Nest Thermostat Not Connecting to WiFi? Try Router’s Security Settings

posted in: Rants 23

Nest Learning Thermostat: Installed, Fired right up, Used my router to download software, Then promptly updated itself into incompatibility with the wifi network. (Plus: Some Installation Info)


Turning On the Nest Learning Thermostat

  1. I installed my Nest Learning Thermostat, then turned on the AC unit and furnace’s breakers.
  2. It found several neighborhood wireless networks, I selected my own, and then entered the security code.
  3. It connected immediately to the internet through my router.
  4. It downloaded software updates, installed them, and suddenly couldn’t connect to my network anymore.
    • Nothing had been changed in my router settings up to that point.
    • The only variable that had been changed was that the Nest t-stat installed new software on itself and then suddenly couldn’t communicate with a router it had just successfully used to download the software one minute earlier.
    • It could still see the SSIDs (broadcasted names) of neighborhood wi-fi networks, but wouldn’t connect.
    • The error message said to visit
Nest Learning Thermostat wifi router fail to connect W2 error message
Nest Learning Thermostat wifi router fail to connect W2 error message

I’m Sorry Dave, I’m Afraid I Can’t Do Wi-Fi (After Installing An “Upgrade”)

The “W2” error web page explained how my router may be blocking the Nest because it has MAC address filtering turned on. But it did not. What it should also say is: Try fiddling with your router’s security settings.

2014: A Space Heating Odyssey - Nest, I want you to connect to the network like you did when you first started up. I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that (since I "upgraded" myself).
2014: A Space Heating Odyssey – I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that (since I “upgraded” myself).

I called Nest support and told a person that it worked at first, then updated itself, then broke. After power cycling the router didn’t fix it, and because the model number is alphanumerically similar to another router on Nest’s Unsupported Routers list, he assumed it was the router’s fault and suggested I call Netgear support to figure it out.

Netgear doesn’t (for free) phone-support anything older than 90 days. So I started writing a support ticket. And then it dawned on me how stupid it sounded to blame Netgear for a device that worked just fine with it until it “upgraded” itself — as if that would be the router’s fault. So I called Nest back.

3 different bored Maytag repair men
Bored Maytag Repair Men

The Nest support person was the same one I had talked with an hour or so before. Maybe they’re like the Maytag Man, and no one has problems with their products (except me). But it’s nice to have 24/7 service. Anyway, he promptly blamed my router again. I became annoyed.

I walked through the chronology, again. And then again. And then at least a third time.

  1. The thermostat networked, then didn’t.
  2. The Nest had changed its settings via update, but the router settings had not changed.

Still, for some reason this was the router’s fault, according to Nest Guy. He kept patiently explaining to me how the router must have changed itself after interfacing with the Nest Learning Thermostat, and that clearly the Nest worked because it recognized SSID broadcasts (ha). This almost certainly could not be a bug with the software update, I was told, because it had recently been rewritten by engineers with wi-fi compatibility in mind, and now he received only a third of the networking troubleshooting calls as before.

I then asked if I could reset the t-stat to factory defaults and then not update it. Or somehow “downgrade” the operating system. I was told I could not, or if I did, it would just re-update itself as soon as it connected to the internet.

I eventually got peeved to the point that I asked him to annotate my account with the following information, a slightly longer version of “Worked, Then Didn’t, Only Nest Changed Settings, Not Router.” Then I said if I can’t figure it out I will call back and expect to be escalated to someone who understands networking better.

How My Nest Finally Started Talking to My Netgear Again

I finally tried removing the security from my network and just leaving it “open”. This finally worked with the Nest. But I wasn’t going to leave it that way for long.

Apparently the WEP key scheme I’ve used for wi-fi security for close to a decade is now incompatible with the Nest Learning Thermostat. But it has never been a problem for any other device. From wi-fi photo frames to Kindles to wireless networked printers to myriad laptops to smart phones.

Well, to clarify again: The Nest is compatible with WEP out of the box, but then after it uses that security scheme to access the internet and update itself to the latest and greatest software, it’s not going to be compatible with WEP any longer.

Netgear WNR3500v1 access point wifi settings, WEP wi-fi security key, Nest Learning Thermostat incompatibility problem
Netgear WNR3500v1 access point wifi settings, WEP wi-fi security key, Nest Learning Thermostat incompatibility problem

After hours of aggravated fiddling with Nest settings, resetting networks on both the thermostat and the router many times, and 2 calls into Nest customer service, I finally got it to work when I changed from a 64-bit WEP encryption to WPA2-PSK [AES] on my router’s Wireless Settings>Security Options admin page.

Netgear WNR3500 router manager page, security changed from WEP to WPA2-PSK, for Nest Thermostat compatibility
Netgear WNR3500 router manager page, security changed from WEP to WPA2-PSK, for Nest Thermostat compatibility

After that, the t-stat and the router seem to be fast friends forever.

