12 September 2009

Solution for the Broadcom WiFi adapter + Linksys WRT54G issue

This is a bit of a departure from my usual posts, but hopefully it will be of help to somebody out there, frantically Googling for a solution.

I recently bought a Dell Inspiron Mini 10v netbook PC, brought it home and found that, while it could see my router (It's a Linksys WRT54G v2.2 router with DDWRT firmware installed) via WiFi, it could not acquire an IP address.

The Windows XP taskbar tray icon then reports that my WiFi has limited or no connectivity.

All of the other computers (even a Wii and an iPod touch) in my house can connect to the router via WiFi with no problems, and all of my connection settings were correct.

So I went online and found that loads of people had the same problem but no solution. Nevertheless, I followed most of the prescribed 'solutions' to the problem, which didn't work:

1. I updated the driver for my Inspiron mini's WiFi card (a Dell Wireless 1397 WLAN card manufactured by Broadcom).

2. I used the default Windows XP Zero Config WiFi manager (instead of Dell's bundled WiFi manager) to connect to the network.

3. I tried using a static IP address.

4. I updated the firmware for my router - resetting and rebooting a few million times.

As it turns out, the problem is due to my choice of WiFi security / encryption - I was using WEP, which apparently the Dell's Broadcom WiFi card has a problem with. After switching to WPA Personal security settings on the router, everything worked fine!

Now, the frustrating thing is that this problem seems to be quite widespread (judging by the number of posts online), and the blame is almost always laid on the Linksys WRT54G router, though I'm now more inclined that the problem lies with Broadcom.

The Linksys WRT54G: Convenient scapegoat

The other annoying thing, of course, are a whole bunch of 'experts' in various forums who keep on prescribing the same 'solutions' over and over again without even reading the original posters' posts properly.


Expert: Did you update the drivers on your laptop? I find that usually fixes the problem
Victim: Yes I did, you moron!!! Can't you read???
Expert: Oh, so maybe you didn't enable Wireless Networking on your router...
Victim: I DID, you retard! I just said that other computers on my network are able to connect via WiFi!!!
Expert: Are you sure you're connected to the Internet? You should check your PPPoE settings
Victim: Oh my GOD!!! What the hell, can't you read? I can see the bloody network but I can't get a LOCAL IP address. It's got nothing to do with the Internet!!!!
Expert: Maybe you should get a new router / WiFI card

    And sadly, that last solution seems to be the course of action taken by most people; who may end up with a brand new router and the same ol problem again.

    And it's thanks to the large number of retarded experts that it took me a whole week to finally find the solution: (http://en.community.dell.com/wikis/networking_internet_wireless/recommended-wireless-router-settings.aspx)

    So there you have it - if you have a Dell notebook PC with a Broadcom WiFi card and a Linksys WRT54G router, and you can see your WiFi network but cannot get an IP address, try using the above recommended router settings before downloading and installing firmware and drivers - it may save you lots of time.

    01 September 2009


    Caryn puts on a weird-looking helmet