Troubleshooting: WiFi on laptop only provides internet connectivity at home?


Yeah, I don’t think it’s a signal strength thing. We’re pretty well equipped at work—my company laptop has no trouble staying connected, and I don’t run into any issues with my personal iPad, and I’m using both of those at the same desk where my personal laptop is having all the problems.

On the other hand, the office is where I originally just assumed some corporate IT policy/configuration could be interfering with something (initially I was also running VPN software—not work related—and assumed that was the problem on my laptop at work but I’ve since removed and ruled that out).

If my problems were only at my girlfriend’s house and the rental property from last weekend, I would definitely still be considering just poor signal strength. But again, my iPad works okay in those locations.


I take it other visiting devices work in those locations?

Do other visiting devices work in your house?


Yes and yes.


Got to my parents’ house this afternoon and of course the wifi didn’t work here either, so as a last resort before engaging Dell support or delving into hardware troubleshooting–and with the free time to do so, I nuked the laptop and am starting over from factory settings (Dell does make that pretty easy).

At the moment, it’s working fine on the wifi here now. So hopefully that’s it, somewhere something in software just got screwed up that I could never identify as the cause, and this will fix it.

Of course now we’ll have to see if it still works correctly when I get back home…


Signs point to a driver or driver conflict. If this happens again in the future, use your service tag to download the drivers for your model from Dell. Then load those, or, right click and “uninstall” the network card under device manager (removing whatever driver is applied,) reboot, then load that Dell driver, follow the prompts and reboot again.

Congrats man, you got it going!


That was my last attempt to fix it before (eventually) deciding to take off and nuke it from orbit. Still never worked. Now those drivers certainly could’ve conflicted with something else somewhere that I’ve just managed to avoid reinstalling so far, so who knows?

I really appreciate the very thorough tips you gave though, I’ve never owned a Dell so even sort of obvious stuff like finding the exact model via the service tag hadn’t occurred to me until you mentioned it earlier.


It’s not just Dell for what it’s worth. All major vendors have drivers that end up being kind of specific for their hardware. So, you have to put aside the thought to upgrade to the latest and greatest (which might be automatic,) and load their older drivers that are more coexistent with the other hardware for that platform.


Here it is two weeks later again, and it’s safe to say this laptop is still a disaster.

The last update was that I reset to factory specs, and from there wifi worked successfully at:

  • My parents’ home
  • My house
  • My girlfriend’s house, but not when her router was configured for the mixed 2.4ghz/5ghz signal

I tried it at work today for the first time since that reset at Thanksgiving, no luck. Same basic problem as before, a few seconds of connectivity and then nothing gets through, even though Windows still reports an active connection with internet access.

So I went for nuclear option #2 and I just picked up a USB wifi adapter at lunch.

No luck. With the build in adapter disabled and using the new USB adapter, I get the same thing. Brief connectivity, then it’s dead.

I’m ready to throw this laptop through a window.


Is it possible to disable the old adapter in the BIOS as well as in Windows? Have you tried different drivers with the new adapter?


Good question, and no. The adapter is the Asus USB-AC53 Nano, I just pulled the latest Asus drivers straight from their site (on another machine and copied them over on a thumb drive). I don’t know if I can even maintain connectivity on the laptop long enough to let Windows try to pull down new drivers.


I checked and disabling built-in wireless via BIOS doesn’t help.


I don’t like computers.


I vaguely recall having to use a very specific Broadcom driver one a Dell, to circumvent very weird, intermittent issues. The latest drivers never worked consistently, but the slightly older driver fixed everything. Just throwing that out there. Different machine, probably different ethernet adapter manufacturer.

Looks like Dell updated the ethernet driver for your laptop, yesterday. The release was last month, but it got updated again.


Please dont throw out the, “talk to Dell,” option. That would eliminate a hardware issue, eventually. Put them on it, you paid for support and/or warranty. Dont leave that on the table.

The same issue with multiple NICs though … ready for this?

  • OS load (drivers hosed, TCP/IP stack issues due to something unforseen)
  • Specific security product issue
  • Malware or infection

And that would be the order I’d place those guesses.

You’ve now eliminated the network or config, and the built in wireless NIC. You’ve somewhat eliminated a driver issue, as the new USB NIC would have a separate driver.

Homework, theory time: within the OS there is a specific set of functions that handle the intercept of a driver for network connectivity to the handling of physical or wireless connections at multiple layers (think of layers of increasing functionality.) Let’s say something within those functions is a Windows file that’s damaged in some way, overwritten with something wrong, or even on a damaged part of a physical hard drive or SSD. Now every time you attempt a network function it fails, and you go insane.