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Why am I getting limited connectivity at my local open wifi hotspot?


Leo, sometimes when I attempt to connect to my local coffeehouse’s Wi-Fi, I can connect to a strong signal that has limited or no connectivity but others in the house are connected with no problem at the same time. The shop owner’s not willing to reset the router because it might take down his credit card machine or other patrons – all perfectly logical. Anyway, is there a setting in my laptop that might improve this situation? Rebooting does not help. Disabling wireless and restart does not help. I’m using Windows XP Pro, Service Pack 3 with all updates.

Wireless N internal, and external N via USB. Both have failed (I’m not trying to connect them at the same time.) As did wireless G on another of my laptops also fail even though several other patrons are connected okay under the same wireless. I seem to be the only one having this problem but the problem is intermittent. Sometimes I can connect okay. Why would some be able to connect while others not, all at the same time?

Unfortunately, there’s not a setting on your computer that’s in your control, that I’m aware of, that would fix this problem. I do have some ideas, but the bottom line is that you really have to try and try again until it works, since you are able to reach full connectivity some of the time.

I just don’t really have any magical answers that are just going to make this problem go away for you.

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If at first you don’t succeed…

My first recommendation in situations like this would be to turn off your Wi-Fi interface and turn it back on again. (It sounds like you’ve already done that).

In some cases, you would right click on a network icon that represents the connection and click on “disable”; wait; and then right-click on it again and select “enable”. On other machines, you may have a taskbar notification area icon that you can use for this. Some machines even have an external physical switch you can use.

Either way, the old “turn it off and turn it back on” again trick is still the best that I know of in situations like this.

All circuits are busy

So, what’s happening?

As you said, limited connectivity means that the physical connection has been made; your laptop is indeed connected to the local Wi-Fi router. However, no IP address has actually been assigned to your computer by that router; that’s why you can’t get to the internet.

Now, I suspect one of two things is going on here, and they’re both related to that router.

WiFi at the Coffee ShopThe first possibility is that the router could simply be overloaded. If there are a lot of people connected, the router could just be working too hard to get around to assigning an IP address to your laptop. A cheap router could be to blame, but I couldn’t say one way or the other without knowing the exact model of router that the coffeehouse is using. For example, as I sit here in Starbucks writing this, there are perhaps a dozen computers connected. Even if two dozen were connected, a good router should be able to handle that kind of load. But I just don’t know what kind of router your coffeehouse is using, nor do I know what Starbucks is using for that matter.

Second, it’s possible that the router has been configured with a preset limit on the number of machines that it will allow to connect at the same time. So, perhaps it’s over the limit. Unfortunately, that’s not something I expect the barista or perhaps even the shop owner to know about. It’s one of those things that was probably configured when the device was initially installed, and then forgotten by everybody except for the person who installed it.

So, ultimately, the only real answer I can give you in a situation like this is to keep trying. That’s usually what works for me when I run into this situation. But to be honest, I haven’t had this issue in quite long time. I suspect this is mostly because the places I’m visiting have good equipment, have good connectivity, and are set up to handle lots of people at the same time.

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29 comments on “Why am I getting limited connectivity at my local open wifi hotspot?”

  1. I have had similar grief specifically with Windows XP. Win7 (or Vista for that matter) would be fine, but my WinXP netbook will often flat-out refuse to connect when computers all around it are connected. Or be connected and then stop working. Or not work and then work fine after rebooting. This both with internal card and external dongle. Same story with a desktop in the basement. In all cases there’s no lack of signal strength, or too much router load, but the constant I’ve found in all of it is that WinXP (in my experience) doesn’t play nearly as nice with networking as newer Windows do.

  2. I had the same issue, repeatedly, sometimes along with an error message indicating another program is controlling the wifi. Eventually I found a program called Starter. I used it to turn off things that start during boot. I turned off my “Wireless Network Monitor” (Linksys) and I guess the windows wifi controller was the only controller left starting. It resolved the limited or no connectivity problem. Maybe you have multiple wifi controlling applications starting. Hope it helps.

  3. Hi,
    This is an article I feel interested in. I use an android tablet and when I connect to outside hotspot, I will get a wifi signal but no internet. This keeps me wasting time until I find that it has a webpage that ask for my contest of their data usage policy.
    I want to find an app that can tell me I can surf immediately.

