Dysfunctional wireless network

This is my BIL’s problem, but he views me, mistakenly, as the famiily computer expert. He recently hooked up linksys wirless network. He added a splitter to the cable, and stuck the router in the basement. His hope was to have all three of his computers wireless. If he takes the computer to the basement and hooks up via the ethernet cable to the router all is fine with the world. When he attempts wireless hookups it doesn’t work. He has called comcast and linsys repeatedly. As far as they can tell everything is working properly. He has gone to the linksys self diagnosis page and he is told that his wireless card is working properly, but needs to be enabled. BTW, in frustration, he spent 200 bucks to put XP on his PIII 900mhz, 128 Ram computer in hopes that XP would straighten things out. No comments on the wisdom of this. Anyway, at startup, he gets the two little screens but they are x-ed out. Hardware profile is NOT. Linksys diagnostics says that the wireless card needs to be enabled, but that page does not give him an option to enable it. Somewhere else, he can read signal strength as strong. When he pings, there sometimes seems to trouble translating to an english URL, but otherwise he is communication at that level, just not able to access the internet. He is bringing his computer over tomorrow, and I was hoping to have some ideas as to what might be the problem. Any suggestions?

His bringing the PC over to your place is unlikely to accomplish anything useful as this is the type of problem that needs to be disagnosed and handled onsite where the connection issues reside.

First make sure he resets the router to it’s default, out of the box state (there’s a reset button on the unit you need to hold down) so that any goofy settings he’s inadvertently entered are erased and you can start fresh. After re-setting the router unplug it, let it sit fora minute or two, then plug it back in.

If the PC(s) he is trying to enable ALL work fine via direct ethernet cable hookup to the router it should be fairly straighforward to set up a wireless network. The main initial thing he needs to do to enable the wireless capability after installing the wireless card drivers, is to assign the SSID designations so that they are the same on the wireless units and on the router, and to make sure the channels being used are the same (choices are 1-6 if IIIRC). For the Linksys router the default SSID is is “Linksys”. This can (and should) be changed after the system is up and running. All the PCs and the router need to have the same SSID and channel.

You also need to make sure that he is not running a software based firewall of any kind, even the built in Windows XP one, as the router has its own hardware firewall and these can potentially bump heads. If he has a software firewall activated (Zonealarm etc) remove, uninstall or deactivate it.

After the units are communicating he can (and should immediately) set additional security options to keep people off his network. Setting an automatic WEP key password under the router’s security options is generally sufficient for this.

As a final point the basement is pretty poor place broadcast wise to put a wireless router. A router broadcasts more or less omnidirectionally and 802.1b/g signals are quite delicate, and easily stopped by the masonary walls of the basement. It will probably work, but not as well as it would if he placed it more centrally.

Well, Service Pack 1 and Service Pack 2 both add more wireless functionality to XP. Wouldn’t hurt to install one of them. (Well, if you have the “TV Media” spyware, it actually would hurt to install SP2, as you’d end up with a bluescreen error 135… but I digress.).

Being on-site would be best, but so long as there’s an open network near you to test with, you can verify the PC at least…
I’d check the status of the card in Network Connections first. If you truly are able to connect by IP, ping out to the gateway, then the IP addr and domain name of some site.

It’s really suspicious that he’d be able to ping out by IP (meaning DHCP would be working), but have the connection icon Xed out. Perhaps that icon is for the wired link. I think you’ll have to actually see the PC to work with it, and being able to check the router settings would be a plus too.

BTW, what’s this “splitter” anyhow? A splitter for the coax cable?

Oh yeah. Since it’s XP, use the Network Diagnostics feature. It’s off the Start Menu in Help, then… um… well, those with XP can click here (maybe). Or check out this page for instructions on accessing it.

Is it a Wireless-G router? If so, try a Wireless-B. I had a G and spent two months trying to get it to work. Then I bought a B (Linksys BEFW11S4) and it has worked flawlessly for over six months. Something about my apartment or my neighbors was apparently messing up the connection or something. If he has a Wireless-G card, he can continue using that with the Wireless-B router.

I thought if he brought it here and it worked with my wireless system then the problem would be with his router. However, perhaps that only means it is the same situation as onechance, since I have a B and he has purchased a G.

B and G are completely interoperable and compatible as G is simply an extension of the B standard. If you have a wireless network by all means have him bring it over. His G will work fine on your B.