Macbook Pro and WPA Wi-Fi Error

I’m technically on vacation this week, so I don’t feel too badly about my lack of posting, but I had still expected to be able to do more casual blogging this week. Unfortunately, my Macbook Pro (first rev) refuses to connect to the WPA-locked access point I was planning on using. Just gives me a “connection failed” message after I put in the password.

This is the second time that this inability to access some WPA Wi-Fi access points has screwed me. I had a similar lack of connectivity in a hotel just a few weeks ago, essentially making it impossible for me to work or (more realistically) waste hours of my life on the internet.

My question is this: has anyone been able to figure out if this is a problem with Apple’s implementation of WPA or with the firmware of the wireless routers to which I’m trying to connect? There are clearly tons of other people with the same issue, but since I haven’t seen any recent fixes from Apple, it makes me wonder if there isn’t something wrong with the older routers, especially since it’s more likely that routers never have their firmware updated. I use WPA on my network at home, though, so it’s clearly not every WPA router.

Anyway, not a mindblowing kvetch or anything, but I was wondering if anyone has suffered from the same issue and figured out a way to work around it.

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20 Responses to Macbook Pro and WPA Wi-Fi Error

  1. Anonymous says:

    Did you try prefixing the password with $? For ex, $mypass.

    I’ve found that I occasionally have to add that when I cant connect to certain access points.

    Good luck!

  2. Zac Garrett says:

    There are several versions of WPA out there and Apple is one of the only companies who forces you to decide which you want to use. Most other computers I use (Windows and Linux) will pick the version of WPA the access point it running for you. OS X (iphone and laptops) force you to choose.

    I constantly have people try to connect to my network and have issues on OS X. Most of my coworkers got the iphone and had issues connecting. If you do not know the exact version of WPA you are trying to connect to then try them all.

    If that still fails then the device was probably made prior to the standardization of the spec. Quite often older hardware does not have the ability to properly decrypt the data and will choke out. The signs of this usually are being able to use the network intermittently.

    If you are at a location that will allow it, use your own wireless access point. When staying in a hotel I will often use the ethernet connection and plug my own access point in. There are quite a few cheap access points around, I believe that apple even has a small airport for this type of thing.

  3. gobo says:

    I’ve had the same problem with my first-rev MBP as well. No real pattern to it, just randomly sometimes won’t work.

    I’ve sometimes been able to find access points and connect to them using coconutWiFi with more success than the built-in tools.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I FOUND A SOLUTION THAT WORKS!!!! First a little back story.

    Got my Mac Blackbook and the wi-fi worked great from my Linksys wrt54g2 router. Moved to Germany and into an apartment and my connection issues started happening. My MB would connect once then loose connection quickly and would only recover connection if i either closed and re-opened my screen, or re-connected to my network… then it would drop again before my next page turn.

    After multiple days of research I read about SOOOO many others having this issue and the fact the Apple pretty much refused to acknowledge the issue. It seemed that sometime near the OX 10.4.2 update the airport driver got fubar’d leaving all those with Intel based macs wi-fi connects messed up.

    Some of the solutions i read about and tried had to do with changing my WEP connection to WPA. This did not work, but i left it as WPA as my research finds it a more secure connection. I also read about and tried setting my Wireless RTA Threshold in my router to 256 from the *2432 default. This as well did not work, though I have left it at this setting as it seems to be the best value for MAC’s connecting over wi-fi. This is not true for PC’s though so be careful.

    More research, more research, o’ my brain hurts and my patience is wearing….. then BINGO!!! I found a thread about connection issues that pertained to MB’s not connecting to local-network printers. The poster mentioned that MAC’s seem to have a hard time connecting to networks that had more than one wi-fi network present. This is my issue i thought. I have 8 in my available connections now. In my old home I had just mine. So i followed the directions suggested and it has now been 2 weeks of 100% perfect wi-fi connections.

    Below is the excerpt from this page, http://www.macintouch.com/readerreports/macbookpro/topic2005.html (Do a find for “Little Snitch”). The program the writer talks about is called Little Snitch found here, http://www.obdev.at/products/littlesnitch/index.html. It’s a $29 dollar program, but in my mind its well worth it to make my $1500 Blackbook work!

    This may not be the Apple Fix we have been waiting for them, but its completely working for me.

    [quote]
    I have used Little Snitch software for several years, and it occurred to me that I might be able to use it to block any connections with the other network. Using the latest version (v.2), go to Preferences, or Little Snitch Configuration, choose Rules under the Window menu, and click the New button.

