Monday, April 8, 2013

Windows 8 wifi problem with specific WAPs

This problem isn't cool. It's not cool at all. Even if this problem was stated to be cool by the Fonz himself this problem wouldn't be cool. What is the problem? Windows 8 wifi drivers and certain wireless access points. Let's get into it.

I love Windows 8. I do. Heck, I'm a shill for Microsoft Windows 8. Do I love the start screen? Yes I do. Do I love the graphical design? Yes I do. Do I love the how "things just work" in Windows 8? Yes I do. It's true. It's true. Is Windows 8 perfect? No it's not. It is getting there though. That's another blog post for another time though. What I've encountered thus far in my Windows 8 love and experience is a problem with Windows 8 wifi drivers working with access points. At my house, my Lenovo Windows 8 ultrabook works excellent with my wireless network. I have a Netgear wireless router and my Win 8 ultrabook "just works" with it. No problem at all. Now, at work, we have BYOD so I take my ultrabook to work with me; it will not "just work" with the access point. I have a coworker who also loves Windows 8. Guess what? Her HP tablet pc will not "just work" with the access point either. Those are the only two Windows 8 devices currently at work so that is the extent of my first-hand experience with the problem, but if you "bing" or "google" something along the lines of my problem there are many other people having the same issue.

The Windows 8 laptops will only get a limited connection to the wireless network. Running the troubleshooter will "fix" the problem for about 3 minutes then the device is back to limited. The troubleshooter says "Not a valid IP configuration: fixed" and "no default gateway: fixed." Then you have full connection for 0 to 3 minutes before it goes back to limited. Bizarre (to me anyway). Right off I thought it would be a driver issue. I updated the drivers to the latest and greatest for the Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230. Didn't work. I uninstalled the Windows 8 driver then installed the Windows 7 driver for the device. That didn't work either (so I went back to the Windows 8 driver). I made sure the power management was correct, i.e., the laptop couldn't turn off the adapter to save on power. That didn't work either.

* at this point I think I should mention that, yes, all other laptops and wireless devices connected and functioned perfectly on the wireless network*

What could be causing the intermittent issue? Especially since it's only Windows 8? I'm not sure why I went here, but I went into the settings for the WAP. Perhaps the firmware for this Netgear model didn't want to play nicely with Windows 8? It's possible given the age (a few years old). I updated the firmware on the device. That didn't fix the issue. My frustration was quite high to say the least. So, I scoured the tech forums. Oddly enough, I did find something I hadn't tried that someone had tried which was changing the channel/frequency setting in the WAP from auto to, in his case, channel 6. That worked for him. I gave it a shot. Guess what? It worked for nearly an hour then the ultrabook just disconnected. It didn't even go to limited. It just disconnected. I changed to other channels only to find the same disappointment.

Stupid things I tried that obviously didn't fix the issue:
Turning off the firewall
Disabling other network adapters besides the Intel Centrino
Resetting WinSock

I had a motorola WAP on the hardware shelf. I added it and configured it to the network and, to no surprise, the Win 8 laptops connected quick, working just like they're supposed to. What I've concluded from this problem is the Win 8 wifi drivers just aren't playing nice with all WAPs. I wonder why?

Thoughts? Anyone?

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