Windows

Troubleshoot a wireless connection in Windows 7 with a firmware upgrade

Greg Shultz chronicles his trials and tribulations in a Windows 7 troubleshooting expedition regarding a flaky wireless network connection.

Like many folks out there, my father has been a Microsoft Windows XP holdout. He's upgraded to newer and more powerful machines several times over the years to keep pace with his computerized photography hobby, but each time, he has installed Windows XP. I don't blame him for skipping Vista as it was notoriously out of whack with several of his favorite photography programs.

However, I have been trying to convince him to make the move to Windows 7, as Microsoft has done a lot to ensure compatibility, and the new operating system really is stable. But, he has a lot of blood, sweat, and tears invested in his Windows XP setup and just won't go lightly into a whole new endeavor. Furthermore, his most trusted photography program, Nikon Capture NX, doesn't yet support the 64-bit version of Windows 7.

As such, I have given up trying to convince him to upgrade the operating system on his desktop system and recently shifted my focus over to attempting to get him to upgrade his laptop, which he is using primarily for surfing the Web and e-mail. This past weekend, I finally succeeded in getting him to make the move to Windows 7 on the laptop, but only as long as we set it up like I described in my series on configuring a Windows XP/Windows 7 dual-boot system.

He still wanted to have access to Windows XP, but at least he was finally interested enough in Windows 7 to allow me to nudge him in that direction. Setting up the dual-boot configuration was a breeze, and soon we were booting up Windows 7 Ultimate on his laptop. Everything was going smoothly, and I was extolling the benefits of Windows 7 with a big smile on my face until the laptop attempted to connect to his wireless network.

At that moment, the whole network came tumbling down, and I was soon embroiled in one of the trickiest troubleshooting expeditions I have been involved in for some time. Fortunately, the story has a happy ending, and everything is now working fine. But, because this type of situation could easily befall and befuddle others out there, I thought that in this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I would chronicle my trials and tribulations in an effort to save others from this fate.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

The strange result

When I attempted to connect the laptop to the wireless network, the wireless icon in the notification area initially showed a connection and then it lost the connection. Thinking that I must have something incorrectly configured, I accessed the Wireless Network Properties dialog box and began investigating the settings on the Connection and Security tabs. After verifying that the settings were indeed correct, I went over to the desktop system and noticed that it had lost its Internet connection.

I then flipped the switch on the power strip to reset the Linksys RangePlus WRT110 Wireless Router and the DSL modem. Once they came back up and the desktop system regained its Internet connection, I rebooted the laptop and the whole ordeal played out again -- the laptop attempted and failed to make a wireless connection and the desktop lost its Internet connection.

A driver problem?

Thinking that I needed to update the driver for the Atheros AR5007EG Wireless Network Adapter, I disabled the wireless card, connected an Ethernet cable to the laptop, and reset the wireless router and the DSL modem again. Once they came back up and the desktop system regained its Internet connection, I again rebooted the laptop and it immediately established an Internet connection with no problems whatsoever. Of course, this re-enforced my conviction that the problem was being caused by an erratic wireless driver.

With a solid Internet connection, Windows 7 went right to work and downloaded several patches and fixes from Windows Update. After restarting the system, I headed back to Windows Update, accessed the optional updates, and located a more current version of the Atheros driver. I then immediately downloaded and installed that driver.

Unfortunately, a new driver didn't fix the problem. The laptop attempted and failed to make a wireless connection and the desktop lost its Internet connection.

I disabled the wireless card, connected an Ethernet cable to the laptop, and reset the wireless router and the DSL modem. Again the desktop system regained its Internet connection and the laptop and immediately established an Internet connection with no problems whatsoever.

Is IPv6 the problem?

At this point, I was pretty exasperated and was ready to give up for the day. However, my father suggested that we take a break and come back to it. He was excited at the prospect of having Windows 7 on his laptop.

After lunch, I turned to Google and began scouring the Web for any wireless network connection problems remotely similar to what we were experiencing. While I didn't find reports of total network crashes, I did find several folks who reported that disabling IPv6 solved wireless network problems in Windows 7.

I know the IPv6 is a necessary component for several of Windows 7's networking functions, like HomeGroups, but I thought that I would give it a shot. So, I re-enabled the wireless card, accessed the Wireless Network Connection dialog box, and disabled IPv6. I then disconnected the Ethernet cable, reset the wireless router and the DSL modem, and restarted Windows 7.

