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Networking problems with the Belkin Wireless G USB adapter

Having just moved to London, into a flat with a wireless net connection, I needed to get my trusty desktop PC wireless-enabled.

My laptop, with its built-in wireless adapter, worked straight away. As the router here is a Belkin Wireless G, I thought I’d go for an adapter for my desktop from Belkin, too. I got an external USB one to match the “G” networking speed of the router.

The instructions for installing the adapter stress – repeatedly – that you should install the supplied software before plugging the adapter in. There’s even a sticker sealing the adapter’s little plastic bag exclaiming, “STOP: Run the installation CD-ROM FIRST” – which I dutifully did.

The adapter didn’t work. It occasionally recognised the network we’ve got here, but always failed to connect to it. I went through endless uninstalls and re-installs, eventually leading me to the inevitably frustrating experience of phoning technical support. After being told that my issue had been “escalated”, I was assured that engineers would call me back.

The next day, having received no call, I called again to see what was happening. They had no record of the previous day’s call at all, so I had to go through the whole thing again. At the end of this the support guy simply said I needed to take my adapter back and get another model.

Naturally I was a little dubious when the guys in the shop on Tottenham Court Road tried to sell me the one that’s twice as expensive – but it made some sense to get a “better” model (the slightly faster G+, though the extra bandwidth capacity is presumably redundant with a G router).

Coming to install it, I thought back to my experience with Belkin tech support, where both guys I spoke to immediately got me to restart the Windows XP “Wireless Zero Configuration” service. I believe this is Windows’ built-in wireless networking manager, which Belkin’s “wireless utility” software promptly shuts down, taking over the OS’s handling of wireless connectivity. Why would they do that unless they thought it’s possible the Belkin utility might itself be getting in the way?

OK, I thought, there’s an obvious thing to try here. Just plug the adapter in and let Windows handle it all. Lo and behold! Windows immediately recognised the hardware, roped in its own XP drivers, and immediately connected to the local network.

I guess maybe the first one I got was just a dud, or wasn’t powerful enough (even though there’s only 10 feet and one wall between my adapter and the router). My bet’s that the vital and important-sounding warnings on the adapter’s packaging and installation instructions about running their CD first is just standard corporate shite, eager to get their own crummy little app running the show, even if their own tech support people know that it’s often the cause of many “issues” found with their hardware.

Anyone buying or having problems with the Belkin Wireless G USB adapter: try ignoring Belkin’s sage advice and letting Windows deal with it.