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  1. #1
    Wireless Networking FAQ
    cwa107's Avatar
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    Wireless Networking FAQ
    With more and more people buying notebooks and setting up home networks, the Mac-Forums community fields quite a few questions related to Wireless technology. The goal of this guide is to address some of the more common problem areas related to wireless networking and also to educate you in some key areas in order to keep your connection running smoothly.

    --

    Wireless issues can generally be separated into three key areas, addressed in the following sections below:

    Range and Interference

    The location and placement of your wireless router can dramatically impact the effective range of your wireless network. Your router should be placed as centrally within your home as possible, and should be propped up as high as possible. An ideal location in a two-story home would be on the 2nd floor, up on top of a shelf in a room that is central within the house – even if your objective is to get a better signal in your basement. If you can’t locate the router centrally, it’s usually best to keep the router away from outside walls – this keeps the signal within your home and not projecting outward, away from it.

    Once your router is placed as ideally as possible, given the location of your computers and other network gear, it’s time to take a serious assessment of other devices that radiate signals that might interfere. By far, two of the biggest sources of interference are cordless phones (especially those that run on the 2.4GHz band) and microwave ovens. If you have a cordless phone or microwave, it’s best to keep the router away from it. Screen doors and other materials comprised of wire mesh can also detract from wireless performance.

    Your router is equipped with means to overcome interference from other RF devices that operate on a similar frequency. Nearly all routers offer the ability to change the wireless channel that they operate on. Changing the channel alters the frequency slightly – for example, from 2.423 GHz to 2.433 GHz. Typically a small shift in frequency is enough to keep your router’s wireless signal from conflicting with another router in your neighborhood or another device that works on the same frequency.

    Firmware Issues

    Wireless routers are small computers that run an operating system much like your computer runs Mac OS X. As such, most wireless vendors provide regular updates that include bug fixes and security patches, as well as occasional feature updates. If you are experiencing problems with intermittent connections that require a reboot of the router, it’s possible that your router needs a firmware update. Firmware is much like software in that it is updateable via a utility built into your router’s configuration program. When a firmware update is needed, you will download the update from the vendor’s website, then log into the router and upload the update file to the router.

    Wireless Security

    Wireless security is by far the most misunderstood aspect of wireless networking technology. Out of the box, most wireless routers have no security enabled. This helps to make establishing an initial connection easier by removing a degree of complexity. It is up to the user to establish some form of security once the initial setup is complete.

    When a wireless connection is unsecured, not only is your network and Internet connection freely available to anyone within range of your router, all transmissions to and from the wireless router are transmitted in plain text. Any relatively savvy user can intercept things like passwords, banking information and credit card numbers with ease. Another possible risk (depending on your local government) is that someone can use your Internet connection to send Spam, visit illegal websites or even set up a server to distribute illegal materials. With that in mind, it is absolutely essential to establish a secure network.

    The original wireless security protocol is called WEP. It is available in 2 different flavors - 64-bit and 128-bit, which are indicative of the strength of the encryption. Additionally, many people use a technology known as “MAC filtering”, which specifies what network adapters are allowed to talk to the network. These technologies, whether used in tandem or separately, are largely ineffective. Recent developments in readily available hacking tools can thwart a WEP secured connection within minutes. It is highly recommended that you move to a stronger encryption method if you are currently using WEP.

    “MAC filtering” (referenced above) is sometimes used in tandem with WEP or by itself. When MAC filtering is enabled, your router will only allow traffic emanating from a specific computer (or computers). MAC filtering is totally ineffective as a means of security because it is very simple to “spoof” a MAC address (the address your network card uses to identify itself on a network). As a hacker, once you’ve been able to determine the allowed MAC addresses (done by “sniffing” packets), you then wait for one of the allowed addresses to drop off the network – then you join the network with that particular MAC address.

    Most routers and network cards made since late 2002 support another means of security known as WPA. WPA is a strong, yet easy to use, encryption method. You configure WPA by logging into your router’s configuration web page (or program) and select it from the list of choices under the Wireless Security settings area. Once you’ve set WPA as the encryption choice, you then choose a “passphrase” (sometimes just referred to as a “password”). You should choose a non-English word that includes symbols or numbers so that it cannot be easily broken. Once the password is set on the router, the next time you try to connect with one of your wireless computers, you will be prompted for a password. Enter the password you chose and you should be connected securely.

