Thursday, June 01, 2006

Wireless Connectivity Problems with the ThinkPad T60p

Preamble: This is probably not the best place to post this information—a ThinkPad forum or Lenovo/IBM support site might make more sense—but I don’t really feel like going to the trouble of registering for an account at such a site. I hope that Google’s search engine will do the hard work of bringing interested users to this content.

Description of the original problem: I purchased a ThinkPad T60p and discovered that my wireless network adapter (Intel Wireless Pro 3945ABG) was not functioning properly. I used the ThinkVantage Access Connections utility to initiate the wireless network connection, as indicated by the ThinkPad documentation, and while the wireless adapter and Access Connections application recognized my home wireless network, the laptop would not properly acquire an IP address via DHCP. Oddly, if I connected an Ethernet cord to my built-in Ethernet adapter first and then initiated a wireless connection (using a Wireless LAN–only location profile in Access Connections), the laptop would successfully connect with my home wireless LAN.

Solution: After hours of fiddling, I finally called the Lenovo ThinkPad support number. The technical support representative I spoke to was cordial and knowledgeable, and after a few failed attempts at rectifying the problem, he instructed me to follow the following procedure. I have no concrete idea why this sequence of tasks proved successful; I simply offer it here for others to try with my endorsement.

Before anything else, I needed to go to the Support & Downloads page for the ThinkPad T60 and T60p. To do so, go to the IBM support site at www.ibm.com/support, and search on the keyword "migr-62928". Click on the first search result, which should be this page. I was then told to perform the following steps in the given order.

  1. Download and install the Hotkey Utility.
  2. Download and install the Power Manager.
  3. Download and install the ACPI Power Management utility.
  4. Uninstall the Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Network Connection driver. (This can be done by opening the Device Manager, looking under the Network adapters item, right-clicking the aforementioned driver listing, and then selecting Uninstall. The easiest way to open the Device Manager is to right-click on My Computer on the desktop or within Windows Explorer, select Manage, and then navigating to Computer Management > System Tools > Device Manager.)
  5. Download and install the Intel PRO/Wireless LAN 3945bg and 3945abg Mini PCI adapter driver.
  6. Uninstall the Access Connections application by going to Control Panels > Add/Remove Programs. (I went ahead and deleted all existing location profiles to be safe.)
  7. Download and install the Access Connections utility.
  8. Restart the system.

One admonition: Try not to run any applications while performing this procedure. While I was re-installing the Intel PRO/Wireless driver, I tried launching the Access Connections program to check what version I had currently installed, and the program launched but immediately froze. I think I may have interrupted the wireless adapter driver installation because when I first completed the above procedure, the wireless adapter was unable to see WPA-encrypted networks. I repeated steps 4–8, and then the wireless adapter worked fine.

Addendum: Well, after all that, my wireless connection was no less temperamental than before, although the new connectivity failure may have been separate and unrelated to the original one. After connecting to my home wireless LAN initially, if I later disconnected from the network and tried to re-connect, the ThinkPad adapter would authenticate with the network but then fail to acquire an IP address. However, this time I noticed that if I tried to connect to insecure wireless networks available in my building, I could do so successfully. Thus, I believed there was some sort of authentication error between the ThinkPad wireless adapter and my wireless router even though the system tray notifications and Access Connections messages to the user were indicating that wireless authentication was succeeding. I tried changing the wireless encryption scheme on my router (D-Link DI-624) from WPA to WPA2-Auto. (WPA2-Auto tries to authenticate wireless clients using WPA2 first and then falls back to using WPA. I chose this setting because I have another wireless client in my home that supports WPA security but not WPA2.) I then changed the wireless settings on my ThinkPad, by way of the Access Connections program, so that it used WPA2-PSK for authentication. When I did so, the wireless connection from my ThinkPad to my home network started working perfectly.