Windows XP provides you with a quick way to check the installation of your new hardware, including the WiFi network adapter's software driver. The Device Manager not only allows you to check the status of a particular hardware device, it also allows you to update or roll back the software driver for the device. The Device Manager also provides easy access to a hardware "troubleshooter" that helps you diagnose problems with a particular hardware device.
Open the System Properties Dialog Box
Click Start and then right-click the My Computer icon on the Start menu. Select Properties from the context menu that appears. The System Properties dialog box opens.
Open Device Manager
On the Hardware tab of the System Properties dialog box, click the Device Manager button. The Device Manager window opens.
Select the WiFi Adapter
In the Device Manager window, expand the Network Adapters category and then double-click the listing for your WiFi adapter. The Properties dialog box for your adapter opens.
The Device Manager can be hard to deal with in terms of locating a particular hardware item such as your newly installed WiFi adapter because device names can be rather cryptic. However, if your WiFi adapter is the only network adapter installed on the computer, it will be the only adapter that appears in the list when you expand the Network Adapters category. If you have multiple adapters (for example, you have a computer with a wired LAN adapter and you have added a WiFi adapter), the WiFi adapter can (in almost all cases) be identified by the fact that its name includes the manufacturer's name. For example, a Netgear WiFi adapter's name will be NETGEAR followed by the number designation for that particular adapter. In cases where the adapter name does not include the manufacturer's name (such as some Linksys adapters), the adapter's name will be fairly self explanatory. For example, my Linksys USB adapter appears under the name Instant Wireless Compact USB Adapter in the Device Manager list.
View Adapter Status and Properties
On the General tab of the Properties dialog box, view the status of the device. For example, a device that is working correctly will have the status of This device is working properly.
If the device is not working properly, the status appears as an error message such as This device cannot start. Assuming that the device was installed in the computer correctly, most hardware problems are related to the software driver for the device. At this point, you can click Troubleshoot on the General tab; the Windows Help and Support Center opens. The Windows Help and Support Center will walk you through different troubleshooting scenarios to help you get the device up and running. In some cases, you might have to remove the WiFi adapter (which is fairly easy to do for USB or PCMCIA adapters but not that easy for PCI adapters because you have to remove the computer's case again) and repeat the installation of the device. Reinstall the software driver and software utility for the device.
Advice on troubleshooting nonworking devices such as WiFi network adapters could certainly fill an entire book. Here are some general "best practice" tips: Make sure that you install the device correctly in the first place. Make sure that a PCI WiFi adapter is completely inserted in the PCI slot on the motherboard; make sure that a PCMCIA card is snapped all the way into the CardBus slot on your laptop. Also make sure that you have the most up-to-date driver for your device. The CD that ships with your device can, on occasion, actually provide an out-of-date software driver. Consult the website of the adapter's manufacturer for help on downloading the most up-to-date driver for the device or call the Help Desk number provided in the documentation that came with your WiFi adapter. Note, however, that sometimes you just end up with a faulty or "bad" WiFi adapter that isn't going to work no matter how hard you try. Return a bad adapter to the store where you made your purchase. Then try the process again with a new device.