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I'm on my third mid-2011 MacBook Air in less than a month and this weird wifi problem may be related to the sudden, black screen bricklike nature of its predecessors.

The Air works fine when in the same large living room as the NexusLink 5631 router, but when I go into adjacent rooms, including, irritatingly, the one where my desk is, it repeatedly loses and regains its wifi signal. (Sites don't load in the browser, it stops being able to play music to the speakers in the living room, it stops being able to find the Time Machine backup drive in the living room, etc.)

My several year old MacBook does not have this problem and we haven't changed the router setup. This lost wifi signal problem is purely an issue with the Air.

The first two Airs I had suffered catastrophic failures. The pattern I can reconstruct is that at after getting them and using Time Machine to restore them to have all my old files, I had put them on my desk in the other room and put them to sleep in there overnight for the first time. In the morning they would not start, would not even display any error. The folks at the Genius Bar couldn't figure out what was wrong with them (as far as I know could get no response from them at all) and so exchanged them for new machines.

When Airs #1 and #2 failed they had been connected to 1) a power supply that was connected to a power strip plugged into an outlet; 2) an external Nocent LCD monitor LM965WA with their lids up, displays unmirrored; 3) a powered Aquagate Monospace USB 2.0 7 port hub; 4) through the hub, a powered down HP Deskjet 920C printer; a powered up Brother HL2140 laser printer; and a Fitbit base station.

They had been connected to Time Machine on a Drobo in the other room, adding to the same history as previous machines.

Note that all of the above had been used without issue, apart from dropping wifi signal, prior to the overnight machine deaths. Also note that the old MacBook performed great for months and months in this setup.

With Air #3, we got a lot more cautious. We started a new sparsebundle to give it its own Time Machine history, on the principle that perhaps a history going back to 2008 was too much for it to handle over the air. I have successfully put Air #3 to sleep overnight in the living room (where the router is) plugged into a new power cable. I have also done so in the other room on my desk, also with new cable, using the same power outlet, but not going through the surge suppressor.

Air #3 has the same wifi dropping problem as the prior two Airs, so I'm wondering if this is an issue I'd have with any new machine or if I have received three defective machines.

My QA process to see if Air #3 will die overnight like it's pals is going to involve step by step letting it sleep overnight reintroducing one at a time the elements above, postponing the surge suppressor and Fitbit to last in the process.

However, it is unclear if the wifi issue is a cause of the failure (hard to see quite how when the machine is asleep and not trying to connect to, say, do an enormous Time Machine backup) or merely a coincidentally occurring problem.

Troubleshooting suggestions or pointers to others with either of these problems would be gratefully received!

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4 Answers 4

Is your old MacBook (the one which doesn't drop connection) running Lion or a previous OSX release?

The reason why I'm asking this is that I suspect it might be an issue with Lion, and not with the Air.

I have an early 2009 17" MacBook Pro that never dropped Wifi while at home, ever. Since upgrading to Lion 1 week ago, I lost Wifi 3 or 4 times, but only for a short period (it automatically reconnects after a few seconds).

I am confident that it's not a router failure, as one of the time my MBP dropped wifi I was downloading a file on my wife's iMac (over Wifi) and it didn't drop.

Fwiw, my router is a 2nd-gen (dual-band) Time Capsule.

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It is not on Lion. Very very good point. –  MetaGrrrl Aug 9 '11 at 22:46
2  
Apple released Lion update 10.7.1 today, mentionning "Improve the reliability of Wi-Fi connections" in the release notes. You should probably install it on your MacBook Air and see if your WiFi is more stable then... –  Pascal Bourque Aug 17 '11 at 0:38
1  
From my understanding, the mid-2011 Air ships with Lion. As with the new Mini, these cannot run Snow Leopard (they will install, but there will be anomalies and system instability). If you installed Snow Leopard, then that is your problem. But I am confused @MetaGrrrl, you say it's not running Lion, but you linked to the 10.7.1 update from Apple in a previous answer... I'm a little lost now. –  cksum Sep 18 '11 at 1:02

Though it's only been a couple hours since I did the update, this system update does seem to have dramatically reduced the losing wifi connection issue http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4764

Time Machine backup of over 1GB just successfully completed, so I think I'm out of the woods.

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Unfortunately, after a day with it, it's clear the system update has not resolved my issue with losing wifi connection. :( –  MetaGrrrl Aug 20 '11 at 18:59
    
What I can say is that it has drastically reduced the problem. It is also within the realm of possibility that the issues I have experienced are external to the Mac (unlike before where it was clearly an issue with this machine, the only one in the house at that time running Lion). –  MetaGrrrl Aug 26 '11 at 19:13

Well, there are a lot of forums about Lion loosing Wifi (https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3190651?start=15&tstart=0, http://osxdaily.com/2011/07/22/wifi-dropping-in-os-x-lion-fixes). I had trouble with SL, but Lion (even 10.7.1) is the master in it. There are a lot of fixes, for me worked, so far, a manual IP and DNS 8.8.8.8. There are more options on the links. Good luck!

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I think that it is very likely that you received another defective MacBook Air. However, be sure that there aren't any cordless phones, microwaves, or other wireless devices nearby that could interfere with your wireless signal. This is most prominent on devices operating near the 2.4 Ghz range, but could be other wireless devices.

Also, you may want to try changing the channel on your router because other wireless networks nearby could be interfering. You can access this setting by going to your router setup page (usually http://192.168.2.1, but check your user manual) and finding the wireless channel setting. For your router, it appears to be under Wireless -> Advanced, but again, check your manual.

If all else fails, I'm afraid you're best off taking another trip to the Genius Bar and seeing what they can do for you.

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No other devices are experiencing interference that we've seen. –  MetaGrrrl Aug 9 '11 at 22:48
    
It still wouldn't hurt to change the wireless channel. If that doesn't work, I'm afraid it's looking like Air #4 for you. –  Nathan Aug 9 '11 at 23:47
    
So far no dire crashes, but then I haven't left it in exactly the same setup as the prior victims... –  MetaGrrrl Aug 16 '11 at 23:49
1  
Just heard about a new software update from Apple which includes "improve the reliability of wifi connections" and will be testing it shortly support.apple.com/kb/HT4764 –  MetaGrrrl Aug 16 '11 at 23:50

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