Windows XP and WiFi: the unsolved mystery

Windows XP and WiFi: the unsolved mystery

From Wired:

“Here are the symptoms of the problem: A Wi-Fi-enabled computer running Windows XP is working fine one minute, pulling up Web pages and processing e-mail. Then, for no reason, the connection drops, websites fail to come up and the e-mail flow stops. The small wireless connection icon in the taskbar says the signal from the access point is strong, so the problem isn’t that the user wandered out of radio range. The icon even shows that the computer’s Wi-Fi hardware is sending information to the access point — it’s just not getting anything back. And manual attempts to re-establish the connection through XP’s built-in wireless configuration tool won’t do the trick. Even more bizarre, the connection sometimes comes back on its own.

From anecdotal evidence, most users assume the problem is with the Wi-Fi hardware. But the trouble seems to arise from a tool in Windows XP called Wireless Zero Configuration, a feature that was meant to do away with the mishmash of software drivers and configuration utilities.”

Microsoft disputes the notion that there’s a problem with the way Windows XP works with Wi-Fi.

“We don’t have data that suggests Windows XP drops wireless connections more than any other system,” said Greg Sullivan, the lead product manager in Microsoft’s Windows division.

Er, I can supply some data?. (Just trying to be helpful, you understand.) We have a Sony Vaio running XP, and we have often experienced the WiFi black hole problem. But we also have several Apple laptops, and I can’t recall an occasion when any of them dropped a connection, except when we’ve had power-cuts and the wireless base-station went down.

In the interest of fairness, though, I should say that connecting to a WiFi net is considerably easier with XP than with other versions of Windows. Now all MS has to do is make sure it holds onto the connection.