Troubleshooting Windows 7 Wireless Connection

You just bought a brand new laptop with Windows 7 and you take it home to try out all the bells and whistles. You right click on the little computer in the lower right hand corner and select the the name you know to be for your wireless router. You type in the security key as instructed only to find you cannot connect to the specified network. Oh no, what to do? Fear not, I have the solution.

Recently while vacationing in Hawaii, my daughter and I had difficulty connecting to my friend's wireless network with our Windows 7 laptops. I had the SSID and the security key, but still was unable to connect through the normal process. I thought this very strange since our Ipods/Iphones connected fine so I knew the information was correct. It just seemed no matter what I did, I could not connect. Ultimately, I ended up just physically connecting to the router with a Cat5 cable which posed some serious mobility issues. Not to mention bruising my ego pretty seriously since as a Network Admin this should have been an easy task to accomplish.

One day after being majorly fed up with my tether I was determined there was no reason I should not be able to connect with wireless since I was 100% sure I had the correct information. This prompted me to see what would happen if I added the network connection manually. So I went to Control Panel to view my installed network adapters and clicked on the link to allow me to "manage wireless networks." Once there I was able to add all of the connection information manually and found I was given the option to do something you can't do from the desktop...specify the encryption type. I entered the appropriate encryption type (which I knew to be WPA/WPA2 based on the security key) along with the SSID and the key and I was surfing without my leash in no time.

At first, I thought it was just a fluke but it solved the problem on both of our laptops. Then, a few days ago, I got a call from one of my regular clients stating she had just purchased a new wireless router and despite a call to tech support was unable to connect. She stated she had done all of the proper setup and her computer could "see" the router, but even after putting in the key she still could not connect to the internet. Hmm, I thought and asked her if she was using Windows 7. She said she was and asked me if I could make a house call to get her up and running. Sure enough when I got there, I added her connection manually and she was up and running in no time. She also had an XP laptop she asked me to setup and it did not require the extra steps. I was able to just put in the security key and go.

This leads me to conclude that Windows 7 does not allow automatic connection to networks running higher than WEP encryption, which is kind of sad since most new routers are set to WPA/WPA2 by default and have been for quite some time. That is going to make it very difficult for standard end users to set up their in home wireless networks. I truly hope this has been addressed in future updates to Windows 7.