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Selecting WPA or WPA2 encryption is important, but not all hardware supports it. We'll look at what to do if your computer doesn't support WPA2.

I have an IBM ThinkPad 2897 laptop running WinXP Pro which has wireless card inside. I don't currently see an option for WPA2 for wireless connectivity/security, only WEP. But the wireless network I need to connect to is secured by WPA2.

I think there's a driver or file to download that will enable Windows to 'see' this option and add it to the list of available wireless network security protocols, but I'm not sure and not sure where to find it.

What can I do?

As has been mentioned before, WEP encryption should be considered about as safe as no encryption at all. Software to crack it, and crack it quickly, has been available for some time. WEP had its day, and that day has passed.

The "next best" is WPA, which some recent reports indicate may have been cracked. It's unclear what the true risk and practical impact of that might be.

WPA2, however, remains solid and should be considered "the way to go".

What if your computer won't let you go there?

That might actually be a problem, but there are solutions.

In most cases, the ability to support various levels of encryption is actually a function of the wireless hardware being used. That means that there are wireless adapters that can support WEP just fine, but cannot support WPA or WPA2 no matter what you do. There's no way to just "turn it on in Windows" because it's not Windows that's the limiting factor, it's the hardware.

"In most cases the ability to support various levels of encryption is actually a function of the wireless hardware ..."

However, before assuming the worst the thing to do is, as you indicated, to make sure you have the latest drivers for your specific wireless adapter. That typically means going to the support site for your computer's manufacturer and locating the driver software either based on the specific model of your computer, or the specific model of the wireless adapter installed in it.

Download and install that driver, and examine the resulting capabilities before throwing in the towel.

Unfortunately, and specifically since you're bringing up WEP, it's possible that your computer is old enough that drivers or other support information might just not be available. WPA's been around for a while, which implies that most WEP-only devices are actually fairly old.

If that's the case then in all honesty, the easiest solution is to simply get another wireless adapter. They're not expensive, and can be had in a variety of form factors. In particular, a plug-in USB wireless adapter seems ideal for the scenario you're outlining. You need to disable the old internal adapter and you should be good to go.

Article C3865 - September 12, 2009 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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5 Comments
anth11
September 15, 2009 11:55 AM

Hi Leo
I wonder if this laptop has Service Pack 2 installed, because WPA won't work without it.

Michael
September 15, 2009 1:25 PM

Get a PC card with "g" WiFi band or above. That laptop has a "b" band WiFi internal adapter, limited to WEP, if I am not mistaken. Also, I would disable the internal wireless adapter to simplify subsequent wireless network connections.

Michael Horowitz
September 15, 2009 8:17 PM

The earlier reader comment is not correct. Windows XP SP2 supports WPA (really TKIP). It needs a hotfix applied, however, to support WPA2 (really AES-CCMP). Windows XP SP3 includes support for WPA2.

vincent
September 17, 2009 1:13 PM

Yes, I had the same problem, but with XP Home. Never experienced it with XP Pro, not even before SP3.
If none of the above work, install this update from microsoft:
http://www.microsoft.com/DOWNLOADS/details.aspx?familyid=662BB74D-E7C1-48D6-95EE-1459234F4483&displaylang=en

Rudi Taminiau
February 16, 2010 11:09 PM

Hi,
I have a DLink DVA-G3340S,It cost $350 and is full of problems. One of them being WPA-PSK, when set to this it crashes, it is quite happy on WEP.
DLink appear to have abandoned it with latest firmware update at Feb.2008.
Now we have an additional laptop with XP Pro SP3.
My question is does SP3 support WEP because apart from buying a new router and WEP being "old hat", I need WEP.

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