Still Impressed, Even if Hours of Time Wasted

It works now, even if no thanks to customer service and many more hours than budgeted were spent on install. So that’s good. I think Nest engineers are continuously working on supporting this product and working out bugs. If that’s true, this bug will hopefully be fixed soon, making this post irrelevant. But until then, I hope it helps someone who can’t figure out why their new Nest Learning Thermostat connected to their router just fine until it updated itself! Makes the “Learning” moniker a tad ironic.

Nest Learning Thermostat wireless problems? They're working on it!
Nest Learning Thermostat wireless problems? They’re working on it!

Installation Photos and: Want to Hear a Good Story About Nest Customer Service?

  • Check out the next page for a little on the customized help I received from Nest representatives when I didn’t know if a “Learning Thermostat” would be compatible with my system, nor how to wire it.
  • Also a little on my installation experience (it was real freakin’ easy – except the whole wi-fi thing I just spent a thousand words complaining about, but enough of that).

Read More, Next Page:

23 Responses

  1. nest_guy
    | Reply

    Thanks awesome! I dont know if it helps mine… but good crack..

  2. MS
    | Reply

    Hi Kris, thank you for your post. I am in a similar fix with Nest 2 gen thermostat. Its been working fine with the very same Netgear router I have for past 2 years but starting this May my nest suddenly started going offline time and again. Weird thing is I cannot control the interface from my phone’s app, however the moment I turn the dial from the device, it starts working from my phone too.

    Upon calling nest several times, as expected, they are blaming it on the router, to which I have two questions-
    1- It has been working fine for 2 years, what happened all of a sudden with the same router?
    2- In the current world of technology, how can a device be NOT compatible to certain routers? I mean, are we supposed to buy separate routers or compatible devices with every new gadget we own? How ridiculous is that?

    Anyway, I am hoping nest either comes with an update or my plan of buying Nest Protect goes down the drain, whats the point of a WiFi enabled device when you cannot control it with phone.

    Thanks for such a nice post.
    Take care and God Bless!


    • Kris Bunda
      | Reply

      Thanks for the story. Customer service and technical troubleshooting is a tough job, but it gets annoying when the person assumes you’re doing a simple thing incorrectly when it’s not your first rodeo and you’ve taken pains to clearly explain the steps you took to achieve the problem result (and you already did all that basic stuff you’re being told to do again for the 4th time). On the other hand, I imagine 90% of technical problems are solved by unplugging a device, counting to ten, and powering back up, so I can see why it’s easy to assume customers are overlooking the obvious.

      Hope you get your devices friendly again! Have you played with your router’s security settings like I did? That’s my only shot-in-the-dark suggestion…

      • MS
        | Reply

        Well Kris, I did play with my router settings, however my security settings were similar to yours, I did change the Channel setting though. I remembered my cable guy switched the channel saying it would pick up better signal strength but since I never had any signal issues so I thought to give it a try. Luckily, the nest device is following my every slide on the app so must have done something right 🙂

        NEST customer service- see its NOT the router compatibility but a setting which you should know to tell your customers. I think they lack technical assistance over at the call center, eh, just a guess!!!

        Anyway,I am glad I found your post and figured this out. Thank you for caring to reply. Take care and have a good day!

        • Kris Bunda
          | Reply

          Good to hear! I hope they stay friendly and communicating.

          Take care.

          • bruce chase

            Well it is 2017 and I have a 3rd generation Nest and after a week of running I cannot connect it to the internet, but it is connected to wifi. Needless to say – Nest says either my router is blocking it or my ISP is blocking it. Weird how it worked for about a week.

            Oh well, several years later and it still isn’t solved. I hate I have spent hundreds of dollars and hours on the phone for a simple thermostat.

  3. James
    | Reply

    FYI – Even though this post was definitely correct about nest only working with WPA2-AES, I found myself still running into issues trying to connect my nest thermostat.

    This is probably dumb, but I set my router up tho broadcast 2.4G and 5G over the same SSID and password. Everything else I’ve ever owned was able to chose the speed it wanted and connect, but unfortunately the nest thermostat, at least my model, can see the 5G, but can only successfully connect to 2.4G. This led to it just trying to connect to the 5G network and never succeeding.

    Fix: Completely change what has worked for years and create a separate SSID for 2.4G speed, just to fix some coder screw up on this one device…

    • James
      | Reply

      Turns out it was an issue with my SSID. I used an 8 character, all letter SSID. For some reason it seems that my nest thermostat will only connect to a network with an SSID that contains both a letter and a number. With that in mind, I tried several different lengths and the SSID can be 2+ characters.

