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Wireless network setting considerations for Android troubleshooting

Wireless expert Lisa Phifer addresses Android troubleshooting and the ways that changing wireless network settings could solve connectivity problems.

I have a Wi-Fi network that seems to be giving me trouble with some Android devices. Windows PCs, Macs and iPads all connect to it, but two Android devices have become unable to connect, although they did before.

The Wi-Fi router is a Netgear N600 broadcasting the same service set identifier (SSID) name on both 5 GHz (channel 44) and 2.4 GHz (channel 7) with Wi-Fi Protected Access 2-Pre-Shared Key (WPA2-PSK) [Advanced Encryption Standard] security. The Android devices are a Huawei MediaPad running Android 3.2, and an Asus Transformer Prime TF201 running Android 4.0.3.

Any tips for Android troubleshooting?

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Android 3.x and 4.x both support WPA2-PSK security, as does your Netgear N600 router. I searched for, but did not find any known WPA2-PSK bugs for your router or for these Huawei and Asus tablets. In fact, all three products have passed Wi-Fi Alliance certification for WPA2-Personal (aka PSK), and that is usually a good indicator of basic interoperability. The next thing I'd do is change a few wireless network settings to test and rule out possible problems.

1. The most common PSK failure is fat-fingering the passphrase. However unlikely this might seem, you could try setting a very simple passphrase on your router, such as "password." Before you make that change, be sure to find and "forget" any existing entry for your SSID from both tablets. Then temporarily change the router's SSID and passphrase, reboot, search for the new SSID on your tablets, and try to connect. If you're still unsuccessful, at least you've eliminated a common culprit.

2. It's also possible that your tablets have run into a non-security-related incompatibility with your router. To eliminate this, change your wireless network settings by disabling security on your router's (temporary) SSID, reboot, search again for that SSID on your tablets, and try to connect.

If you're still unsuccessful, the root cause isn't security at all. If you believe you have a non-security-related problem, try changing your router's region, channel or wireless mode (represented on your router as max data rate). If you manage to connect, however, you've ruled out this remote possibility. Be sure to "forget" the test SSID on your tablets and return your router to its usual SSID and security mode.

3. Another possible culprit is a security mode mismatch between your router and your tablets. Your router supports several security modes, including Wi-Fi Protected Access, Pre-Shared 

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Key (WPA-PSK) (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol); WPA2-PSK (AES); and mixed mode (WPA-PSK + WPA2-PSK). If you are using WPA2-PSK (AES), try changing the security to mixed mode and reboot. Be sure to apply the same change to both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz SSIDs; you definitely will have problems if wireless network settings differ for the same SSID. Now, search for that SSID on your tablet(s) and try to connect. If successful, it is likely that your other devices (laptops and so forth) will still be able to connect to your router in mixed mode. Problem solved.

4. If you reach this point and have addressed your wireless network settings but still have not resolved your Android troubleshooting problem, visit Netgear support to update your router's firmware and ask for help with troubleshooting. At this point, I would break out a wireless LAN analyzer and start troubleshooting to find where connection attempts are failing.

To learn more about wireless network troubleshooting in general, read Wireless network troubleshooting: Connectivity problems.

This was last published in August 2012

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