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Oct 10 / Jonathan

Solving iPad/iPhone Wi-Fi dropouts

If you’re wondering what this post is about, you should probably just skip it.

Last week I was reconfiguring my home network, mainly to get better signal distribution and to enable Apple’s guest network facility. As part of the reconfiguration, I added a WPA2 password to the previously unsecured main network (we’re talking a recent dual-band AirPort Extreme here).

When I was done, everything was working fine, except that while both my iPad (iOS 3.2.2) and iPhone 4 (iOS 4.1) would connect OK, after a minute or three they’d drop off the network, and fail to reconnect. If I reconnected manually, sometimes I’d have to reenter the password, sometimes not. Disabling WPA2 (so no password) made everything work.

I googled up several proposed solutions, but they weren’t applicable, or didn’t help. Eventually, though, I found the iPhone solution: in the Settings app, under Wi-Fi, display the details for the current network and press the “Forget this Network” button. Reestablish the connection, and all is well.

On my iPad, though, there was no “Forget this Network” button. Instead, there was a slide switch labelled “Auto-Join” that was turned off. I could turn it on, but the setting never stuck; it was always off when I returned to the page. This, it turns out, was a hot clue, but I didn’t know enough to recognize it.

Some more googling, and I found a suggestion to go to the General tab of the Settings app, and thence to the Reset page and click “Reset Network Settings”. After that, back on the Settings Wi-Fi tab network details, the Auto-Join switch had disappeared, replaced by the same “Forget this Network” button I saw on the iPhone.

I reestablished the connection, and it’s been fine ever since.

Clearly there’s some kind of problem associated with one of the firmware upgrades from 3.2 to 3.2.1 to 3.2.2. My suggestion, even if you’re not seeing my symptom, is to make sure you’ve got a “Forget this Network” button rather than an “Auto-Join” switch, and if you don’t, reset your network settings. It’s a minor pain, since you’ll have to reenter Wi-Fi network settings, but it likely will prevent future problems. (It has no apparent effect on the AT&T network connection; at least I didn’t have to do anything special; it just kept working.)

One more note, only tangentially related. The Wi-Fi signal strength indicator on a MacBook Pro shows full strength even with rather weak signals. I used iStumbler, along with option-clicking on the Wi-Fi fan icon, to see the actual signal strength. Getting a stronger signal solved another problem I was having—random, infrequent loss of Wi-Fi connection on one of our MBPs, the one farthest from the base station.

5 Comments

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  1. Stuart / Oct 23 2010

    Just googled and saw your problem. That’s weird. My wife and I have identical ipad’s. Hers says auto join mine says forget this network. Hers works like a charm mine drops in and out of wifi to 3G every few seconds. I’ve power cycled the router. Done the reset network a couple of times with no luck. Shouldn’t have to power cycle the router I guess as she has no probs. Both on 3.2.2 firmware. It did this a few weeks ago then settled down. Just started again in the last few days. Email me if you have any ideas please. Might have to do a full reset to defaults and start from there. Have got a thread going in the Mactalk Forums but no solution yet.

  2. jlundell / Oct 23 2010

    Weird; just the opposite of my problem, sounds like. I’d certainly consider a full reset—I was headed in that direction myself before I got things working.

    I’m assuming that auto-join is the old behavior and forget-network the new because I see the latter on my iPhone running iOS 4.1.

    I assume that after you reset your network settings, you had to re-enter them from scratch, right? I wonder whether there’s some magic in just how that happens.

    I wouldn’t entirely discount the possibility of bad hardware. I’ve heard of iPads being replaced for similar problems.

  3. Scott / Dec 14 2010

    Same thing here. Googled the problem, saw your post, worked like a charm!! Thanks!!!!!!!

  4. Julie / Jan 29 2011

    THANK YOU!! I’ve been frustrated by the fact that my iPad wouldn’t remember my wireless network – having to rejoin the network every time I wanted to use it. Your suggestion to “Reset Network Settings” did the trick!!

  5. Ivan Aguilera / Jun 7 2011

    thanks a lot, I was having the same issue, and ur fixed worked.

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