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Does WiFi ever just go bad on a router?  

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I’ve got a question - do WiFi routers go bad? My wired speeds are >100Mbps but my wiffi is moving between <1Mbps and maybe 20 or 30 intermittently. probably averaging 3-5. I’ve been seeing ping times to www.apple.com of 4000ms and 5-10% packet loss, but again only on WiFi.

I’ve got a question - do WiFi routers go bad? My wired speeds are >100Mbps but my wifi speeds are between <1Mbps and maybe 20 or 30 intermittently. probably averaging 3-5. I’ve been seeing ping times to www.apple.com of 4000ms and 5-10% packet loss, but again only on WiFi, wired Ethernet is fine.

Router is a Netgear R8500 in case it matters.

Thoughts?

 
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Just ran a ping test to my router ... 10000msec is bad, right?

 
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The most common is WiFi interference from other sources, but years ago there was an Apple Airport Extreme model (Flying Saucer variety) that suffered from a bad capacitor breaking the WiFi.

WiFi interference can come in for the form of a USB3 device with poor shielding or a USB3 cable with poor shielding being next to either the Mac/iPhone/iPad in question or the WiFi base station.  There is a white paper from intel on this < https://www-ssl.intel.com/content/www/us/en/io/universal-serial-bus/usb3-frequency-interference-paper.html >

Cordless phones using 2.4GHz (yours or your neighbor's), baby monitors (again, yours or your neighbor's; assuming you are maybe babysitting for your grandchildren).

Microwave ovens, but if that is it, you are cooking it way too long.  WiFi frequencies were given over to the public because they happen to resonate with water molecules and thus are of limited use for long distance radio communication.  Microwave ovens like to resonate with water to heat your food.   And along those lines, large bodies of water between the device and the WiFi base station (did you install one of those 3-D Rain Projectors?).

Obviously, other WiFi base stations.  Neighbors are doing that all the time.  Not sure how close your neighbors are to your home.

You can use Option-Click on the menu bar WiFi icon and select "Open Wireless Diagnostics".  Then select Wireless Diagnostics -> Window -> Scan.  With this, you can look at what other WiFi base stations are around you, their channels, their RSSI signal strength, The noise on your channel.

RSSI in the -30's is fantastic, and anything approaching the -90's is lousy.

Noise in the -90's is great, and as it drops closer to the -30's means it is really bad for you if this is your channel.

With 2.4GHz, the ideal is your channel 5 channels away from another other strong RSSI signals, as each 2.4GHz channels is actually 5 channels wide, so if you are on channel 6 you are actually using channels 4,5,6,7,8 and if someone else is on channel 11, they are using 9,10,11,and 2 channels worth beyond. But more importantly, channels 1, 6 and 11 do not overlap.  If you cannot get a 2.4GHz channel to yourself, you want to look for a channel where the competing channels are very weak so at your home, you are the winner.

With 5GHz channels, if you and your neighbors are only using 20MHz bands, none of the 5GHz channels overlap.  But 5GHz allows for dynamically grouping up to 4 channels together to get an 80MHz band for higher throughput.  But even if you only have a 20MHz channel you should still get better throughput than what you are reporting, so interference is very possible.

But of course, a broken WiFi is a possibility, just not often heard of.

Good luck.

But it seems to me this is an opportunity to get a Mesh network 🙂

 
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Thanks for the detail datafornothinandbitsforfree especially on how to interpret the RSSI and Noise. I do not suspect it's interference as the router's location and local environment hasn't changed.  I suppose one of my neighbors could have done something dramatic, though.

The router's RSSI is -34 dBm and Noise is -92 dBm which both meet the criteria of fantastic. So...?

WiFi signal

 

 

 
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Thanks for the detail datafornothinandbitsforfree especially on how to interpret the RSSI and Noise. I do not suspect it's interference as the router's location and local environment hasn't changed.  I suppose one of my neighbors could have done something dramatic, though.

The router's RSSI is -34 dBm and Noise is -92 dBm which both meet the criteria of fantastic. So...?

WiFi signal

 

 

 
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Those are good RSSI and Noise numbers, and you are on channel 153 and have 80MHz of bandwidth which your Mac says has the potential of 1300megabits/sec.  So, in theory, your WiFi is good.

You say your wired speed is greater than 100megabits/sec, so I'm assuming this was an Ethernet test directly connected to your Nighthawk router?  (or is the Nighthawk separate from your router, and you connected to another device that is your router?).

If the Nighthawk is the router and you did Ethernet connect to that for the wired test, then I think you do need to at least look at the Wireless Diagnostics -> Window -> Scan and make sure your neighbors are not encroaching on your channel.  And if there is a possibility of that, try configuring the Nighthawk to use alternate channels.

You could also give your 2.4GHz channels a different network name, and then force connect to the 2.4GHz name to make sure it is not just a 5GHz issue.  This would JUST be a TEST, not a solution.  I'm just suggesting ways to isolate and eliminate things that are not the issue.

