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  1. #1

    Member Since
    Jan 23, 2009
    Is it the hardware - Degrading Internal Wireless Card (Airport Extreme)

    For the past week or so, my MacBook 2.2 GHz (Santa Rosa), running 10.6.8, has been dropping its wireless connection to the router. I first experienced this problem in my home environment using a NETGEAR wgr614 v7 router. The signal was suddenly two bars compared to the usual four bars that I've been getting for the past three years. On top of that, the connection was constantly timing out. When I restarted the router, the computer, or both, the connection would be at four bars for a short while then drop down to two again before complete disconnecting from the router. I tried doing a hard restart of the router, updated the firmware, and toggled through various channels to find the "sweet spot". All of these provided temporary solutions. In addition, other devices have no problem hooking up to this router including my wife's laptop running windows 7, an android phone and a playstation 3 - they all run without a hitch.

    When I went to work the next day and hooked up to my belkin 54g F5D7230 the signal was at 4 bars. However, the router at work (Belkin) is much closer in proximity than my router at home (Netgear) - 8 feet compared to approximately 30+ feet. The connection began dropping the other day on the Belkin so I went through the same ritual of updating firmware, changing the channels, and doing a hard restart. I even deleted all airport settings on my mac to try to start things over. I have even gone to the extent of repairing disk permissions to see if that would create any solution. I also connected through ethernet so it's not an ISP issue.

    Long story short, I took my macbook to another part of the office that is approximately 30 feet away, and the symptoms are exactly the same as the set-up at home - the connection drops. Even while doing a live speed test to test the download speeds, starting from right next to the router, I get speeds up to 15 mbps. However, as I walk away from the router, the download speeds quickly drop and eventually come to a halt. The test cannot even be completed that is until I walk back to the router at a distance of approximately 5 feet. The test continues and I reach download speeds up to 15mbps.

    Before the problem began I did not change any settings, or download any software updates. I have been using the Netgear router for almost 3 years and the belkin for 4+ years with the same MacBook. And I have been able to work away from the router at distances over 30+ feet. At this point, after doing my due dilligence and attempting a number of solutions, I'm getting the feeling that this is hardware related. I've gone through various threads on this discussion board on similar issues. But I haven't seen any related to the signal dropping by increasing distance from the the wireless signal.

    My only other idea at this point is replace the internal wireless card. My concern obviously being that this might not solve the all! Can anybody shed some light on this issue? Let me know if you need more information about my set-up. Any feedback is greatly appreciated! Thanks again!

  2. #2

    chscag's Avatar
    Member Since
    Jan 23, 2008
    Fort Worth, Texas
    27" iMac i5, 3.2 GHz, iPad 3, iPhone 5c, iPhone 6+, 3 iPods, El Capitan
    My only other idea at this point is replace the internal wireless card. My concern obviously being that this might not solve the all! Can anybody shed some light on this issue? Let me know if you need more information about my set-up. Any feedback is greatly appreciated! Thanks again!
    It does sound like the airport card is breaking down after a bit causing the signal to be degraded. What you have to consider is if you want to replace the card being the machine is rather old, or just get a new machine?

    The folks at iFixit: The free repair manual have the instruction for changing out the card and may have it in stock. Also try Mac Repair - Mac Parts and Service for Apple Macbook, iPhone, iPad to see if they have the card in stock. Last time I looked an airport card for your machine was selling for around $60 to $70.

  3. #3

    Member Since
    Jan 23, 2009
    Hi chscag,

    Thanks for the feedback. It looks like I am going to be replacing the card. I am 4 feet away from my wireless router as I type this message and have no problems with it dropping the connection - so it does appear that the card is degrading.

    Unfortunately a new notebook isn't in the budget right now. I'm going to opt for replacing the card first and see where that gets me. Despite being an '06 model, it's still in pretty good condition.

    Thanks for the links. I've found some moderate prices for the card. I'll let you know how the replacement goes. Thanks again.

  4. #4

    dtravis7's Avatar
    Member Since
    Jan 04, 2005
    Modesto, Ca.
    iMac late 2007 10.11.b4, iMac 2008 10.10.5, Macbook2007 10.7.5, Mac Mini 10.7.5, iPhone 3GS Note 8!!
    When you are inside checking the Airport Card, Be sure the Antennas have not come loose as that could cause that issue also. Can't hurt to check.

  5. #5

    Member Since
    Jan 23, 2009
    An update on this case:

    Since my last post, I have attempted three solutions:

    1) I checked the antennas connected to the wireless card to see if they were loose (thanks for the recommendation dtravis7). They were firmly fastened.
    2) I replaced the wireless card. This unfortunately did not solve the problem. I still experienced the same problem.
    3) This led me to believe that it MUST be a software issue. I decided today (since I was due for an upgrade anyway) to upgrade to OS X Lion. After the install, according to the wifi display in the top task bar, the intensity of the signal is stronger (4 bars, compared to 1-2 bars). I stay connected to the router at a distance of 20 feet (this is an improvement from earlier) however, despite this improvement, I am unable to access any websites and the internet speed test comes to a halt like before.

    At this point, with going through a number of hardware and software solutions (to rehash: changing the router channel, security, renewing DHCP lease, manually setting the IP and DNS, recreating a new network location, removing all saved networks, installing a new OS, and installing a new wireless card), I am at a loss of what to do.

    Am I missing anything? The only possible thing I can think of is replacing the antennas connected to the card but that seems unlikely to work compared to what I've already done. I'm most likely just going to buy a USB wifi adapter from Amazon and call it a day because I have been spending way too much time with this issue, but I'm curious if anybody else out there has a different solution from what I have already tried...

    Anybody...? Bueller...? Bueller...?

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