What’s Got a Strangle Hold on Your WiFi?

Just about everyone has experienced interference on their WiFi. Drop outs are becoming more and more frequent simply because the 2.4GHz frequency band is so congested.

A recent article in PC Pro explored this phenomenon using some rather nifty visual aids.

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The above image shows an analysis of all the radio frequency activity in the vicinity of the PC Pro office. This is wireless signals and other devices using the 2.4GHz band.

The article then went on to analyse this:

Look closely and you’ll see that, on channel 8, there’s a non-Wi-Fi source of interference, represented as three bright stripes in the bottom “waterfall” window: I’ve not tracked down the culprit yet. To the right, the broad red/green stripe flanked by two narrower vertical green lines shows you the devastation a cheap wireless video sender can wreak.

While this might seem a rather extreme example, I’m sure that many living in densely populated urban centres will be surrounded by a similar level of congestion and interference. Just imagine how many baby monitors, cordless phones and wireless routers there are in a modern, central London block of flats, and you’ll get the idea.

So, what’s the answer?

Well, the article suggest  that, when next upgrading your wireless router, you go for a dual-band model that gives you the option of connecting to the less congested 5GHz frequency band.

As the image below shows (an analysis of the 5GHz band in the same location), the difference between the 2 bands is quite staggering:

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Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Your Wireless Network Security

computersafetyWhen you get your wireless router, if you just get it out of the box, set it up and rely on the default settings for your security, you’re in big trouble.

This is because the default settings leave your network wide open for anyone to use or, if they are that way inclined, exploit.

Plus, when setting up your network leave your security off until you know it’s working properly. It’s a lot easier to troubleshoot any problems you may encounter before you throw security measures into the mix.

As soon as it’s all working properly, it’s time to get your security set up. The level you go for is entirely up to you, but make sure you read the instructions for your specific router. Here are a few basics to familiarise you with some of the security terminology.

SSID Broadcast

This is the name that is sent out to identify your network. You can turn off broadcasting this name if you want to make it more difficult for people to find your network.

Make sure you change the name from the default setting to avoid people connecting to you in error (especially if your neighbour happens to have the same default SSID name as you). Use something that will identify it as being yours, such as your name or address.

MAC Filtering

Every network adapter has its own MAC address, similar to a serial number of a computer. You can use this to tell your router which computers it is to connect to, therefore preventing others from connecting to your network.

Encryption

There are many different types and levels of encryption out there, with new ones being developed all the time. A good minimum level to go for would be WEP 128 or WPA. You can find out how to change these settings in your router’s manual.

Firewalls

A lot of routers today have a built-in hardware firewall. However, to give your security a real boost, you should also think about using an anti-virus product with a built-in firewall such as Bullguard.

At the end of the day, if someone is intent on getting into your network, the chances are they will. Although it may be impossible to guarantee 100% that no one can gain access, it’s worthwhile ensuring you make it as difficult as possible for them.

Don’t leave it to chance, make sure you take the necessary steps to boost your network’s security.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Getting to Grips with Your WiFi–How’s Your Signal?

forumIn our last post on Getting to Grips with Your WiFi, we looked at how to undertake a network survey to ensure you get the best possible signal.

But what happens if, after carrying out a full survey, you still can’t find the ideal location for your router to receive uninterrupted wireless coverage?

Well, there are a few other options available to you.

1. Upgrade your router

This is an option if you have signal everywhere, but just a bit lower in certain spots. The added range of an 802.11N router may be what you’re looking for.

2. Upgrade your router and adapters

If you’re looking for a better range with added speed, your best bet would be to upgrade both your router and adapters.

3. Repeaters and extenders

Placed half way between the router and your receiving computer, these units pick up the wireless signal from the router and retransmits it to the rest of the house. However, it’s worth remembering that they can also cut your network speed in half.

4. Extended range antennas

The theory behind these its that the antennas focus the transmission into a more direct pattern, therefore improving the strength of the wireless signal where you need it.

5. Powerline networking

Available in both wireless and wired versions, these adapters send network signals through your home’s electrical wiring to rooms that are out of range. Consisting of two plug-in units, one connects to your current router and wall socket, while the other plugs into the wall socket of another room.