    WPA2 is another variant of WPA that is updated for better speed and security. It works very much in the same way as WPA, but is only supported by newer routers (2004+). If your router offers WPA2, you should choose it instead of WPA.

    Another means of securing a wireless network is to choose to disable “SSID broadcast”. Every router has what is known as an SSID (substation ID). This is the router’s name that it broadcasts so that when you look for a wireless network, it shows up in a list of available networks. Traditional wisdom states that you should disable SSID broadcast to obscure your network, thereby forcing someone to guess the network name when attempting to connect. Unfortunately, the SSID is still easy to find using wireless “sniffer” programs that look for obscured or distant networks. So by enabling SSID, the net result is that you achieve no better security, but make it more difficult for your computer to find and maintain a connection with your wireless router. It’s highly recommended that you do not disable SSID broadcast.

    FAQ:


    Q: How do I access my router’s configuration options?
    A: Like with many things, the process will vary depending on the make and model of your router. Typically this is done by connecting a computer via an Ethernet connection to the back of your router directly. Then, open a web browser (like Safari or Firefox) and typing the IP address of the router in the address bar. The IP address, username and password for logging into the router’s configuration page is typically listed in your router’s manual.

    Q: Do I need to buy an AirPort wireless base station to use my Mac wirelessly?
    A: Absolutely not. Although the AirPort is a decent wireless router, it conforms to the 802.11(a/b/g/n) specification like any other wireless device. These devices are designed to be interoperable. A wireless device can not be described to be 802.11-capable if it does not conform to the 802.11 standards for interoperability.

    Q: What wireless vendors support Macs?
    A: D-Link and Belkin officially support Macs. Linksys and Netgear do not. That doesn’t mean your can’t use a Netgear or Linksys router (or any other brand for the matter), but if you need help with your router, don’t expect the help desk to assist once you tell them you’re on a Mac.

    Q: My Mac connects just fine without security, it’s only when I enable security that it has problems. What gives?
    A: Recent security updates have been known to be problematic with some wireless security standards. If you are having difficulty, upgrade your firmware to the latest version. Enable WPA2 if you’re using WPA.

    Q: I’m having trouble maintaining a consistent connection recently. I didn’t change anything, what can the problem be?
    A: It’s possible that your neighbor hooked up a new router that is conflicting with your router. You should try changing the wireless channel to something different. If you’d like to see what other wireless networks are available in your neighborhood, try the AirPort Radar widget. The AirPort Radar widget will sniff out other networks in your area and tell you what channel and what kind of security they use.

    Q: What with all of this 'b' 'g' and 'n' stuff? What's the difference and why should I care?
    A: b/g/n are all different varieties of the 802.11 standard which are all interoperable. B runs at 11Mb/s, G runs at 54Mb/s, and N runs at a theoretical rate of 248Mb/s. Each will vary depending on conditions and range. Although each standard is backward compatible, if you connect a 'g' device to an 'n' network, the network will only function at 'g' speeds. For most people who simply want to share an Internet connection, 'g' will work just fine. Even the fastest cable modem connections only run at 6-10Mb/s, so you'd never be able to saturate the bandwidth alloted by a 'g'-based network (54Mb/s). If you intend to purchase an AppleTV or stream video amongst the computers on your network, then it may make sense to go with an 'n' based router (assuming your network adapter supports it).
    Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!

    https://youtu.be/KHZ8ek-6ccc

  2. #2
    Wireless Networking FAQ

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    Thank you for posting this. Unfortunately, my issue seems to fall outside of these suggestions. I am on a Powerbook, and am recently finding my connection - hardwire OR wireless to be quite slow. I'm in a new house, with other mac users in the house, and I am the only one unable to connect (it times out almost every time). When I hard wire, it's slow. However when I go to a coffee shop, it is still slower then it used to be, but it does work. ???? seems very strange. I've never had a problem like this before. Any suggestions?

  3. #3
    Wireless Networking FAQ
    cwa107's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mukti View Post
    Thank you for posting this. Unfortunately, my issue seems to fall outside of these suggestions. I am on a Powerbook, and am recently finding my connection - hardwire OR wireless to be quite slow. I'm in a new house, with other mac users in the house, and I am the only one unable to connect (it times out almost every time). When I hard wire, it's slow. However when I go to a coffee shop, it is still slower then it used to be, but it does work. ???? seems very strange. I've never had a problem like this before. Any suggestions?
    I'm not getting a complete picture here. Can you please provide a few details about your network by answering the questions below:

    1. What kind of Internet connection are you using at home (Cable, DSL, campus network, etc)?

    2. What make and model router are you using?

    3. It sounds like wireless connectivity isn't working at all at home. A wired connection works, but is slow. Is that right?

