Last weekend, I finally caught up with a client that needed some help with connecting to his wireless router at home from a couple different Windows laptops. I had the client connect one of the laptops to his router via wired Ethernet so I could use LogMeIn to remote into the machine.

After a few moments, I had control of his machine and the first thing I did was log into his router, a NetGear WGR614v6. The first thing I noticed was that it was (unsurprisingly) left to all original factory settings. The second thing I noticed was that his was a very “busy” Wireless LAN environment, with twelve wireless networks broadcasting within range. One of those other wireless networks actually was a NetGear router with “NETGEAR” as the SSID. Not good.

So I changed the SSID and enabled some basic security settings and tried once more to connect to this router wirelessly. No dice… Windows would simply not connect, despite numerous attempts to do so. Interestingly enough, I could successfully connect to a couple other routers that were unsecured (just for testing purposes only).

Next, I loaded up NetStumbler on the laptop and did a quick site survey. This allowed me to see more information about the other wireless networks, including what channel they were broadcasting on. The bad news was that every possible channel (1-11) was spoken for… so changing the channel used to broadcast was likely not going to help.

So I continued to futz around with the settings on the router, trying different combinations of SSIDs, security settings, turning SSID broadcast off, G-only mode, you name it, I tried it. I also tried some stuff on the laptop, making sure the Wireless NIC drivers were as current as they could be. But regardless what I tried, I simply could not get the Windows XP SP2 laptop to connect to the wireless router. I also updated the router to the latest firmware for that model, and still didn’t get anywhere. The whole time, after every change I made, the client’s MacBook was always able to connect. So I knew that the NetGear router was functioning at some level. I also knew that the wireless NIC in the Windows laptop was working since it could connect to other routers (and the client said it would work at other locations fine, just not at home).

The conclusion I arrived at is that the chipset in the NetGear router was not playing nice with the wireless chipset in the Windows laptop (it was an older Sony VAIO laptop, and sadly, I didn’t write down the model or the Wireless NIC info). It’s rate, but I’ve seen this happen a couple times before, where the interoperability between wireless manufacturers wasn’t there.

Ultimately, I recommended for my client to get another router made by somebody other than NetGear, such as Linksys or D-Link. Hopefully changing the brand of router will help out.