WEP64 works, WEP128 does not. How's that?

by Volker Weber

I have always failed to connect Ute's Samsung Q10 with my wireless LAN when using the internal Orinoco Mini-PCI card. So instead I used an external PC-Card when there was a need to make a connection.

Tonight I played with the card again, installing and uninstalling all sorts of drivers. Now it turns out the card works just fine. If, and only if, there is no WEP128 protection. So it could connect to my neighbor just fine. His WLAN is open. It could also connect to my WLAN after I switched off WEP. I also tried WEP64 without a problem. But WEP128 does not work with this particular card in this particular machine.

If you have neighbors that leave their door completely open it does not really matter whether you have 64bit security or 128bit. Unless somebody really, really wants to get on your WLAN, which would not make a lot of sense since there are plenty of doors behind that access point.

Nevertheless I would like to know what is making the WEP128 connection break. Any suggestions?


I had some similar problems at my girlfriends place as well as at my place. When having only one wlan client, 128 bit works fine. But the moment I switched on a second device, whether desktop or notebook, neither could connect. When I set WEP up with only 64 bits, everything worked the way it way supposed to do.

I tried with nonamae cards as well as with Netgear devices, but to no avail.

Too me it feels like 128bit is OK in laboratory environments, buts breaks down in the real world.

sascha, 2004-02-18

I beg to differ. At the very moment I'm typing on my iBook which is connected to my WEP-128 encrypted WLAN. Right next to it sits a Dell M60, sporting a Netgear MA401 802.11b wireless adapter in addition to its built-in Dell True Mobile 1300 802.11g device. Both of them have a stable connection to my WLAN. And under the table there's a homebuilt desktop PC the Belkin 54G PCI adapter of which is connected to ... well, I guess you know by now :-) So I can't really say that WEP-128 breaks down in the real world. Depending on the Access Point you use, there may be major drops in throughput, however.

Stefan Rubner, 2004-02-18

Odd, I've been fiddling with this problem, too. I have an Apple Airport Extreme, and can connect to it without a problem with an 802.11b (Airport) equiped iMac and an 802.11g (Airport Extreme) equiped iBook, using WEP128 encryption. However, my PC laptop with a LinkSys WPC54G 802.11g adapter, which is supposed to support WEP128, can't connect to the WLAN. When I switch them all to WEP64, it works flawlessly. Any ideas?

Pascal Frencken, 2004-02-18

As far as I know, the WPC54G uses a Broadcom-Chipset - which is exactly what's built into the latest generation of AirPort Extreme. Unfortunately I can't run any tests on LinkSys hardware right now, for that part of my equipment is on leave :-) Oh, btw: my current Access Point is a Netgear WGR614.

Come to think of it, I'm also experimenting with some WLAN-to-Powerline bridge. This piece of hardware fires up and announces itself on the wireless network as an Access Point. But the instant a client tries to connect, the wireless part just shuts down and can only be revived by cycling the power on the device. In this case, it doesn't matter whether WEP is enabled or not. Best guess from the technicians of the manufacturer so far is that the problem is related to the type of preamble used (short vs. long).

Stefan Rubner, 2004-02-18

Last Summer I noticed a similar problem with a couple of visitors (including you) that attempted to access my Lucent/Orinoco based network.

After doing some homework, I found the problem: different chipsets interpret WEP key entered as text in different ways. The way to solve it was to translate my access point WEP key to HEX, which allowed the old cards to continue access without change, as well as any other card to access by entering the WEP key in HEX.

Mitch Wolfson, 2004-02-18

If the Orinoco Card is a Orinoco Silver, its only WEP64 implemented. Only Orinoco Gold supports WEP128.

Btw.: WEP alone is very easy to get in also as WEP128 (e.g. wepcrack). IMHO Only combinations WEP, Mac Filtering, SSID Broadcast off makes really sense (at this moment ;-) ).

Henrik, 2004-02-18

Henrik: It does not say whether it is silver or gold. And the software let's me set the driver to WEP128. As for security, I explained that others in the neighborhood are completely open. Would you think that anybody would be stupid enough to break a WEP key when he can have the same thing for free at the same place? Switching off SSID broadcast does not do you any good. And MAC filtering? You have got to be kidding.

Volker Weber, 2004-02-18

I tried the HEX WEP128 key on my LinkSys card, but it didn't work either. MAC filtering works fine for my Macs and PC, but I also have a wifi Palm Tungsten C, which somehow doesn't get on the WLAN network when using MAC filtering. It does, however, handle WEP128 encryption better than the LinkSys card, using the HEX key.

Pascal Frencken, 2004-02-18

I have a similar problem with a Toshiba Tecra 8200.
I found a possible reply at
http://www.toshiba.fr/bv/services_support/servicessupport_biblesuite.asp?numero=2558 (in French) where it is said that the internal wifi module support only WEP64 (Silver), even if I'm able to enter WEP128 keys (Gold). This information is given by the Agere software which displays WEP and not WEP + 128RC4.

Stephane, 2004-07-02

For what its worth I have seen the same issue. I have a Toshiba 3500 tablet and WGR614 AP. Best data rate I can get is 2-3Mbps and thats right next to the AP!! If I use WEP128 I get nothing. The AP works in WEP64 and WEP128 with another NetGear card. I found a reference on the toshiba site that says that all toshiba laptops built prior to Sept 2002 do NOT support WEP128. Most of these have Agere WiFi minicards built-in. This might explain why so many Toshibas dont support WEP very well, but does not explain the terrible throughput without WEP.
Frankly the Toshiba WiFi support is pretty awful. I would recommend switching it off and installing a PC-card from the same manufacturer as the AP...annoying, but at least it seems to work well.

Geoff Peck, 2004-12-18

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