Computer Guide

My wireless connection is dropping out

by George Skarbek - 5 June 2007

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My wireless connection is dropping out

Q: I have recently moved into a new flat where my flatmate has a wireless Internet service that I use with my laptop. However, it keeps dropping out quite regularly. In my old flat, using the same laptop it never dropped out. Can this be caused by the new ISP or can you suggest something else?

A: It is very unlikely that the service from the ISP is failing regularly and my guess it that the problem is most likely to be environmental, that is, something close to your location is interfering with your signal.  Most likely it will be a neighbour with a wireless network wireless network although a microwave oven can also cause this as the frequency of the microwave ovens is also in the 2.4 GHz range.
Start by verifying that you still have good signal strength right-clicking on the wireless icon near the clock by going the Control Panel, Networks etc. If this signal is weak, say only one bar, then re-align or move the antenna or try to have the laptop closer to the wireless access point. The signal strength drops very rapidly if you have a solid brick wall between you and the access point.

Assuming that the signal is good to start with then you should alter wireless channel away from the default value of 6 as this is most likely being used by somebody else in your near vicinity. The actual details vary a bit depending on the hardware used but you open Internet Explorer and in the address bar type the address of the wireless router in the form of as given in the manual and then look in the manual as from which menu you alter the default channel. Remember to save the changes and after a router re-boot you should have a reliable connection.

If there are many different signals being available then you may have to repeat this process to find a free channel.


Should I consider these registry cleaners?

Q: I have just replaced a crashed hard disk in our desktop computer and have been reinstalling all the software.  I now get the following intermittent warnings popping up fairly often. (See attached screen dumps) Having never seen this warning before, I visited that website and discovered that the publishers of the registry cleaner utility apparently are just fishing for new customers.  I have run Norton AV but found no viruses, Ad-Aware SE Personal (which found and eliminated about 30 instances of spyware {Alexis}) and SPY-BOT.  I am running Norton Internet Security with NAV and Anti-Spam and have enabled Windows XP’s firewall, but clearly I have not closed all the holes. Have you seen or heard of this problem, this utility or this mob of software developers before?  Are these warnings and utility legitimate or just software pushers, or even virus distributors?

A: I think that you have closed all the holes very well and I have not only heard about these registry warnings but have them pop up occasionally on my computer. I always ignore these fake messages. Do not even think about using these program that inform you that your registry is corrupted and that you have critical errors as I am over 99.9% sure that you do not. Your registry will be some tens of MB in size and it takes a considerable time to scan the registry and then all your programs to verify that the registry entries point to the correct files. Yet via a browser they claim to have found problems in a fraction of a second. This is not possible and this is just a scam to make you send your money.

Ignore such offers to make you purchase a product that you have not asked for. They just prey on ignorance and fear in the hope that some users will feel insecure enough to purchase a very dubious product. I have received letters from readers who fell for this or a similar scam and have regretted their decision.

What is a docx file?

Q: I have received an attachment to an E-mail with a file ending in .docx but I cannot open it. What program do I need to read it?

A: This is the new Word 2007 format which cannot be opened with older versions of Office (Word) without a patch being installed. This 27 MB patch can be downloaded from:

I would suggest that you ask your sender to alter the default file type in Word, Excel and PowerPoint to be the standard Office 1997 – 2003 format to make it easier for his recipients to read the attachments. This can be then reconsidered in a year or so. This change is made by clicking on the Office button (top left-hand part of the screen) then clicking on the Word Option button at the bottom or the screen that will appear then on Save and finally alter “Save files in this Format”.


To look at the e-book in PDF format, Computer Guide, based on these columns click here