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Sometimes I have low Wi-Fi signal and I am curious about the Wi-Fi settings in Device Manager and Power Settings. I would like to get an exhaustive explanation about each, so let's start with Wi-Fi settings in Device Manager:

Internal frame of the Device Manager window's Advanced tab showing the first 14 items in the Property list.

Screen continued:

Internal frame of the Device Manager window's Advanced tab showing the last 14 items in the Property list.

I would like to understand every property in the "Property" scroll pane.

Now let's look at Power Settings:

The inner frame of the Power Settings window's Advanced Settings tab, with the section Wireless Adapter Settings expanded.

I would like to know what impact the selected options have on Wi-Fi.

I'm running Windows 7 64-bit Enterprise with a Broadcom DW1530 Wi-Fi chipset.

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So you're asking for the definition of >20 terms? –  slhck Oct 4 '11 at 9:58
Those device manager items are better left alone, default settings are optimal, your wifi problem is something else, possibly interference which can be dealt with in the wireless router by changing the radio channel to a more stable one. –  Moab Oct 4 '11 at 16:20
I know these settings are optimal, that is why i want to know "what is under the hood" if you know what i mean. I want to know the car i am driving. –  Boris_yo Oct 6 '11 at 4:00
It probably would've been best to split this up into two questions: 1 on power and the other on wi-fi –  KronoS Oct 12 '11 at 15:18
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3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The gest is that you can leave most settings to their default, unless:

  • You attempt to improve reception/throughput when it's performing bad.

  • You need to comply to regulations, laid by your company or country or other rules/laws.

  • You need to change specific options like "disable upon wired", "mac address" when your network driver doesn't provide you with a more easy Configuration GUI.

Note: I don't know your background, but if a term is unclear then Wikipedia helps a lot.

Here is the list explained from my point of view:

  • 802.11h+d

    This option restricts your card to either 802.11h, 802.11d or both; which are under certain regulations. For example, 802.11h is designed to comply with European regulations. If you want to comply to those, this option is for you; but in general, I live there and I'm just using 802.11n.

  • Afterburner

    Only when you have a 802.11g network, enabling this option on both the router as your laptop can result in a better throughput. You might want to verify change with a speed and ping test though. Be sure to read the documentation provided by both your wireless card and router for an explanation and to check compatibility...

  • Antenna Diversity

    This only applies if you have two antennas, you can select which antenna to use. However, you should probably leave this to the default which automatically switches between both antennas based on the signal strength.

  • AP Compatibility Mode

    If you have a very old router, this option will trade performance for compatibility. You don't need this option if you are already able to internet with your network card and are connected to the right AP.

  • Band Preference

    This option might be handy if you have interference at home on the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band or need to comply to regulations that restrict the use of a band; it's best to leave this to it's default so that you can connect to both as you can just configure the band on the router to avoid interference.

  • Bandwidth Capability

    Within a frequency range like 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz, 20 MHz stands for a single channel while 40 MHz will take multiple neighboring channels. As this again can be configured in the router, you can leave this to the default as you most likely don't want to restrict the compatibility of your card.

  • Bluetooth Collaboration

    This avoids your WiFi and Bluetooth from interferring each other by surpressing each others signal when they are both sending something, unless you have throughput problems on either it's best to leave this option enabled.

  • BSS Mode

    This can again be used to restrict your card to 802.11b/g or 802.11b, it's best to leave this option default for compatibility reasons unless you need to change them under certain regulations.

  • BT-AMP

    This amplifies Bluetooth by sending it over a 802.11 link, where you can get 10x speed compared to the Bluetooth standard. You could try to play with this option if you need improved Bluetooth performance.

  • Disable Bands

    Rather than giving a band preference, this actually disables a band. This thus has the same reasoning as listed under the "Band Preference" bullet point; use your router instead...

  • Disable Upon Wired Connection

    Does what it says. It's up to yourself to see what works best if you have this use case.

  • Fragmentation Threshold

    The size at which a packet is is fragmented into multiple packets, see MTU for more details. In the past, I usually have set this to 1492 given that's the maximum my connection could support; but now I'm using jumbo frames on my network so I removed the limit again.

    You can determine the largest MTU possible for your connection and optionally change this option. You might want to test just like I mentioned in the "Afterburner" bullet point.

