Do you have a problem with WiFi? Your laptop can’t see any wireless network or you’re having trouble connecting to the network of your choice? In this tutorial, I will cover WiFi diagnostic methods and the most common solutions to wireless network connection problems.
Most of the WiFi issues reported by users occur after the operating system has been in use for a while, some of the errors occur only after a software (driver) or Windows 10 update. The methods below are the basic repair methods. If your WiFi connection is still not working describe the problem in the comments.
Laptops are mostly shipped with Windows 10 pre-installed and the add-on software, all the necessary drivers for the network card should be installed “from new”, so if you have a problem with your wireless network right after booting up your new laptop, it’s worth doing some basic WiFi network diagnostics.
Checking the status of your WiFi network in Windows 10
The first thing to do is to check the status of your wireless network, whether you are connected to it or the network is inactive. To check the status of your WiFi network in Windows 10, simply click the network icon in the system tray. If the icon looks like the screenshot below (airplane icon), it means that airplane mode is currently enabled and any WiFi connections are inactive.
The first thing to do is to check the status of your wireless network, whether we are connected to it or the network is inactive. To check the status of your WiFi network in Windows 10, simply click the network icon in the system tray. If the icon looks like the screenshot below (airplane icon), it means that airplane mode is currently enabled and any WiFi connections are inactive.
To restore your wireless network, simply disable Airplane Mode by clicking on the Airplane Mode icon when you expand the menu.
Sometimes an attempt to disable Airplane Mode will fail, this may mean that you need to update your system or WiFi card drivers to the latest available version. Any required updates are usually available through Windows Update.
Check your WiFi card via the device manager
The next step is to check the status of the wireless adapter through the device manager. We can get to the device manager in Windows 10 in a number of ways, by typing the phrase Device Manager after opening the menu or using an alternative method – the WIN + R key and in the Run window, type devmgmt.msc (the second method is universal and is also applicable to older Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, XP).
In Device Manager, expand the Network adapters list and check if there is an error icon next to the device, usually in the form of a yellow warning sign or an exclamation mark (custom themes may change the form of the warning icon). If there is an error icon next to the wireless card, the most common solution to the problem is to reinstall the WiFi card drivers. Sometimes we will have to install the whole set of drivers, starting with drivers for the chipset, WLAN, LAN, through drivers for the graphics card, audio devices and drivers for the touchpad, webcam, SD reader and others.
How to get wireless card drivers?
There are several ways to update the drivers. The most popular and also the safest solution is to use Windows Update. In Microsoft’s official repositories, there will be drivers not in the latest available version, but in the version that causes the least problems. If we want to enjoy the latest software, it is worth going to the website of the manufacturer of the laptop/computer and downloading the appropriate drivers from the “Download” section. This solution is also one of the safer ones, although not always the newest driver means better, sometimes the newest driver software may cause problems, that is why on company (production) computers or laptops the safest possible driver versions recommended by Microsoft Windows are usually used.
The newer driver version means access to new functionalities, and that’s why this option will certainly be chosen by enthusiasts and home users. It is worth adding here that sometimes we have no choice and we are forced to install the newest version of drivers, even though there may be information (reports from users) about problems. Installation of newer versions may be dictated by safety reasons. In such situations you should always assess the risk and make a reasonable decision, especially when company computers or laptops are involved.
Updating Wifi drivers via external software
The last way to update drivers is by installing a software monitor, or Software Update Monitor, which checks for available updates for installed software and drivers at preset intervals and, upon detecting a newer version, allows the download and installation of updaters. Depending on the software monitor and its configuration, the whole process may also be run in the background (without user involvement), although this solution is not optimal.
Before installing newer versions it is always a good idea to read the changelog and make a backup of the system – just in case, because you never know whether a given update will not cripple the operating system and thus paralyze our work. You can make a complete image of your Windows system using the CloneZilla utility.
Windows network diagnostics tool
If the previous points didn’t solve your WiFi network problem, it’s worth performing an extended analysis via a dedicated tool. Windows 10 has a neat little application for analyzing WiFi errors, we are talking about the Windows Network Diagnostics applet (Network Troubleshooting Tool).
