If you’re experiencing the frustrating situation where your WiFi in Windows 11 is not working or not showing up at all but Ethernet is, you’re encountering a common yet intricate networking issue. This scenario, where your wireless connection fails despite a perfectly functioning wired connection, can be caused by a variety of factors specific to Wi-Fi technology. This article will provide some insights into why this discrepancy occurs and offer targeted, community-sourced solutions to help you resolve your Wi-Fi connectivity problems.
The Root of the Problem: Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet
To understand why your Wi-Fi isn’t working but your Ethernet connection is, it’s essential to recognize the distinct nature of these two types of network connections. Ethernet, a wired connection, generally offers a more stable and consistent internet experience, less prone to interference and connectivity issues. On the other hand, Wi-Fi, which operates wirelessly, is subject to a variety of factors that can disrupt its functionality. These include driver issues, hardware malfunctions, signal interference, and network settings peculiarities, to name a few.
In Windows 11, while both connections are managed through similar settings and interfaces, their underlying operational mechanisms differ, leading to scenarios where one might work flawlessly while the other falters.
Linked issue: “No Internet, Secured” WiFi issue on Windows 11/10
WiFi Option Not Showing Up on Windows 11 Taskbar
Many users may first notice that the Wi-Fi option is mysteriously absent from the Windows 11 taskbar area. If you find yourself in this situation, the very first thing to check is whether your computer has built-in Wi-Fi support or a Wi-Fi adapter, either external or internal. This discrepancy is especially common among desktop computer users who may assume their system supports Wi-Fi when it, in fact, does not.
In some cases, desktop PCs might lack integrated Wi-Fi capabilities. If that’s the case, you can easily resolve this by acquiring an external USB Wi-Fi adapter, which can quickly add Wi-Fi functionality to your desktop system. These compact devices are readily available and provide a convenient way to add wireless connectivity to your desktop setup, ensuring that you can access Wi-Fi networks seamlessly.
WiFi Not Working But Ethernet Is: Where to Begin
Although you may have already seen this multiple times by now, the first step in tackling this conundrum is to examine the most straightforward and common areas of failure. This involves ensuring your Wi-Fi adapter’s drivers are updated and verifying that the adapter itself is enabled.
However, the journey to resolution doesn’t end here. As we look deeper, we’ll explore more specific, less commonly addressed issues and solutions that users have found effective in forums and community discussions such as Reddit.
Similar problem: “Can’t connect to this network” WiFi/Hotspot Issue in Windows 11/10
1. Addressing Wi-Fi Driver Issues After Windows Update
A recurring theme, especially after significant updates like the Windows 11 22H2 update, is Wi-Fi driver incompatibility. Users have frequently found that their Wi-Fi issues arise from outdated drivers. The remedy involves visiting the device manufacturer’s website for the latest driver, removing the existing Wi-Fi device via Device Manager, rebooting the system, and then installing the updated driver. This process can reinstate Wi-Fi functionality where simple updates might fail.
Related resource: How to See What Drivers Are Installed in Windows 11
2. Single Adapter Usage: Avoiding Conflicts
A key point often raised in forums is the necessity of ensuring that only one network adapter is enabled at a time. Having both the Ethernet and Wi-Fi adapters active can sometimes lead to conflicts in network prioritization within Windows 11, resulting in Wi-Fi issues. Disabling the Ethernet adapter when trying to connect to Wi-Fi can help isolate the problem.
3. Interference: The Invisible Culprit
A factor often overlooked is interference from other devices. Common household devices like microwaves and cordless phones can interfere with Wi-Fi signals, as they operate on similar frequency bands. This interference can cause significant connectivity issues with Wi-Fi but leaves Ethernet unaffected. To mitigate this, ensure your Wi-Fi router is positioned away from such devices.
Suggested read: Why isn’t my phone detecting WiFi while other devices can?
4. Physical Adapter and WiFi Button Check
It’s important to physically inspect the Wi-Fi adapter, especially if it’s an external one. Ensure it’s properly connected and functioning. In laptops, also check for a physical Wi-Fi switch which might be turned off, inadvertently disabling the Wi-Fi.
5. Router and Modem Checks
It’s also crucial to examine your router or modem. A simple restart can sometimes resolve latent issues. Check for physical damage or outdated firmware, which can hinder Wi-Fi performance while leaving Ethernet connections unscathed.
6. Toggling Wi-Fi On and Off: A Quick Fix
An unexpectedly simple yet effective solution is toggling the Wi-Fi off and then on in the connect menu. This action can reset the Wi-Fi adapter and often brings back connectivity with minimal effort. It’s a useful temporary fix that can provide immediate results.
7. Updating Drivers: A Critical Step
Although frequently mentioned, the importance of keeping your Wi-Fi adapter’s drivers up-to-date cannot be overstated. Outdated or corrupted drivers are a common cause of Wi-Fi issues in Windows 11. Users on forums often suggest checking the manufacturer’s website for the latest driver updates. This step is crucial because while Ethernet drivers may be up-to-date, Wi-Fi drivers could be lagging behind, leading to the disparity in connectivity.
Might be useful: How to Update Realtek Drivers in Windows 11
8. Making the Invisible Visible
In some instances, especially following updates, the network adapter might not show up in the Device Manager, leading to the disappearance of Wi-Fi options. The solution lies in making the network adapter visible again. By opening the Device Manager, selecting “Show hidden devices” from the View menu, and then updating the drivers for the now-visible Wi-Fi adapters, many users have successfully restored their Wi-Fi connectivity.
9. Windows 11 Network Settings Checks
Windows 11 offers a variety of built-in tools for diagnosing and resolving network issues. Running the Network Adapter troubleshooter can help identify and fix problems specific to Wi-Fi adapters.
Additionally, as a last resort, resetting network settings via Settings > Network & Internet > Advanced Network Settings > Network Reset can often resolve hidden conflicts affecting Wi-Fi. However, it will remove all network configurations, so be prepared to set up your connections again.
10. System File Integrity
A less commonly explored but potentially effective solution is to use Windows’ System File Checker (SFC) tool. This tool scans for and attempts to repair any corrupted system files that might be impacting Wi-Fi functionality. To run it, open Command Prompt as administrator and type
If SFC finds issues it can’t fix, the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool can be used with the command
dism /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth.
In wrapping up our discussion on the unusual situation where Wi-Fi isn’t working in Windows 11, yet Ethernet does, it’s clear that staying informed and adaptive is key. Keep an eye on those Windows updates. Sometimes they fix one thing and break another. It’s always smart to keep tabs on what’s happening in tech forums such as Reddit – they’re often the first to spot these surprises
It’s also wise to create a system restore point before making significant changes; this way, you have a safety net in case things don’t go as planned. If you find yourself frequently troubleshooting, perhaps consider changing or upgrading your networking equipment, specifically your Wi-Fi adapter or Router. You might need to contact your ISP for specific hardware replacement.