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Which wireless AP will a computer connect to?

Posted on 2012-12-28
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Last Modified: 2013-12-27
My office has a wireless router in the front and a wifi access point in the back.  The computer can reach both of them, but how does it decide which one to connect to?

Both the router and AP have the same SSID, password, and transmission speeds; what's different it the channel they operate on.
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Question by:epichero22
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10 Comments
 
LVL 13

Expert Comment

by:p_nuts
ID: 38728878
The computer should connect to the strongest signal

The only thing you need to worry about is that only one device is giving out up addresses if you use DHCP
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LVL 21

Expert Comment

by:Rick_O_Shay
ID: 38729263
As mentioned it is generally based on the strongest signal received but there are other things that can enter into the decision made by the PC as well.

One is what frequency band, 2.4ghz or 5ghz, the chipset favors or in some cases it may only work with one or the other.

Another is if there is an open SSID a client will usually connect to that before hitting any that have security enabled. Not an issue in your case since you have the same settings on both APs.
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LVL 11

Author Comment

by:epichero22
ID: 38729731
We're only using the 2.4 band, and DHCP is turned off on the AP.  And both the router and access point have been recently purchased from DLink.

Also, one of the laptops we have connected to the AP was right underneath the AP.  The connection quality was excellent and rated at 65 Mbps.  What transfer speeds should we be getting between local computers?  I tried sending a file to the server and it averaged 5-6 MB/sec.  But when we tried opening a database application, I monitored the transfer rate, and it was below 2 MB/sec.  I don't know if you guys have experience with this and would like to comment.
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LVL 46

Accepted Solution

by:
Craig Beck earned 500 total points
ID: 38729732
The client will connect to the first one it receives a beacon from initially.  The signal strength only comes into play if the APs are part of the same system (controller-based) or the client has a threshold set which tells it to connect to an AP when it's signal is below a certain limit.

There are different ways to control this though, depending on the kit.
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LVL 21

Expert Comment

by:Rick_O_Shay
ID: 38730851
Your connection speed and actual throughput are going to be different with the throughput being much lower. I think I saw a rule of thumb for wifi somewhere that said any actual data rate over 50% of the connection speed is considered a good rate.

Don't forget that your network speeds are in bits per second and your application transfer rates are in bytes per second.

I suspect that the database transfer rate is similarly slower wired to wired but you would have to test that to confirm.
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LVL 11

Expert Comment

by:remixedcat
ID: 38746383
Please provide the router model # so we can assist you further.

 Thank you.
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LVL 11

Author Comment

by:epichero22
ID: 38756787
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LVL 11

Expert Comment

by:remixedcat
ID: 38758401
It should communicate on the strongest AP. I have mine set to different SSIDs so I know which one I connect to.

I have an Amped Wireless router and repeater and I have the router's SSID as Pinkiepie for the main network and PinkiepiePinkiepie as the repeated main network. The repeated name lets you know it's the repeated (extended) network.

You may want to name yours epichero_R and epichero_AP to differentiate so you know what device you are connected to. Or if one device is on the west side you can call it epichero_west_side and epichero_east_side of the house as well.
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LVL 46

Expert Comment

by:Craig Beck
ID: 38758606
If you use any kind of Wireless configuration utility (or Windows' own, for example) the above solution (naming each AP's SSID individually) won't work for you if you can see both APs all the time.

Especially as is the case for Windows PCs, the Wireless connection is determined in a pre-defined preference order when using the Windows configuration utility, so if you have two different SSIDs and you can see them both you will always connect to the first one in your WLAN list (under the Manage Wireless Networks menu).  This would then mean that you could be connecting to the furthest AP when you're actually right next to the most suitable AP.

I reiterate the point that the client won't necessarily connect to the AP with the strongest signal unless the signal from one AP falls below a certain threshold usually.
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LVL 11

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by:epichero22
ID: 38770962
Craigbeck, would you elaborate on thresholds?  I don't think that Windows offers this option so I'm not very familiar with it.
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