Configuring Barnes & Noble Nook Color and Linksys WRT320N Dual-Band Wireless-N Gigabit Router

Today I had the opportunity to work on getting a Barnes & Noble Nook Color to ‘see’ and connect to a Linksys WRT320N Dual-Band Wireless-N Gigabit Router.

nook-color1 nook-color2nook-color3       WRT320N

The Nook Color is an Android based tablet sold by Barnes & Noble.

The Nook Color offers a list of features but the feature we care about in this article is the Nook Color’s “Wi-Fi” capability and getting it hooked up to your wireless router. My goal here is not just to get the Nook Color connected to your wireless network (which some people seem to have problems accomplishing) but more specifically have the Nook Color connect using it’s Wireless-N capability so you might benefit from faster Wireless-N connection speeds vs. the Nook’s ability to also use slower G or B wireless speeds.

A key assumption is that you have a router or access point capable of supporting Wireless-N. However, if you have a Wireless-G network and you are having problems getting your Nook Color to connect to your Wireless-G network then this article may still provide help to you. [Note: References to ‘router’ in this article can generally be meant to apply to a wireless ‘access point’ as well.]

While your Nook Color may very easily connect to your wireless router, some people have experienced difficulty doing so. Some people have reported they cannot connect at all. Some have reported that they once could connect but now they can’t and vice versa. Some people may find that their Nook Color may not be using Wireless-N due to their router’s configuration. Some may find they are connected via Wireless-N but are not getting the connection strength or speed they might be able to get if they configure their router differently. Most of the issues more really have to do with your router configuration than the Nook Color however in some cases it may be necessary to have your Nook Color rescan for wireless devices so that it picks up on changed router settings even though it might seem to you that you haven’t made any significant changes to your router.

A key thing to know, at least for the Nook Color I was working with, is that it only operates within the 2.4 GHz wireless band. This was not the easiest information for me to find but knowing what band it operates on can turn out to be rather important.

So this article will cover how I got my Nook Color operating with Wireless-N on the 2.4 GHz band with pretty good router settings for my situation.

Although this article is written about my experiences with the Nook Color, it really could apply to many different “Wireless-N” devices that only use the 2.4 GHz band.

If your having trouble and would like help with this or a similar scenario then feel free to contact me. I’m in the business providing help in all areas of computer use, repair, etc. I provide services locally to the Rochester, New York area, but also connect remotely to clients located thousands of miles away. Don’t hesitate to call if you need hired help.

Ok – so on to the nitty-gritty details …

This article will only touch on some high-level aspects of Wireless-N operating on the 2.4 GHz band. There are more detailed aspects to understanding what might be optimal settings for Wireless-N on the 2.4 GHz band such as: channel selection, channel width, tools for scanning your wireless ‘neighborhood’ to help determine likely best settings for your situation and more. I hope to cover those details in a separate article but it would be overkill for our purposes in this article today.

Nook Color:

The Barnes & Noble website lists “Built-in Wi-Fi® Wireless…Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n)[;]” as one of the features of the Nook Color. However it was not easy for me to find from their website as of 5/24/2011 which wireless band(s) the device operates on. With a bit of extra digging I was able to eventually discover that my Nook Color operates solely on the 2.4 GHz band. My apologies if this information is actually on the device itself or in the packaging of the Nook Color. “My” Nook Color I was working on was “remote” from me at a client’s site many miles away so I didn’t have the luxury of seeing if this information might have been easier to find in printed form on the device or documentation that came with it.

Knowing what band my Nook Color operated on was very important since the dual-band router I was working on was configured to only use the 5.0 GHz band as the sole band for Wireless-N use and had the 2.4 MHz band disabled. With this configuration there was no way my router was sending out any sort of signal that the Nook Color could use and vice versa my Nook Color would not be able to see my router without changes to the router. They were ‘talking’ and ‘listening’ in two completely different radio bands. So knowing the what radio bands and the capabilities of your various wireless devices, including your router, is key for successful efficient setup of (or changes to) your wireless network. Knowing this information including the capabilities of my router I was set to move forward to fix things.

