Are you having trouble getting your wireless networking to work? Well, good luck with that. It can be difficult. Here, I provide you with one tip that you will not find in most troubleshooting documents but that is absolutely essential. Thisw may be the thing you need to do to make your wireless connection work. Or maybe not. But it is worth a try.

Turn it on. Many laptops have a way to turn your wireless card off and on. Sometimes it is one of those Fn key thingies. Often it is the Fn (function) key together with the F2 button.

On my daughter’s computer, which is a hand me down HP Pavilion, it is a button in and of itself in the upper right corner of the physical console. It is a simple off/on switch.

This is not a system level issue. Windows, Linux, whatever, has nothing to do with this. If your wireless card is “off” then it is simply not there. It must be turned on to work.

In Linux, there is a thingie that is linked to the physical wireless card on installation or upgrade of your system, and this thingie persists if the wireless card is turned off at the switch. This makes it look like it si there, yet it at the same time is strangely not there.

I hope this helps someone. Hey, this might be one of those posts that you should digg up, for the benefit of humankind and all.


  1. #1 Kevin Emerson
    April 28, 2009

    Good post – I had this problem a few weeks back where I frantically ran around the house wondering why I was unable to access the internet but my roommate had no problem. She said, “is it turned on” – that was the first I heard of wireless card switches. It is now the default thing I check whenever I have a problem accessing wireless networks.

  2. #2 Ivan
    April 28, 2009

    Heehee. This is how I “fixed” my dad’s laptop a while back.

  3. #3 jake
    April 29, 2009

    I have dealt with this at work… The WIFI buttons/switches are not always obvious – which is stupid.

  4. #4 Joseph j7uy5
    April 29, 2009

    This sort of thing can drive you nuts. Another tip, is to download the pdf manual for any new equipment you get. Some manufactures make it difficult to find, though, and if you did not know that these special buttons or function keys even existed, it would not occur to you to even look for them.

    And of course if you are running Linux, it would be natural to think of a software problem first. Many of those wireless cards use only proprietary drivers.

    I ran into a similar problem once, and while Googling “How to pull one’s hair out painlessly” I found that there are scripts in (in this case, OpenSuse) /usr/sbin/ that will download and install the drivers. But of course you have to connect to the Internet to do the download…