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Does anyone else remove or disable 3rd-party software that controls wireless on laptops? I prefer to just have Windows manage it so that all of my portable machines are consistently configured. Also, I just dont want anything unnecessary running on my machines.

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Could you please add the "windows" tag to the question, since the question seems to be related to Windows only? –  Cristian Ciupitu Jun 23 '09 at 16:57
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4 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

My experience is mainly with Windows XP on this. I strongly prefer using the built-in Windows Zero Configuration utility because:

  • I can control it with Group Policy and configure PCs with various SSIDs and security settings automatically.

  • It will properly authenticate with WPA/RADIUS or WPA2/RADIUS environments during boot to allow group policy, startup scripts, etc, to operate prior to logon.

  • I can give a consistent tech. support experience to users reporting problems because I am very familiar with the built-in functionality.

  • It isn't flaky like some third-party tools that I've used-- the built-in functionality isn't particularly sexy, but it works.

  • The built-in functionality gets patched whtn the OS gets patched and doesn't create another item for me to support w/ patches.

The only "con" that I'm familiar with is that "WiFi Catcher" functionality on some Dell units is tied to their cruddy 3rd-party software. Failing that, I haven't had any problems.

Edit:

If you're reliant on a feature of a 3rd-party wireless manager program to set specific settings when associated with a particular SSID you might want to look at "Net Profiles" (see http://code.google.com/p/netprofiles/). It's an open source utilitiy that can set proxy settings, execute scripts, and make lots of other changes based on the association of a wireless NIC with a given SSID. (I do wish it was tied into the Windows "Network Location Awareness" service, but that's a minor gripe...)

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I've worked a tiny bit with Vista, and we had clients with trouble getting WPA(2)/RADIUS working too. Uninstalling the 3rd party wireless software fixed it right up. Even though the 3rd party software said it used the Microsoft wireless component to authenticate, it did it in such a way that never worked with our configuration. –  Joseph Jun 22 '09 at 19:54
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+1 espeically for the "I can give a consistent tech support experience to users". My users have no problem being walked through the setup experience on a new network. My friends, (and their parents) who call me in their off time, always have some random utility in the tray and I can't even know what to tell them the ico looks like. –  Matt Jun 23 '09 at 16:17
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I generally recommend using the Windows Zero Wireless Conf networking software rather than the 3rd party solution. However there are a few reasons why I may choose not to:

  1. If there is some sort of VPN setup associatiated with a specific wireless access point
  2. If there is some sort of automatic power saving on/off switch the 3rd party software provides
  3. 'Location Profiles' - I used to like that IBM Access Connections would store and change printers depending on which wireless network I would connect to. It would also launch specific programs depending on where I was connected. I do not think the built in Windows software can do either of these things.
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Thanks for the info. #3 sounds handy. –  cop1152 Jun 22 '09 at 19:59
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Con: You will need to install Windows XP SP2 plus the WPA2 upgrade in order to connect to WPA2 secured networks. Maybe not a big deal, but if wireless is your only connection method, it can be a headache.

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Well, the last time I saw 3rd-party software for wireless, it was because the Windows 2000 machine it was on didn't support the wireless card and as such, that third party software was the only thing that made it work.

If your wireless works without that software, remove it. But more than likely it's there for a reason - like there's a funny wireless router out there that that client needs to use the 3rd party software for. People don't usually do work for no reason, and most people would rather avoid installing software on a computer if they didn't have to. Ask before you remove.

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every new laptop we buy has 3rd-party software controlling the wireless. We always buy Gateway and Dell. I have yet to see a machine that comes without it. I have always uninstalled it and have never had issues. I was just wondering what others do. –  cop1152 Jun 22 '09 at 19:18
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