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Common Wireless Networking Problems and Router Solutions

Updated on January 27, 2014


Basic routers are inexpensive, but a good one might cost close to $100. Most routers with problems are of decent quality, may be longing for a bit love and attention. We've all had it happen at one time or another where you are sitting there connected to your wireless network browsing the internet, making an attempt to play a game online, or simply watching a video upstairs and suddenly you feeling like you are walking up a steep hill … essentially moving in slow motion.

Wireless Networking

Common Wireless Networking Problems

Here is a list of common router problems and potential solutions. If you are experiencing other problems, just call a computer repair company and they can help you and in many cases the setup can be performed remotely:

Your Connection is so Slow that it is Virtually Unusable

Solution: A number of things that may be affecting data throughput. Most routers work on the 2.4 GHz band, which is crowded with interference from microwave ovens, cordless telephones, garage door openers, baby monitors, and an assortment of other electronic devices. As a quick test, check your data rates with a speed test with some of these devices turned on/off to see if your data rates are affected. If you determine that is not the source of the problem, keep in mind that the 2.4 GHz band only has three real channels (1, 6, 11) and you may be experiencing frequency congestion with your neighbors. This is a common problem if you reside in a major metropolitan area. One potential solution is to modify the channel your router uses by accessing the router’s setup controls (usually through a browser-based web server that is embedded into the router). Alternately, you could use the 5 GHz band (depending on the router’s features and capabilities). Dual band 2.4 GHz/5 GHz routers are also a good alternative.

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Slow Game Play

Solution: There are often quite a few reasons for this to happen, among them; too many demands on the router simultaneously attempting to access a crowded 2.4 GHz band on your router, or perhaps a router that is not optimized for game play. In addition to the solutions discussed above, make sure your router uses MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) technology to add signal diversification. While signal diversity does not boost speed of you wireless network, they do facilitate communication between the wireless adapters and router which enables you to bypass potential bottlenecks. Another great solution is to upgrade to an 802.11n Gigabit router. Some of these routers are specifically optimized for online game play.

Common Wireless Connections
Common Wireless Connections
Dead Spots in WiFi Coverage
Dead Spots in WiFi Coverage

Lost Passphrase - Cannot Access your Router's Features.

Solution: Most routers have a recessed reset button on the back of the case. It's typically red and assessable via a tiny hole into that you need to poke a security pin tip (or unbent tiny paper clip) into so that you can depress the reset for three to five seconds. However, it is not the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button which is located on the front of your router. The downside is that your router will now be reset to the factory defaults, which may not be ideal for your needs and you will have to setup your router with new settings, including establishing a new username, password, and passphrase.

Ethernet Cable - Wireless Network Alternative
Ethernet Cable - Wireless Network Alternative

Signal Dead Spots

Solution: One solution is to deploy a router that has MIMO technology which permits it to broadcast and receive multiple signals (See the Slow game play solution). When a wireless signal arrives at a dead spot, it has been typically bounced off of too many walls, floors, and other obstructions such that your router cannot detect the signal from the noise. A MIMO-enabled router takes all those bounced reflections and compares them will automatically fill in the blanks until the signal is reconstructed.

No Wi-Fi Signal - Cannot Connect to the Router

Solution: The most effective and simple answer is to run a CAT5e cable between the 2 points; however, this may not be feasible for people who do not have the funds or the ability to run cables, particularly over long distances of through walls. Renters face another obstacle; landlords who do not want tenants placing holes through walls and/or ceilings. If you are in one of these situations, you can use what is known as a powerline adapter. When you purchase a powerline adapter, you receive two devices. One end plugs one into an AC wall outlet close to the computer, laptop or gaming device you would like to network, the other end of the Ethernet cable plugs into your computer. The other adapter will also be plugged into an AC adapter and the other end of the Ethernet cable is plugged into the router. Essentially, you are using the house electrical wiring as your connection between the router and your networked device. The flexibility of this approach is that you can literally have an connection to the Internet wherever there is an electrical outlet. While this may sound too good to be true, despite powerline adapters being publicized to operate at data rates exceeding 300Mbps, the reality is you can expect networking speeds around the 802.11g level (about 54 Mbps). However, given the alternatives, this may prove to be a good alternative. The data throughput depends on the condition of your electrical wiring (older wiring tends to be slower) and if the electrical outlets are on the same circuit. This problem can usually be corrected by an electrician.

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