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M17x Wireless Woes

The wireless adapter appears to work only when the laptop has a hard-wire (ethernet) connection. Without an ethernet connection, when it first boots up it will see my wireless network (and others in the neighborhood), but after about 5 minutes all the networks disapppear. If I try to connect while the networks display, the connection fails. As soon as I connect the system via ethernet, the networks all appear again and I can connect successfully to the wireless network. If I disconnect the hard-wire connection, the wireless connection fails as well.

During the time the networks are not appearing up nothing shows up in the Site Monitor, either (using the Broadcom Wireless Utility program). The system has an 802.11n Broadcom wireless adapter. I checked the driver - it appears newer than the one available on the Dell support site. I've disabled and then re-enabled the adapter, and the behavior remains unchanged.

Suggestions on how to remedy the problem will be greatly appreciated!

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3 Replies
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Re: M17x Wireless Woes

I've developed a work-around, although it is a pain. If I uninstall the adapter from the device manager (do NOT delete the drivers), it is re-installed when I reboot. At that point, the adapter works, it finds networks, and all is well. As long as I hibernate the system, it comes back and the adapter works without issue. As soon as I restart, or shut down without uninstalling the adapter, the next time the system boots the adapter flakes out as described above. Very weird!!

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Re: M17x Wireless Woes

Hi there.  I had the same problem as you.  After some digging, I found the solution to the problem.  See the article on the other forum.


Guide to properly solve M17x wireless connection problems
with Dell Wireless/Broadcom WLAN cards
by Glzmo

Since many new Alienware M17x All Powerful users, especially those using Windows 7 as their operating system are experiencing various problems with their wireless connection and are posting threads asking how to fix them over and over again, I've decided to write this guide to show them how to properly solve these common issues. The solutions in this guide have been created and designed for Windows 7 64 bit, but they may also work in Windows Vista, although these problems have been mainly experienced by Windows 7 users in the past. It could very well be that the problems will start occuring in Vista as well with newer drivers and Windows Updates.
Also note that this guide is for the original M17x All Poweful laptop (based on the Nvidia mainboard chipset and Intel Core 2 CPUs). Following many of the steps in the guide (namely the ones specific to the Nvidia mainboard chipset and Broadcom if you have a WLAN card from a different manufacturer, for example) may or may not work for later revisions of the laptop like the M17x-R2 (based on the Intel Mainboard Chipset and Intel Core i CPUs).

I. Can't connect to wireless Network and or see the Wireless Adapter when the Ethernet cable is unplugged
If you sometimes or always can't connect to the wireless network, can't connect to the wireless network when the Ethernet cable is unplugged, can't connect to a wireless network unless you reboot once to get it working and other bizarre problems with being unable to connect to a wireless network, continue with section I.a.. Otherwise, continue with section II..

I.a. Disable Device sleep on disconnect
Some newer Nvidia Ethernet drivers have a feature called Device sleep on disconnect. This is the culprit. Normally, it should only put the Ethernet adapter to sleep when the cable is disconnected, but it's buggy and thus kills the wireless connection as well.
Follow these steps to disable this feature on your Nvidia Ethernet Adapter:

1. Open the Windows Device Manager by hitting Win+Pause, then click on Device Manager on the left side.
2. Double-click on Network adapters.
3. Double-click on NVIDIA nForce Networking Controller (yes, that's the wired Ethernet adapter indeed).
4. Click on the Advanced tab.
5. Select Device sleep on disconnect.
6. Set the Value to Disabled
7. Click OK and wireless should work again (might require a reboot afterwards, but probably not).

I.b. Install different (older) drivers that don't have the Device Sleep on disconnect feature.
In case the above doesn't work or you just aren't comfortable with these drivers, follow the instructions below (if step I.a. has been successful, you won't need to follow these steps). Make sure to create a System Restore point before you continue:
1. Click on the Windows Start Button in the Task bar.
2. Click on Control Panel.
3. Click on Uninstall a Program.
4. In the list, double-click Nvidia Drivers.
5. Mark Remove only the following.
6. In the box below, check only the Nvidia Network driver.
7. Click on Remove and follow the uninstaller instructions.
8. Reboot the system if prompted to.
9. Download a different (older) Nvidia driver.
10. Install the older driver.
11. When asked which drivers you wish to install, choose only the Network driver.
12. Follow the installer instructions and reboot your system if prompted to.

II. Low or fluctuating Wireless connection speeds
If you have problems with low wireless connection speeds (such as speeds dropping over time, speeds being far lower than they should be, network-related lag/stuttering in online games, slight packet loss, internet connection loss while LAN is working and other odd things) or wireless connection speeds fluctuating wildly for no apparent reason, install the  instead of the standard Broadcom/Dell Wireless 1510 drivers. Any older drivers will usually cause sub-par connection speed and other problems. Note, however, that you may have to install the driver manually via device manager as the driver might be intended for a different laptop and the setup program may not work. Make sure to create a system restore point before you continue.
Here is a step-by step on how to manually install the driver:

