Archive for September, 2009

BEFORE YOU PANIC! Why is your laptop suddenly reporting “no wireless networks available” ??

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

geekablog-logoMy daughter moved into her freshman dorm last week and within two days called me in a panic because her brand spankin’ new Dell laptop was suddenly unable to “see” the college’s campus-wide wifi  network.  Of course, because I’m her dad, her first call was to me, and fortunately, because I’m a geek, I immediately knew what was going on and how to solve it.  But this got me thinking about all the other dads (you know… the non-geek dads) who at this very moment could be getting the same call from their own college or high-school student, so dads (and moms!), read up for your chance to be the hero…

Most laptop computers with built in wifi networking have some means of turning off that feature when not needed as a way of conserving battery life.  There are a few different approaches that manufacturers take to doing this. 

  1. Some laptops have a very tiny (and often difficult to find) sliding microswitch located somewhere along the side or front of the unit. 
  2. Some laptops have what’s called a “soft switch” where pressing a special combination of keystrokes toggles the wifi feature on and off.  This is usually a combination of the Function (Fn or Func) key along with another key that has a symbol looking like an antenna or radio waves on it.
  3. A third approach is a separate dedicated “wifi” or “wireless” (or equivilent icon) button usually above the keyboard or near the power button that toggles this feature on or off.

In almost all cases, there is a wifi indicator light of some sort that would be either lit or not lit to indicate whether wifi is enabled or disabled on your laptop. This indicator light is sometimes located near the power or battery light, but may be located near the switch in question, especially if your unit has the microswitch design. In some cases, particularly with the dedicated wifi button, the button itself lights up to indicated when wifi is enabled.

When wifi is disabled or turned off via one of these switches, the Windows operating system doesn’t “know” that it’s been turned off, it only “knows” that it no longer is able to detect any wireless networks, and thus the error message.  To solve, turn wifi back on. Newer laptops will likely connect immediately on their own.  Older laptops may need to be cajoled into connecting by right-clicking the wireless network connection icon down in the corner near the clock and choosing “view available wireless networks.”

And as it turned out, my daughter’s moment of panic was short-lived as we quickly found that her laptop did indeed have a tiny microswitch located along the right side of her laptop, that she had probably bumped to the off postion while sliding her laptop into or out of her backpack!

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ghc-logo-341w-x-482hThis article was written by Andy Trask, Head Geek at Geek Housecalls, the New England area’s original traveling computer geeks, on the web at www.geekhousecalls.com. Geek Housecalls specializes in “anything computer” and, since 2001, has become the trusted in-home computer and technology support provider for over 15,000 families and small business computer users in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and southern New Hampshire. For help with your computers, gadgets, or network at home or at the office, click here to contact Geek Housecalls via the web, or call toll free:

1-877-4PC-GEEK             (1-877-472-4335)