      • Kris Bunda
        | Reply

        That’s so weird and arbitrary. That’s what’s annoying about the nest software–it’s supposed to be so easy for everyone to install, but then these stories proliferate–and in my case, the customer service person acted like Nest is infallible and I’m doing something weird or my router is bad (but it worked for everything else, incl. the Nest until it updates itself…)

      • Neil
        | Reply

        James is right. I was able to connect my Nest to wifi only after changing my SSID to a) digits along with letters and b) increasing length to 8 characters (SSID length 7 failed). Would never have figured it out without the tip, and would have returned the Nests rather than call their tech service. Thanks a lot!

      • John Ousterhout
        | Reply

        I purchased Nest thermostat in June; a rebate from the Natural Gas company was a motivator. Install was simple and it worked as advertised.

        After a couple months I bought a new WiFi Router and the Nest stopped connecting to my WiFi. I had used the same WiFi SSID and password and all other WiFi devices else connected OK.

        I looked at Nest Support and screwed around with the Nest now and then without success. I found this site with a Google search for Nest/w3

        Your tip about the SSID worked for me.

    • Kris Bunda
      | Reply

      Thanks for the tip James! That was my problem: a setting that worked for every other device, and even for the nest until it updates itself. But the Nest had to be the problem. Still, I like it. Especially being able to control it via internet, when coming back from being out of town, and getting the house to temp before getting home.

  4. Ben Johns
    | Reply

    I woke up to this issue at 3am this morning! Fumbled with my phone for a while, and eventually had to get out of bed to go change the temperature :/

    My Nest hasn’t had a single connection problem in the few years I’ve owned it, and all of sudden, OFFLINE. My router is set up with WPA2, so I’m guessing my problem is similar to what James described up above, since my SSID is also only letters. I’ll have to try changing it to include some numbers when I get home.

    It’s ridiculous, since the myriad of other devices on my network have never had issues, and will all need to be reconnected to the renamed SSID.

    • Ben Johns
      | Reply

      Update: I changed my SSID to include a couple of numbers, and my Nest was able to connect with no issue. Such a weird bug! I then had to go around the house reconnecting all my other devices, haha.

      • Kris Bunda
        | Reply

        Weird! My SSID is all letters, although is a combo of uppercase & lowercase, no space…

  5. Brad
    | Reply

    Thanks for the page. I had to change my 2.4GHz from the default channel and frequency to Channel 4 at 40MHz.

    • Kris Bunda
      | Reply

      You’re welcome! Seems like there’s starting to be more ghosts in the machine than fewer… The last couple commenters mentioned fixes that had nothing to do with security settings.

  6. Antonio Wetzstein
    | Reply

    It’s be nice if a software update fixed this…. except that it can’t connect to my router to update… mine dropped connection 8 days ago. Immediately says failed to connect to network without trying. Not picking up any WiFi networks

    • Regina Funk
      | Reply

      I’m having the same issue. It won’t connect to either network that we have, but the Nest smoke detector has no problem.

  7. Blood and Sand
    | Reply

    Too long winded, can you, “cut to the chase” and give us the shortened version?

  8. The IT GUY
    | Reply

    You’re complaining because nest removed compatibility with a woefully insecure protocol, to protect you from getting your data jacked. But you’re right, it’s nest’s fault.

    I work in IT customer support, onsite too, and you’re the customer we dread because you’re just knowledgeable to be dangerous and obnoxious. All in all however it’s you’re failure for not verifying compatibilityand your fault again for using WEP. As usual tech support was correct while still being inept.

  9. Troy
    | Reply

    We bought a house in Sep ’18 that had a Nest thermostat. Set up the app, worked great! Then all of a sudden, in late October, the app said Nest was offline. But the thermostat itself was saying it was connected to my WiFI and online. I use an Apple Airport Exrtreme. Nothing on the router had changed, all other devices connected with no issue. Tore my hair out trying to fix this for a few days. Reset the thermostat, removed and reinstalled the app, nothing worked. I looked online and none of the hints I found worked. I gave up. Then here in early November, I tried searching again and found this article. That didn’t help but the comments did!!! My SSID was 5 letters. I changed it to 7 letters and a number, total of eight characters. Voila! Nest connected, got the 7 digit code I needed, added to the app and we are back to normal.

    This is such an idiotic bug it makes my head hurt. But at least now it works. THANK YOU ALL who commented. Your advice is truly appreciated. I hope others who are having these issues with Nest find these comments also.

  10. 8675309
    | Reply

    Received one during the winter when we had to replace furnace. After looking into the build it it shipped with thought id be safer to wait till the weather gets warmer. Several months later connect it up. Looking at client table recently noticed its mac changed(fyi each radio has its own ssid) from what ive read online the wifi on later models of nest is as reliable as a Lenovo smart display. Not sure it was worth the $100 that uei wanted

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