Troubleshoot a dropped wireless connection

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Q. I use wireless access to the Internet, but I keep losing my connection. Is there anything I can do to troubleshoot the problem?

A. A wireless LAN (or WLAN, for Wireless Local Area Network) is one in which a user can connect to the Internet through a wireless connection. LANs are very popular in home networking situations where a high-speed connection is shared by two or more computers.

LANs can work flawlessly for months or even years, then stop for no apparent reason, usually at a time when you really, REALLY need to be connected. If that occurs, before calling in a professional (or a paramedic, depending on your stress level), here are a few simple things you can do to troubleshoot the situation:

1. Save your work in progress and restart your computer. If you have access to your wireless router or cable modem, restart or re-synch them by either turning them off or unplugging them for 15 or 20 seconds.

2. Check for loose connections. If you have a USB or wireless network card, be sure that it’s seated firmly in its slot. If you have an internal PCI wireless LAN card, you will need to open the computer case to check the connection. Unless you’ve “cracked the case” before, I’d leave this to a professional.

3. Try moving your computer and your router closer together. If this works, then the problem is likely the result of outside interference or lack of signal strength. If there is a cordless phone or other equipment that uses radio signals in the immediate area, try turning them off one at a time to determine if any of them are the source of the interference.

4. If the problem is resolved by moving your computer and router closer together, but without turning off any other devices as referenced above, then the signal from your wireless router may be too weak. An easy and effective solution to this problem is to purchase a router signal booster, available at any consumer electronics store, Radio Shack, etc. The signal booster will amplify the weak signal, giving extra range to your router's output.

5. Reset your wireless router to its original factory settings. Using your Web browser, log-in to the router's control panel and locate the option that allows you to restore the factory default settings. If you’re not sure how to log into the router, contact your router manufacturer through its Web site, review the documentation that came with your router, or any ReadMe.txt files installed with your router software.

6. If none of the above suggestions resolve the problem, or if none of the above tasks are your idea of a fun way to spend the day, then I would recommend calling in a reputable computer repair person or service to resolve it.

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