6. Phoneline networking

This works in a similar way to the powerline, but through your existing phone lines in your home.

7. Second or third access point

You could also try adding a second or third Access Point (Wireless Router set to AP mode) to your network.

All of these options can be used in isolation or in combination with each other, giving you a vast range of options to find which on works best for you.

Your exact needs will depend on the layout of your home, so if you’re unsure which way to go, contact your local IT specialist who will be able to advise you accordingly.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Getting to Grips With Your WiFi

Wireless working is great…when it works.transmit

But there are times when you just want to throw your router out of the window. Your wireless signal can be affected by all manner of things:

  • The distance between your router and the receiving computers
  • The way your walls and ceilings are constructed
  • What you have in your room
  • Interference from other electronic items (yours and your neighbours)

Locating the specific problem can be a complete nightmare. But with a bit of time and patience, you can succeed without it costing the earth.

Before you go splashing out on expensive antennas, boosters and repeaters, take a look at your home and carefully consider the best location for your router.

Undertaking a network survey

1. Locations for your router

Make a note of all the possible locations for your router, bearing in mind it is usually recommended that you place your wireless router as high as possible in a central location.

Depending on your broadband service, the wiring in your house and the ability to run extra Ethernet cable, there could be several possible locations for your router. If you have DSL and your house already has phone jacks in every room, any of them could be used as potential locations. But if you use broadband through your cable company, your choices will be far more limited.

2. Identifying potential interference

Interference is one of the main causes of wireless network failures, whether it comes from devices in your home or a near neighbours’.

A prime culprit is the 2.4ghz cordless phone because they operate on the same frequency as most wireless networks. If you have one, it might be wise to replace it with the newer 5.8ghz model or older 900mhz type.

But it’s not just cordless phones, interference could also be caused by wireless alarm systems, microwaves, wireless video and audio systems, baby monitors etc.

3. Wireless laptop detective

A great way of evaluating your home before setting up your network is by borrowing a wireless laptop. This will be able to show you the signal strength of all nearby networks. You can also download and use tools such as NetStumber.

Plug your router into any electrical socket (without connecting it to your router or installing it) and it should start to transmit. Then, walk around the house, with  your laptop to check out the signal strength in different locations. You can repeat the process, moving the router to different areas to find the best location.

But what happens when you’ve tried all of that and still can’t get a good signal?

Well, that’s the subject of our next blog post, so stay tuned to learn more.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Sorting Your Wireless Connection Problems

screamOn the face of it, wireless technology should make your life easier. The number of leads trailing around your home are reduced and you can print from anywhere you like (within range). But what happens when you can’t get a connection?

When you can’t connect your wireless device to your personal computer in your home network, or connect to the internet, finding the source of the problem can be a real headache.

Before you know it, you’ve spend hours pulling your hair out, staring at screens and screaming at the instructions.

So, to prevent you from ageing prematurely, here are is a guide to help you identify your wireless connection problem.

Before we begin, you’ll need:

  • A computer running Windows XP or higher
  • Wireless router or wireless modem/router

Most problems arise when you’re setting up your wireless network so give some thought to where you’ll place your router. If you experience problems, they could be down to a weak wireless signal, intermittent signal or total disconnection.

So should you have a problem, the following guide should help you solve it. 

Step 1

Make sure your Operating System is up to date. If you use Windows XP, download SP2 (service pack 2) or higher before going wireless. This is because it will provide better support and troubleshooting tools for your wireless network.

Step 2

Be careful when buying your wireless router. Make sure it has plugs for Ethernet or network cables. This is your only backup should a wireless problem occur but your network is OK. Should this happen, you can use the wired connection to make sure your computer can connect to the network.

Step 3

This is the usual IT favourite – if a wireless connection problem occurs, turn off your wireless router and then turn it on again.

If your computer has a wireless care, built-in wireless adapter or a USB wireless adapter, re-boot the machine. This will reset all the settings back to normal.

Step 4

To be wireless, your device uses a radio signal (usually 2.4 GHz). The problem is that many household items (such as cordless phones, baby monitors, radio controlled cars etc.) use the same frequency and could interfere with your router’s signal. Therefore you may have to move your router around until you find a suitable location for it away from these devices.