Router:

The router I used happened to be the Linksys WRT320N but the information in this article likely applies to many different routers. The Linksys WRT320N is a Dual Band Wireless-N Gigabit router and is similar in many ways to the Linksys E2000. The fact that these are Wireless-N routers and have dual band capability is what makes them special. Having the dual band capability means they can operate on the 2.4 GHz or 5.0 GHz bands, but only one or the other. Although the WRT320N and E2000 appear to have been replaced by newer models, there are still routers available for purchase with the same dual-band ‘feature’ (one band on or the other on only). There are also a lot of people that own routers similar to these.

However, the marketplace has been making available an increasing number of affordable, more advanced “simultaneous” dual-band Wireless-N routers. The advantage of “simultaneous” dual-band routers are that they can operate on both the 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz bands at the same time. This provides increased flexibility and options for router configuration but may also lead to more confusion and work for users trying to optimally configure their routers for the best use of the various wireless devices they have.

Owners of dual band capable routers (simultaneous types or not) may already have the 2.4 GHz band turned on by default, or they may need to turn it on manually.

If the correct band is already turned on the Nook Color is more likely to ‘see’ the router and be able to connect to it.

Even still, it is important to note that although your device might have recognized your network and successfully connected with it, it may not be using Wireless-N or using Wireless-N to the best of it’s ability. There still may be configuration improvements to be made on the router.

And then there are some people that have connection issues and problems similar to those listed in the introduction of this article which range from minor annoyances to bigger problems of not being able to connect at all.

Once configuration work has been completed on the router the user might need to have the device, in this case the Nook Color, set to perform a re-scan of wireless networks.

Settings on the router:

This is going to be rather simple. There are many more options and depth to this but hopefully this will work for 99% of you. To do more fine tuning requires a computer person such as myself (or yourself if you are skilled in this area) with the right tools and knowledge to use them to configure your router for your wireless ‘surroundings’.

1) Make sure the 2.4 GHz band is turned on.

2) Make sure Wireless-N capability is enabled for the 2.4 MHz band.

If you are absolutely sure all your wireless devices are ONLY Wireless-N devices (no Wireless-G or Wireless-B) then set this to “Wireless-N” only.

However, if you are unsure or you know you have Wireless-G or Wireless-B devices in addition to your Wireless-N device that need to use the 2.4 MHz band of your wireless network then choose “Auto” or “Mixed” for your setting.

[Yes there are advanced users, routers and router software out there that can create additional 2.4 GHz bands with different protocols for each but that is beyond the scope of this article.]

The next two settings, ‘Channel’ and ‘Channel Width’ could benefit with a brief overview of some small aspects of the 2.4 MHz band and using Wireless-N on that band. You can save time however and end up with a better setup if you use someone like myself (or have the knowledge and tools to do this yourself) to survey your wireless network ‘neighborhood’ and not make blind choices. If I’m working for you to do this I can usually perform such a survey, many times I can even do this work remotely for a client far away.

However, without any specific information about your wireless network ‘neighborhood’ I will, like your router manufacturer, only be able to provide you with some generic advice and recommendations for these settings.

For those interested in learning more about ‘channel’ and ‘channel width’ selection thoughts and logic it’s my hope that the link to this brief overview will show how these two choices relate to each other in the 2.4 GHz band and why some choices might be better than others when considering running Wireless-N on this band. Specifically:

  • Why out of 11 possible channels that you could choose from we usually are strongly persuaded to choose from only one of 3 very specific channels (channels 1, 6 or 11, or sometimes just ‘auto’.)
  • How ‘Channel Width’ is related to channel selection and specifically the three recommended channels.
  • And via a diagram show how ‘Channel Width’ is related to the discussion and why I’m ultimately going to recommend that you choose 20 MHz channel width even though 40 MHz is an option for Wireless-N users.

[Click Here if you want to read this educational bit of information. Otherwise just continue reading on with my recommendations.]

What follows are my simplified recommendations for ‘Channel’ and ‘Channel Width’ settings barring any actual wireless network survey information. If you chose not to read the educational information in the link above then these may not make much sense. However you can always choose to return to the link above and read about this later if you become curious enough to do so.

