Windows Tip Sheet

Wire Me Up

Windows Connect Now and wireless don't mix that well.

Let me start by saying I'm not a big fan of wireless. Sorry, Google, I know that disappoints, but for my money nothing beats a nice CAT5 cable and all the low-tech reliability and relative security it offers. That said, wireless is inevitable in public spaces. So, why does it have to be so difficult to implement?

Case in point: I'm working with a company that gives me access to its wireless LAN (yay — give me a CAT5 cable next time). I run the Wireless Network Setup Wizard in WinXP to select the network. Now, these access points don't support the "Windows Connect Now" feature (read more about this gem here) — and I get an error.

To make a long story — and a long afternoon of troubleshooting and wishing for a CAT5 cable — short, this is a known issue. If the access point only accepts WPA connections, and it wants a key of under 64 characters in length, and it doesn't support Windows Connect Now ... you can't connect automatically. Instead, you have to enter the WPA key manually: When running the aforementioned Wizard, there's an option to "Manually assign a network key" that you have to pick. It seems that selecting WPA causes the Wizard to create a 64-character encryption key; it isn't uncommon for older access points to only want a 63-character (or shorter, like 50 characters in this case) key, which makes the Wizard barf. Entering the key manually lets you respect the access point's limit. The trick with Windows Connect Now is that part of the standard specifies a 64-character key, so devices supporting Connect Now will accept a 64-character key.

Pass the $6 cable, please.

About the Author

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is an Author/Evangelist for video training company Pluralsight. Don is also a co-founder and President of, a community dedicated to Microsoft’s Windows PowerShell technology. Don has more than two decades of experience in the IT industry, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. He’s the author of more than 50 technology books, an accomplished IT journalist, and a sought-after speaker and instructor at conferences worldwide. Reach Don on Twitter at @concentratedDon, or on Facebook at

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