To use the tool we need to go to System Settings, when the menu opens type Settings, then click the best result in the list.
You can also get to Windows 10 settings through the notification panel (first icon on the right in the bar, All Settings option).
Next, select Network and Internet…
On the left side of the window, click Status, and then scroll through the Settings screen until you find Network Troubleshooting Tool listed.
When you invoke the tool, the system will automatically analyze the situation and fix the problems or offer hints (available solutions).
For driver problems that cannot be resolved automatically, you will need to intervene manually by installing the driver software from the manufacturer’s website – the card, laptop or computer.
Resetting network connections
In special situations you may need to reset the connection. This function should be used as a last resort when no other method works. Resetting can be done via Settings applet – in the list of available options look for Reset network. The option will restore the default settings, remove any additionally installed network interfaces, making it necessary to reinstall and configure them.
Before performing a reset, make a complete backup of all network settings. If you don’t remember your network passwords, you can extract them from the Windows registry – either manually or with special software, or you can call an IT friend who has configured additional network interfaces for help.
No WiFi on battery power
Some users reported WiFi problems only when the laptop was running on battery power. In this situation, it is a good idea to check the network adapter settings and make some modifications for diagnostic purposes. Start the device manager (WIN + R => devmgmt.msc), then expand the Network adapters list, find the WiFi adapter in the list, right-click on the device and select Properties.
Then go to the Power Management tab and uncheck Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power.
If the WiFi card has come back to life after this action and networks are visible, the problem may lie in the drivers. By default, the power management features of a wireless card should work smoothly, however sometimes errors occur after a driver update. Unfortunately a newer driver does not always mean a better one, as I have written about before. Problems with WiFi on battery power may also occur if alternative (modded) versions of drivers are installed.
If the above modification did not solve the problem, it is also worth checking the settings of the current power plan. Press WIN + R and in the startup window type powercfg.cpl – this will bring up the Power Options applet.
Next to the currently used power plan you will find an option Change plan settings, on the next screen choose Change advanced power settings, then in the advanced settings in the list of available options find Wireless Network Adapter Settings, expand the list and go to Power Saving Module, then for battery power choose Maximum Performance.
Remember that changing the above settings will result in shorter battery life. If possible, use the above solution only temporarily, until you find the actual cause of the problem, which may lie in the drivers (the adapter not properly switching to power saving mode or turning off the adapter on battery power). It is also worth taking a look at the Windows event logs, this way we can more quickly track down the culprit of the problem.
It is worth adding that the above method may also fix the error related to breaking the connection with the wireless network, as well as the error related to unavailability of WiFi after the laptop leaves the sleep or hibernation state.
No network – WiFi adapter turned off
If you see a red icon on the bar on network connections, it’s a good idea to check the status of your wireless card.
Do WIN + R => in the startup window type ncpa.cpl and check the status of your WiFi connection. If you see the status as in the screenshot below – your WiFi card is disabled.
Right-click on the WiFi connection and select Enable from the context menu. When you turn on your card it will connect to an available WiFi network (if you have set up automatic connection).
My WiFi network is not in the list of available networks
This may occur if your network has been configured so that there is no SSID broadcast.
SSID stands for Service Set Identifier of a wireless network. Disabling SSID broadcast is recommended for security reasons, as it will make network hacking more difficult, but also will cause connection problems for some devices (especially older ones). It is also worth mentioning that the increase in security is purely illusory, because with appropriate software you can easily obtain this identifier. Disabling SSID broadcasting in practice is sufficient only for hacking amateurs.
Connecting to a hidden WiFi network
If you have disabled SSID broadcasting, the list of available networks will include items such as “hidden network”. To connect to a hidden network you need to know its SSID and password. The connection procedure is very similar, in the list of available WiFi networks, click on a hidden network and connect to it, you will be asked to enter the ID and password.
