The Wonderfully Problematic World of Windows

By Ronald Pacchiano | Posted June 13, 2003

I have a DSL Internet connection that is shared with two PCs on a wireless network. The connection is shared using Microsoft's Internet Connection Sharing (ICS). The Host computer uses a USB network adapter and is running Windows ME. The client computer, which is the problem, is a laptop running Windows 98SE and that uses a PCI wireless NIC.

On the host PC, my Internet connection is running just as quick as it always has, yet the connection on my laptop is extremely slow. Web pages can take almost a minute to load and occasionally time out. This behavior is consistent whether or not the host is accessing the network.

Both PCs can ping each other, and I can print over the network. I have de-installed and re-installed the network adapters, the modem, and the TCP/IP protocol. I have even tried upgrading the network drivers, but this didn't help either. In a final act of desperation, I even tried contacting my ISP and had them perform a diagnostic on my DSL connection; according to them, everything is fine with the connection.

I have tried everything I can think of, with no success. The most frustrating thing is that this isn't a new configuration. I have had all of this equipment in place for almost a year now, and everything worked fine until recently. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Well, I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is I don't think your problem has anything to do with your hardware or your network configuration. Just the fact that all of this hardware was purchased, installed, and had been working for over a year pretty much rules that out. Now, could something have happened to the hardware to cause this? It's possible, but the odds are against it.

This brings us to the bad news. From the way you described the issue, it sounds like the problem has more to do with a software incompatibility or resource/memory shortage. Unfortunately, trying to isolate exactly what is at fault is extremely difficult and would be almost impossible for me to walk you through in the space we have available here. Typically, the cause of this type of problem usually comes down to identifying exactly when the problem started. You'll usually find that this corresponds to a time when a new piece of software was installed, a driver was updated, or a service pack was applied. The best way of preventing this in the future is to use a utility like Microsoft's System Restore before installing or updating anything on the PC.

With System Restore, you can revert your system back to a previous good configuration in the event of a problem. System Restore monitors changes to the system and some application files, and it automatically creates easily identified recovery points. These are created daily and at the time of significant system events (such as when an application or driver is installed). You can also create and name your own restore points at any time. Unfortunately, this utility is only available in Windows XP; however, several third-party vendors have similar tools available that would work with other versions of Windows. One of the better applications is GoBack Deluxe by Roxio, which retails for about $30. More information on GoBack can be found online.

While a tool like GoBack Deluxe might prove extremely helpful to you in the future, unfortunately, it does nothing for your immediate problem. This is where the real headache comes in. If you can't isolate when the situation changed, the easiest thing for you to do would be to simply wipeout and redo your laptop with a clean installation of Windows 98SE (or Windows XP, if you want to take advantage of the System Restore feature).

One of the problems I've discovered over the years with Windows-based computers is that they religiously have to be erased and "reset" on almost a yearly basis in order to keep them running at peak efficiency. You see, over time Windows becomes bloated with numerous utilities, applications, driver updates, security patches, and so on that have a tendency make the system unstable. Regrettably, resetting the system is usually the only way to effectively rid yourself of these mysterious problems. It's unquestionably a hassle, but it will typically give you the best results.

The only other suggestion I can make to you before taking on such a daunting task would be to thoroughly scan your system for viruses. The symptoms you described are definitely exhibiting virus-like behavior and, at the very least, are worth investigating. A few years ago I had a similar problem. For some reason, my server had slowed to a crawl and no matter what I tried, I just couldn't seem to repair it. Then one day I was out with another technician working on a client's mail server when I noticed that the symptoms it was displaying were identical to those I was experiencing. We soon discovered that this server was infected with a variant of the Code Red virus. Sure enough, when I got home that evening, I scanned my server and discovered that it too was infected with Code Red. I downloaded and ran the virus removal utility and within minutes my server was back to normal. I hope this helps. Good Luck!

At our work we have a cable modem connected to an SMC7004ABR router. My boss just bought a D-Link wireless router for his house, but he also wants to bring it in to work and hook it up to our network so that he can have wireless network access for his laptop. I have spent a couple of days trying to get this configured, but for some reason, I just can't seem to get it to work. Am I missing something, or is it just not possible for me to connect these two routers together. I appreciate any advice you may have. Thanks!

While it's not impossible to connect two routers together, doing it with two routers — and particularly two SOHO routers — is often much more trouble than it's worth. Essentially, routers are designed to isolate one network from another. Trying to use one to bring wireless access to your existing network is going to be extremely problematic.

What you should be using is a wireless access point or a network bridge. These devices are designed to work with your existing network and are typical very low in cost. Another benefit is that they can typically be installed and configured in a matter of minutes, as opposed to the hours or days you're going to spend trying to get the two routers to work together.

D-Link actually makes a very good access point called the DWL-900AP+, which I reviewed here on Practically Networked recently. The full review can be found online. The DWL-900AP+ sells for about $80. Do yourself a favor and forgo the idea of using your boss's existing router. To advise you in any other way would be the equivalent of me telling you to hammer a square peg into a round hole.

Adapted from PracticallyNetworked.com, part of the EarthWeb.com Network.

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