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Troubleshooting Lenovo Laptop Wireless Connections

Note that these steps correspond with decision points on the flowchart and are reached through the interactive diamond symbols. The text below cannot be read sequentially.

Does the laptop software see the wireless network? Does the laptop operating system software see the wireless network you are trying to connect to? Many notebooks come equipped with a special manufacturer's configuration utility, such as lenovo's ConfigFree, in addition to standard OS connectivity software, like the "View Available Wireless Networks" option in modern Windows versions. In addition, there should be a little wireless icon in the system tray, which may flash a small bubble announcement when it connects or fails to connect. Floating the mouse pointer over the wireless icon in the system tray on a Windows desktop should show the name of the wireless connection (often a HEX address that looks like alphabet soup if not changed from the default), the speed (54 Mbps for 802.11G), the signal strength, and whether a connection to a router has been established. Note that a connection to a router does not imply a connection to the internet.

Manufacturer provided software can provide a much more accurate picture of relative router distances and signal strength. In some circumstances, especially public networks at hotels, campuses and coffee shops, your laptop may consistently choose to connect to a weak router or access point when stronger signals are available. The manufacturer software usually shows this much clearer than the five green signal strength bars of "View Available Wireless Networks."

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Is the external wireless switch, is so equipped, enabled? When a laptop won't connect to a wireless network, more often than not it's because the wireless adapter is switched off or disabled in software. As with volume controls for computer speakers, wireless networking can be disabled both manually and through software, and in more than one place. Most modern laptops come equipped with an manual slide switch on the front or side of the laptop that turns the wireless adapter on or off. There is is usually an LED associated with the switch that will be lit only when the laptop's wireless capability is on. However, the LED will remain lit even if the wireless has been disabled in software, it is a status indicator for the hardware switch only. The switch can easily be turned off by accident when picking up the laptop or even by a book or other table clutter coming into contact with the side of the notebook, so it's a very common problem.

The easiest place to tell if the laptop wireless adapter has been disabled through software is in Device Manager. One sure sign the adapter is disabled in software (or not operating properly) is if it doesn't appear in the system tray. If your laptop wireless adapter is discrete, a USB or PC card (PCMCIA) plug-in, shut down, make sure it's plugged in firmly, and reboot. Even if the wireless device is designed to be hot-swappable (plugged in while the laptop is turned on) it's better to shut down and do it, since this will give the operating system a chance to reset.

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