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Diagnosing connection drops

I have my cable modem connected to a Linksys 802.11b Wireless AP + 4-Port router (BEFW11S4 v2, flashed w/updated firmware). I do not have WEP enabled.

The AP is located in my basement. My wife and I are on laptops, one floor above. Mine, WinMe using a Linksys Card, Her WinXP running on a HP with built in 802.11b.

MOST of the time, everything works great, and our control aps show the signal and connection as usually good too great.

BUT, on occasion, everything will be working fine and all of a sudden we'll get a message saying "Wireless connection not available." I do all kinds of checks, reboot, nothing seems to correct the situation. Then, out of the blue, the connection comes back.

Any suggestions?
From what you've told me, I'm going to assume that

  1. When you describing wireless drop-outs, you're talking about connectivity problems for both your laptop and your wife's laptop.
  2. When a connectivity problem occurs, both laptops drop out simultaneously.

There are a couple likely possibilities as to why the network may be dropping out however, given the length of the problem that you're describing and the apparent randomness of the situation, it sounds like a simple case of RF Interference.

As per an earlier response of mine, you'll recall that one of the main reasons that we're allowed to use the 2.4 Ghz spectrum is that it has been designated an ISM (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) band and given a class license. As such, anyone can create products that radiate energy in the 2.4 Ghz part of the spectrum so long as they adhere to the appropriate power output regulations, etc.

In narrowing down the cause of interference look for items such as microwave ovens and cordless phones. These tend to be the most common form of interference in the home. Also remember that if you live in close proximity to your neighbors it could be their microwave or cordless phone that is giving you the problems – in which case there's not much that you can do.

Good luck with the hunt.

This was last published in August 2003

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