1. Download the Dell Wireless drivers version
2. Extract the R29128.exe file using an extraction utility like WinRAR or simply execute it and abort the installer.
3. Open the Windows Device Manager by hitting Win+Pause, then click on Device Manager on the left side.
4. Double-click on Network adapters.
5. Double-click on the Broadcom 802.11n Network Adapter entry.
6. Click on the Driver tab.
7. Click on the Update Driver button.
8. Click on Browse my Computer for driver software.
9. Click on Let me pick form a list of device drivers on my computer.
10. Click on the Have Disk Button.
11. Click on Browse.
12. Select the folder you have extracted the drivers you just downloaded in step 1. into.
13. Select the sub-folder DRIVER_US (if you are in the US), DRIVER_JP (if you are in Japan) or DRIVER_ROW (if you are in the rest of the world), depending on the region you are in.
14. Click on the Open button.
15. Click OK.
16. Select the driver that says Dell Wireless 1510 Wireless-N WLAN Mini-Card from the list (you may have to have to scroll down to see it - it shows up as second to last in the list for me).
17. Click on the Next button.
18. You will get a warning that the driver you are about to install may not be compatible with your hardware. Ignore the warning and proceed with the driver installation.
19. Reboot your system if prompted to do so.
20. Your new driver should now be installed properly and your wireless connection speed in order.

III. If everything else fails (or you've just had enough of the trouble stemming from the Dell Wireless 1510/Broadcom card)
Replace the problematic Dell Wireless 1510 card with an Intel Ultimate N WiFi Link 5300 A/G/N half-mini card (use the bluetooth antenna as the third antenna or buy yourself an extra antenna for it). It works fine with the M17x, has better connection speeds at both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands (the latter has really bad speeds on the Broadcom/1510), it's not required to jump through hoops to get it working properly, it works with the standard drivers and Intel keeps their drivers up to date. It's also a lot more reliable and faster as well, especially on the 5Ghz band, but also on the 2.4GHz band. The newer Intel® Ultimate N WiFi Link 6300 half-mini card has been said to work great as well. Other cards should work without problems, too.
Warning: The following steps are for advanced users with at least a bit of technical knowledge and experience in disassembling/assembling computers and laptops. Before you continue with the following steps, be aware that damaging your laptop while performing the upgrade could very well void your warrantyYou have the sole responsibility for it, proceed at your own risk. You may also want to download, carefully read and follow theM17x Service Manual which includes illustrations and more instruction on how to perform the following steps.
Step-by-step instructions for replacing your old Half-Mini PCIe Wireless LAN/WiFi card with the new one:

1. Download the latest drivers and wireless utility/tool from the manufacturer of your new Wireless LAN card in preparation for the upgrade while you still have a wireless connection.
2. Uninstall your current Wireless LAN drivers and utilities.
3. Shut down the the laptop, close the lid and unplug the power cord.
4. Turn it over so the bottom is facing upwards.
5. Remove the battery by pushing the battery release mechanism and taking the battery out.
6. Unscrew the two screws marked P in the battery compartment.
7. Unscrew the one screw marked P next to the battery compartment.
8. Turn the Laptop over so the display is on top again.
9. Open the display.
10. Slide back the palmrest (the part the touchpad is on), which will expose the Mini-PCIe cards. 
The half-sized one in the middle is the WLAN card, the full size one on the left is the bluetooth card.
11. Unplug the WLAN antenna wires from the WLAN card (it's recommended to remember the positions of the antennae).
12. Optional - If you only have three antennae and your new WLAN card has three plugs, unplug the blue antenna wire from the blootooth card as well.
13. Carefully open the metal retention mechanism of the WLAN card with your fingers or a screwdriver if your fingers are too big.
14. The WLAN card will pop out and remain in the slot at a ~45° angle.
15. Take the old WLAN card out.
16. Plug the new WLAN Half-Mini PCIe card in at a 45° angle and press it down until the retention mechanism arrests it.
17. Plug the white and black wires that were connected to the old WLAN card as well into the new card. Plug in the wires the way they were plugged in on the old card. If your new card has three antenna connections, plug in the third antenna (if you didn't have four antennae, use the blue bluetooth antenna or an aftermarket one if you don't want to use bluetooth functionality - you may also be able to run a card with three plugs with just two antennae, but the connection might suffer from it).
18. Align the palmrest with the holes on the front and on the sides and slide it back on.
19. Close the laptop screen.
20. Turn the laptop over again.
21. Screw the three screws you have removed earlier back in.
22. Plug the battery back in.
23. Turn the Laptop around, plug in the power adapter, start up your computer.
24. Once in the OS, it should install default drivers and you're ready to go and enjoy the better wireless connection. Optionally, you can also install the latest drivers and utility/tool from the manufacturer of your new WLAN card that you may have downloaded in step III.1. for more improvements.

To learn more about tweaking the settings of your Dell Wireless card, check out the official Setting Advanced Properties: Dell Wireless WLAN Card User Guide. 

<ADMIN NOTE: Broken link has been removed from this post by Dell>

Hopefully this guide will help you solve your wireless connection problems and allow you to enjoy full wireless connection speeds on your Alienware M17x laptop.

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Re: M17x Wireless Woes

I would just like to thank the person or persons who posted this. I have a M17x that never had an issue with the wireless adapter until now. After spending many hours triing to resolve this with different drivers I came to these forums and the fix took two seconds. Thanks agian.

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