  • IBSS 54g Protection Mode

    Although a weird name, this is an implementation of 802.11 RTS/CTS which is only enabled when a 802.11b node joins an ad hoc network; if you are sure there won't be such nodes you could disable this option, but given that it's automatic you can leave it default.

  • IBSS Mode

    Most likely you are not using an ad hoc network, but this allows you to select whether to use 802.11b or 802.11g in that case. In a normal use case you don't need to change this setting.

  • Locally Administered MAC Address

    Allows you to change the MAC Address of your wireless network card, please note that they must remain unique. I would suggest against changing this, unless you need it for one or another reason.

  • Minimum Power Consumption

    This will stop scanning for networks or turn off the camera when you disconnect from a network or when your laptop is idle. This is enabled by default, this might help the network card to reconnect when the signal is low so you might want to try to disable it.

  • PLCP Header

    This sets the Complimentary Code Keying header, by default it automatically switched between long and short based on the situation the card is in. It's best to leave it like this as it removes overhead in some situations, in extreme occasions it might be necessary to set this to long.

  • Priority & VLAN

    By default; the packets in the queue are transmitted on a first-come, first-served basis, regardless of any priority information within the packet. When enabling this setting you can give certain classes [background (BG), best-effort (BE), video (VI), and voice (VO)] a priority in the queue. Then you can optionally choose whether the VLAN has priority or not. This setting is related to QoS, it doesn't help with low signal problems but rather when you want to attempt to improve throughput of certain classes.

  • Rate (802.11a)

    Here, you can limit the rate. You should not need to do this.

  • Rate (802.11b/g)

    Here, you can limit the rate. You should not need to do this.

  • Roam Tendency

    This setting allows to roam (reconnect) to a different wireless router/AP if the signal difference is significant, thus it only applies when you have different wireless router/APs providing the same work (like in an university or big company).

    The default is set to a difference of 20 dB, aggresive will set this to 10 dB and conservative sets this to 30 dB. The names of these options sure have a meaning, note that changing between wireless router/APs isn't instant.

  • Roaming Decision

    This decides when it will start to roam; it is the signal strength value that determines when the WLAN card starts scanning for another wireless router/AP. The default is 75 dB, you can choose to optimize bandwidth (65 dB) or optimize distance (85 dB). Just like Roam Tendency, this setting only matters when you have different wireless router/APs available.

  • RTS Threshhold

    RTS stands for "Request to Send", this setting controls at what packet size the low level protocol issues an RTS packet. The default is 2346.

    NetGear lists several trade-offs to consider setting this parameter:

    Using a small value causes RTS packets to be sent more often, consuming more of the available bandwidth, therefore reducing the apparent throughput of the network packet.

    However, the more RTS packets that are sent, the quicker the system can recover from interference or collisions -- as would be the case in a heavily loaded network, or a wireless network with much electromagnetic interference.

    Thus, if there aren't much stations it's best to leave this to it's default; if you instead in a heavily loaded network then lowering this option can help stability / throughput.

  • Wake-up Mode

    This allows for waking the network card up from a low power state when it receives an amount of packets; this can result in a difference in response time when you host a server and nobody was connected for some time, note that this includes services like hosting files over the local network.

  • WMM

    Wi-Fi MultiMedia is a set of features for Wi-Fi networks that improve the user experience for audio, video, and voice applications by prioritizing data traffic.

    As with any features that try to improve your experience, it's necessary to test whether the setting has a positive or negative impact on the data traffic you do. While this setting works for most users, it doesn't work for every use case that exist there. This does, however, not improve reception.

  • WZC IBSS Channel Number

    The WZC IBSS Channel Number property selects the independent basic service set (IBSS) channel number on which to operate when Wireless Zero Configuration (a Microsoft service) is managing your wireless networks. The default setting is 11.

    If your connection works, you don't need to change this. As for optimizing the channel used for your wireless network, that needs to be changed on the router and not on the card. However, after ever changing the number on your router you might want to look into this setting.

  • Xpress™ Technology

    This is a proprietary frame bursting technology that improves throughput by repackaging data so that more data can be sent in each frame. Xpress Technology is disabled by default.

