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4/5/2005
04:37 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
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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.

Next, test your bare-bones connection, using any of the sites and tools listed below in the "Connection Test And Tuning Sites" section of this article. If the connection's not OK at this point, then you'll know the problem is pretty fundamental, because you haven't yet installed any higher-level add-on software and utilities; they can't be the cause of the trouble.

One of the best, if not the best, site for solving fundamental networking problems is the "World of Windows Networking". If your connectivity problem lies inside your PC's basic network settings and configuration, that site probably holds the answer.

But if not, then the previously mentioned "Connection Test And Tuning Sites" section of this article may help.

Step By Step: 6
If everything's OK with the bare-bones connection in Step #5, restore just your online security tools to normal operation, and then test again. If the connection's OK, go on to the next step. But if the connection's now not working properly, you've isolated your security tools as the source of the problem.

Explore the helpfile and all the settings offered by the problematic tool to see if there's a way around the trouble. If you can find no solution, your best option may be to look at using the same kind of tool (firewall, antivirus, anti-malware...) from an alternate vendor.

Although it's dangerous to paint with a very broad brush, I have generally found that the more all-encompassing a security tool or suite tries to be, the more likely it is to cause a problem or unexpected interaction somewhere else. If you run into intractable problems with one of the do-all suites or tools, you may find that simpler, more tightly-focused tools will give better, more reliable results.

A Google search will reveal a huge number of security tools you can try; most offer at least a free trial (and some are free, period) so you can see what effect the software will have, for good or ill, on your PC.

In general, one good firewall (Sygate, Zone Alarm...), one good antivirus tool (Norton, NOD32, AVG...), and one good real-time anti-malware tool (I'm using Microsoft's AntiSpyware) will provide most PCs with just about all the protection they'll need. Add in protection from SpywareBlaster and a startup monitor (Mike Lin's StartUpMonitor, WinPatrol...) and periodic scans from tools like Ad-Aware and Spybot S&D, and your PC will be locked down about as well as it can be.

Tools worth investigating:

  • Sygate

  • ZoneAlarm

  • Symantec/Norton

  • NOD32

  • AVG

  • Micrososft Windows AntiSpyware

  • SpywareBlaster

  • StartupMonitor

  • WinPatrol

  • Ad-Aware

  • Spybot S&D

  • The above isn't a definitive list of security tools, of course--other good tools are out there. But the above will at least get you started.

    Once your connection is working well while also protected by security software such as the above, you're ready for the last step.

    Step By Step: 7
    If everything's OK in Step 6, you can now restore any remaining software (from Step 2) in sequential fashion. That is, restore any "connection-accelerators" or "connection-monitoring" software, third-party dialers, and so on, one by one. After each piece of software is installed, re-test your connection to ensure that the new software hasn't created a problem. If the connection isn't OK, you need to remove the software that caused the problem, and either not use it again, or find a setting in that software that will solve the problem, or find an alternate tool to accomplish the same purpose but without the problem.

    As a side note, I personally try to avoid the extra complexity of this type of software: For me, the fewer things that can go wrong, the better. Unless your connection accelerator, connection monitor, third-party dialer, or whatnot offers such amazing benefits that you can't live without it, you may wish to consider getting by with a simpler, and perhaps more reliable, setup.

    But if not, continue with the install/test sequence until everything's back and working the way you want it.

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