3) Channel. I recommend getting help here to survey your wireless network ‘neighborhood’ so you might make a more informed decision for this setting. But barring that the best choices for many people will be one of channel numbers 1, 6 or 11. You might choose one of those three channels and see how it works for you over a period of days. If you are happy then leave it. If not then try the next of the three recommended channels and test for another period of days. Hopefully you will either be happy with the first one you choose or you will come to a conclusion after trying all three main options that one seems better than the others.

Another possible option is to set the channel selection to “auto”. I personally do not like recommending “auto”. But you may find it works well. I would rather do a wireless survey and choose a channel. You are free to test ‘auto’ as an option just as you might have tested channels 1, 6, and 11 for a number of sequential days. In theory “auto” should be good to choose as it means that a good router would choose a channel with very little interference.

The problem I suspect I have seen on occasion, though I have absolutely no definitive proof of, is that when a router changes what channel it uses some devices do not respond well to the router’s change. For some devices I notice occasional (sometimes frequent) “disconnect” and “reconnecting” processes occurring. Each time this happens it takes time to “reconnect” and this can be very annoying and disruptive. I don’t know for certain that this is due to the router changing some setting based on an “auto” option or if it’s a problem with the device not responding to the change gracefully or if it’s neither of those issues.It could be interference with too many neighbors using the same channel or lack of signal strength/distance from your router. If you are able to determine a good channel (or seem to find one) and things don’t change much over time then I think you will be better off sticking with that one channel rather than allowing the router to change channels on you. But I could be wrong about this. You may want to try ‘auto’ for your ‘Channel’ selection and see if things are fine or perhaps even better than blindly choosing a fixed channel. The number of factors that can influence this are great and technology will continue to improve on newer routers and wireless devices. So it may be in your best interest to include “auto” in your testing.

4) Channel Width. Again, I recommend getting help here to survey your wireless network ‘neighborhood’ so you might make a more informed decision for this setting. But barring that and at the risk of greatly simplifying things I’m going to strongly recommend you choose 20 MHz for your channel width. The exception would be for those few people that live in an extremely isolated area with no other wireless users around for  then 40 MHz channel width would be fine.

You will likely see an option for “auto” as well. A channel width setting of “auto” allows the router the switch back and forth between 20 and 40 MHz channel width as the router deems best but my experience has shown that 20 MHz is probably best for me and many people within the 2.4 GHz band and perhaps better than having the router switch back and forth ‘automatically’ between 40 MHz and 20 MHz.

[If you want to know my logic behind the ‘channel’ or ‘channel width’ recommendations then you’ll need to read the educational bit I referred to up above these two sections. You can click here if you have now decided you would like to read it. Otherwise we will continue.]

Other settings I did on the router were:

5) In insured that my SSID was set to broadcast

6) I made sure my SSID had a good name. Something other than the manufacturer/model number of the router (that’s a security risk) and make the SSID rather short (8 characters) and did not use any funny characters but just A-Z,a-z, 0-9 (no spaces, no underscores, no dashes). [I’ve heard that spaces or other strange characters may not work well with some wireless devices including the Nook so I wanted to minimize that risk.]

7) I insured WMM was NOT ‘disabled’ but rather ‘enabled’ or set to ‘Auto’ (you don’t want WMM ‘disabled’ as Wireless-N is supposed to have it enabled and disabling it may reduce your Wireless-N capabilities.)

8) I heard that disabling the CTS was desirable so I changed it from ‘auto’ to ‘disabled’.

9) I also increased the Beacon setting from 100 ms to 75 ms.

10) For wireless security I used WPA2 AES. I’ve heard that WPA (vs WPA2), TKIP and TKIP+AES may reduce Wireless-N functionality and since our goal is to maximize Wireless-N we will use WPA2 AES. WPA2 AES is the most secure of all current options anyway. Though WPA and TKIP are still secure as of this writing if for some reason you are using WPA or TKIP.

11) I set the passphrase to something nonsensical. No dictionary words, no words replaced with obvious numbers or shifted-characters that look similar to their alpha-numeric cousin. A passphrase that used Alpha, numerics, different case, and non-alpha-numeric characters (such as !, @, #, $, etc.) And I kept the passphrase short – only 8 characters long. [I would normally choose a longer passphrase but I’ve read on Barnes & Noble Nook forums that people have had better success if their passphrase is shorter rather than longer. Perhaps there is merit in this. Perhaps not. For the time being WPA2 AES is strong and when the time comes that an increased length becomes a necessary security recommendation for WPA2 AES that this actually wasn’t an issue with the Nook Color in the first place or if it was that an upgrade to the Nook Color addresses any possible issue here.]

