Prevent your computer from switching between wireless access points

When you move around with a mobile computer within a certain area, and you're connected to the Internet or another wireless network, your computer continuously switches from one wireless router or access point to another to stay connected. Even when you're not moving, your computer might sometimes try to switch between routers or access points. This continuous switching can cause temporary interruptions to your connection, or you might lose the connection entirely. Here are some things you can try to stop the continuous switching.

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Your computer is within the range of two networks that you have connected to before.

There are two things to try:

  • Move your computer closer to one of the networks. With 802.11b or 802.11g routers and access points, the maximum range is up to 150 feet (46 meters) indoors and 300 feet (92 meters) outdoors. With 802.11a routers and access points, the maximum range is 50 feet (15 meters) indoors and 100 feet (30 meters) outdoors. These ranges are in optimal conditions with no interference. Keep them in mind when deciding where to locate your computer.

  • Turn off automatic switching in one or both of the network profiles. Here's how to do it:

    1. Open Manage Wireless Networks by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Network and Internet, clicking Network and Sharing Center, and then, in the left pane, clicking Manage wireless networks.

    2. Right-click the network profile that you want to turn off automatic switching, and then click Properties.

    3. Click the Connection tab, clear the Connect to a more preferred network if available check box, and then click OK.

      This will turn off automatic switching.

There is more than one network with the same service set identifier (SSID) in range of your computer.

If a network on your list of preferred wireless networks has the same SSID as another network that is in range of your computer, Windows might try to switch between the two routers or access points because it considers them to be the same network. This can happen in places such as apartment buildings or neighborhoods where people have the same network hardware and have not changed the default settings.

To solve this problem, give your router or access point a unique SSID. Check the information that came with the device for instructions about changing the SSID.

The router or access point is not working properly.

There are two things to try:

  • Make sure the router or access point is turned on and that the wireless signal light is also on.

  • Reset the router or access point by turning it off, waiting at least 10 seconds, and then turning it back on.

If you don't own the access point or don't manage the network, contact the network administrator.

There is interference from other devices.

If you have 802.11b or 802.11g network hardware, they use the 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) frequency. Other devices that use this frequency include microwave ovens and cordless phones. If you have 802.11a network hardware, it uses the 5 GHz frequency. Some cordless phones also use this frequency. These devices can cause interference between your computer and one network, which then might cause the computer to try to switch to another nearby network. Your networking hardware should be labeled to indicate what type it is.

There are two things you can try in this situation:

  • If any devices like these are near your computer, turn them off temporarily or move them farther away.

  • Change the router or access point settings to use a different wireless channel, or set the channel to be selected automatically if it is set to a fixed channel number. Sometimes, one wireless channel is clearer than others. In the United States and Canada, you can use channels 1, 6, and 11. Check the information that came with your access point or router for instructions about setting the wireless signal channel.