still refuse to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots. This can usually be solved by simply resetting the Wi-Fi adapter, i.e. disabling and then reenabling it. You can disable/enable your wireless adapter in Windows 8 as follows using the GUI:

  • Right-click the network icon in the taskbar and select Open Network and Sharing Center.
  • In the Network and Sharing Center, click Change adapter settings.
  • In the Network Connections window, right-click the Wi-Fi adapter and select Disable from the menu. Give consent or enter administrative privileges if prompted.
  • Repeat the step above, this time selecting Enable from the menu.
  • Try again to connect to your Wi-Fi network.

If you find you need to do this frequently, network adapters can also be reset from the command line. First you need to establish the name of your Wi-Fiadapter. Open a command prompt, type netsh interface show interface and press Enter to see a list of the installed interfaces.

Using NETSH to enable or disable a network adapter
Using NETSH to enable or disable a network adapter

The command output shows that my Wi-Fi adapter is called “Wi-Fi,” so now I can run two commands to first disable the adapter, and then immediately enable it. The following commands need to be run from a command prompt with administrative privileges:

netsh interface set interface name=”Wi-Fi” admin=disabled
netsh interface set interface name=”Wi-Fi” admin=enabled

Some additional resources are available on the Petri IT Knowledgebase that deal with troubleshooting wireless networking problems, including an excellent article by Joe Rinehart on Wireless LAN Maintenance and Troubleshooting. The Petri forums also have some good discussions on the topic, including how to diagnose PCs that are dropping Wi-Fi signals.