If you have an OLD WiFi router hanging around, you can always swap that in for a test as well, to see if it is the Nighthawk that is the issue.  You do not need to do any fancy configuration to match what you have setup on the Nighthawk, just something to show if it is the Nighthawk itself (remember some cable modems lock onto the first MAC address they see, and you have to power cycle them when you change routers so they will lock onto the replacement router's MAC address (Media Access Control address for those in balcony seats).

I have not retired yet, so I may not get back to this thread for a while.  Maybe Dave, John, or others have ideas to contribute.

 
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Thanks! I have an unused Orbi mesh router and an Airport Extreme, and was thinking of trying one of those today.  Appreciate all the advice, now get to work!

 
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I'd forgotten all about the Wireless Diagnostics app. Seems to do what iStumbler does for $14.  It confirmed my suspicion that this isn't an interference problem. My router at 5GHz is uncontested other than a printer on the same channel, but the signal on that is way lower.  The 2.4 GHz has 2 contenders for channel interference, one of which is my own guest network.  Odd that it has a lower signal strength.  The other signal is at -90 dBm so I'm guessing it's not the problem.

 

 

Wireless Diagnostics Window Scan Allison

 
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I'd forgotten all about the Wireless Diagnostics app. Seems to do what iStumbler does for $14.

I have found the Wireless Diagnostics very useful.  And I appreciate that it comes with macOS.  And if you install the iPhone Airport Utility, there is a WiFi scanner you can enable via Settings that will give you another tool you can more easily walk around with to check out signals in your home.

It confirmed my suspicion that this isn't an interference problem. My router at 5GHz is uncontested other than a printer on the same channel, but the signal on that is way lower.

I would still see if I could tell the Nighthawk to use a different 5GHz channel.  Maybe Channel 36.  While -86 is weak and you have a very strong -33, this is all in your favor.  But it is an easy experiment to try, assuming the Nighthawk will allow you to choose your base 5GHz channel.  You can always change it back after the experiment.  But since there are no other 5GHz base stations visible, you could just stay with channel 36 too

I have an unused Orbi mesh router and an Airport Extreme, and was thinking of trying one of those today.

I have an eero Mesh network in my home.  I retired my 3 Airport Extremes I had setup in a Roaming network to get coverage throughout my house.  The eero gives me so much coverage, I have a signal on my iPhone 300' from my front door 😀

So I would at least take this as an opportunity to try the Orbi Mesh.

 

Thanks - I have tested the Orbi extensively (see my blog post for why the R8500 performed better for my house:  https://www.podfeet.com/blog/2018/03/netgear-vs-netgear/).  Today my contractors covered by studio and my bedroom where the routers are to paint the closets so I couldn't do any experiments in changing things up much.  But I did gather some interesting data.

Now here's the weirdness. 

From what I can see in the Apple support article about the tool and by having some friends run the test, the transfer rate should be a flat line at one speed. Mine is bouncing all over the place.

The router seems to be improving (dramatically) tonight. I've been watching the transfer rate graphs in the Wireless Diagnostics app all day. During the day it was bouncing all around from 40 to 180Mbps as you can see in the first graph.

Wireless Diagnostics performance swinging from 180 to 350

But tonight it's still jumping up and down but it's between 180-350Mbps. The documentation shows a nice flat line which I think is normal behavior. Now that the performance looked this good, I ran an Internet speedtest and got 98 down and 120up (I pay for symmetric 75).

Wireless Diagnostics performance swinging from 180 to 350

The only thing I can think of is that it's cooler tonight in that room than it was earlier today. It's still fluctuating which is weird but our speeds are great. So what have I learned?   Other than the fact that you're really helpful and knowledgeable, datafornothinandbitsforfree.

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Thanks - I have tested the Orbi extensively (see my blog post for why the R8500 performed better for my house:  https://www.podfeet.com/blog/2018/03/netgear-vs-netgear/).  

Of course, you did!  I should have suspected you had the Orbi laying around for a reason, as I have listened to NosillaCast from time to time 😀 

Today my contractors covered by studio and my bedroom where the routers are to paint the closets so I couldn't do any experiments in changing things up much.

I had to get the contractors at my house to move their truck so I could get out of my garage this morning.  So I really do understand how construction can delay things.

First, it looks like you may be posted the same graph twice, but your description is clear.  You are not getting consistent performance.

Just for fun, I gathered some WiFi info while having breakfast at a Panera somewhere in the Northeast.  The first is a scaled down image of all the active WiFi access points and there are a lot with channel overlap going on, just to give you an idea of the environment. The 2nd is my Wireless Diagnostic graphs

72dpi Snapshot 1

72dpi Snapshot 2

My graph lines are basically straight, and this is a very noisy WiFi neighborhood.  There are lots of stores offering WiFi either for staff and/or customers, including a Barnes & Noble about 200' across the driveway lot.

If I'm getting straight steady lines in this environment, then I would suspect something with your WiFi environment.  And it could be the Nighthawk, or I would still not ignore that printer.  When you get a chance, change the Nighthawk's 5GHz channel to 36 and see if this changes anything.  And of course, play with the Airport Extreme and/or the Orbi.  You can observe their signal graphs for comparison.

