Sunday, May 14, 2006

Giving up on DHCP with Linksys wireless router

I've been continuing to have trouble with the wireless functionality of my home Linksys router, a model BEFW11S4. As I posted previously, I've never quite had the wireless connectivity with my PDA (a Dell Axim X30 PocketPC) working the way I wanted. Sometimes I activate the wireless connection on the PDA and it works perfectly; other times I try to connect, and although the PDA can see the router (with the correct SSID and excellent signal strength), it will never get a valid IP address. (I have the PDA set to get an IP via DHCP; apparently the router is just never assigning the PDA an IP address.)

I did end up upgrading the router firmware to the latest version (1.52.02). This seems to have resolved the problem with the router's DHCP server where it was never reusing IP addresses (and thus eventually running out), but now the router is just kind of acting kind of flaky; sometimes the PDA will get an IP address and be able to connect to the Internet immediately, sometimes the PDA will get an IP after a long delay (several minutes); and sometimes the PDA will just never get an IP. Since the PDA does occasionally connect successfully, that tells me that the issue is probably not with my security configuration.

Further, occasionally if the PDA is connected but then briefly loses contact with the router, it will lose its IP and its connection. This happens even after I've just been using the wireless connection for a short time (so the PDA's lease on the IP address should not yet have expired).

At least once, when the PDA has been unable to connect, if I cycle the power on the router (unplug it and then plug it back in), the PDA is then immediately able to connect with no problem.

My DVR was also unable to connect to the wireless network for a while yesterday -- I also resolved this by cycling the power on the router. This seems to indicate that the problem is with the router, not with the configuration or hardware of my PDA.

I finally decided to throw in the towel and forget about using DHCP with my PDA, and instead just assigned it a static IP address. This seems to be working fine; I haven't had any connectivity issues with the PDA since assigning the static address. Also, I didn't have to enter DNS server information on the PDA to be able to connect to the Internet successfully; just entering the static IP and the gateway (router) IP was sufficient. This is good, since it should keep the hassle of switching between a static IP (when I'm using the PDA at home) and a dynamic IP (when I'm anywhere else) to a minimum.

I poked around for a solution on Usenet briefly (searching for "BEFW11S4 DHCP" on Google Groups), and although I saw some posts about people having trouble with this model router and DHCP, I didn't see any good solutions. One person reported exchanging their BEFW11S4 for another copy of the same model, and they didn't have any problems after that, so maybe the DHCP functionality on these models is hit-or-miss.

In any event, I'm glad I have a decent workaround for the issue for now. Next time I go shopping for a wireless router, though, I'll probably look at brands other than Linksys.

Update 5/15/2006: Unfortunately, my workaround of using a static IP address on the PDA isn't as convenient as I thought. Initially, as noted above, I thought there was no need to enter DNS server information on the PDA; it had appeared that the PDA was picking this information up from the router. However, the PDA is reporting "Site Not Available" errors for any site I hadn't visited recently; appearently, DNS mappings for recently-visited sites were cached on the PDA, so things appeared to be working ok at first as I tested visiting sites that I had visited recently.

A further annoyance is information I manually enter when setting the PDA to use a static IP (the IP address, subnet mask, gateway IP address, and now primary and secondary DNS server IP addresses) gets cleared whenever I set the PDA to use a dynamic IP (when I'm online with the PDA away from home), so I have to re-enter all of that information whenever I return home. (This is the fault of the PDA software, not the router, but it does compound the problem with the router's DHCP service being so flaky.)

I may have to keep tinkering with the router to see if I can get the DHCP service to where it "just works".


  1. Did you ever get a solution to this problem? I'm having the same issue with laptops not connecting to a BEFW11s?

  2. Unfortunately, no resolution yet -- I'm still stuck with using static IP addresses on everything I have connected to the router.

    At this point I suspect that some combination of the router's hardware and/or software is bad. (The software seems to be at least partially at fault since I did see some change in behavior after installing the firmware update, even though the change in behavior seemed to be for the worse.)


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