How to stop your wireless connection from dropping without rebooting the router

Here’s the scenario: you’re sitting on the couch, feet propped on the coffee table with your laptop in hand.  You’re feeling sanguine so you load up a few HD 1080p videos on Youtube.  Then you fire up Spotify and…. bam – you’re unceremoniously disconnected from the web.

What the heck just happened?

Usually, you’ll just get up (or bark at your wife) to reset the router.  But this is beginning to happen more frequently and you want to find the root cause so you can permanently eliminate this problem.

If you’re constantly rebooting the router then here are three tips that will almost certainly fix the problem:

  1. Change the Channel
  2. Check Power Settings
  3. Update Drivers and Firmware

Change the Channel

The first thing you should do is change the channel from auto to a higher channel.

If you live in an apartment building or are having connectivity problems in a space crowded by nearby networks then someone else could be sharing a wireless channel with you.

When channels overlap they interfere with each other and when they interfere with each other connections get dropped.

The easiest way to find the best channel is to use a free wireless scanner like inSSIDer.  It’s available for Mac, PC, or even your Droid if you want.   The nice thing about this program is that it lets you visualize all the networks in your area, including your network, and compares the channels they use.

You’ll probably find a myriad of wireless networks in your area using your channel number.

Most people use channels 1, 6, or 11 so you can probably take a guess and change your channel to something other than that.  You can probably make the change by logging into your wireless router’s web interface; usually by typing an IP like http://192.168.1.1 into a web browser, google your vendor to make sure.

Once you log in, find the setup or wireless section then change your network to another channel.

inSSIDer View Duplicate Channels

The graphic above looks complicated but it’s not so confusing if you see it as four sections.

The upper left shows all the wireless networks.

The upper right shows the selected network, in this case, friedchicken.

The bottom left corner shows the 2.4GHz network and the bottom right shows 5Ghz networks; if you have a dual-band router you might see the same SSID in both boxes.

Now look in the upper left corner again and pay attention to the channel column.   I counted 10 networks sharing the same channel as mine, since all these networks are in proximity to friedchicken I may encounter connectivity problems.  In this case, changing the channel to 9 will probably fix the problem.

Check WiFi Power Settings

Some wireless adapters will go sleep after a certain period of inactivity.  This is particularly a problem on laptops that are running on battery power.

Your computer probably comes with a preinstalled power manager program that you never use.  You can try to find that on your system or  just click Start then type change when the computer sleeps

I’ll show you how to get there in Windows 7 but the process is almost identical for Vista and similar for Windows 8 and 8.1.

When the power settings screen appears, choose Change advanced power settings in the bottom left corner.

Change advanced power settings in Windows 7

Go down to Wireless Adapter Settings, expand Power Saving Mode and change the plan to Maximum Performance for both On battery and Plugged in.

Change wireless adapter to never sleep in Windows 7

Update WiFi Driver and Router Firmware

If the connection is still randomly dropping you should go to the wireless routers support page and update the firmware.

Asus,  D-Link, Netgear, and Medialink  (my favorite) are some popular WiFi router manufacturers.

You can update your WiFi driver by clicking the Windows icon in the lower left corner of the screen and typing  this phrase:

windows update

After this your connectivity should return to normal.

The Bottom Line

WiFi networks work most of the time; however, after rebooting your router for the fifth consecutive time you may feel the need for a permanent fix.  By changing your WiFi channel, power settings, and installing the latest updates you will obviate the problem 90% of the time.  The other 10% might mean you need to reset the router to its factory defaults or in pretty rare cases buy a new router.

If the above suggestions didn’t fix your problem please comment below so I can help.

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Posted in How To, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Vista, Windows XP Tagged with:
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  • Bill Sweet

    I’m not seeing how this is done on the Mac…

    • Hi Bill, there isn’t a universal fix for Mac Wi-Fi connectivity problems but here are a few suggestions. If you’re running Mac OS X Lion (10.7.2) or newer then the first thing I would do is to plug the Mac into a wired connection and applying getting the latest software update by clicking the Apple icon and choosing Software Update.

      If that doesn’t fix it, then resetting the System Management Controller (SMC) followed by creating a new network profile will probably fix it.

      To reset the SMC, turn off the Mac and remove the battery if it’s a laptop. Next, unplug the power and hold the power button for 15 seconds. Replace any batteries, reconnect the power and power up normally.

      When OS X loads visit System Preferences > Network > Location > Edit Locations. Click the “plus” button to make a new location and click Done.

      Next, back in the Network window, choose your newly created location and click the Advanced… button in the bottom right corner of the window. Then choose the TCP/IP tab and click the Renew DHCP lease button.

      That should do the trick.

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  • mairealtlantic

    Wireless channels are a radio frequency spectrum. Channels 1, 6, and 11 are the only ones that don’t overlap. Suggesting channels other than 1, 6, and 11 is pointless.

  • Traseguss Trunenp

    Have gone through all your recommendations and still having issues with laptop. Works fine when I have usb hooked up but is a PITA wirelessly. Have WIn7 and the baords are lit up with discussion of Win7 dropping connectivity when other users log into their sysems. Since I’ve changed my password, selected the least busiest channel and still experience drops every 15-30 mins, was ondering if you had come across this problem and most importantly, had the resolution? The net has too many “download” this fixes to make me comfortable.

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  • Daniel S Stanley

    My router’s wifi randomly will turn off and back on within a few minutes. But it’s frustrating if I’m trying to game and my internet just randomly stops

  • dreamer68

    If the spectrum is saturated as in too many other devices using the same band, try the 5GHz band. I run WiFi Analyzer on my android to ‘sniff the air’ and see how busy it is in both bands. If your current wifi router doesn’t have dual-band, you may need to upgrade it to one that supports the 5GHz band. Because 5GHz is a higher frequency than the 2.4GHz band, it will not travel as easily through walls (though you can get boosters to extend the range) but you’ll have a cleaner wireless environment. Choose an empty channel or set auto. Look for at least a wifi router with 2 antennas in each band for best performance.

  • Richard Legge

    After much aggravation, and trying all the power management options, I discovered that windows was using more than one utility to manage the wireless adapter. After exiting the trendnet utility and disabling it from starting up in the system configuration utility, I restarted the computer to fing the problem solved. The clue that led me to this was having more than one wireless icon in the system tray. The one in green happened to be trendnet.

    Hope this helps

    Alltrade Residential Services

  • Skelotom pvp

    I use my laptop for gaming, I have a Belkin.728 router. The connection drops but still exists. I pretty much lose internet until i disconnect and reconnect. Is there any fix to this? I already have auto reconnect to available networks but it does nothing. Why am I losing internet for just 1 second constantly having to reset the connection?!
    Ignore the g+ name please…need to change it

  • Steve Rimpole

    lol

  • muthu

    how to find the radio where is it 2.4 ghz or 5ghz in wifi

  • Dave

    Have a new router. Each device works fine but when I log my Mac into wifi everything else looses connection. Windows PC and iPhone and samsung s6. Help

  • Scott Kendall

    I have two computers connected to the same router. one computer picks up WiFi signal perfectly without dropping out. The other computer drops the WiFi every 3 or 4 minutes it seems like. Never had this problem before. Can’t figure out how to keep the one computer from dropping the wifi all the time. Would be happy if I could come up with a permanent fix for this.

  • Buskie Boy

    FYI, inSSIDer now costs $9.99. Shame ‘cuz it looks good.

  • Shah

    thanks