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Potential fix for an annoying MacBook Air wireless issue


As much as I love my MacBook Air, it's had one issue in particular recently that has been pretty annoying: it drops wireless network connections seemingly at random intervals and for no particular reason. Not all wireless connections, though, just some and again, with no discernible pattern of access point or type of connection. For example, it works on my home Airport network flawlessly, but with some public Wi-Fi networks, it has a problem.

Case in point: I was at a local coffee shop near my house recently that provides free WiFi. Given that the WiFi was free and only had a WEP password, it should have been a simple matter to connect and enjoy the benefits of free Internet access. After being told the WEP password, I was able to enter it, click "Save this password to the Keychain," sign on to the wireless network and was off and surfing. Unfortunately, my wireless connection was short-lived as after only a few minutes, the connection dropped, leaving me with nothing.

Not knowing the exact nature of the problem, I connected again by selecting the network SSID in my list of available networks which show up in the Airport menu on the top right of the screen. When I selected the network, I was again prompted for the password I had just entered a few minutes ago and had, as I remembered distinctly, clicked that I wanted the Keychain to remember.

After having to do that, I used the network again and after a few more minutes, the connection dropped. Being the stubborn and somewhat tech-savvy person I am, I decided to test this out a few more times to see if I could figure out the exact nature of the problem and, more to the point, find a fix for it. After connecting and being dropped several more times, it finally dawned on me that I was being asked for the password to the wireless network every time I had to sign on, even though I had checked the box to remember the password in the Keychain.

Obviously, something wasn't right and, given this new development, that something just might be the Keychain. This led me next to the "Keychain Access" utility located in the Utilities Folder on my MBA. Once I had launched the "Keychain Access" utility I took a look at the list of stored passwords and found the one associated with the SSID of the wireless network I had been trying to connect to.

Having had problems with the Keychain before over the years, I decided to try something as simple as running "Keychain First Aid" to see if that would remedy the situation. Selecting it from the "Keychain Access" menu I ran it to see if it could identify any problems and fix them. Unfortunately, it found nothing. This result was a bit discouraging and made me start to wonder if I was on the right track.

However, I wasn't quite ready to abandon my theory just yet. So, right-clicking on the Keychain entry for the wireless network SSID that was giving me problems and selecting "Get Info" I decided to take a look at the "Access Control" settings for this particular Keychain item to see if something there might be the culprit.

Once the window had opened I saw that the Keychain item was set to "Confirm before allowing access." Normally, at least in my experience, once you decide to remember a password, this setting is changed and instead "Allow all Applications to Access this Item" is selected. So, following that logic, I selected the "Allow all Applications" check box, confirmed by entering my admin password, closed the "Keychain Access" utility and tried connecting to the wireless connection again.

I'm happy to report that I was able to join the wireless network and the connection remained stable for almost 45 minutes before I had to disconnect and leave. So, at least for me, I would call this particular "fix" a success. I'm not sure if the Access Control Keychain setting was somehow changed by the 10.5.2 update to Leopard, but this wireless issue did seem to coincide with that update -- at least in my case. Or, it may just be an issue particular to the MBA and one that Apple will address in a future software update.

It might also have been some other recent "Security Update" that caused the change its settings. There's no way to be sure as I usually don't spend much time poking through my list of stored Keychain passwords. Although, given this new development, perhaps I should.

Of course, not all Macs, network configurations, routers and situations are exactly same, but if you happen to be experiencing a similar issue, this is something you can easily try and see if it fixes it for you. Who knows, this simple fix could save you a lot of headaches. It did for me. If you do try it, hit us back in the comments and let us know if it works for you.

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