The wireless adapter on my Dell laptop connects and disconnects frequently. When I am using another laptop, the connectivity is fine. This problem started when I changed the laptop's OS from Vista to XP. Could this be the reason that I am getting disconnects?
Connecting to a wireless network involves your Dell adapter, the driver for that adapter, and operating system software. When you downgraded from Vista to XP, you probably intended to overwrite both the Dell driver and your OS files. However, if you are still using the Dell Vista driver, that could certainly cause problems. I recommend visiting Dell's support site to download and reinstall the recommended Windows XP driver.
You want to completely remove your old driver before installing its replacement. First, disable the adapter. Then go to the My Computer / Properties panel, choose the Hardware tab, and click on the Device Manager button. Find and expand Network Adapters, double-click on the Dell wireless adapter, choose the Driver tab, and click Uninstall.
The next time you boot, XP will probably automatically rediscover the adapter. If it does not, you can use the Device Manager to scan for hardware changes and add the adapter back. When doing so, you'll be prompted to specify a driver location -- make sure that you specify the XP driver you downloaded from Dell instead of letting Windows find and reapply the old Vista driver.
If this doesn't fix your problem, search Dell's knowledge base to learn more about any reported problems (and resolutions) associated with downgrading your laptop model from Vista back to XP. Some newer laptops are only supplied with Vista drivers -- Dell may not officially test or support an older OS on your laptop.
This was first published in February 2008