Wireless Networking - Your questions answered!

by Andrew Z. Tabona [Published on 16 Aug. 2005 / Last Updated on 16 Aug. 2005]

This article is dedicated to answering a selection of the questions I received from WindowsNetworking.com readers by e-mail. Unfortunately I do not have time to answer all of your e-mails individually so I have decided to do so here in the form of an article for everyone's benefit. I have left out all the unnecessary information and just extracted the main points and the question itself, rather than the whole e-mail message.

Frequent wireless disconnections on Windows XP

“My windows machine is always disconnecting from the wireless network after some time. Then I have to restart my PC in order to get a new connection. I've read somewhere that windows looks up every few minutes for available access points and tries to connect to the strongest one but I don't know how to disable this behaviour. Do you have any idea?”

Windows XP comes with a utility called Wireless Zero Configuration (WZC) that runs as a service and is intended to make connecting to an access point much easier, by continuously searching for access points in range. This behaviour may cause random disconnections on your wireless network.

To correct this you will have to disable the WZC service and use another wireless management program, such as the one that comes with your wireless network adapter. Refer to the software help files or user manual for information on how to install and configure it.

Note:
By default, the WZC service is started automatically every time you load Windows.

To prevent the WZC service from starting, open the services console (type services.msc in the Run box and press OK) and double click the Wireless Zero Configuration service to display the properties dialog.

Select Disabled as a Startup type, press the Stop button and click OK.

Once you have stopped and disabled the service, it will never bother you again.

Windows will no longer search for available access points using the WZC service, so frequent disconnections should be a thing of the past!

Wireless USB2 adapter speed

“I recently bought a wireless USB2 adapter which I use with my Linksys B wireless router. Strangely enough, when I restart, the computer detects it as 11mbps, rather than the normal 54mbps. Any ideas?”

You mentioned that you have a Linksys B wireless router – this product range runs at 11mbps.  Also, your laptop/desktop PC (wherever you plug the adapter into) has to have USB2 otherwise the adapter will only work at 11mbps.

Wireless network with firewall

“I’ve a wireless laptop and desktop computer. The laptop runs windows XP Pro while the desktop has XP Home. I understand that the firewall on both PCs has to be off for this to work. Is this true?”

No. All you have to do is configure your firewall software to recognize your network as a trusted LAN. You should always keep the firewall enabled. A misconfigured firewall is a common cause of network problems, with many people forgetting to give ports and/or programs the access they need to communicate over the network.

Making my USB printer wireless

“I have a USB printer. Is there some way to make it wireless without buying a new one?”

Yes, there is indeed. You would need to purchase a Wireless USB Printer Adapter - 802.11b/g or Bluetooth - and simply connect it to the USB port of your printer. If you already have a wireless network in place, this is all you need; otherwise you’d have to get a Bluetooth dongle or 802.11b/g card for your PC too.

WLAN light always flickers

“The WLAN light on my router constantly flickers, even when I don’t use it, is there a reason for this? I’m afraid I am being attacked by a hacker or something.”

There sure is a reason! Don’t worry, an access point regularly transmits beacon frames (similar to network packets) to announce its existence to any potential clients. Hence, there is always going to be outgoing traffic from your router, even when you are not using it.

File sharing problem

“I have just bought a Netgear DG834GT 108MBPS wireless router which came with a USB2 wireless adapter. I have set up the internet with it fine and I now have a computer sharing the internet wirelessly from the router and one connected directly to the router by an Ethernet cable. I cannot work out how to transfer files between the two computers using the wireless network or how to share a printer that is connected to the computer that is connected to the router via Ethernet. Any help on this would be appreciated. There just doesn’t seem to be an option to do this on windows. Both computers are running on Win XP Pro SP2.”

Treat your wireless network as if it was a wired one. On the wireless client, add a printer from the Printers & Faxes window (in Control Panel) and for file sharing make sure you have Microsoft File and Printer Sharing enabled on the wireless clients' connection (My Network Places > Properties). Be sure to implement a method of security otherwise anyone within your wireless network range can gain access to your files. From the run box (Start...) type \\computer_name or \\ip_address and see if anything comes up (it may take a while). Also check that the wireless client and desktop computer can ping each other.

How to reset router settings

“So my question is: how do you reset the router so that the router goes back to its original settings and factory firmware? It seems that every time I try to do it, the firmware doesn’t change“

I wouldn’t really recommend resetting your firmware as newer versions usually contain bug fixes and general updates, some of which may be security related. Firmware is the software that runs on the router and the user configurations are the settings that can be changed from the user interface.

The firmware can be changed by reloading to an earlier version. Resetting firmware is not possible; you will have to ‘re-install’ it. However, the user configuration can be reset to the default settings by using the web-based configuration interface or by pressing the Reset button on the back of the router.

ICS Problem with wireless

“I setup an ad-hoc connection with ICS and file sharing on my wireless laptop (XP Professional) and desktop PC (XP Home). The problem is that the internet doesn’t work. I keep getting the “unable to display” error or whatever it is. I tried turning off firewalls and changing Internet Explorer settings but still no luck. Please help!”

You probably have your client PC set with a manual IP address. Try changing this to automatic (from TCP/IP properties of your network connection) and see what happens. ICS comes with a small built-in DHCP server that assigns IP Addresses automatically to ICS clients.

Conclusion

This article should complement my previous article entitled “Troubleshooting Wireless Network Connections”. I have tried to vary the selected e-mails as much as possible so that more areas are covered.

Whenever you have a problem, never give up - 99% of the time there is a solution! The hardware/software manufacturer’s website or user manual should be your first point of reference. Check that you have followed all the instructions. You’d be surprised at how most of the time the problem you are experiencing is something so minor you’ll wonder how you have failed to miss it!

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