Wireless Connection Weirdness

Recently, our wireless router stopped getting an IP from our cable provider. I tried lots of things but ended up borrowing a wireless router from a friend. I got the router and connected it and everything was fine. Great, even. Then I brought home my work laptop. It wouldn't connect. Then my wife's laptop began having wireless issues. It would drop pings and network traffic would drop to nothing. I tried adding a guest wireless on the new router and that worked for a short time. I tried my wife's old laptop (Dell XPS 1330) and had similar issues. So three different Dell's and two of them exhibit the same problems.

I have been wrestling with this issue for a week now. I have updated drivers on the wireless card. I have changed settings on the router. Reset the router numerous times. Last night I spent an hour+ updating the firmware on my old router and connecting it. Same behavior. If I connect the laptop via a cable it works perfectly. No dropped pings at all. I can watch it drop pings on wireless, connect it with a cable and watch it hit ever ping perfectly at 50ms, disconnect the cable and turn wireless back on and it drops pings again. I have run antivirus on it numerous times. I have taken it to work and connected it via wireless and it works fine (granted I only had it connected for an hour).

Currently My wife's laptop is showing that it is connected at 160mbps (sometimes it goes up to 300). If I run speedtest it won't even start. If I connect to another computer on my lan the speed looks like a roller coaster.

During all of this every other non-Dell device in my house has worked perfectly fine. My macbook was fine. My desktop (built) connected via a tp-link wirless usb adapter was fine. My son's computer (an old self build) connected via an old wireless G network adapter was fine. Two ipads, a kindle fire, two nokia phones, a blu-ray player. Not one of them exhibits this behavior.

At least two machines (a dell new dell inspiron 14 with a core i5 and an older XPS 1330 with a Core2Duo) exhibit the same behavior. From what I can tell they only exhibit this behavior at my house but do so with at least two completely different wireless routers (newer d-link and an older tp-link).

I don't get it. Does anyone have any ideas?

Well, wireless can be messed up by lots of stuff, much of which isn't necessarily under your control.

The two devices you mention may both be using the same brand of networking, so one possibility is that there was some kind of recent driver update that's causing trouble, or it could be that the chips in those systems are susceptible to interference in a way your other machines aren't. If they're not both using the same brand (probably Broadcom, Atheros, or Intel), though, that's much less likely.

Barring obvious driver problems, what I'd probably be trying to do at this point would be to understand the environment, and how it might have changed. I'd think about any new appliances I'd added lately, or new electronics in general, and try turning those off. I'd think about maybe the neighbors having set up a new access point that conflicted with mine: in my neighborhood, for instance, the darn things have been popping up like weeds, more every time I look. I'd try turning off my own AP and all my clients but one, and then running a wireless scan tool to get a feeling of what networks were in the area, and what channels they were on. If any of them were strong signals, I'd probably manually take control of my AP and try to set it to channels that didn't conflict. In the 2.4GHz band, channels should be separated by at least 5 to avoid interfering with each other: because of that requirement, people should only ever use channels 1, 6, and 11, although many people don't know, and use intermediate channels. At 5GHz, channels should be at least 4 apart.

If that didn't help, I'd try forcing my wireless network first up to 5GHz, and then down to 2.4GHz, to see if one band or the other was better. And if all that failed, and I couldn't see anything wrong at all, I'd try another access point.

Thanks. I'll give that a try. I made a change last night to my wife's computer. I noticed that while on battery power the problems were rampant. When the laptop was plugged into an outlet pings were nice and steady. I adjusted the power settings and that seems to have helped. Not sure why the other machines are having issues but I'll work on her laptop first. I have no idea why that would affect it all the sudden since it hasn't been changed ever and doesn't directly explain the others. Anyway, I'll look at the wireless and give your suggestions a try.

Download inSSIDer for your Mac to get an accurate measure of signal strength. Did you buy any appliances recently? Are you seeing that weird behavior with the laptop sitting right next to the router? How is your wifi set up? Is it possible that someone else set up a high bandwidth wifi network on the same channel recently and it's messing with yours?