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How to Fix Wireless Network Connection Problems in Vista

written by: sammy•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 1/29/2010

Having problems connecting to a wireless network? The solution may not be as difficult to troubleshoot as you think.

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    Do You See a Connection Notification Icon?

    The first thing is to check is whether wireless networking is actually switched on. Some PCs and notebooks have a button or switch that controls wireless modes.

    If you are not connected to your wireless network, you need to first check the wireless net­work icon in the Notification area in the System Tray. The icon is a pic­ture of two blue-colored monitors which flash if you have a working connection. Moving your mouse pointer over the icon will display a small message box showing the strength of the wireless signal and what kind of access is available. if you are not able to see any icon on the notification area then it means that no networks are connected. To manually repair the connections, right click on the notification icon and go to the option Diagnose and Repair.

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    Fixing Router problems

    Opening Diagnose and Repair will guide you through a process of diagnosing and repairing the problem. You may find that it’s a temporary effect that is resolved by Windows resetting your modem. This often is the solution and gets your network back up and running quickly. If that’s not the cure, Diagnose and Repair will have other suggestions. You may be asked to try the connection again or to change the network security key.

    If there’s no response from the network at all, you could try logging into the wireless router’s control panel to diagnose the fault. You need to type the router’s address in the address bar of your web browser. This address is often or If you are not able to open the router’s control panel, you need to look up the procedure in your wireless router manual. You will need to know the administrator’s password as well, although many folks negligently leave it at the default setting.

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    Checking Security Settings

    Home networks often have some security set up on the router or access point. Good options for the security key include WPA and WPA2 network encryption. WEP security is widely used, but is less secure. During connection, you will be prompted to enter a key or a password which can be anything (text or figures) you choose.

    You won’t be asked for any password during connection if you are using a paid-for public hotspot, and there might not be any security when you log on to the network. Once you are con­nected, you can open a web browser and you will be directed to a page where you can purchase access time or log in if you have an account.

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    Finding Network Connections

    If you are not able to find the name of the network you want to connect to in the list of avail­able wireless networks, it may be that the connection has been hidden to prevent unauthorized access. To manually access the unnamed network, you’ll first need to find out the name of the network from the system administrator. You will then be prompted to type the name of the network and a password to try connecting. A common problem faced by many users is mistyping of keys so I would advise you to tick the Display characters box to be able to see what you are typing - or you can copy and paste it from an email or text docu­ment.

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    Checking Hardware

    Still if Windows is unable to find any net­works and your Wi-Fi is switched on, you need to find out if your wireless hardware is working properly.

    To do this, click Start and then go to the Control Panel and double-click Network and Sharing Center. Then select Manage Wireless Connections, right-click the wireless connection you are trying to connect to, and select Enable.

    If this doesn't work, click Start and type Device Manager. In Device Manager double-click on Network Adapters to expand it, and look for your wireless network adapter. If it is not there, make sure it is physically connected and check the installation. If it's a USB device try connecting it to some other free USB port. (This won’t work for internal USB wireless adapters.) A yellow exclamation mark in Device Manager means that it is not working properly and needs to be fixed. If there is a red X against the network adapter it means it has been disabled and you can enable it by right-clicking on it. If there isn't anything listed, you may need to fix the empty Device Manager.

    In either case, you can try installing the latest drivers from the manufacturer’s website.

    If that’s not the fix, contact the PCs manufacturer. You may have a device flaw that can’t be corrected in troubleshooting.

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    Interference Problems and Placing your Router

    Wireless networks can work over a number of channels, and you can set the channel when you set up the network on your router or wireless access point. If you reside in a city with lots of wireless net­works around you, choose a channel that few others are using to minimize interference. Log in to your router control panel and choose another channel for the wireless connection. After doing this you need to reconnect with any computers that are con­nected to it and see if there is any improvement in performance. There is one more important aspect that decides the performance of the network connection and that is its placement. If you place the router in the line of sight to the computer you'll get a better signal or you can try placing it where there are minimum obstacles in the way.