How can I determine if a wireless router is defective?

I recently purchased a wireless router for my home. A Netgear Rangemax Wireless-N Router, model WNR834B. This is my first experience with wireless.

One of the selling points was its range. However, I cannot get a reliable connection with my laptop if I’m more than 20 feet away from the router. Is there some way to test the router to determine if I should return it and get a replacement? Or are my expectations simply out of line?

My laptop is running XP, with an Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AG card.

I don’t know about that router in particular, but I can tell you that our wireless router is situated in the top floor of our home, and we get good reception everywhere, including the basement (Mr. Athena’s office is in the basement, I would know immediately if he couldn’t get online.) So yeah, 20 feet seems like it’s bad.

For what it’s worth, I’ve had much better luck with Linksys routers than any other brand.

You could try selecting a different channel; I had problems with mine at first because several other routers in my building were using the same channel.

Part of the debugging process should of course include trying a different wireless device (e.g. another laptop) to see if the problem is in your laptop.

That would be my first suggestion, too. Chances are everybody in your neighborhood who bought that router left it at its default channel.

Hmmm. Time for some Internet research to figure out how to select a different channel. My 1975 degree in Computer Science is pretty much useless with today’s technology, except for how to take a systematic approach to problem solving. Speaking of which …

When my daughter was home for a few days in July, she had similar problems connecting with her laptop. A friend tried connecting with her laptop just last week and failed. I should have mentioned these instances.

I should also have mentioned that I live in a typical Midwestern suburb with single family homes. I will usually get a stronger signal from my neighbor’s router across the street than I get from my own router 30 feet away.

The router sits on the first floor of the house in the back bedroom (which is being used as an office). Unless I take the laptop into the same room, I cannot get a reliable connection – sometimes the router is not even detected at all.

The reason I went with Netgear is because Mrs Algernon wants to get a iBook Apple laptop. I have read that Lynksys routers do not play well with Apple products.

You should try the router in various locations around the room and you can also try different positions on the antenna(s). Some types of wall construction can shield the signal quite significantly. Placing the router near a window may help with the signal propogation as well.

The wireless router is really just a radio and like an FM radio, you don’t get consistent reception everywhere. With a wireless router though, you can’t hear the static to help guide placement so it becomes more trial and error. I would also check that you have any antennas on the router screwed in tightly if they are removeable.

Unfortunately, this router has internal antennas, so I can’t adjust them in any way.

I suppose I could try more positions in the room, but the house is simple drywall over wood 2x4 construction. Admittedly, between that room and the family room the signal has to travel through three of those walls, but from what I hear from other people that shouldn’t be a problem.

I didn’t get a chance to do any testing last night with channel selections. I’ve discovered that my laptop is set to channel 11, and the router is configured to automatically switch channels to avoid interference. I will set the router to channel 11 instead and see if that fixed my problem.

Try placing it in the attic at the highest point closest to the center of the house as possible.

Just curious: You have outlets in your attic?

Aside from the electrical outlet issue and access difficulty resulting from the need to occasionally reboot, I think I’d rather run a wire along the floor into my family room than fish a wire into the attic.

And I’m a bit skeptical of the assumption that the strongest signal from a wireless router is pointed down. Heck, if that’s the case, I’ll simply lay the router on its side with the bottom pointing in the direction I want.

Rereading the suggestions, I see this:

Don’t the wireless signals propagate in a straight line? I don’t quite see how placing the router near a window would help. The only one who’d see a stronger signal would be my neighbor.

Think of it as an AM radio station signal. You can get better reception by standing next to a window, or by raising it up over your head, than you can if your car is in a tunnel. Your wireless broadcaster is (almost) the same thing as an AM Radio station, broadcasting for you.

For a non-technical answer - If you’ve placed the router in an enclosed room in the center of your house, the radio signal has to try and penetrate through the walls and/or studs and/or metal studs in the room in order to get any distance. If it is in a room with a window, the signal is going to be able to get out the thin sheet of glass incredibly easy. If you are downstairs trying to receive the signal, and you’re near a window, the signal going through the window will get much less interference through the two windows than through the two walls, concrete floors, etc.

One thing to check in your house - If you are losing signal at 20 feet, are you seeing broadcasts from surrounding areas? Sometimes your laptop might be trying to latch onto that signal, rather than keep in contact with yours.

My understanding of how radio signals works just called in sick. The signal will go out through a window and then proceed via line of sight back into the house through a different window? Wouldn’t that require a rather particular arrangement of windows?

Gah! I knew I’d explain it wrong. Its hard to put into words.

  1. If you have line-of-site, its the optimal solution. If you can see the thing, there’s nothing impeding the signal. You’d have an awesome signal.

  2. However, like with radio stations, you don’t usually have that. For my favorite station, there’s at least two mountains between me and it. The power in my little AM receiver can see this signal, and the battery power of the receiver sends out a little wave of its own, bending that signal to you so you can get music.

  3. Wireless works the same way. If a signal goes through a wall, a cement floor, a fish tank, and your bookshelves to get to your laptop, the signal gets degraded. When your laptop reaches out to get that signal, it finds that it is weak. However, the signal going through your window is quite strong, so it reaches out, grabs ahold of that signal, bends it a little, and gets a much stronger signal, even if its not line-of-site more direct.

If all else fails… Its gremlins. The little girl gremlins in the broadcaster like to look outside and see their home. The little boy gremlins want to get the girl gremlins. They’d rather walk over there and get the hotter, sexier girls outside your house, rather than settle for the ones that have been mashed through your concrete floor. :smiley:

Oh - another thought.

Taken from Microsoft - “If you have 802.11b or 802.11g network hardware, it uses the 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) frequency. Other devices that use this frequency include microwave ovens and cordless phones. If you have 802.11a network hardware, it uses the 5 GHz frequency. Some cordless phones also use this frequency. These devices can cause interference between your computer and the network.”

This is untrue.
Our all-Mac household has been using a LinkSys cable modem / Wireless router (WCG-200) for years with no problems. I regularly configure and connect to other LinkSys routers.

(My boldings)
IANAE (engineer), but are you sure that it is possible to bend wireless signals? I always thought radio waves went in a straight line.

I’m with you about the gremlins, though. I’ve been wireless networking in my home for years now, and when it goes wrong - which it always seems to from time to time - there never seems to be a strightforward solution.

Yeah, something must’ve gotten mangled in that explanation – radio waves are just electromagnetic radiation, like light, which travels in straight lines, generally. And receivers don’t send out any signals of their own; they merely receive, filter, and amplify whatever signal is carried on the frequency they are tuned to.