How To Troubleshoot Wireless Network Connection Problems

IT Support Forum Forums Windows Windows 8 Networks, Firewall and Sharing How To Troubleshoot Wireless Network Connection Problems

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    I have a lot of experience in troubleshooting wireless network connection problems, so I thought I’d share… Here’s how to troubleshoot wireless network connection problems:

    Troubleshooting Weak Wireless Network Signal Problems

    First off you need to get a quick visual of the area – is there obviously anything physically blocking the wireless signal?

    Wood can absorb wireless signals, causing network connections to be unavailable

    Metal can reflect wireless signals, causing network connections to drop or become intermittent

    Next, take a look at the wireless device; How many bars of signal are you getting? This will tell you if the issue is that you aren’t close enough to the wireless access point or if something’s blocking the signal. Other causes of low wireless signal might be that the aerial (on the AP or device) is broken, or that the AP or device’s wireless card is broken. Weak wireless signals can also be caused by the power settings on the AP being set too low or set to the wrong country code (Different countries have different power and frequencies that they allow you to use. By law you aren’t allowed to use power or frequencies that are prohibited by the country you are in).

    If you have a mobile device, walk around and watch the signal bars – they might be blocked in certain areas. In which case, you might consider using an AP with a wider signal, additional AP(s), bigger aerials or a wireless repeater.

    If you are using unidirectional aerials, make sure they are facing the right way and remember that devices below the aerial may not be within its cone of coverage. If you are using omnidirectional aerials, be aware that there is limited coverage in the area that the tip of the aerial is pointing at (signal comes out the sides of omnidirectional aerials.

    Troubleshooting Wireless Network Connection Dropping Problems

    You may have a strong signal, but have a problem that the wireless network connection keeps dropping. Wireless network connections usually drop due to interference or because of broken equipment.

    Broken equipment can be broken aerials, network cards or APs (or power supplies to the APs). Interference can be cause by obstructions (particularly wood or metal), other devices operating at radio frequencies (such as microwave ovens or mobile phones) or other access points in the area.

    Try continuously pinging (ping /t) the AP’s IP address and see if the connection to the AP is dropping out. This will tell you that there’s a problem with the wireless network connection. If it pings fine, try pinging the switch (or other devices) behind the AP. The problem might be that the devices are connecting just fine to the wireless, but the AP is not passing the traffic to the switch. This might indicate a problem with the AP or a cabling problem between the AP and the switch.

    It’s also worth updating the firmware of the AP. Outdated firmware can cause wireless network connection problems

    Often we don’t have control over other wireless APs in the area, which can be a problem because another administrator may be setting their APs up incorrectly causing problems for everyone. It’s important to ensure that your APs are using a channel that is not already used within the operating range of the wireless AP. The best thing that you can do is either to leave your AP’s set to automatically pick the best channel or to manually separate them out if you have more control of the environment.

    If you’re going to manually separate them be aware that with 2.4GHz wireless, although there are 13 channels, the channels next to each other cross over. So really there are only 3 completely separate channels available to use: 1, 7 and 13 (using a channel width of 44MHz, you can use channels 1, 4, 7, 10 and 13 at a channel width of 22MHz).

    You may wish to do some research about the best channels to use in the 5GHz range, because different 5GHz channels have different properties such as transmission distance and power.

    You may wish to implement more APs to cover area’s with bad coverage, introduce wireless repeaters to address specific network connection problems or change to unidirectional / omnidirectional aerials depending on your environment. It’s often worth doing a scan to see what APs are currently broadcasting and on what channels and strengths (there are lots of smartphone apps that you can get to do this). If all the channels are used, you might consider removing some APs from the area to make less interference or changing your AP’s channel to match the channel that reports as having the weakest power in the area.

    Remember that there may be some wireless APs that are not broadcasting their SSID. For this reason, you may find it impossible to find the best channel to use without a professional wireless analyser such as Airmagnet. A professional wireless analyser will also be able to tell you if there is anything else in the environment that is causing interference, such as microwave ovens, etc…

    Finally, you may wish to try changing wireless device brands. My experience tells me that some brands just do it better than others. Especially in the wireless arena. If you are looking for a high end wireless solution, the best I’ve ever seen in action is the Wavion wireless AP. Wavion use 6 APs connected to a computer to simultaneously scan and calculate dead zones and adjust signals and strengths of each AP accordingly. I’ve seen a single Wavion device fill a very large warehouse with very strong wireless signal, despite the warehouse being fully stocked with giant rolls of paper pulp (think wood), with wireless connectivity running amidst the piles without problem.

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