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Troubleshooting Q&A - February 9, 2006

Wireless Connectivity Starts at Ground Zero

Setting up a wireless network in your home shouldn't be a major project, but one thing can stand in the way of unsuspecting users — it's called Wireless Zero Configuration and you gotta have it.

By Ron Pacchiano

Q.   I own two computers: one desktop and a second-hand notebook that I recently purchased on eBay. For sometime now, I've wanted to set up a wireless connection for my notebook so that I could use it throughout the house, but I'm not the most computer-savvy person and have been intimidated to try. Lately, though, I've heard that configuring a wireless connection has gotten easy and figured that if some of the more intellectually challenged people I know have been able to do it, then I shouldn't have too much of a problem. So after a trip to my local CompUSA, I came home with a new Linksys WRT54G wireless AP/router and 1 wireless USB network adapter (Model # WUSB54G).

I connected the Linksys router to my DSL [define] broadband router/modem (NEC NTA-3110) and connected it to my desktop computer using the enclosed Ethernet cable. I ran the installation and within minutes, my desktop was online. This is when my trouble began. I should have known things were going too smoothly.

This is when I attempted to set up the wireless USB [define] adapter on my notebook computer. I followed the installation instructions to the letter. I loaded the setup CD into my notebook and loaded the USB drivers. I rebooted the computer and then connected the USB adapter to my notebook's USB port. The system automatically detected the USB wireless adapter as it was supposed to, but for some reason after the device had supposedly been successfully configured, I couldn't connect to the wireless network. Even though the Device Manger indicated that the USB adapter was working.

I called Linksys tech support for assistance and through their guidance we discovered that the Wireless Zero Configuration [define] service, which is needed to establish a connection to a wireless network, was not installed on my system. Unfortunately, the technician I was dealing with didn't seem overly knowledgeable and couldn't tell me how get the WZC service installed on my system. I've tried calling back a few times, but so far, no one has been able to help me. As a result, It's been two weeks now and the only way I can get my notebook online is to connect to the router via an Ethernet cable. Can you please help me get untethered and tell me how to install the WZC service on my notebook? I really appreciate your help in resolving this frustrating situation. Thanks!

A.   No problem. I can understand why Linksys's tech support staff may have had trouble helping you with this situation. In the last three years, I've had to do this only twice. In fact, it's been so long since I last performed it that I had to look up the procedure again. Lucky, it's pretty simple. You might need your Windows installation CD, so be sure to have it handy. Before I walk you through the installation procedure, though, let's take a minute to explain exactly what the Wireless Zero Configuration (WZC) service is for those readers not familiar with it.

The Wireless Zero Configuration (WZC) service is built into the Windows XP operating system. The WZC service is designed to dynamically select the wireless network to which to attempt a connection, based either on your preferences or on default settings. This includes automatically selecting and connecting to a more-preferred wireless network when it becomes available. The WZC service is not installed by default during a Windows XP installation. However, new notebooks that are equipped from the manufacture with wireless network adapters usually have WZC pre-installed; which explains why your pre-owned non-wireless notebook didn't have it installed.

In order to make use of the WZC service you must be using a compatible wireless network adapter. This is because the wireless network adapter and its Network Driver Interface Specification (NDIS [define]) driver must support NDIS Object Identifiers (OIDs) that are used to query and set device and driver behavior. The wireless network adapter scans for available wireless networks and passes the network names (also known as Service Set Identifiers or SSIDs [define]) to the WZC service.

If, as in your situation, the Wireless Networks tab is missing from the Wireless Network Connection Properties window, then you'll need to install the WZC service. You can easily accomplish this in just a few minutes. Before we get started, though, you need to make sure that your system has been configured to display hidden files. If it hasn't, all you need to so is open Windows Explorer, click Tools and select Folder Options. Go to the View tab and scroll down till you come across the option "Show Hidden Files and Folders" and check it. Also you'll need to uncheck the option "Hide Protected Operating System Files (Recommended)". Click Ok when finished.

Now to install the Wireless Zero Configuration service on to your system, just follow the procedure outline below:

  1. Click the Start button, and then click Control Panel.
  2. In the Control Panel window, under Pick a category, double-click the Network and Internet Connections icon.
  3. In the Network and Internet Connections window, under or pick a Control Panel icon, double-click the Network Connections icon.
  4. In the Network Connections window, under LAN or High Speed Internet, click to select the Local Area Connection icon.
  5. On the menu bar, click File.
  6. On the File menu, click Properties.
  7. In the Local Area Connections Properties window, on the General tab, click the Install button.
  8. In the Select Network Component Type window, in the Click the type of network... box, click to select the Service icon.
  9. Click the Add... button.
  10. In the Select Network Service window, click the Have Disk... button.
  11. Click the OK button.
  12. In the Install From Disk window, click the Browse... button.
  13. In the Locate File window, browse to the C:\Windows\Inf folder (this is a hidden folder).
  14. Click to select NETWZC.INF.
  15. Click the Open button.
  16. In the Install From Disk window, click the OK button.
  17. In the Select Network Service window, in the Network Service box, click to select Wireless Zero Configuration.
  18. Click the OK button.

At this point, you'll need to reboot your PC. With that completed, you should find that the Wireless Zero Configuration service has been successfully installed on your system and you should now have access to the Windows Network tab.

NOTE: If you don't see the Wireless Network tab when you go back into the Network Properties Page then the most likely problem is that the service did not start. To start it, open Administrative Tools in the Control Panel and select Services. Scroll down to Wireless Zero Configuration, right-click on it and select Start. The service is now enabled and if the USB adapter had been successfully configured then the Wireless Network tab will be visible under Network Properties.

I hope this helps.

Use our feedback form to submit your questions on home or SOHO networking issues. Please be as specific as possible. We cannot guarantee to answer every question we get, but we’ll consider them all. Earthweb HardwareCentral earthwebdeveloper CrossNodes Datamation

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