That’s it for the router!

On to the Nook Color. This part is easy:

1) Turn on the Nook Color.

2) Go to Settings, Wireless, look for any prior SSID of my router (especially if the name is the same as before making the above changes) and select my SSID and choose ‘Forget’.

3) I actually shutdown / turned off (not sleep) my Nook at this point and waited a minute just to be extra sure things would work as I expected them to.

4) Turn the Nook Color back on.

5) Go to Settings and turn Wireless ‘Off’.

6) And then to doubly make sure things would work I actually shutdown / turned off (not sleep) my Nook once again and waited one minute.

7) Turn the Nook Color back on.

8) Go to Settings and turn Wireless ‘On’.

9) At this point the Nook Color should be ‘Scanning’ for wireless networks and hopefully right away or very soon your network (your SSID) will show up in the list.

10) Select your SSID and connect to it. When prompted enter your passphrase for your network.

That should be it.

The Nook Color, as well as other Wireless-N devices that could only use the 2.4 GHz band, were now operating at the highest Wireless-N capacity for the given conditions. The devices could connect to the wireless network and were working well. I did not do any speed testing via the Nook itself but I did do speed testing with the other devices and I was very satisfied with the notably greater than Wireless-G performance provided from the Wireless-N settings.

When my client first called they were not able to connect their Nook to their wireless network at all and their laptop had marginal and intermittent wireless connection capability. After taking care of matters listed above both the Nook Color and their laptop and other 2.4 GHz only Wireless-N devices were connecting just fine and with strong signal strength and speed.

Are you completely overwhelmed and would rather just have someone do this for you?

If your having trouble and would like help with this or a similar scenario then feel free to contact me. I’m in the business providing help in all areas of computer use, repair, etc. I provide services locally to the Rochester, New York area, but also connect remotely to clients located thousands of miles away. Don’t hesitate to call if you need hired help.

Helping remotely I will need your help at some key points – for instance if a router needs to be reset or to lead you through turning your Nook Color on/off, etc. at the right time. But most everything else (the router work, network scanning – assuming you have a PC/Laptop with wireless card) I can do remotely.

I hope this useful to others. Let me know.

About David Ingalls

Chief computer guru at DavidIngallsOnline.com and Ingalls Computer Services (ingallscomputerservices.com).
This entry was posted in Nook Color, Router, Wireless-N and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Configuring Barnes & Noble Nook Color and Linksys WRT320N Dual-Band Wireless-N Gigabit Router

  1. Dino says:

    Hi David and thanks for this tutorial. Would you be interested in writing an article how to modify NC to use “ad hoc” wireless networks (like from tethered devices)? If you are able to help me figure it out, I can take screen shots of my device/screens if you want them for your article. I love my Nook Color, but unlike my wife’s iPad, it does *not* recognize my cell phone’s wireless connection (tethering). Thanks for this tutorial again!

  2. Judy says:

    I bought a new nook tablet, have the linksys router and I am unable to set up the wifi. Barnes and nobel are not able to help me. I was using the same pass phrase as I used for my ipad but it will not work. Any suggestions

  3. vanessa says:

    Can I set up the nook wirelessly with the router I bought even if I don’t use my computer wirelessly?

    • Vanessa,

      Yes. Assuming that your router is a wireless router. Your computer can certainly be hooked to your router by ethernet cable or USB and that’s fine but the important point is that your router also provides wireless service for wireless devices such as your Nook, iPad, laptop, etc. to hook up to your network wirelessly. If you don’t have a wireless router or a wireless access point connected to your router then you will need to either replace the router you have with a wireless router (which will still allow for the wired hook up for your computer) or get a ‘Wireless Access Point’ that you hook up via ethernet cable (likely supplied with the access point) to your current router – assuming you have an empty port on the router to connect it to and then the access point then provides you with wireless service. You may find that you can get a really nice wireless router for about the same price as an ‘access point’ so I would probably just lean toward getting a wireless router if I didn’t already have a way to provide wireless service. Good luck!