Ask LH: Why Does My Laptop Kill My Wifi?

Ask LH: Why Does My Laptop Kill My Wifi?

Dear Lifehacker, For several years now, my laptop (a refurbished 2016 Acer Aspire V-3) has been destroying my home internet soon after it connects to the router. Some times the internet crashes within seconds. Other times it takes days. But usually it is within 10 minutes.

This doesn’t happen when I connect using a wired connection to the router or a repeater and it is only my laptop (my wife’s laptop, our phones, and our raspberry pi’s work just fine). Further, my laptop doesn’t wreak havoc anywhere it goes; no other wireless network has had this problem (to the appreciation of many coffee shops, I’m sure).

And when I say it destroys my internet, I mean both the router and the modem crash. Everyone loses connection to the router and both have to be powered off and on to re-enable the connection. What can be done? Thanks, Simon

Dear Simon,

Well. I can’t say I’ve ever encountered this problem myself, and I’ve tested who-knows-how-many routers with lots of different laptops and devices. You have a fun, but perplexing problem on your hands. Elsewhere in your email, you mentioned you’ve been having this issue for a few years and have asked others for help. So, a few of my suggestions might sound a little generic; apologies in advance if you’ve heard them before.

Ask LH: Why Does My Laptop Kill My Wifi?
TP-Link Archer C7 (Photo: TP-Link)

TP-Link Archer C7

The best and easiest way to fix this is to replace your router — TP-Link’s Archer C7, which you also noted in the email. There are actually a few different hardware iterations of the Archer C7, and it’s possible that the one you have is faulty, fussy, or other f-words of your choosing. A quick scan of TP-Link’s online forums indicates that others have experienced similar issues connecting other laptops to the Archer C7, so you aren’t alone. And replacing your router is going to be a lot cheaper than replacing your laptop, of course.

Talk to your geeky friends and see if anyone has a wireless router you can borrow for a week or so. Set it up and see if your laptop brings everything to a screeching halt. If not, get a new router. I recommend looking into the D-Link DIR-867, which matches the Archer C7's wireless capabilities, costs about the same, and isn’t overkill for your needs.

(On a personal note, I’m sorry you went through this with TP-Link’s router. In a past life, I recommended the Archer C7 for a number of years as the best-for-the-money router to buy. It’s still generally great, but it apparently has trouble with some laptop configurations, and that’s a pretty big issue if you’re affected.)

If you’re determined to find a solution to this problem without throwing money at it, there are a few other suggestions you can try. I’m sure everyone you’ve talked to has told you to update your router’s firmware. In case you haven’t, go do that. Acer stopped offering new drivers as of June 2016, so try grabbing updated drivers from Intel directly.

If new firmwares don’t help, you can always go nuclear: Back up your important files and reset your laptop. But I’m not convinced that’s going to help. Instead, try resetting your router to its factory-default settings. That might not fix the problem at all, if there’s some compatibility issue between your laptop’s wireless card and your router, but you don’t have much to lose if you’re willing to replace the router to fix the issue.

You could also go crazy and flash your Archer C7 with third-party firmware like DD-WRT, which might also clear everything up. Just make sure you aren’t installing this on an early version of the Archer C7 (v1), which would kill your 5GHz connection.

The more I write this – and the more I read about people having a similar issue with other laptops and the Archer C7, as well as your explanation that this issue only seems to happen when your laptop is connected to the Archer C7 – the more I believe the problem lies with your router. After all, your little Thanos of a laptop seems to work fine everywhere else, so I don’t think it’s doing anything out of the ordinary that would just magically destroy your home network and nobody else’s (and only over wifi, at that).

So, in order of importance, let’s recap the solutions: new router firmware, new laptop drivers, resetting the router to factory default settings, flashing the router with third-party firmware, and then buying a new router (if nothing else works). If you make it all the way to the end, make sure you save the receipt for your new router just in case. If you still find that your laptop likes to finger-snap your network into oblivion whenever you connect, write back! We’ll get to the bottom of this.

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