In a few minutes, Windows 7 had established a wireless connection with no problems whatsoever and I was able to connect to the Internet. Furthermore, the desktop system had a stable Internet connection.

So, now I knew that IPv6 was at the heart of the problem. I also knew that disabling IPv6 wasn't a long-term solution.

Firmware on the router

Returning to Google, I began searching for wireless network connection problems related to IPv6. Soon I discovered several posts where people were reporting that they had discovered that older network hardware, such as routers and wireless devices, were incompatible with Windows 7's use of IPv6.

Now, the Linksys RangePlus WRT110 Wireless Router is just a little over a year old, but it did predate Windows 7. A trip to the Linksys Support site revealed a firmware update for the WRT110. However, the release notes for the update made no mention of Windows 7 compatibility.

With nothing to lose and everything to gain, I downloaded and installed the firmware update for the WRT110. Once that process was complete, I re-enabled IPv6 and lo and behold, everything worked just like it was supposed to.

What's your take?

Of course, my hope was that everything would have worked correctly right out of the box, so to speak, but I did accomplish my goal of getting Windows 7 up and running on my father's laptop in an effort to wean him off of Windows XP.

Are you running Windows 7 on a wireless network? Have you encountered similar problems? What network components are you using? Did you have to update drivers or firmware?

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

27 comments
gigaforce90
gigaforce90

I have a similar problem but nothing at all seems to be working, i tried to disable ipv6 but that didnt work, i tried to find firmware for my router/modem but still nothing

robinr767
robinr767

Thanks, but I think this answer might be to load Win 7 32 bit. The Palm sync problem only exists if you are using 64 bit Win 7 -- Same goes for Vista. RobinR

ty_ito
ty_ito

You missed. I would bet the farm that your IPv6 protocol was not the problem. Your old hardware and drivers most likely have intermittant compatibility problems related to your power management drivers. This is a known issue, but not discussed too much. It took me 12 laptops over 3 years to figure this out.

bus66vw
bus66vw

is that you were lucky. If Linksys decided not to update your firmware you would have had to replace the router and I think it is great that you had the patience to get to the root of the problem. I too have had these kinds of problems but in my case the router did not have a firmware update to fix the problem. I had to buy a new unit. I turned off the wireless side of the router that did not have a firmware update and rather than rebuild my network I just added the new unit as an AP. This is somewhat of a power waster but I can turn off the AP and disengage all the computers that are connected through it but still have access to the Internet via the other computers that connect through the old router. This has turned out to be very handy when troubleshooting and security.

The Weekly Geek
The Weekly Geek

I have a Sonicwall TZ180W and I have the same issue however the Firmware update did not help so for now it is Wired which is a pain based on the layout.

robinr767
robinr767

Unless you father is over 70, he's younger than I. But if you think he's not going to have other issues, and if he has most of his life's story in his Palm Pilot, brace your self. When I switched to Win 7 on my brand new Toshiba 64 bit laptop, my trusty Palm would not sync. I searched the web and found that maybe I could sync it with hot sync using blue tooth. Still no luck. Palm support told me they have no plans to work on a fix. Tell you dad I feel his pain and is lucky to have a son like you. How about if I adopt you and put you on the case? robinr

father.nature
father.nature

Installed Win7 Pro 32-bit on home-made system and on Lenovo T60 laptop. Have Linksys WRT110 router like you and have not updated firmware. WRT110 cabled to main machine; laptop wireless. Works just fine from the start - no flakiness at all. Am avoiding 64-bit for now because of compatibility problems with older software. Did you install 64-bit Win7 on your dad's laptop?

FXEF
FXEF

Greg, you father is a lucky guy, but what about all those other fathers that don't have a son with the IT skills that you have. Windows 7 is still not ready for the general public.

ljensen
ljensen

LinkSys WAP54G - no problem!

tbiffle
tbiffle

We have been testing windows 7 for awhile in my company and found many improvements over xp. We have also found it to be a resource hog and to have erratic behavior, especially the 64 bit version. Wireless, Network printers on Win 2003, and issues if you install a wide variety of non-microsoft apps. We are moving Marketing to Mac's, Development to Linux and making all Windows machines virtual.

