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I'm connecting my Windows XP SP3 clients to a WPA2 Enterprise secured wifi network.

The WiFi network is secured using an external RADIUS server with PEAP/MSCHAPv2 as the authentication method.

The problem is that the wireless only connects after a user logins to Windows. (Also the wireless disconnects after the user logouts)

How can I get it to connect before a user logins?

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2 Answers

In my experience with wireless enterprise authentication in Windows XP, this is entirely dependent upon the wireless adapter and its attendant drivers and utilities. In past scenarios, I've used Intel Pro wireless adapters and they have two features that might be of use to you: Single Sign On (SSO) and Pre-Logon Connect (PLC).

In short, you will need to work with the utilities of the wireless adapter to create saved profiles for the wireless networks that you want a computer to connect to before the Windows GINA.

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You need to use machine authentication only. I have had many bad experiences with trying to get the "Connect directly before user logon" method working, and no good ones.

The best results always come from using machine auth only. Alternatively, set the wireless profile to use "machine OR user authentication". This way the machine with auth when no one logs in. At some point after the user has logged on (usually towards the end, although I don't know what determines the time interval) it will switch to user auth. Depending on your network, you may drop packets, 1 or more.

On ours it dropped one packet, and you could see the network icon in the system tray D/C then R/C. It appeared to work fine but we didn't want to risk the switchover happening during logon e.g. during network drive mapping or folder redirection, so we ended up going with machine auth only, which works flawlessly.

Obviously the machines will need to be domain joined and/or have the proper certificates.

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