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Issue #493: January 1-7, 2017

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2017, Geeks!  If you’re reading this, it means you’re one of the lucky ones who made it out of 2016 alive.  Let’s hope 2017 is a kinder, gentler year for all of us.


 Q: Our laptop has quit accessing the Internet via our wireless router. It does not even recognize any available networks in the area.  When the cursor is on the Internet icon the message is: No connection/No connection available.  The troubleshooting guide says that there is no Internet adapter. I have tried the troubleshooting fixes that are on the control panel all to no avail. It could not fix the Internet adapter or make a connection.  In all other respects the laptop is working flawlessly. Our 2 iPads and our desktop PC continue to access the wireless router with no problems.  Also, when we have guests they are able to connect and use our wireless router.

– Dennis W.
Mary Esther, Florida

A:  Let’s examine the problem logically, Dennis, and by the process of elimination discover the problem.  First of all, since other devices are able to get online via your Wi-Fi, we can safely eliminate your router as a suspect.  It’s obviously working fine, as is your Internet connection itself.  That pretty much leaves the wireless adapter in your laptop as the sole possible culprit.  It is fruitless to try and do any further diagnostics with connections to additional available networks, or try to make a connection to the Internet, since your PC has plainly told you that no adapter is available with which to make the attempt.

One of two things has happened, and I’ll hedge my bets on one of them.  Either the laptop’s Wi-Fi adapter has failed (which no amount of diagnostics on your part is going to prove), or, more likely in my opinion, you have simply shut it off by accident, and don’t know how to turn it back on.  The method of turning Wi-Fi on or off varies from model to model, and while you did provide me the series of yours, you didn’t provide the model number, so I’ll be providing some generic information for you, and making some educated guesses.

Almost all laptops have a method of toggling the Wi-Fi adapter right on the case via a switch, button, or key combination.  Look for something that is either labeled “Wi-Fi” or that uses an icon with little radio waves on it.  My laptop, which is in the same series as yours, has it on the F12 key, which also features a prominent light to tell you whether the adapter is enabled (white) or disabled (orange).  If you find your adapter is disabled this way, I’d lay odds that all your problems will go away by simply turning it back on.

It’s also possible to disable it within Windows, but I suspect that if it was disabled this way, the troubleshooter you ran would have discovered this and either turned it back on, or at least informed you that it was disabled.  To manually check the status in Windows start by pressing the key combination WinKey+R to bring up the “Run…” box.  In the space provided, type “ncpa.cpl” (without the quotes) and click Ok.  You will probably see multiple adapters listed, as this shows all connections, not just Wi-Fi.  You’ll have to examine the information shown to determine which one is your wireless card, but hopefully you’ll see the word “Disabled” in the status, so it will be obvious.  To change this, right-click on the adapter and select “Enable” from the context menu.  If this was the problem, your adapter should automatically connect to your available network.

You might be asking yourself, “Why would Windows and the laptop manufacturers even give the ability to turn off the Wi-Fi?  I’d never want do to that.”  Before you declare “Thanks, Bill!”, there are multiple good reasons for this feature, but the most common one I can think of is that the FAA requires Wi-Fi adapters to be disabled during takeoff and landing of an airplane.  Another situation is that many business travelers, myself included, travel to places where an open Wi-Fi connection on a computer asset is not allowed by the local IT department.  If it can’t be disabled, you won’t be allowed to bring your laptop into the facility.  Or, you might simply want to disable it to conserve battery power if you’re doing work that doesn’t require you to be online.

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