Infrastructure
Commentary
4/5/2005
04:37 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
Commentary
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Langa Letter: How To Test And Tune Your Online Connection

From simple tune-ups to total overhauls, here's information from Fred Langa to help you get the most from your network, cable, DSL, or dial-up connection.

Sometimes, a question from a reader touches on a subject that--like one of those Russian matryoshka dolls-within-dolls--leads you deeper with each succeeding layer. Take this reader E-mail, for example: On the surface it's about a fairly common problem faced by those of us who have to contend with multiple Internet connection types at different locations, such as LAN, DSL, and dial up. But the letter also leads to much deeper and more generally applicable issues about diagnosing, tuning, and improving Internet connections in general, no matter what the type:

Hi, Fred, I developed a problem with my dialup connection. This problem came up when I installed and used [a connection monitoring tool]. Let me mention here that I have a Sony laptop and desktop...After [installing the tool]], the speed dropped to 3.7 Kbps. I uninstalled [the tool] but, unfortunately, the 3.7 remained. For cable or DSL there's not much loss, but for dialup it is. My question is this: If the drivers or adapters have been corrupted, how do I go about reinstalling them? Or it may not be that at all.
--Apostolos H. Moussatos

Let's address reader Moussatos' specific question first, and then we'll look at the more general issues:

All At Once
The simplest way to restore a system that's suffered a mysterious slowdown for any reason is simply to roll everything back. Most users don't prepare for this, however, so I won't spend a lot of time discussing it. Instead, let me just point out that if you make a disk image before you install new hardware or software, and then something goes wrong, it's a simple matter to restore the image. In just minutes, your system will be in exactly the same problem-free state it was before. A backup or "roll back" tool also may similarly help, but neither works as well or as reliably as a true disk-imaging tool. But, of course, you have to have used such a tool before the problem occurred. Truth be told, most users don't.

Fortunately, there's a reasonably fast alternate fix you can use in the event a full image or roll-back isn't available, and that's the approach that reader Moussatos was asking about: It's a way to strip out and rebuild your PC's connectivity, in-situ, without having to tear down or reinstall the entire operating system. Discussing it in detail may make the process seem longer and harder than it actually is. But in reality, it doesn't take long at all:

Step By Step: 1
Visit the vendor sites for all the hardware and software implicated or associated with the connectivity problem. For example, grab a copy of the latest drivers for your modem or network adapter card. Likewise, if you're using any special software associated with the problem (e.g., "connection-accelerator" or "connection-monitoring" software, third-party dialers, and so on) visit those vendors' sites and get the latest updates for that software. If you no longer have the original install disks for this software, get the full setup from the vendor site rather than just the update files. Store all these new drivers, updates, and other software on your hard drive; but don't actually install anything yet.

Step By Step: 2
Remove or uninstall any/all software implicated or associated with the connectivity problem. Again, this would include "connection-accelerator" or "connection-monitoring" software, third-party dialers, and so on. Turn off or disable any other software that may be using the connection in question (Web browsers, E-mail, etc.). If you have heavy security on your connection, temporarily relax or disable that.

Step By Step: 3
Use Device Manager to remove/uninstall the hardware implicated or associated with the problem: Right-click "My Computer," select Properties, then Hardware (or open Control Panel/Performance and Maintenance/System/Hardware). Click on Device Manager. Find the general type of device you're having trouble with (for example, "modems" or "network adapters") and click on the plus sign next to that device type. Device Manager will then show you the specific devices of that type in your system. When the specific devices are shown, right click on any device(s) that you think may be associated with your connection trouble, and click Uninstall. Repeat this process until Windows has uninstalled its settings for all the hardware that may be contributing to your connectivity problems.

Step By Step: 4
Power the system all the way off, then restart. Windows will wake up, discover the "new" hardware, and install the necessary drivers, if it can. If Windows doesn't have built-in drivers for the hardware in question, it will ask you to supply them: Point Windows at the drivers and/or setup files you downloaded in Step One of this process. But, at this point, install only what Windows specifically requests--leave out any optional Web accelerators, add-in third-party connection management tools, and so on. For now, we just want a bare-bones, minimal connection setup.

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