Saturday, 25 April 2009

WiFi and InSSIDer



One of the most common complaints about the BT HomeHub 2.0 is the flakiness of the wifi. Some people find it works perfectly and I have been lucky enough never to have had too many problems with it, but a lot of people complain either that their wifi connections can be intermittent, or that some PCs can connect with no trouble and other machines refuse to work.

There are usually a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, many people make use of the BT software that comes with the hub. Not only does this give you a BT adapted version of Internet Explorer that you really don't need, the software also attempts to manage your wifi adapter using the BT Wireless Manager. The first recommendation is always to get rid of the BT software - for many it has caused more trouble than it is worth. Jarviser provides some good instructions for getting rid of the software here.

The second thing you should do is change your wifi channel. The default setting of the BT HomeHub seems to be an "Automatic" setting, but this can also cause some odd things to happen, so it is best to set a manual channel. Again, Jarviser provides clear instructions for doing this here.





Which channel should you select? Well, in an ideal world, you would experiment with all of them until you found one that gave you the best possible wifi signal in all the rooms you might want to use wifi. However, in areas where there might be a lot of wifi networks, you might want to find a channel that isn't being used by one of your neighbours. That is where InSSIDer comes in. It's a neat free programme that can be used to identify all the wifi networks in the vicinity and provides a graphical output which indicates the channel that a network is using and the signal strength and signal stability.

The top trace is typical of one you might see in a busy urban environment. Lots of wifi networks in range, using several channels. The trick here is going to be to find a gap that has few users with a low signal strength. The lower trace is my own, in a rural environment with only one network visible, even though I know there are at least 4 others within 50 metres. Whether you will see these other networks depends on a range of local factors including topography, the thickness of the walls of your own and neighbours houses and the power of the access points (AP).

Have fun with InSSIDer. You might find it a very useful program indeed. Please note that it will only work on a wifi enabled PC. It won't work from a PC connected to a router by ethernet. You may have to select the correct adapter from the drop down menu on the start page.

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Having had some major problems with my own broadband service, I understand how others struggle to get help from BT.

There is a lot of good information out there, but it can be hard to find. So this blog is an attempt to pull some of it together, in one place.

It's a blog that really shouldn't be needed - if only BT and possibly other ISP's in the UK, provided useful customer support.