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I was wondering how a wireless device maintains its connection with a wireless network. For example, I connect to my home wireless network with my laptop. I'm assuming it initially authenticates with the router using a password, but afterwards the OS will need to maintain that connection.

Does it poll the router periodically? What if I'm browsing the internet...does the polling stop? How about if the laptop is sitting idle for a long period of time?

I'm thinking it might be dependent on the OS. If I'm posting on the wrong website, please let me know and I can repost somewhere else.


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Wi-Fi wireless network functionality is governed by a IEEE standards (various flavors of IEEE 802.11). That standard specifies explicitly how a wireless nodes interact with each other, connect, disconnect, maintain connection, etc.

In particular, a wireless access point sends a beacon frame periodically. If you just yank a power cord from your wireless AP, after some time the absence of beacon frames will indicate to a client that an access point is no longer available.

There are many other types of wireless network frames, and the whole protocol is quite complex. The wireless link is maintained on either the firmware level in your wireless network card, or in the wireless card driver code. OS code uses services in the driver in order to associate, connect, disconnect, send and receive data, etc.

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