  4. Sometimes the problem might be that you haven’t logged in to the hotspot sign in page. If the page you are trying to open in your browser is a secure https:, page it won’t always bring up the sign in page. When I can’t get this sign in page, I try to open and that almost always brings up the sign in page.
    Some of the comments in this article discuss this issue:

    • It can be something to try. That’s effectively what turning the adapter on and off again does. (BTW: I almost always include IPCONFIG /RELEASE first, just to make sure that the computer really does attempt a proper renew.)

  5. sir, m havng my frnds wifi ndt work near my house . But its limited ,i tried it with my cel phone wifi hotspot, its also limited , what should i do

  6. Am Getting wifi signal and how i can contact the owner of the wifi connection ? Is there possible to get the contact number or E-mail

    • There’s no way of getting any kind of contact information from a WiFi signal. Since the range of a WiFi signal is very short, I suppose you can knock an doors within a 30 meter radius of your computer.

  7. hello sir, I’m Aditya
    I’ve Tenda -Wireless N150 ADSL2+Modem Router (model no: D151) this is working fine for my pc,it seems pc is properly configured, but whenever i’m connecting wifi through my mobile its always showing ”Limited Connectivity” and not getting connect I mean it shows status Obtaining IP address and then it shows again some options like’ Cancel Forget Reconnect ‘ i tried to reconnect it but again it shows the same problem ‘limited connectivity’ what should i do now plzz tell me about this problem.,.,.i’m waiting,,

  8. i m using LG g3 f400L using a 3g network which is working fine on mobile.
    but when i try t o connect it with my laptop through mobile hotspot my laptop shows limited connectivity (no internet access)
    help me to solve this problem

    • That is exactly what’s going on with mine and I have a LG Stylo 2 and I am using it for my hotspot for my new laptop and it is also telling me that I don’t have any internet connection and it is also saying limited..

  9. Up until about three and a half weeks ago I had no problem with my laptop. Now I sometimes have to wait hours on end for the internet to come up. Sometimes the light comes on my modem, sometimes it doesn’t. What I’m asking is “could my laptop be at fault in any way?”
    My service provider has supplied me with two different modems and nothing works.
    Any ideas?

    • It depends on how things are connected, but if the lights on your modem are having troubles turning on that’s almost never related to the computer connected to it.

  10. Gud day Leo, there are some sites that i cannot access using my modem but can access them on the cyber cafe. when i enter my username and password, it displays “invalid password” but i use the same password to access this site on the cyber cafe. pls i really need you help.

  11. i have also same problem.I have connect to friends wifi modem but no internet….
    but internet is get in opera mini…..i am using nokia lumia 520 …. sometimes it show a messege your adsl is down…..what can i do…plz help

  12. Hi I’m Katelynn and on my new laptop I just got it is saying limited which it is also saying that I don’t have any internet connection plus I am using my phone for my Wi-Fi hotspot and I don’t know what to do. How can I be able to use my Wi-Fi hotspot on my phone so I can be able to go on my laptop without having to go to the library everyday and the type of phone I have is an LG Stylo 2if you possibly can I would like to know how to use Wi-Fi hotspot on my phone to be able to use my new laptop without having to go anywhere to use the internet can you please help me figure out the problem..

    • There are so many things that could be causing your problem. For instance, you need to have a data plan as well as the necessary functionality on your phone for it to act as a wifi hotspot. Your best best is to contact support at your cell phone company. They can help make sure you have the right plan, and walk you through getting connected.

  13. Hi! i’m Sandra, with the help of a youtube video i was able to create a hot spot from my laptop. it only works with facebook and whatsapp but wont open anything else. not Even google chrome. what do i do!

    • In order to get some help your question will need to be more clear. For instance, did you connect your laptop *to* an open wifi, or did you actually create a hot spot from your laptop? If the later is the case, then it is likely that your computer has equipment that can connect to just a few sites (like Facebook) unless you purchase a package. I had a Dell laptop like that once.

      Also, Google Chrome is a browser. You would use Chrome to connect to the internet. You wouldn’t connect *to* Chrome.

  14. Just curious. a friend of mine seems to think that the”coffeeshop wifi” we use at different locations can monitor your wifi use to the degree that if you appear “inactive” for a period of time it will kick you offline to free up connectivity for more users. I assume something like this is possible, but is it being done, do you think, and is it even cost-effective, or at least not prohibitive, for franchise owners.

    • Sure it’s possible, but I’ve never heard of it actually happening. There’s no incentive to do so, though, because if you’re “inactive” there’s no benefit to “kicking you off” — in fact, I’m not even sure what “kicking you off” would mean in that scenario.


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