June 9, 2012

Understanding Wireless Connection Problems in your Home Network

Wireless connection problems will generally fall within three broad areas of operation in your home network: the computer, the wireless router, and the Internet Service Provider. This article describes the things that could go wrong in each of these major areas of failure. Consequently, your troubleshooting effort should start with the computer you're using, then proceed to your wireless router, and lastly the networking equipment in your Internet Service Provider.

If you're using a computer that runs on a Windows operating system. you'll be more likely to experience connection problems than if you're using one that is based on Linux or the Unix operating system. I have used both Windows Vista and different Linux distributions on my laptop and connection troubles occur mostly when I'm using Vista rather than a Linux distribution.

In most cases, home computers running in a wireless network are setup to get Internet Protocol (IP) addresses from a Dynamic Host Control Protocol (DHCP) server running on the wireless router. In Vista, the computer attempts to get IP addresses from the router and after several failed attempts, it gives up and uses an IP address that may not work on your network. Forcing the Vista computer to request again for network addresses on a few times will work but most of the time, a restart of the computer is necessary to succeed in getting the needed IP addresses.

The Linux platform it seems is better designed to navigate the different situations that can occur in a network setting and is more aggressive in getting the needed IP addresses. In my Android tablet, for example, Android is not going to stop trying to get an IP address until it gets one. When the tablet sleeps, it gives up its IP address and when it wakes up, it again will continuously attempt to get those addresses from the DHCP server until it succeeds in getting the required addresses.

I'm currently using Linux Mint as replacement for my Vista operating system in my laptop and I have never experienced the lost connections that I frequently get when using Windows Vista. I'm not intimately familiar with the programs that are running the network connections between my laptop and my wireless router but it appears that Linux Mint is able to play better with the programs in my wireless router which for all I know may be running a stripped down Linux system. What I did with my Windows Vista is set it up with manually configured IP addresses by getting one address from the address space that is not being distributed by my wireless router.

On the wireless router's side, the most common cause of loss of connection is similar to that of the computer running on the home network. Somehow after several failed attempts, the router simply gives up trying to get a valid IP address and subnet mask for it to be able to communicate with the rest of the Internet. Here, the solution is very simple. You just need to access your router using your laptop and check if it was able to get a valid IP address that can be routed in the Internet.

When your computer and your wireless router are connected but you can't access the Internet, check that your wireless router has a valid Internet address. If the address shown are all zeros, then it was not able to get one so you have to manually tell your router to get one. You can do this by clicking on the renew button or connect button whichever is present in your router's web interface page. After a while, you'll notice that your router was able to get the needed addresses and the blanks for addresses are filled with those it got from the router at your Internet Service Provider. You should be able to surf the Internet now from the browser in your laptop.

If there is still a problem, the fault may now lie on the equipment at the office of your Internet Service Provider. At this point, you can't do much except to wait until the people there are able to resolve their connectivity problem. You can call the service numbers of your Internet Service Provider and inquire if they are experiencing connectivity problems. The fact that your laptop is able to connect with the router tells you that there is no connection problem between your laptop and your wireless router. The fact that your router was able to get an IP address from your Internet Service Provider tells you that your connection with your provider is okay. The most probable reason at this point is trouble at your Internet Service Provider's end. You just have to wait until they are able to resolve the connection problem at their end.