When Did Wi-Fi Get So Difficult?

Wi-Fi sadface

It all started with a misbehaving wireless connection. Every now and then, I was told, the connection would just drop and resume a few minutes later. A couple firmware updates and date/time adjustments later, the router still wouldn’t provide consistent signal. Fair enough; it was so old that it didn’t even have “2013” as an option in its “Year” dropdown menu. Time for a new router!

Unfortunately, new hardware came with new problems: rather than cutting out unexpectedly, this router just wouldn’t connect with one particular laptop. Its maddeningly simplistic setup instructions worked, sort of, on a convenient smartphone, but the only thing that got the laptop connected was totally disabling all security on the router, and that wasn’t a permanent option. Back to the store it went.

You might notice that the brand and model of the offending router were not disclosed in the previous paragraph. That’s because it was not, in the end, at fault. Oops.

For the next router setup, I wanted to be prepared. Was the problem the laptop? Was it the router? Was it a localized distortion in the space-time continuum? The answer would come with more data, and more data would come with more devices.


What every bookcase should look like.

The final inventory was something like this:

  • Three Windows laptops
  • One MacBook Air
  • Two Android smartphones
  • One Android tablet
  • One iPad
  • One Nintendo DSi
  • One Roku
  • Four wireless routers

Later I had a cookie. It was the best day ever.

By connecting and disconnecting each device to various routers, I came to the inescapable conclusion: that one laptop was messed up. I’d previously changed its wireless driver to one available on the manufacturer’s site, but a newer one was available through Windows Update. That, and also possibly upgrading Internet Explorer from version 7 to version 9, finally got the thing connected.

(For all you browser evangelists out there, IE wasn’t current because it was never used. Logically it shouldn’t make a difference to the network connection itself what version of a browser is installed, but we all know how deeply IE hooks into the Windows operating system.)

Any home networking horror stories to share?

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