Troubleshooting Wi-Fi Performance and Wireless Keyboard & Mouse Issues While Using USB Docking Stations Based on Displaylink Technology

Last Update: November 4th, 2020
Article ID: 706568

Wi-Fi Performance Issues:

Any time a USB 3.0 device is connected to a laptop system, there is a potential that the USB 3.0 connection can generate interference that can affect the performance of the laptop's built-in Wi-Fi adapter.

This behavior is not specific to Plugable products, and Intel has published a white paper on the topic for those who are curious about the technical details. 

So now that we know that this can happen with any type of USB 3.0 connection, how do we solve the problem should it occur? Every person’s setup can be a little different so there will never be one definitive solution, but a few simple approaches can solve the problem in most cases:

Option One – move the device as far as away from the system as the USB cable will allow. This will try and ‘move’ the signals from both the USB connection and the Wi-Fi physically further apart. As a corollary to this, if the dock is located very close to the Wi-Fi router itself, placing more distance between the two can help.

Option Two – switch to a different USB port on the system, preferably one on the opposite side of the laptop. This employs the same approach as option one, in that physically separating the two signals (in this case the physical proximity of the USB connection and the internal Wi-Fi antennas within your system) can help. If your system has both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports, try using the USB 2.0 port first.

Option Three – use a USB 2.0 cable, like one used connect to a USB printer, instead of a USB 3.0 cable. All USB 3.0 devices should be backward compatible with a USB 2.0 cable, and when a device is connected at USB 2.0 speeds there is no possibility for the interference.

Option Four – switch to using a 5GHz Wi-Fi connection. As the name implies, there are two common sets of frequencies used by most Wi-Fi networks (2.4GHz and 5GHz). If both your wireless router and the wireless network adapter in your system support a 5GHz connection (they both need to, one is not enough), connecting to your Wi-Fi in that manner will prevent the interference from happening due to the two very different frequencies in use.

Option Five – if using a 5GHz connection is not possible, changing the ‘channel’ of a 2.4 GHz connection can help. Within the 2.4GHz band used for Wi-Fi, there are eleven different channels each using a slightly different frequency. The three most commonly used ones in the United States are channel 1, 6 and 11. Using the manual for your wireless router as a guide, switching channels can potentially help. Ideally you would want to switch the channel to the opposite end of the spectrum for the best results, for example if you are on channel one already try switching to channel eleven or vice-versa

Wireless mouse or wireless keyboard performance issues (Radio Frequency interference):

While the items listed above can help with Wi-Fi interference, there is another type of interference that can sometimes cause problems with wireless keyboards and wireless mice which we refer to as Radio Frequency (RF) interference. 

To expand further, the USB wireless receiver 'dongles' used by many wireless keyboards and wireless mice operate within the same 2.4GHz radio frequency range as many Wi-Fi adapters. 

If a USB 3.0 connection is generating interference, this can affect the behavior of a wireless keyboard or wireless mouse. This behavior typically manifests as inconsistent mouse movement and/or inconsistent or sporadic keystroke registration.

In general there are two methods to mitigate this behavior should it occur:

RF Option One – Reconnect the USB wireless receiver 'dongle' to one of the USB Docking Station's USB 2.0 ports, furthest away from the USB 3.0 host connection cable. Moving the USB receiver to a USB 2.0 port typically mitigates this interference.

After it was determined that the customer had connected the small USB wireless receiver for both the keyboard and mouse to one of the front USB 3.0 ports of the docking station, I asked him to remove the USB wireless receiver from the front USB 3.0 port and place the receiver in one of the top-most USB 2.0 ports on the back of the dock. After doing so, both the mouse and keyboard worked properly.

RF Option Two – In rarer cases when moving the receiver is not enough or if the product in question does not have a USB 2.0 port, adding a short USB 2.0 extension cable can also help mitigate the behavior. In many cases wireless mice or keyboards include such a cable for this very reason, but if one is not available our USB2-2PORT is a good alternative solution.