Thursday, March 24, 2005
WiFi Tips: USB and 'Repair'
Greetings from the beautiful high-desert town of Pahrump, Nevada. We are in the Terribles Lakeside Casino and RV Park giving WiFi seminars and helping RVers connect their laptops to the WiFi system here. Some recurring themes we are seeing have prompted me to write these tips. 1. USB adapters should match your USB port. I covered this in the "Get the right adapter" article, but it bears repeating. We highly recommend using the USB type of WiFi adapter rather than the cards or built-in type. But, that's not all. There are 2 different flavors of USB ports and your adapter should match your computer. USB ports started out with 1.1. Sometime in 2002 laptops started using USB 2.0, also known as 'high-speed USB'. Most USB adapters you will find today are designed for the newer, faster 2.0. If you install a high-speed USB adapter into a low-speed USB port, you may get a message something like "no high speed USB controller detected". However, it will install and it will work. The box may even claim that it is 'downward compatible' with the old 1.1 USB ports. Don't believe it! It has been our experience that USB 2.0 adapters plugged into a USB 1.1 port will work very poorly. Your connection will be slow, it will drop off, and generally be VERY frustrating. You need to either find a USB 1.1 adapter, or add a USB 2.0 port to your computer withe something like a cardbus. That's a PC card that plugs into your PCMCIA slot and then has USB ports on it. 2. Repairing your connection. WiFi connections can fluctuate in their signal and their speed. It's part of how the technology works. A very useful procedure you can do to get the best connection is to 'Repair'. If you have Windows XP, you can right-click on the little network icon - - in the lower right corner of your screen and choose the 'Repair' command. Essentially, this process 'reconnects' and almost always improves your signal and/or speed. It's like, when you're on the phone and you have a bad connection - lots of static or voices dropping off - you might say "Let's hang up and I'll try calling you again." Your phone call is almost always better the second time around. Same thing. If you have Windows 98, you will need to find the icon for your WiFi adapter and look for a command like 'rescan' or 'renew'. You can do this as often as necessary. It can't hurt, and it usually improves your connection substantially.