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Issue #765: March 20-26, 2022

Q: Last year when I was in the hospital for an operation, my wife bought me a Chromebook to use. It connected easily to free wi-fi there, and I was able to browse the Internet, get email, etc. When I got home, I was unable to connect to my home wi-fi. The error message was “bad password”. Of course, the password was not bad. Mine and my wife’s laptops, and the printer connect with no problem. I worked at Eglin doing IT support before I retired, so I am familiar with adjusting PC settings. I created a guest logon account on the router with no password requirement, but still no go. A friend, who also worked in IT at Eglin, suggested that I change the security on the guest account from wp2 to wp. I did, but still no luck. I don’t get the bad password message, it just sits there trying to connect, but never connects. I was able to reset the Chromebook to factory settings hoping that would be a fresh start, but that didn’t help. Now I cannot finish the setup because it wants to connect to the Internet before it will proceed. I don’t know what else to do. My wife told me to contact you.

 – Larry M.
Crestview, Florida

A:  Wow – kudos to your wife, Larry!  She sees you through an operation, buys you a computer, and then recommends me?  Sounds like a keeper.  Now, that last step is probably what you should have tried when you first started having problems.  It never fails to amaze me all of the things that people attempt to try and get something working.  It’s like frantically pushing every button on a remote control trying to figure out how to do some obscure function, like adjust the contrast.  They know it’s possible, but don’t know quite how to do it, so they begin to throw every possible solution at the problem, desperately hoping something will fix it, but sometimes making things worse along the way.  Then, after doing goodness only knows what to it, they contact me.  Hopefully I can help, but often – this case included – I can’t really know with any certainty that what I suggest will solve the problem.  All I can hope is that my suggestions are a little more focused than, say, a complete factory reset.

So, let’s start by examining what we know. Your Chromebook worked on the hospital’s Wi-Fi, then you brought it home, and it wouldn’t work on your home Wi-Fi.  You have other devices working on the home network, so the logical assumption is that the home Wi-Fi is good, and that the problem must be with the seemingly non-working Chromebook.  Ah, but the Chromebook was working just fine!  From the perspective of the Chromebook, it is the Wi-Fi that changed.  So, it appears to me that it’s neither the Chromebook nor your Wi-Fi that are failing, but rather the combination of the two.  In other words, despite the fact your Wi-Fi is working with other devices, it’s not configured to support the Chromebook.

Now, I’m going on the assumption that you’re not just using the connection information that worked at the hospital, and that you allowed the Chromebook to re-discover the Service Set Identifier (SSID) of your home Wi-Fi, and that you entered the password for it.  I’m also assuming that you know the password and entered it correctly, including capital letters where applicable.  If any of my assumptions are wrong, please try again.

There are several things that I recommend checking on both the router and Chromebook to make sure they can talk to each other.  Your router probably supports both 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency bands, but your Chromebook may not support both.  Set up a unique name for each band, so you know which one you’re trying to connect to.  Make sure your Chromebook, is set to let the router assign IP addresses using Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), and make sure DHCP is enabled on the router, and addresses are available.  Some routers have a feature that prohibits unknown devices from connecting.  If that’s the case, you must enable new devices in the router’s firmware.  I’ve read that certain Chromebook models can’t connect to networks that use a hidden SSID.  Make sure to disable Hidden SSID on yours.    

It’s possible that there have been so many failed connection attempts that the Chromebook has somehow been locked out, either by the router, or even by your Internet Provider.  If that’s the case, you might actually need to call your IP and have them unlock it.

With all due respect to your friend, I respectfully suggest that dumbing-down your router’s encryption settings was bad advice.  Like anything having to do with computers, things in the realm of security become obsolete and are replaced with newer, more secure things.  Unless you’re absolutely certain that your Chromebook doesn’t support it, you should have your router’s encryption set to WPA2-PSK with AES Encryption.  Disable others, like WPS, TKIP, and WMM/QoS.


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