    4. How many other users are on the network? Is it possible that they are using file sharing applications like Bittorrent, Limewire, etc?

    4. What browser are you using?

    Thanks.
    Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!

    https://youtu.be/KHZ8ek-6ccc

  4. #4
    Wireless Networking FAQ

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    I see you know your way with routers so I was wondering if you might help me or have an idea what might be the issue with my system.

    I'm having 24" alu iMac. That is wirelessly connected to siemens se555. The router works like a charm and I'm able to connect to it without any problems with two others PC in the house and also with nokia n95, simply by selecting the network and entering the network password.

    But this isn't the situation with the mac. When I switch it on it won't onnect automatically even this network is set up as default. And then I have to just click connect 10-30 times, sometimes more, and then it connects to the internet...after that everything works greate until the next sleep or shut down.

    So normally I would think that the settings on the router are correct as once connected everything works great, and also the settings on the iMac regarding the password and authentication for this network are ok as once connected it means the also worked....

    So I don't know what might be the problem that is causing this behaviour and disabling automatic connection to the network instead of me pushing connect too many time in a row!?

    Thanks for any help provided

    Best regards

  5. #5
    Wireless Networking FAQ
    cwa107's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darko View Post
    I see you know your way with routers so I was wondering if you might help me or have an idea what might be the issue with my system.

    I'm having 24" alu iMac. That is wirelessly connected to siemens se555. The router works like a charm and I'm able to connect to it without any problems with two others PC in the house and also with nokia n95, simply by selecting the network and entering the network password.

    But this isn't the situation with the mac. When I switch it on it won't onnect automatically even this network is set up as default. And then I have to just click connect 10-30 times, sometimes more, and then it connects to the internet...after that everything works greate until the next sleep or shut down.

    So normally I would think that the settings on the router are correct as once connected everything works great, and also the settings on the iMac regarding the password and authentication for this network are ok as once connected it means the also worked....

    So I don't know what might be the problem that is causing this behaviour and disabling automatic connection to the network instead of me pushing connect too many time in a row!?

    Thanks for any help provided

    Best regards
    My experience has been that Macs (for whatever reason) are picky about the way that routers are configured. In particular, they seem to work better when SSID is broadcasted. They also seem to have less problems with WPA as opposed to WEP 64/128. Also, make sure your router's firmware is up to date.

    Full disclosure: I have never seen a Siemens router before, my experience is limited to the major brands here in the US (Cisco, Linksys, Netgear, D-Link, Belkin and Buffalo).
    Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!

    https://youtu.be/KHZ8ek-6ccc

  6. #6
    Wireless Networking FAQ

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    Buffalo, ooh, funny you should mention that...
    I'm having trouble with a Buffalo WBMR-G54 Wireless ADSL2+ modem router and its drivers, or lack of. Which I have been reliably informed by the box is Mac compatible.

    I'm not a complete novice, but I'm a bit lost as the setup guide is all about the Microsoft, and I don't know where to start because the setup cd won't run. The setup Wizard (that headless guy in the suit) seems to be getting somewhere until the point at which it asks me to select the modem from a list and mine isn't there. Pot luck in guessing if it will work with any of the others on the list isn't working.

    Oh enlightened one, show me your wisdom!

    Ed

  7. #7
    Wireless Networking FAQ
    cwa107's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eddieheadache View Post
    I'm having trouble with a Buffalo WBMR-G54 Wireless ADSL2+ modem router and its drivers, or lack of. Which I have been reliably informed by the box is Mac compatible.

    I'm not a complete novice, but I'm a bit lost as the setup guide is all about the Microsoft, and I don't know where to start because the setup cd won't run. The setup Wizard (that headless guy in the suit) seems to be getting somewhere until the point at which it asks me to select the modem from a list and mine isn't there. Pot luck in guessing if it will work with any of the others on the list isn't working.

    Oh enlightened one, show me your wisdom!

    Ed
    Well, I can't speak to that particular model, but in general, you don't need a CD to configure a router. That eases the process under absolutely ideal conditions, but most of the time I think they create more problems than they solve.

    First off, it sounds like that's a combination DSL modem and router. I'm not exactly sure how to configure a DSL modem for your service, you may have to go back to your telco for help with that.

