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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
I think the problem is just computers are awful and I hate them.
I want to stress again that I really appreciate your help, and you’re right, I shouldn’t rule out talking to Dell, so I did that tonight.
But it went about how I expected. This is like the perfect storm of “why won’t you believe me?!”; the laptop works perfectly in my own home. I can’t reproduce the problem for support (not even sure how that would work if I could since it’s a networking issue, they probably wouldn’t be able to remote into it if it was having the problem), all I can do is say “but my wireless doesn’t work on some other networks”. So they recommend I contact the network administrator at my office.
I’m sympathetic to Dell, this sure sounds like Not Their Problem, and that might very well be accurate.
But I literally have no idea how to troubleshoot this. To recap:
The laptop works fine on my network.
On wifi at the office, at a rental property, at my girlfriend’s house, and at my parents’ house, it runs into this problem where no error is reported with the signal or the connection, but after a minute or so of connectivity when I first join the network, everything internet related just times out and dies. Dropbox, Google updater, webpages, can’t connect to Battle.net, Steam, etc.
Drivers are updated, the network adapter is uninstalled and reinstalled, no change.
At my parents’ home for thanksgiving, I did a factory reset on the laptop. Blew it up and started from scratch. It works on their network, and I believe I’ve “fixed” it.
I get home and it still works fine on my home network.
I buy my girlfriend a new router because she was just using the provided one from her ISP and while all other devices connected, it had bad range and speed. I did not actually try my laptop on her old wireless network again in between resetting the laptop and setting up her new router.
On the new router, it connects but only when the router is configured for separate broadcasts of the 2.4GHz and 5GHz. When I put in the mode where it broadcasts them as one SSID my laptop doesn’t work again.
I think that’s weird, but maybe it’s just something I did wrong setting up the router.
I take it into work, same problem as always, everything times out after the initial connection.
I try a USB wireless access point and it still doesn’t work, so 99.9% sure it’s not the hardware now.
It seems like there’s got to be an error on the software side, a setting or configuration that’s wrong, that doesn’t interfere in every setting (works at home!), but does interfere in pretty common settings (office wifi, new router out of the box at girlfriend’s house).
I have no idea how to fix that, or where to go to ask someone else, other than here! I couldn’t manage to convey all that to Dell support, they left me with two options: talk to the network admins at work, or I can ship it to their repair center and let them take a crack at it.
Is it worth it to lose my computer for two weeks while Dell pokes it and tells me there’s nothing they can find wrong with it?
This part is weird and makes it hard to explain, I agree. But wireless connections are like black magic and can be disrupted by things like a neighbor’s microwave oven, or wireless phone chargers, or an air conditioner spinning up.
Are the applications the first place you notice the connection has failed, or do you get an actual disconnect status for the adapter and/or the nwk stack on the taskbar first?
At no point do I ever get a notification of disconnect from windows. Taskbar always shows a connection, and I never get the “No internet” indication for that connection.
If I’m just passively watching the screen, the first and only indication I have that it’s dead is the Dropbox icon in the taskbar going gray as it’s “unable to make a secure connection”.
At one point I had resource monitor up and even when no webpages or anything would load or work, there was still a trickle of network traffic. Like, single digit KB/sec, but not zero. I can’t swear that’s always true in every scenario I’ve had problems in though.
Do you know enough to tell if it’s only TCP connections having problems, and not UDP? Or only secure TCP connections? Dropbox uses port 443 like shttp I think.
It also sounds vaguely like a wired problem I saw once where a network was trying to use a larger MTU or packet size then would work. Small packets and most UDP and ping would work but not large packets or fast streams. But I think MTUs for WiFi are more rigidly standardized.