Several hidden networks – Identification of WiFi networks
What to do if there are more hidden networks in the list and you do not know which one to choose? The easiest thing to do is to choose the network that has the best signal quality, but if you are in a place where there are many networks with a strong signal, the best thing to do is to go to the configuration page of the WiFi router and read the parameters of the network to identify it uniquely, for example, write down the MAC address of the router (WLAN MAC Address), the MAC address given by the manufacturer is also available on the bottom of the router. In the network settings screen you can also write down the transmission channel (WiFi Channel) if you have selected something other than automatic. As for the router’s MAC address, it may take the value of the MAC address of the wireless card in the laptop (if the user cloned the MAC at the device configuration stage).
The next step would be to install an additional application to discover the details of a particular network. Such an application is Vistumbler. Vistumbler can help you with advanced wireless network diagnostics. The data extracted from the program can be used to troubleshoot WiFi problems as well as optimize it.
How do I enable SSID broadcasting again?
Depending on the router software, the option can take different forms, look for a name like “Enable/Disable SSID Broadcast” on the wireless network configuration screen.
Some mobile devices have trouble connecting to WiFi when SSID broadcasting is disabled, by following step 6 you can also solve this problem.
Unable to connect to WiFi – network encryption
You have configured a WiFi network in your router, it is visible in the list of available networks but you still cannot connect to it from your device? First of all, check the technical parameters of your wireless card in the laptop, the obtained data should be confronted with the parameters of the network configured in the router. Most often the problem is caused by choosing an unsupported encryption method, then it is worth testing other alternative variants (TKIP, AES, TKIP/AES) which are fully compatible with your WiFi card. Connection problems also occur when automatic mode is selected – do not leave “free rein” to the device, if you can, configure the WiFi network on your terms.
By changing the encryption you will also fix the problem with WiFi authentication on your phone, as many problems are caused by setting up incompatible encryption.
Laptop does not see my WiFi network but other devices do
In the era of 5 GHz routers, more and more often the problem is due to setting the network on an unsupported band. Most often, the problem affects older laptops and newer routers that support the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. If a user configures a network operating in 5 GHz and his laptop card does not support the newer standard, then in the list of available, 5 GHz network is invisible.
Error connecting to WiFi – incorrect password
Are you 100% sure that you are entering the correct WiFi password and yet the laptop will not connect to the network? The problem could be the accumulated historical data about the network. Windows 10 offers the possibility to “forget” the selected network. To do this, go to Windows 10 Settings, type Settings in the menu, then select Network and Internet, go to the Wi-Fi section, then select Manage known networks.
In the list, search for and click the name of the network you unsuccessfully tried to connect to, then select Forget.
Go to the Available connections applet again, select a network from the list and click Connect, then enter your network security key (password).
External software for connecting to a WiFi network
Can I use alternative software to connect to a wireless network? YES! You can use software provided by the manufacturer of your WiFi card, for example Intel offered PROSet/Wireless WiFi Connection Utility software. You can also use third party WiFi managers like NetSetMan, WeFi, CobraTek WiFi Manager.
The WiFi network card is not configured correctly
When trying to establish a connection to a wireless network, we may encounter an error stating “The network card does not have the correct IP configuration”. – the problem is usually caused by incorrect configuration of the wireless card.
If we are faced with such an error, the first thing to do is to run the network troubleshooting tool, which can automatically fix the fault. However, if the tool was not able to fix the problem, you should go to the settings of your WiFi card and make the corrections yourself.
To change the settings of your WiFi card press WIN + R, then in the startup window type ncpa.cpl, which will bring up the Network Connections applet directly. In the list of available connections look for Wi-Fi, click the right mouse button and from the context menu select Properties.
Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and choose Properties.
In the next step, in the properties of the WiFi card’s TCP/IPv4 protocol, change the settings to automatic, i.e. select Obtain an IP address automatically and Obtain DNS server address automatically; additionally, go to the Alternative configuration tab and also change the settings to automatic (select Automatic private IP address). After performing the mentioned actions, we approve the changes, click OK and in the next window – Close.
The above solution will work if DHCP on the router assigns IP addresses automatically. If the network has additional protection, for example access to WiFi depends on the MAC address of the client (the so called client whitelist), you will have to add the MAC address to the whitelist. It is worth noting that if you are using software to change the MAC address every session, then unfortunately connection problems will not be resolved until you set a fixed MAC address.