If you find it is the Nighthawk, perhaps you are still within your warranty.  Your Orbi vs Nighthawk blog post is from March of this year, so if you got the Nighthawk not long before that I would guess you are still under warranty.  But of course, since you have other WiFi equipment, do the tests first, including trying channel 36.  After all you "Are" and engineer.  This is the kind of things we like to do (BSEE that I never used, because I found software more fun  😀, which is why I haven't retired yet).

Other than the fact that you're really helpful and knowledgeable

That comes from listening to Podcasts (your's included), and hanging out in newsgroups (before the ISPs basically stopped making them easily available), then discussons.apple.com (still active), this forum, a couple of Mac related mailing lists at work (work has started allowing employees to use Macs instead of Windows), etc...  And as mentioned above, I'm a BSEE that went into software (Unix file systems for the last 23 years), married to a Computer Science Major that also works for a Software vendor (I almost never have to justify "Ohhh Shiny"  😀 ).  I'm an all around Geek.

 
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Lovely to get to know you better.  So my new question is, "Do routers heal themselves?"  

I'm still getting the hang of embedding images, my apologies for the bad paste.  But guess what? This morning the router is sitting at a lovely flat 1300Mbps!

Wireless Diagnostics performance stable at 1300 next to router in morning

I didn't change the channel, I didn't change wiring, I didn't reboot, I didn't flash the firmware.  it simply healed itself.  At least for now.

 
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You mentioned it was cooler when you started getting better results.  Electronics do not like high heat.  If nothing else it can affect resistors and capacitors, but unless you let the room, where you have the Nighthawk, get really REALLY HOT, I do not think this is your issue.  I could be wrong, as a marginal component might be more susceptible to heat.  The difference between statistics and a specific example that lays outside the norm.

The fun part about WiFi is it very susceptible to radio interference.  I've listed most of the common sources that can come and go and pointed out some not so obvious causes (such as the poor shielding on a USB3 device sitting next to the Mac or the base station).  And that you do not control your neighbors, nor apparently that printer.

So yes, WiFi can heal itself kind-of, in that if the cause was outside interference, and that interference goes away, things can look better until the interference comes back.

For example, there are situations where people have had wonderful internet access during the day, and as soon as school lets out, all of a sudden, the internet speeds in their neighborhood drop, because all the kids are watching YouTube videos or similar high bandwidth websites.  Granted this example is related to how the ISP provisions the neighborhood, but the concept is the same.  Things can come and go.  Right now it is early morning in California, so perhaps the sources of outside interference are still waking up, or getting on a school bus (or commuting to work; Netflix is not just for kids anymore  😀 ).

Because I'm a software person, I have learned almost never blame the hardware, as in my rather long carrier I've only found 2 flaws in a CPU's design (once in the '70's at a process control company that built their own ECL (Emitter Coupled Logic chips; very power hungry) based CPU based on the Xerox Signa 3, and once in the '90's a Digital Equipment Corporation Alpha CPU chip).  Every other programming bug (and there are too many to count) were either my code or someone else's code I was trying to use.

So I do not want to blame the hardware, but sometimes the hardware does fail.  You being You, you have extra hardware laying around you can test theories with.  And you can experiment with different 5GHz channels to isolate and eliminate interference as the problem.  Then when you decide it is the Nighthawk and call for a warranty exchange, you can feel confident you are 90% right (only Civil Engineers with a PE license get to think they are 100% right; College roommate was one of those  😀 ).

I have to pretend to work now.

 
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I'm likely going to side with the "heat's the issue here" answer, but... I did want to address this one thing:

I'd forgotten all about the Wireless Diagnostics app. Seems to do what iStumbler does for $14.  It confirmed my suspicion that this isn't an interference problem. My router at 5GHz is uncontested other than a printer on the same channel, but the signal on that is way lower.

The Wireless Diagnostics app confirms that you have no Wi-Fi interference, but it does not confirm anything beyond that. It's entirely possible that you've got other interference in the 5GHz range, namely a cordless phone (or perhaps some other wireless device your builders left behind). Or, of course, it could be a USB3 drive, and that would cause the same interference but not show up in Wi-Fi diagnostics. 

Anyway, as I said, it sounds like @datafornothinandbitsforfree's diagnosis of heat applies here. I just wanted to chime in and make sure we weren't misinterpreting our reporting data. 😉 

 
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I can believe that heat over time may have affected this unit but I'm not sure I buy that wonky to wonderful can be accounted for by heat. I live where the temperatures are very moderate. In the past week, the interior of the house has been between 70-75F.  The device is in a cabinet with no doors, a hole in the back and nothing above or below it.  There is ample room for the antennas to stand straight up so it's not a tight fit in there either. It's been in this cabinet for about 2-3 months.

I tried changing the channel to 36, and then 48 and I managed to get my signal to drop to virtually nothing. I'm back on 44 and it's fairly steady.  I've unfortunately been banished from upstairs by the painters so I can't get close to for best performance. On channel 44 it's at least steady at 90'ish Mbps.

Sooo.  Yeah.

 
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