The ITS Inbox


My laptop has a built in wireless card that was working and now I can’t get any kind of signal at all. What’s wrong?
There are a few potential problems, and you can check a couple of them for yourself.

Before you start, are you sure you’re in an area with a wireless signal? While we’ve tried to give good coverage over the whole campus, some places, particularly dorm rooms, don’t have good signals. All the lounges should all have strong connections, so test it there first. Likewise, most of the academic buildings and common spaces (like the Campus Center) have good connections.

Next, some newer laptops have a switch on the side or bottom that turns the wireless card on or off. You’ll have to examine your computer or consult your manual to see if this is the case.

To troubleshoot further, ITS provides some documentation on connecting to the wireless network. Check out the “Wireless Network Connection” instructions at If you can go through these steps and still can’t connect, then we know that something is wrong with the configuration or card itself. At this point you’re probably not going to be able to fix it yourself. Bring your laptop in to the Help Desk (Humanities 314, x6525) and they’ll check out your system.

If you came to campus with a wireless-ready computer, you probably turned on the computer, found a wireless signal and never looked back, but did you know that there are also wired network connections in every dorm room? Ethernet connections are up to 10 times faster than our wireless connection. They’re also more secure because they’re not spraying wireless transmissions all over the place. They’re more reliable too: no signal strength to worry about. It’s always on and always full speed. The only down side is that you’re plugged in.

There’s one ethernet jack per person in every dorm room. All you need to connect is an ethernet cable. You might already have one, but if not they are available for $10 at the Highlander store in the Campus Center or any computer store. The first time you connect to a wired connection you may have to go through a registration process. Just follow the directions and call the Help Desk if you have trouble with it.

The ITS Inbox is a weekly advice column featuring technology issues, written by Macalester College IT staff. Ask your question by emailing [email protected] Don’t worry – we don’t know who you are.