    Again, like WMM, this might result in a throughput but it has to be tested. It will not affect reception; but, due to the repacking it might result in less interference or collissions in combination with RTS.

As for the power settings, it changes the amount of power the network card use. So, as you configured it for battery it would go into a lower power state; when on battery this could result in less reception, less stronger output signal, less throughput and so on...

As harrymc noted in the comments, try to improve signal by checking your router and environment too.

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also, afterburner only works with specific wireless adaptor/router combo i believe –  Journeyman Geek Oct 8 '11 at 11:45
@JourneymanGeek: Yes, that's why I mentioned it also needs to be enabled on the router. I don't believe the combination has to be the same given that DD-WRT provides this option too, I might be wrong though so I guess it's best to read the documentation of both the card and the router if one sets this up. I'll add a note about reading the documentation... –  Tom Wijsman Oct 8 '11 at 11:52
Although I understand that 400 reps are attractive, I don't see your answer as better than @Sanjay Sheth's. And I still maintain my under-voted answer that this won't help much to explain the terms used, and that you too counsel under normal conditions not to change anything. In short, this is a lame attempt to answer the poster's curiosity, while not solving at all his reception problem. –  harrymc Oct 12 '11 at 8:10
@harrymc: I don't see what your answer has to do with mine. As for the poster's curiosity, he wants them explained. It's irrelevant whether or not that does help him with his reception problems, note that he is trying to solve this himself but is in lack of explanation of the options that he has available. I'm going to repeat myself: I've seen these options improve reception problems as well as improve throughput. –  Tom Wijsman Oct 12 '11 at 14:36
@JourneymanGeek Thanks for clarification about "Afterburner". –  Boris_yo Oct 12 '11 at 14:50
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That appears to be a list from a Dell Wireless adapter.

You can find a detailed explanation of all those settings at the following Dell support page:

Dell Wireless WLAN Card User Guide

Also, I believe the Power Saving Mode setting inside the Power Settings is just a way to change the "Power Save" setting in this list of advanced settings.

The Power Save Mode property is used to put the wireless client computer into the IEEE 802.11 Power Save mode. When the Power Save Mode property is enabled, the radio is periodically powered down to conserve power. When the radio is in Power Save Mode, packets are stored in the wireless router/AP until the radio comes on. The Fast setting allows full throughput with power savings.

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No, he's using a Broadcom. –  Tom Wijsman Oct 8 '11 at 11:18
Looks like the Dell page I pointed to was also for a Broadcom adapter as all the setting names matched up. –  Sanjay Sheth Oct 10 '11 at 5:36
Thanks for your help. You addressed both questions and i have accepted your answer. –  Boris_yo Oct 13 '11 at 8:23
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Not a direct answer, but rather a remark :

Many of these settings are not well-documented, so you will need hands-on access to the source of a WiFi driver to really understand them. You could find such a driver in a Linux distribution if you intend to go this way.

A starting place is to read carefully Wikipedia's Wireless LAN article and its references, then google for terms that are still unclear. But be prepared to invest a hell of a lot of time on this project (it could take years to cover all bases).

If you have a WiFi reception problem, modifying these parameters will not solve anything, and nobody can prophesize as to the impact of changing any of them. Most of these parameters are set automatically by the driver as a function of the network card and are not to be changed.
See rather this answer for improving reception.

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To the Masked Downvoter: Even a manual such as in Sanjay's answer will not permit understanding all the used terms or the implications of monkeying with the parameters. Networking is a very complex subject requiring a hell of a lot of knowledge. Trust me on this. It will take reading several books and attending a few courses to start understanding just the terms used. So please. –  harrymc Oct 7 '11 at 16:09
-1 I've seen these options improve reception problems as well as improve throughput. –  Tom Wijsman Oct 8 '11 at 11:44
@Tim: If this is a "good thing", why downvote it ? –  harrymc Oct 8 '11 at 13:42
Who is Tim? I doubt if you read what I said, it contradicts your last paragraph so I don't think it's good. –  Tom Wijsman Oct 8 '11 at 13:46
I'm a no vote because on one hand to someone that knows a little about networking knowing a little more on these settings can help, but on the other hand these settings do require a level of understanding that's higher than ur typical 'Super User'. –  KronoS Oct 12 '11 at 15:22
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