I'm a university sysadmin. About two weeks ago, one of my faculty members (Dr. "C") got a new 13" MBAir, i7, 256GB, 8GB RAM. He has not been able to get it to stay connected to either of our University wireless networks (one uses WEP, the other WPA2) nor his WEP home network.
The machine connects to the wireless network for 5-10 minutes, then loses the connection (though it still seems to display a connection) and cannot reconnect until it is rebooted.
Yesterday, I received my new MBAir, identical to his except for a 128GB hard drive. I unboxed it on campus yesterday, and could not join either the WEP or the WPA2 network. Unlike Dr. C., I didn't get an intermittent connection. I got no connection at all. The WEP network would claim to work, but didn't; the WPA2 network would fail at authentication, telling me my password was wrong.
Last night, I brought the MBAir home. On my home network (which uses an Airport Extreme that's only a couple of months old) the connection was flawless.
So today I took mine back to campus, and it was still unable to connect. Somewhere (perhaps on the MacRumors forums?) I'd read that some people reported success using a "virgin" user account, one that hadn't been migrated over from a previous computer. The claim was that some network settings could get migrated over that were incompatible with the new hardware.
Both mine and Dr. C's new machines had been migrated over from 2009 MacBook Pros, so this was at least something to try. I performed the following steps on my machine:
-- Removed / "forgot" all wifi networks.
-- Deleted the network preference files.
-- Created a new, blank user account.
-- Logged out of my main account and into the new account.
-- Attempted to connect to the WPA2 wifi network -- it worked!
-- Logged out of the new account, and back into my main account.
-- The machine still worked on the wifi!
-- I left it streaming some Internet audio most of the day, and the connection was rock solid. No problems.
I then went downstairs to Dr. C's office and tried the same steps. His machine, however, did not respond positively. Even under the new, virgin account, his connection would drop after < 10 minutes.
Dr. C will take his laptop to the Genius Bar tomorrow, in the hopes that they'll be able to provide some assistance.
My best guess at this point is that there are potentially both software AND hardware issues affecting these machines. My issue seemed to be software-related, and was (hopefully) quickly resolved. Dr. C's seems to be hardware.
Just wanted to throw a bit more evidence on the fire!
"Why do they keep selling the MBAs if they know the WIFI is messed up?"
This is why I think it is a software issue. On the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. Anything Apple do is based on profit calculations. If they knew this were a hardware issue, they'd have stopped shipments because that would've been the least expensive thing to do. Except, of course, if they know it's a fairly contained issue, and the calculations say that the cost of bad publicity from stopping the shipments would be worse than recalling some thousand devices... Sort of how car manufacturers decide whether to recall a car or pay settlements to grieving families based on what is the most profitable route.
Hmm... Either way, we can always return the thing.
The idea that this is a layered problem (multiple issues) is supported by the rumours that an Apple pilot fix doesn't always fix the problem. And it tends to explain why Apple hasn't announced a fix. There are probably multiple issues -- multiple problems. Their research probably uncovered 1 or more problems and they incorporated that into their fix and some people started working because that was their problem, but there are other issues they couldn't see until they had the more obvious errors solved. I see that all the time with our software. It makes the "problem" which is in reality multiple bugs harder to solve. Often you can only make it better at first.
You solve it with a virgin account. Some solve it with a change in security protocol from WPA to WPA2. Some solve it by changing from TKIP. Perhaps everyone doesn't actually have exactly the same problem. You might think this is worrying but it's not really that uncommon, especially as it seems to work with Apple routers. It does seem to indicate inadequate testing though.
To me it tends to indicate that there's nothing about the hardware that is inherently bad -- at least nothing that can't be fixed in software which to me is a good sign. For me, keeping the machine, worst case is that the problem is hardware related, and Apple never fixes it. If that is the case I'll only ever have the issue in some hotel's wifi (which I rarely use) and it might be an issue if I sell the machine. But I still want it fixed and I think it will be fixed -- or at least a large part of the problem will be fixed in such a way as to be far less likely.
My experience so far is that the 13" Air that I just bought drops the connection constantly on my office network, which uses an SMC router, a brand I've never heard of. At home on my Apple router the performance has been stellar. Today, while waiting for my wife at a medical office, I logged onto their guest network, which uses a Cisco router and, again, flawless performance. Very fast web page load times and strong signal. I'm trying to use as many different networks as possible in the next couple days while deciding whether to stick with the machine or return it. My inclination at the moment is to stay with it and hope for a software fix for both the wifi and audio fluctuation problem (which I also suspect is driver or software related).
I haven't been in the office for a few days so I don't know the WPA protocol being used there. On my home network and at the medical office network both are using WPA2. I've been using an application called Wifi Exporer and another called Air Radar to monitor the networks I'm using. They tell me the signal strength and the WPA level and the type of router (vendor) so I'm getting more info each time I use it. I'll be in the office later this week and will monitor the network there and see if I can tell what's going on.
Sorry it took so long, It took me tewo trys, so I'm on my second machine now. But I also use the AirPort Extreme with 802.11ac wifi. Not sure if it makes a real difference, but since my second machine has been working just fine, the two 802.11ac wifi's are a dream together. I honestly would say just keep turning them in as they crap out on you, otherwise you're just settling on something unless you decide to wait and not have anything alltogether.
It just works! Thank you!
All you need is put wi-fi before bluetooth in network preferences -> select service order. It works for me.
I switched back to WPA on my router, that usually lets me stay connected for 1 minute, not more, and swapped WiFi with Bluetooth in that menu. So far I'm stable for 10 minutes, will report if it suddenly drops.
The solution is so ridiculous I would seriously doubt that it works, but so far so good.
20 minutes in and still working, don't want to jinx it, but I think we found the solution. Normally WiFi would have dropped me at least a dozen times already. This is so ridiculous, I think I'll go and celebrate this relief with a bottle of beer.
To be honest, just a couple of minutes before I have installed all the updates available to me, including the AirPort tool, maybe that also helped.