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Ask Max: Problems Connecting Dell to Airport

Asked on 10/30/2008:

We're a cross platform household. Work forces us to use XP laptops. We use an Airport Extreme for our wireless router.

Recently, my employer upgraded me to a Dell Latitude XT tablet PC. My older HP tablet connects our wireless no problem. But not the Dell. Even though as best as I can tell, I have configured the wireless for our airport extreme the same.

Basically, the Dell never acquires an IP address. Unfortunately when you mention Apple to XP guys- they just clam up.

What I have discovered by checking the Dell's Wireless Network Connection status on the Support tab is that the Dell is not picking up an IP or Subnet mask. When I click on the "details" button, I see a Physical Address but no other settings.

Any clue as why the Dell won't connect wirelessly to our Airport? The Table does connect to other wireless access points.


I was a Windows IT guy in another life but I quickly turned into a resident Mac guy for the Art Department systems. I got that job precisely because I rarely "clam up." The same is true now, but in the reversed direction. Please forgive me if I am not as polished with the Windows XP world.

You could be encountering a problem with having a "Fixed IP" address in your work’s network. Many IT people use fixed IPs to control network access, preventing unauthorized computers being brought in from home. Follow these steps to make sure you have your system set to request an IP address from the DHCP server in your Airport router.

To enable DHCP in Windows XP, follow these steps:

  • On the Start Menu, select Control Panel > Network Connections.
  • Right-click the appropriate connection name and select Properties.
  • Select TCP/IP Protocol, and then select Properties.
  • On the General tab, select Obtain an IP address automatically.
  • Click OK.

If it does not automatically obtain an IP address, you may want to restart the XP computer. If that has no effect make sure your Airport Extreme router is set to share its network connection via DHCP. Also you may want to try temporarily removing any Access password you set on the router, just to see if this is a password issue. If removing the Airport password helps, please re-enable it and let me know and we can try to get your XP system to use the password.

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