    Start by connecting the phone line to the DSL port on the router. Attach an Ethernet cable to one of the four grouped-together ports on the rear, and attach the other end to your Mac's Ethernet port. Plug the power into the router and boot the Mac.

    The following assumes you're using Leopard:

    Open System Preferences => Network
    Click on Built-in Ethernet in the left pane
    Record the IP address stated in the Router: field (should be 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1, or something along those lines)
    Close System Preferences

    Open your browser and type the IP address into the address bar and hit Return.

    You will be prompted for a username and password. That information should be available in the manual or quick start guide that came with your router.

    Now you should be in the configuration page for the router. Again, you'll need to contact your telco's DSL tech support for help in configuring those specific settings. Once you've got that part done, you'll want to change the admin password for the router, change the default channel that the router broadcasts on (probably 11) and set security (I'd recommend WPA or WPA2). Once you've done that, you can disconnect the Ethernet cable and attempt to connect with the AirPort menu (looks like an upside down fan, located near the clock in the menu bar).
    Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!

    https://youtu.be/KHZ8ek-6ccc

  8. #8
    Wireless Networking FAQ

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    Thanks, thats a lot of help.

    I've sent an e-mail to our isp, do you think that I need to call them to sort something like this out?

    Meh, if and when they reply they'll prolly ask me to call them anyway.

    Thanks again.

  9. #9
    Wireless Networking FAQ
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    what is WPA2 Enterprise, and WPa2 Personal?
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  10. #10
    Wireless Networking FAQ
    cwa107's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ogacon View Post
    what is WPA2 Enterprise, and WPa2 Personal?
    Two different types of Wi-Fi Encryption standards. WPA2 Enterprise is typically used in large business (enterprise) settings. WPA2 Personal is what you would primarily be concerned with in a residential/SOHO setting.
    Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!

    https://youtu.be/KHZ8ek-6ccc

  11. #11
    Wireless Networking FAQ
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    Quote Originally Posted by cwa107 View Post
    Two different types of Wi-Fi Encryption standards. WPA2 Enterprise is typically used in large business (enterprise) settings. WPA2 Personal is what you would primarily be concerned with in a residential/SOHO setting.
    Just thought I'd throw this extra information in there for anyone that may not understand the difference:

    In general, WPA2 is better than WPA. Personal/Enterprise basically specifies where to go ask if you're for real - Personal means "this is me, and I've already told you the userid/password/key when I configured the wireless router". Enterprise means "you're running in a corporate environment, so hand the user's request off to an LDAP server or a TACACS server, etc. The network admins should have set up the user's info in that server".

    WEP is an older, totally broken security scheme for wireless, you should use WPA2 instead

    <><
    New MacBookPro | 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo |2 GB RAMMac OS X Leopard Version 10.5.5 | iPod Touch 8 GB | iPod Classic 80 GB

  12. #12
    Wireless Networking FAQ

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    Mac connection problems
    I have a restaurant with wireless internet. All PC based computers can connect fine. However, Macs get the message, " you are not connected to the internet." The airport sees the wireless network & says it's connected but no dice. It only happens with macbooks and iPod Touch. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Dan

  13. #13
    Wireless Networking FAQ
    cwa107's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dhenry View Post
    I have a restaurant with wireless internet. All PC based computers can connect fine. However, Macs get the message, " you are not connected to the internet." The airport sees the wireless network & says it's connected but no dice. It only happens with macbooks and iPod Touch. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Dan
    Tell us a little more about how your network is configured. What kind of router do you use (and is there more than one?). What type of security encryption is in use?
    Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!

    https://youtu.be/KHZ8ek-6ccc

  14. #14
    Wireless Networking FAQ
    RSum's Avatar
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    Will plugging in my macbook directly to the router via ethernet cable have a faster download connection than just having it wireless?

    Thanks
    Proud Macbook owner since August 12th, 2008.
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  15. #15
    Wireless Networking FAQ
    cwa107's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RSum View Post
    Will plugging in my macbook directly to the router via ethernet cable have a faster download connection than just having it wireless?

    Thanks
    Probably not. It really depends on how much bandwidth your ISP supplies. Most broadband Internet connections (at least in the US) are less than 10Mb. Since even the lowliest 802.11b router can supply 11Mb/s, there should be very little difference in Internet access speed through a wired connection. Now, when we're talking about 802.11g (54Mb/s) or 802.11n (100Mb/s or greater, depending on your router), there should be absolutely no tangible difference in speeds.
    Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!

    https://youtu.be/KHZ8ek-6ccc

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