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I have an early 2008-model MacBook (2.4 GHz). The Wi-Fi router I have at home is a Linksys WRT54GX2 that I have had for a few years.

My MacBook has recently started disconnecting from the router every few minutes, which is rather annoying. I can reconnect again without having to restart the router or anything, as it seems that the MacBook is just dropping the connection.

I have tried changing the channel on the router, and upgrading the laptop from Leopard to Snow Leopard made no difference either. I'm only about six feet from the Linksys device, so distance isn't an issue.

This only happens with the Linksys router, while I can use the local library's open network without any issues. The problem also seemingly becomes more pronounced after midnight.

What could the problem be?

Edit: Here are the logs that Spiff requested: http://pastie.org/951761

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2 Answers

Some ideas of things to try:

Do you have any other wireless clients you can use at the same time, to see if all devices drop off the network at the same time?

Does the AirPort Menu Extra switch to showing no bars when the dropoffs happen?
Try pinging to your router's private IP address and leaving the ping going in the background all the time, and see if the pings start failing when the problem occurs. I ask because I've seen too many people blame "Wi-Fi" for connectivity loss when actually the Wi-Fi link stayed up fine, it was their DSL line that hiccuped.

Run this command:

sudo /usr/libexec/airportd debug +AllUserland +AllDriver +AllVendor

...and then reproduce the problem and share your /var/log/kernel.log and /var/log/system.log from the time the problem occcured. (Note: that command does not fully persist across reboots, so you'll need to reissue it after rebooting.)

Update: The multiple "MAC Auth Succeeded" messages for the same AP in rapid succession imply something weird is going on. It would be useful to see an 802.11 monitor-mode packet capture of what's going on. It's best to do the capture on another machine, otherwise you won't see all the packets you need.

If doing the capture from another AirPort-equipped Mac, the simple way is to run this command:

sudo /usr/libexec/airportd en1 sniff 1

(...assuming your AirPort card is en1, and your AP is on channel 1; otherwise, tweak those arguments to the command.)

While the command is running, reproduce the problem, then Ctrl-C out of the command, and post the packet capture. Warning: Make sure you're not sending any unencrypted confidential information on an unsecured 802.11 network on that channel at the time you're running that capture, otherwise those details will be captured.

If you don't have another Mac to do the trace from, you can run this command on the machine that's having the problem:

sudo tcpdump -i en1 -I -y IEEE802_11_RADIO -s 0 -w capture.pcap

...then reproduce the problem, then Ctrl-C, etc.

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The other devices do not drop in this instance. I have tested. And yes, the menu extra changes. Under 10.5 the bars would disappear, but now that I'm on 10.6 they pulse. –  redwall_hp May 7 '10 at 22:30
Okay, definitely do that airportd debug command to see what the your MacBook's AirPort card thinks is going on when the dropout happens. –  Spiff May 8 '10 at 1:13
Okay, here's what I got: pastie.org/951761 –  redwall_hp May 8 '10 at 20:23
Hmm, those multiple "MAC Auth Succeeded" messages are troubling. It would be interesting to see an 802.11 monitor mode packet trace of the problem. I'll update my answer with how to do that. –  Spiff May 12 '10 at 6:29
Okay, the capture file was too big to paste, so I uploaded it a file hosting site. The download link for the PCAP file is here: cl.ly/9d80b6cff2296353d9a8 As far as I know, there should be no sensitive information in the capture. –  redwall_hp May 14 '10 at 20:27
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Six feet might be a little too close. Really. Some WiFi devices have problems if the signal is too strong. Did you recently move closer?

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Eh, six feet is a little bit of an exaggeration. It's under fifteen, though. The room is only like 25x20 though, and this problem only started happening recently. –  redwall_hp May 10 '10 at 19:47
And, no, I haven't moved any closer to the router than I had been before. –  redwall_hp May 10 '10 at 20:52
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