My husband and I run our business out of our home. We each have an office. His laptop is equipped with Wi-Fi, and I have a PC with the wireless router. We had it set up so that he could print on the PC's printer. But he was having trouble staying connected to the Internet,...

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Q: My husband and I run our business out of our home. We each have an office. His laptop is equipped with Wi-Fi, and I have a PC with the wireless router. We had it set up so that he could print on the PC’s printer. But he was having trouble staying connected to the Internet, so we finally broke down and added another Comcast cable to his office. Now he can’t print on my printer (or so the dialogue boxes say). Before we go out and buy him another printer, I’ll ask the expert: Is there any way around this?

Pat Detmer

A: I think you’ve done the right thing by hard-wiring both computers, since Wi-Fi connections are less secure and generally not as fast as hard-wired connections.

But you’ll save money if you use a single cable connection and a single router connected to one computer and then link the other computer to the first using an Ethernet cable. Then all you have to do is make sure both computers are on the same work group and you’ll again be able to share the printer.

On the other hand, if wiring the two computers together is difficult because of distance or obstacles such as walls, and if the only reason to have the computers linked is printing, it might be more efficient to simply get another printer.

Q: I have a working wireless system with several computers using Comcast and a Netgear router. I have a Compaq Presario laptop used only every few months for trips. I was getting onto the Internet with no problems. After not using the laptop for six weeks I can get only “local” connection and cannot get on Internet connection at my home. At any other location there is no problem.

Irwin Schiller, Mercer Island

A: Network connectivity — wireless or hard-wired — is a complex thing and generally requires hands-on troubleshooting to resolve problems. But here are some general guidelines.

The first step in troubleshooting wireless connections is to make sure all the hardware is working properly. Turn all hardware off, wait 30 seconds, then restart. Plug and unplug all the hardware to make certain the connections are solid.

Next, make sure the wireless router is working properly. Are any other wireless devices able to access the router? If so, I’d suspect the problem is with the hardware or configuration of your laptop’s wireless adapter. If no device can access the wireless router, that’s probably where the problem lies.

The fact that your laptop doesn’t have connectivity problems in other locations points to your router as the likely issue. But there could be other problems. There may be something in your house, for example, interfering with connectivity. Does moving the laptop right next to the router improve connectivity?

Once you’re made sure the hardware is OK, you need to make sure everything is properly configured. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changed settings on a wireless router and then forgotten about it until I’m unable to connect a device that was previously configured and working well.

That means making sure they’re using the same channel and have the appropriate encryption keys. If your router automatically changes channels depending upon signal strength and your laptop doesn’t, for example, you may have to manually select channels.

Note: Several recent columns have discussed the installation of Windows Service Packs. One reader recently wrote in to say that his problems with downloading and installing Windows XP Service Pack 3 were resolved by obtaining a disc instead. The disc is available by calling Microsoft at 800-360-7561.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.