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How can a wired connection ignore a wireless one?

I have both a wireless and a wired network in our office. Outside sales people have Dell Inspiron 5100 laptops with wireless Mini PCI cards with Win XP. If they are sitting at a desk and connect to our wired network, is there a way we can ignore the wireless connection?
Your sales people leave their wireless adapters enabled when connecting to your network via Ethernet. This creates two network connections, and thus two active routes, between each laptop and your company network.

Many companies deal with this by creating alternative hardware profiles in Windows XP. In one profile, the Ethernet adapter is enabled and the wireless adapter is disabled. In the other profile, the wireless adapter is enabled and Ethernet is disabled. The laptop user selects a hardware profile at boot time and is only ever connected to one network or the other, never both. This fixes the problem, but in a static fashion.

Another possibility that's more flexible but less efficient is to apply static weights to Ethernet and wireless adapter routes -- in your case, assigning a smaller metric to Ethernet adapters and a higher metric to wireless adapters. If both are active, Windows will send traffic through the Ethernet adapter. If Ethernet should become unplugged, Windows will send traffic through the wireless adapter. Note that this solution doesn't stop laptops from connecting to your APs and using up resources.

The problem that you describe is a specific case of a general problem experienced when wireless devices roam from one subnet to another. Many WLAN gateways and mobile VPN products provide subnet roaming solutions that would let your sales force move seamlessly from ethernet to WLAN and back again without interruption. If that's what you're really after, check out mobile VPNs from companies like NetMotion, ipUnplugged, Ecutel and Columbitech, or gateways from companies like Bluesocket and Trapeze Networks.

This was last published in July 2004

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