Wi-Fi Woes? Four Hot Tips to Get Back Up and Running - Page 2

By Eric Geier

May 17, 2011

Here are the main compatibility issues you might run into and how to overcome them:

  • If using an old 802.11b adapter, it may not connect with 802.11n enabled on the router: First try to connect to the router from a newer computer or with a newer wireless adapter. If you don't have another wireless computer, you can connect to the router using the Ethernet cable. Once connected, access the router's control panel by typing its IP address into the Web browser. Then find the wireless settings and change the wireless mode to 802.11b/g. Apply the change and then try to connect with the old computer/adapter.
  • If you're using Windows XP, it may not be updated for WPA or WPA2 support: Check if Service Pack 3 is installed. If not, install it via Windows Update in the Control Panel or from the Microsoft site. If you can't update for some reason, you can manually install the WPA update if no Service Pack is installed or the WPA2 update if Service Pack 2 is installed.
  • WPA or WPA2 may not be supported by the wireless adapter: If WPA or WPA2 still doesn't appear when configuring your network settings in Windows, your wireless adapter likely lacks the support. However, most can be updated with a new driver to add the support. Check the support section of the manufacturer's website for driver updates. You can check the current driver version you have installed by opening the Device Manager via the Control Panel.

4. Not getting 802.11n speeds

If you have an 802.11n router and wireless adapter, you should see data rates (the connection speed) over 54 Mbps, unless you are too far away from the router. If you don't see data rates exceed 54 Mbps even when you're with reasonable range, you're probably using either WEP or WPA security. These security standards aren't compatible with 802.11n. If you use them with 802.11n, you're limited to the 802.11g data rates of up to 54 Mbps.

To take advantage of 802.11n, you must use WPA2 security with AES encryption, or disable security altogether, but of course that is not recommended for private networks.

Even after enabling WPA2 you won't see the maximum 802.11n speeds until you change the channel-width. All wireless vendors set the default channel-width to 20 MHz, which is the width used by 802.11b/g. To get the maximum data rates you must be using 40 MHz wide channels by setting the router to 40 MHz or Auto 20/40 MHz.

Keep in mind, using 40 MHz wide channels can actually negatively impact the connection performance of your computers that are farther away from the router. Plus it can impact other nearby wireless networks. Depending upon the channel you use, your transmissions may occupy the entire band, all the 11 available channels. This is the case if you use channel 6. When using 20 MHz wide channels, the only non-overlapping channels are 1, 6, and 11. When using 40 MHz wide channels, you should stick with channel 1 or 11 to leave room for your neighbors.

To change the security method or channel width, you must access the router's control panel by typing its IP address into the Web browser. Then find the wireless settings. Don't forget to save or apply the changes when you're done.

Still not working?

We discussed some common issues you might experience while setting up a wireless router. But if we didn't touch on your issue or you can't seem to fix it, you may want to give tech support a call. You should find a support number in the documentation. If you have access to the Internet, you might also want to do some Google-ing or check out the support section on the vendor's website.

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