    In the pop-up window that shows up, click on the gear icon and choose “Choose System Process.” A file open box opens, and under the folder “libexec,” choose “airportd.” “airportd” is the system daemon that controls the Airport card in the MacBook Pro. In the box that comes up, set the main menu to “Allow Connections” and the Server menu to “Local Network.”
    [/quote]

  5. mdhatter says:

    “Hello, IT….. Have you tried turning it off and back on again?”

    /IT Crowd reference

  6. Zebra05 says:

    I do not have a MAC, but my spouse does and I recall having to put a dollar sign in front of the password to connect to our wi fi. This is an old solution and probably does not apply anymore, but I thought I’d mention it ’cause it drove me crazy.

  7. paul beard says:

    I have this quite often on my circa 2003 iBook and a new iMac G5. Best I have been able to tell, it’s an authentication glitch between the ‘book and the AP (a LinkSys running DD-WRT).

    Look in your system.log if you’re curious and see if there are any message to that effect. I don’t see any recent ones in my log to share as examples.

    Possible workarounds:
    shutting down and restarting the card sometimes clears it up
    removing the AP from your list and re-associating with it
    if it’s your AP, reboot it or see if there is newer firmware (I have high hopes for dd-wrt .24RC6).

    But it’s really inconsistent and frustrating, I’ll grant you that. So enjoy the enforced work stoppage while you can ;-)

  8. pork musket says:

    Wow, I thought all bloggers (especially of the gadgety persuasion) had built-in 3G antennas in their notebooks, but I guess you went for the Mac instead ;)

  9. pewma says:

    I had this problem start yesterday (when I got a PS3 with wireless controllers).

    I had to change the broadcast channel on my router from automatic to a set channel (9 in my case). It seems the macbook pros are real bad with interference. I don’t know what to tell you while on a public wi-fi network.

  10. lava says:

    I just helped a friend who was having issues with Leopard and an older Westell wireless router from Verizon. The router needed a firmware upgrade. 10.4 worked fine.

  11. Zac Garrett says:

    @PEWMA: There are only three real Wireless channels in the US: 1, 6, 11. This is due to interference between the other frequencies. By choosing another channel the devices will have issues. The best option is to use one of these channels, otherwise all devices will have issues.

    For a bit more information you can check out the image linked below. I also added a link to wikipedia if interested.

    http://img257.imageshack.us/img257/6868/techfundoverlapchannelshy8.jpg

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEEE_802.11

  12. Hello Fitchburg says:

    I just got a new Macbook Pro about three weeks ago, and it didn’t work with my wifi setup (Linksys WRT-54g, revision 5). After I flashed to the most recent firmware for the router, everything worked. The iPhone I’d bought a month prior also began magically working on the wifi (same problem, couldn’t connect to WPA).

  13. Anonymous says:

    Tiger had no problems, Leopard and it’s wireless setup is a massive step backwards.

  14. stevew says:

    Visiting family have a Mac Pro (10.5.1) to use QWest 2700HG-D wireless router. Setup was made more difficult by the number of WPA WiFi options in Leopard. Chose the simplest and it worked Ok until coming out of Sleep. The Mac Pro could not reconnect until the AirPort was turned off and then on again. It has been fine since.

  15. MacGuruTX says:

    Ive had this problem with my business class linksys router at the house. All of my Windows and other devices are not having problems connecting.

    I would find that the router showed a valid ip address assigned to the mac address of the MacBooks wireless card. If I went to the router and forced it to kick the mac address off, then the mac could then successfully connect and pull an ip address. I’m using wpa-psk.

  16. ThomasBB says:

    I have this problem consistently with one of the places I connect. It fails 3 times in a row then almost always works on the 4th attempt.

    No changing anything, no rebooting.

    Your mileage may vary.

  17. jbang says:

    AirPort is a dog for any secure connection – I have problems getting any AirPort-card’d Mac to join non-AirPort networks, and vice versa.

    My only solution – and it’s barely a solution – is to ditch password protected access all together and use MAC addresses to control access.

    Totally useless if you don’t have access to the router (which, in most cases, one doesn’t). Also: my friends’ hate me when I diddle with their network and end up totally locking it down (with MAC filtering) or opening it right up.

    Zac has the key for my other workaround – just try every variant of WPA encryption while we all wait and hope for Apple to get their hardware into line.

  18. Joel Johnson says:

    Great stuff, guys. At least now I can safely assume that it’s an Apple hardware issue.

    @pork: Built-in American 3G isn’t going to help me much in Europe. :)

  19. pork musket says:

    Aha! Joel: 1 Pork: 0. Enjoy the rest of you break!

  20. Anonymous says:

    I feel dirty saying it, but my workaround for this issue has been to boot my macbook pro into Windows (bootcamp style). XP has no trouble negotiating WPA networks.

    Sorta points to this being an implementation issue, don’t it?

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