Bad combo: dropped connections, XP wireless networks

An uncorrected bug in Windows XP's Wireless Zero Configuration Service can cause sporadic disconnects. Here's a stop-gap solution you can use until the problem is fixed.

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Sometimes it seems that low bandwidth and wireless networks managed by Windows XP shouldn't be on the same wavelength, so to speak.

It turns out that some applications that use extremely low bandwidth on held connections, such as some instant-messenger or terminal-emulation applications, may spontaneously disconnect after idling for only a couple of minutes when used on a system that has a wireless networking device managed by Windows XP.

This problem may persist even after changing base stations, wireless networking devices, drivers or firmware.

The problem appears to be due to an as-yet-uncorrected bug in Windows XP's Wireless Zero Configuration Service, a subsystem that configures wireless adapters to detect existing networks ad connect to them automatically.

If you're experiencing this problem with a particular application or protocol, you can determine if this is the source of the problem by stopping the service once you are connected to a wireless network. (To manually stop the service, type net stop wzcsvc at a command prompt.)

The system will not automatically detect the presence of a wireless network after this, but the troubled applications should no longer spontaneously disconnect.

The service can be disabled entirely if it isn't needed -- i.e., if the administrator or user can configure the wireless adapter "by hand" or through the manufacturer's own device utilities.

However, many people will not want to disable Wireless Zero Configuration. In this case, there is another workaround although it isn't totally ideal either. Determine the IP address of the wireless base station, and use the ping –t command to repeatedly ping the base station. This appears to help keep connections alive in most instances. For instance, if the base station's address were 192.168.1.1, the command would be ping –t 192.168.1.1. The user could then minimize the ping window and go about his work.

Again, this not a perfect solution, but is workable as a stop-gap.

 


Serdar Yegulalp is the editor of the Windows 2000 Power Users Newsletter. Check out his Windows 2000 blog for his latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- please share your thoughts as well!

This was first published in January 2005

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