Angel_Tech
Angel_Tech

I have an ActionTec gt-701wg wireless router. 8 years old and firmware v6.5 I think.. I recently installed Win7 on an old laptop (HP nc6220 with 2GB of ram).. as you an guess, it also has a built-in wireless card. I havent had any single issues connecting wireless to my router or any of my neighbors'networks .. but it could mean that my wireless card does not support IPv6.. I just wanted to share :)

Capt. Midnight
Capt. Midnight

3 Com 3CRWE554G72TU router w/ WPA-PSK, Thinkpad T42P and T60P. No wireless problems or home network access problems with the exception of a phantom computer ( K-LQ508S104YY08 ) that only appears on the Computer > Network tree of the T42P ( not on the wireless network map). It's not accessable. Might it be a leftover from changing my account name (initials)?

pete_w_flynn
pete_w_flynn

I have neglected to install any updates for the last few years on this device, and it's an old one, but it and Win7 get along just fine. My kid bought a Dell Netbook and once we entered the network key it worked like a charm. You have me thinking I ought to get it up to date.

CompHelpNJ
CompHelpNJ

I'm using a Linksys WRT54GS router that is 5+ years old and haven't had any Windows 7 wireless issues on any of the 3 machines it's installed on. However, I haven't been able to get homegroup to work properly even though IPv6 is enabled. Perhaps the homegroup issues are driver related too?

tiredoftechrepublic
tiredoftechrepublic

I think by the time we figure out all the problems with Windows 7, there will be Windows 8 to worry about. Why don't the OS makers just quit trying to "come out with something new" and just make an OS that works. Now that XP works somewhat, what do they do? Brand new OS with the never ending problems. Enough is enough! It's time to tell the OS makers to fix what they have, once and for all. I mean for crying out loud, they are still fixing XP after many years. I think that if I had a product that needed fixing during it's complete life cycle, that no one would want it. It's a shame that people will buy anything, as long as it's "new & improved"... whether it is, or not. Here's to your Dad for resisting Windows 7!

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I experienced similar trouble with a netbook test machine on my home network and solved the problem in similar fashion. Are you running Windows 7 on a wireless network? Have you encountered similar problems? What network components are you using? Did you have to update drivers or firmware?

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...Windows XP Mode in Win 7 and then install the Palm software there. Then, because XP Mode recognizes USB ports on the Host system, you should be able to sync your Palm just fine. Give it a shot and let us know how it works.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...the 32-bit version for now. Maybe move up to 64-bit later.

RDSLO
RDSLO

I have the same unit and other than having to replace my first 54G after 2 years, it has been solid. I have two desktops (XP) directly connected and two laptops, one running Vista and the other Windows 7 that use wireless connections. I have an IT business also, so there are always systems being run on my network for various reasons. I guess I have something to look forward to when my router dies. Hopefully, not soon!

mattpam99
mattpam99

Last Fall I bought 2 BELDEN wireless cards. Win7 recognised the cards but would not access internet. Resetting modem and router did not help. After half adozen fruitless contacts with Belden they said they did not have updated drivers for their wireless cards! They sent me data on their European cards but did not respond as to whether they would work on my Wireless G 7000v8 ards. Maybe the problem is with the IPv6 bug? If so,how do I go about fixing this problem? - matthew

Chris910
Chris910

Ultimately I found that the IPV6 IP address was not being released and renewed when the repair button was selected. When I ran ipconfig /all I noted that IPV6 had a 169.x.x.x address. -I found that ipconfig /release did not release the IPV6 IP address. -ipconfig /release6 caused an error the first time through and then worked the second time through. -ipconfig /renew and everything started working just like magic.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Captain, the problem is that modern operating systems are complicated and there will always be bugs to fix. If someone could produce an OS that is totally bug free and did all the things we want computers to do, they would.

JGH59
JGH59

I'm running the Windows 7 Starter edition that came on my HP netbook, and I have the same problem, wireless dropping for no apparent reason. That locks up IE8, so I use Firefox most of the time. Thanks for giving me a place to look for a problem. Other than that, this netbook seems to find wireless connections better than any other laptop I've ever owned.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...IPv6 on the wireless card to see if that allows it to connect. Go to Network and Sharing Center Click on the Wireless connection Click the Properties button Clear the IPv6 chek box