Step 5

The radio waves from your router can be strong enough to reach every part of your house and even outside it. Through your wireless device you should be able to use a tool which lets you view all the wireless networks available by name. With a potential range of 300 feet, you easily pick up a neighbours signal.

Therefore it is essential you protect your wireless connection with a password so any you can access it.

If your computer does manages to pick up your neighbour’s network and tries to use it, use the same tool mentioned above to select your network from the available list.

Step 6

The radio waves emitted by your  router travel in all directions so your computers can be on different floors from your router. But you must ensure there is no metal near the router so the signal can travel unimpeded.

If you think your signal isn’t strong enough to reach your computer, but you don’t want to move it, buy a wireless repeater to go between your computer and the router. This will amplify the signal helping your computer pick up the radio waves.

Step 7

If you’ve tried everything and you still can’t connect to your wireless connection…

  • Click your Start button
  • Right click on ‘My Computer’
  • Select ‘Manage’ and in the Computer Management window, select ‘Device Manager’

If the green network adapter icon is missing, the driver for your wireless card or adapter needs to be installed. If it has a red ‘X’ or yellow triangle and exclamation mark, the driver needs to be removed and reinstalled.

Over to you

With a bit of luck, one of those tips will get you connected.

Of course, if all else fails you can always call your local IT support company who will be able to point you in the right direction.

Solving Wireless Connection Problems

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Going wireless doesn’t always turn our as easy as you would expect.

There are times when you just can’t get wireless devices to connect to your computer or you can’t get your computer to connect to the internet.

All if this can lead to frustration and sudden outbursts of despair. But before you throw your coffee mug across the room, sit down and have a look through this guide.

We’ve put this together to help you identify where your wireless connection problems are and how to fix them.

Instructions to get started

OK, the basics first. If you want to use wireless devices you’ll need:

  • Computer running Windows XP or higher
  • Wireless router or wireless modem/router

Right, let’s get started and take a look at a few of the issues that you might come across.

1. Dropped connection

Wireless or Wi-Fi networks allow you to use your computers anywhere within the range of the wireless device offering a far more flexible working environment. It’s unusual for your connection to drop once set up but if that does occur look out for a weak wireless signal, intermittent signal, or total disconnection.

2. Greater support

If you’re a Windows XP user you’ll need to download service pack 2 (SP2) or higher before adding wireless devices like a wireless router. This is because SP2 provides better support and troubleshooting tools for wireless networks.

3. Ethernet

When buying a wireless router always check to make sure it has plugs for Ethernet or network cables. If you do have a wireless problem this will be the only back you’ll have. You can use the wired connection to make sure the computer can connect to your network. 

4. Re-boot

If in doubt, switch it off and then on again. Yes, we’ve been doing that for years with our computers so it’s always worth a try with your wireless router. Performing this type of restart usually resets all your settings back to normal and clears the problem. 

5. Talking the same language

Wireless devices use a radio signal, normally at a frequency of 2.4 GHz. Problems can arise though because many household items use the same frequency (e.g. cordless phones, baby monitors, and radio controlled toys). If you encounter problems with disruption move the potential problem devices around until  they no longer clash.

6. Blocking your way

The radio waves from your wireless router could be blocked by the presence of metal. If you suspect your signal is being impeded you could either move the computer to another part of the room or, if that’s not an option, buy a wireless repeater to put in between the computer and wireless router. This amplifies the signal to help the computer pick up the router’s radio waves.

7. Nosy neighbours

If your computer tries to pick up your neighbour’s wireless network signal, go to the tool that views other wireless networks and select your network from the list. 

8. Device manager

If you’ve tried everything else and your computer still can’t connect to wireless, go to the Start Button, and do a Right Click on My Computer. Select Manage and in the Computer Management window, select Device Manager. Have a look to see of the green network adapter icon is missing. If it is, the driver for the wireless card or adapter needs to be installed. If however the network adapter icon has a red “X” or a yellow triangle and exclamation mark, you should remove the driver and reinstall it.

There you go – 8 ways to troubleshoot temperamental wireless connections. If you still have problems contact your local IT troubleshooting specialist who’ll be able to help you.  

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.