Troubleshooting Wireless Connections

When it comes to wireless, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. From faulty hardware connections to radio interference to incompatible software or drivers, or simple settings mismatches, anything is possible, and it can be a challenge to make it all work on the first try. This section will cover some of the more common problems that have been encountered by users and developers of pfSense® software.

Check the Antenna

Before spending any time diagnosing an issue, double and triple check the antenna connection. If it is a screw-on type, ensure it is fully tightened. For mini-PCI cards, ensure the pigtail connectors are properly connected and snapped in place. Pigtails on mini-PCI cards are fragile and easy to break. After disconnecting and reconnecting pigtails a few times, they may need to be replaced.

Check Wireless Status

The status of connected wireless clients and nearby access points can be viewed by navigating to Status > Wireless. This menu option only appears when a wireless interface is present and enabled.

On this page, click Rescan and then refresh the page after 10 seconds to see other nearby access points. If they are on the same or a nearby channel, there could be interference.

In the list of associated clients, several flags are listed that explain the capabilities of the connected client. For example if the client has an “H” flag, this indicates High Throughput used by 802.11n. If a client is connected without that flag, they may be using an older lower standard. A full list of wireless flags is contained in Wireless Status, including access point capability descriptions.

Try with multiple clients or wireless cards

To eliminate a possible incompatibility between wireless functions on pfSense software and a wireless client, be sure to try it with multiple devices or cards first. If the same problem is repeatable with several different makes and models, it is more likely to be a problem with the configuration or related hardware than the client device.

Signal Strength is Low

If the signal is weak even when nearby the access point antenna, check the antenna again. For mini-PCI or mini-PCIe cards, if only one pigtail in use and there are two internal connectors, try hooking the pigtail up to the other internal connector on the card. Also try changing the Channel or adjusting the Transmit Power, or the Antenna Settings on the wireless interface configuration. For mini-PCI and mini-PCIe cards, check for broken ends on the fragile pigtail connectors where they plug into the card. If the Regulatory Domain settings have not been configured, set them before testing again.

Stuck Beacon Errors

If a “Stuck Beacon” error is found in the system or wireless log, it is usually an indication that the chosen wireless channel is too noisy:

kernel: ath0: stuck beacon; resetting (bmiss count 4)

The sensitivity of this behavior can be tuned by adding a System Tunable entry for hw.ath.bstuck with a value of 8 or higher.

If the errors persist, use a WiFi survey app or program to determine an open or less-used channel to use instead of the current channel.

Interface Unavailable for Assignment

If a wireless interface does not appear in the list of interfaces Interfaces > Assignments there are two possibile issues:

If the wireless card is supported, a wireless instance must first be created as described in Creating and Managing Wireless Instances. Once the instance is created, it will be available for assignment.

If the wireless card is not supported, it will not be available for selection as a parent interface when creating a wireless instance.