Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What I Did When My Wireless Network Stopped Working

I just had a disconcerting experience with my home network.  The wireless network suddenly stopped working. I checked the router's external displays, and everything looked fine.  But my password didn't work when I tried to login to the router.  It finally dawned on me to try the original default password.  I got in and discovered that everything had been reset to factory settings.

For over two years I have had a Linksys WRT610N dual band router.  It has been remarkably stable.  It is fast and reliable.  However, the internal antennae aren't that great.

The 5.0 GHz connection works great on my laptop, which is usually in the same room as the router.  It functions OK in other rooms on the same floor, but I live in a multi-level house, and the connection becomes somewhat flaky if I take the laptop to other levels of the home.

The 2.4 GHz connection, on the other hand, seems to have a more limited range.  But I have computers half a level down and a full level down from the router.  None of these has an adapter that will connect to the 5.0 GHz band, so they rely on the 2.4 GHz band.  The main interference with this band has been our microwave oven.  But standard human activity in the home has caused problems as well.  Even with a high gain antenna, the adapter on the basement computer was pretty shoddy.

Last year I had had enough of these problems.  I bought a Hawking 300-N Range Extender, which is a wireless network repeater that works on the N protocol 2.4 GHz band.  If it had been available at the time, I would have gotten the Wireless-N Dual Radio Smart Repeater, since it would work with both bands.  But since I don't currently have a computer distant from the router that can use the 5.0 band, the 300-N works just fine.

The 300-N is a very good repeater.  It is very stable.  The 2.4 GHz band is still subject to interruption from the microwave oven, but the repeater regains the connection almost immediately.  It has been very stable.  But if you get one, DO NOT use the automatic installation.  Follow the instructions for manual configuration instead.

I learned by sad experience that the automatic configuration grabbed an IP address for the device without checking whether the address was available.  This caused a conflict that crashed my whole network.  It took me a couple of days to figure out what was going on and to remedy the problem.  Fortunately, resetting the device and following the manual installation instructions worked like a charm.

A good thing to do with any wireless device following configuration is to go to the administration page of the device's configuration utility and backup your settings.  A file will be created, and it is important for you to remember where this file is stored.  Then if you have to reset the device — or if it resets itself — you can get back in business quickly by going to the admin screen of the device and restoring the configuration from the backup file.

I was able to get my router up and running again, but the repeater did not automatically reconnect.  Moreover, I couldn't get the repeater's configuration utility to come up using a web browser.  I had to bring the repeater into the office and connect it to the router with a cable before I could get to the repeater's configuration utility.  I re-applied the network settings, and then the thing worked fine.  I was able to put it back where I had it.

Still, the whole episode was kind of scary.  There was no reason for the router to reset.  My previous router started doing that kind of thing intermittently until it finally completely died.  I suspect that once a router starts resetting itself, it's only a matter of time before it will need to be replaced.  Fortunately, if that happens there are now better devices on the market that cost less than my current router did when I bought it.


RD said...

I have a WRT600N router atm, love it. Its the version before linksys made the mistake of moving to that tiny box where the electronics tend to overheat.

I use it pretty much as a dumb AP and have disabled most of the functions on the dsl modem as well. Of course I run my own server which has dhcpd/dns etc on it. I also have a static IP from my ISP.

In my area their is tons of interference on the 2.4ghz band. Their are at least a dozen other wireless networks all running on channel 6 in wide mode ruining access to the band for everyone. I am pretty sure their is some Ham radio using 2.4ghz for satellite operation as well. So anyway the wireless is pretty spotty most of the time, 5.8ghz works but its range is very short.

Scott Hinrichs said...

I have read other reviews where the WRT610N overheats. I have monitored the box, and it has never seemed very warm.

But I wonder how good the tiny antennae inside the box could be. There is no way to add an external antenna to extend range.

RD said...

It can vary...

WRT-610N review

The router you have reviews pretty well range wise. Even though the antenna's are internal they are still using wired antenna's.

On the Netgear routers they actually print them onto the circuit board and use a 6 to 8 antenna configuration. The wrt-610n still has better range though so I wouldn't discount the internal antenna's to much(given I still prefer external antenna's so I can upgrade them =p).