PC wireless connectivity issue

I received this email from my coworker this morning:

Coworker uses a desktop PC at home. I’m connected to my work PC from my Mac via RDC, but we don’t have wireless there so I can’t poke around. If she were on a Mac I could help her out, but I won’t be able to connect a PC to wireless until my roommate moves in next week. Since her daughter can connect (her daughter has a MacBook) I’m thinking that the problem isn’t with the router. I suggested she open the PC equivalent of Internet Connections and disconnecting/reconnecting. I think she has a Linxys router. She’s been connected before, so unless she or her daughter fiddled with the signal strength I assume she should be getting a signal.


Comcast was having some serious DNS issues last night, which prevented a good number of sites from working such as the never-down Google. Perhaps that’s the nature of his woes. It’ll either fix itself once Comcast fixes their stuff or he could switch to a 3rd party DNS like Google’s at and

She tried to connect this morning, but was unsuccessful; so the problem didn’t fix itself. She’s easily flustered when it comes to computers, and it might be dodgy having her change DNS settings. Since her daughter can connect and she can’t, I’m thinking the issue is with her computer and not the router or Comcast.

I’ve received another email, and she confirms that her router is a Linksys.

Baby steps, then. We’re going to check the PC’s connectivity.

Click Start, Programs, Accessories, Command Prompt

Type ipconfig /all and press Enter

Look for the wireless adapter and see if it has an IP address assigned. It will be of the form a.b.c.d. It will also list the router - probably

If there is no IP address assigned, type ipconfig /renew. If this fails then she needs to look at the wireless connectivity settings.

If there is an IP address, try pinging the router with ping (or whatever). Then ping (note that we’re using numbers) and after that ping boards.straightdope.com (using a name this time). This will determine if it’s a connection issue, a routing issue, or a DNS issue.

If there’s no connectivity at all, she should try to remake the wireless connection.

Top tip, though: she should visit the company IT dept and ask to borrow a network cable. 10m is usually sufficient.

That’d scare the bejesus out of her! :stuck_out_tongue: I’ll pass your suggestions to her, though.

Our IT is outsourced, and the guy only comes once a week. Might be better for her to buy her own cable. She’d call Linksys, but she has trouble understanding the accents.

From my coworker:

Not to rain on the parade, but if the router and the modem are the same device, she’ll need to register the MAC address with Comcast - at least I think that’s how it works.

If the router is separate, which sounds like it’s the case then . . . never mind.

Routers don’t wear out or fade away. They were just trying to sell something.

Yeah, but since she’d already bought it I didn’t want to break it to her. It sounds like she’s going to try Quartz’s instructions. If that works, she’ll take the new router back. If it doesn’t, I don’t know what she’ll do.

I usually find them upside down with their stubby little legs tucked in and x’s over their LED’s.

Seriously though, I’ve had at least 3 or 4 routers die on me - virtually every major brand including Linksys, DLink, Belkin and at least one other. Right now I think I’m on a Trendnet router but have a Buffalo gigabit router i’ve been meaning to upgrade to.

The most annoying problem is that most of the time they don’t just up and die. They tend to go through this long tragic swan song where they behave in a manner might lead one to suspect evil spirits are to blame. I have seriously considered hiring an exorcist on more than one occasion. OK, maybe not seriously considered but the thought did cross my mind.

One other thing that may be obvious but is worth mentioning - the hardwired part of the router and the wireless are independent circuits. They both connect to the circuitry that interfaces with the WAN port, but after that, they have different protocols. So you can have the wireless side work but not the ethernet side. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen that happen, but it should be possible.

I use Vista, and there is an issue with getting a wireless connection on startup, which I understand is somehow connected to AVP (though I haven’t confirmed it yet.) The symptoms are the wireless connection page saying that the PC is connected with limited connectivity, and when you disconnect and reconnect, it says that it is taking a long time to connect.

I’ve tried disabling the antivirus program and rebooting, which helps sometimes. Being close to the router also helps - though I always am seeing a strong signal. What always works is plugging in an ethernet cable from the router. This does connect, and a minute or two later the wireless connection is established also, and stays okay after I disconnect the ethernet cable. It is then fine until I reboot again. Putting the PC in hibernate mode keeps the connection in good shape. In fact, if I hook up to ethernet at work, put it in hibernate, bring it home, and wake it up, the connection is there.

No idea if this is the problem, but at least the person should look at signal strength and if she is actually connected in any way.

How is your co-worker emailing you without an internet connection?

When I had DSL from Bell Canada, their name server wasn’t working. I could get to sites whose actual IP address I happened to know, but not to any other. I called their help(less) desk and told the guy that their name server wasn’t working. Pause (probably typed “name server” into his database and getting no reply), he then asked me what is a name server. Next morning the problem was solved, but about a month later I had an even better reason to leave Bell.

My router is about six years old and has never given trouble. I do have to reboot it occasionally.

I second that, routers and modems aren’t always ‘it either works or it doesn’t’. I have seen many routers that work in some respects and not others or work intermittently. The life span of routers can be very short indeed, particularly the no-brand stuff your ISP might ship to you when you sign up.

She emailed me from the office today.

She took off the Linksys and put on the new router (whose brand I don’t recall – she got it at Radio Shack). She can connect with a cable (I think), but not wirelessly. She’s a very methodical person, and needs to have exact instructions. If her screen doesn’t look like what the instructions say, she’s lost. She doesn’t know how to poke around. Looks like she’s going to have to bite the bullet and call tech support to walk her through it.

Nobody can provide exact instructions for setting up the new router without knowing the router’s model. This has gotten pretty stupid though. She needs to return the new router, re-install the clearly working router and then wait for you to RDC.

I have comcast and linksys and have had problems at times in the past (connectivity to network but no IP address assigned) that are solved by the following procedure:
Power down computer
Power down router
Power down cable modem

Wait minimum of 3 minutes (need to flush router mem of mac addresses, etc.)

Power up cable modem, wait until completely up
Power up router, wait until completely up
Power up computer

She’s not very flexible that way. If I show her how to do something, she writes down every keystroke. (She knows the model of the new router, BTW. I don’t.)

She had a problem connecting from home last month. She found forums that addressed similar issues but didn’t answer her questions exactly. I told her to register with the forum and have someone walk her through step-by-step. She was afraid of looking foolish and wouldn’t do it. She finally fixed the problem by reverting her computer to an earlier date.

I suggested putting the Linksys back on, but she had issues a couple of years ago too. Might be better just to leave the new one on and go from there. We took her to lunch for her (60th) birthday today, and she told the boss of her trouble. The boss had never heard of routers ‘just going bad’ either. I said that Radio Shack wanted to sell a router. She said today that she’s in the habit of turning the router (and cable modem) off whenever they’re not actually being used, because of the ‘power vampires’. It used to be that it’s better to leave the trons on. Maybe the constant powering up and down caused a problem. But then, why would her daughter’s Mac connect and have Internet access and her PC doesn’t? I’m guessing a configuration problem.

I told her it’s an opportunity to learn how to do things on her computer.

I get the impression that she can’t connect to the network. She’s getting a ‘you are not connected to the Internet’ style of thing, which I get if I disconnect from my AirPort. I’d forward your suggestions, but she’s already changed routers.

I would not want an employee like the one you have, that cannot use judgement and think for herself and is only able to function with clear laid out rules and a defined set of instructions. I’d can her and upgrade. There’s got to be plenty of good people out there in this market.