Fixing Network Connections

Recently a computer on my home network had trouble downloading from and surfing through the internet. The connection worked sporadically and when it did work the connection speeds were very very slow. Often files would stop downloading before download completion and internet sites would time out before fully loading, especially those which had a lot of graphics. Also the computer would indicate that connection to the network and internet access was being lost often. The computer in all other respects was working very well. No virus like activity was present and programs were working at high speed.

At the time this was the only computer on the network with internet connection trouble, so I suspected a bad network cable, a problem with packet collisions, or perhaps a bad router connection like a loose slot. After switching connections around in various ways without improvement and without change to the other computer’s connection speed I reset the router and made certain that the network was set up properly, but still nothing changed for the better and so since the cable had been partially damaged I replaced the cable as the next step. The slow connection improved very slightly, but was still unacceptably slow and then the problem suddenly got worse than ever before. At this point I began to suspect a hardware problem with the network card which was of the on-board kind which is part of the motherboard.

Most network cards have an activity light which indicate network activity over that device and the suspected network card in this case did as usually. When observing the light I noticed the flickering was not as constant as it should be. I also noticed that the connector for the network cable seemed loose inside the socket. When moved in different positions the flickering would increase. In other positions the light which indicated that the network card had any connection at all would entirely go out. I was fairly certain at this point that the problem was a loose socket and so I examined the prongs inside the socket and noticed that they were almost entirely flat. The socket also seemed a bit shorter than standard so that the connector on the cable bottomed-out in an unusual way and the tab on the connector did not seem to click into place very well. I tried pulling the prongs outward a bit to make a more sure connection and it helped a bit, but in order to overcome the extreme looseness of the socket I had to pull the prongs out so far that they become twisted and I suspected that their ends were touching one another in the part just beyond their resting slots. I decided to buy a new network card and opted for a USB network adapter purchasing one available from Belkin. Belkin Ethernet Adapter

The Belkin works with Windows, Macintosh, and Linux and it has 3.0 USB capability for optimum speed, but also works on USB 2.0 so I knew it would work with the computer despite the fact the motherboard only had USB 2.0 technology.

Once the network card arrived (on Sunday thanks to the new Sunday Delivery now being featured through I plugged it in and installed the drivers from the supplied CD that came with the card and immediately everything worked fine and full speed internet was restored to the computer.

If you do computer repair often I would suggest having a USB network connector like the Belkin available. Having such a convenient device could allow a computer to connect to the network even if the particular computer does not have a network card or if network card hardware problems or making the network card inoperable. And it would make it easy to diagnose if the network card is what is actually causing difficulty with the connection to the network.

However it appears the loose connection which was fixed by replacing the netword card with an external one was not the only problem. Immediately after that computer’s connection was improved with the Belkin another computer on the network started experiencing the same trouble. I moved the Belkin over to that computer and found that again the Belkin improved the connection dramatically. Then a third computer on the network started having the same trouble. At this point I suspected that the connection to the WAN was bad, so I thought checking all the connectors would be a good thing to put on my list of troubleshooting steps. A few years ago I was getting a lot of disconnections and packet loses and a cable repairman explained that the splitters I was using needed to be of a certain kind rated for internet connections, which I suspected, but I had no others at the time so I used what I had, but that had caused a problem. He replaced the splitters and everything was fine. And so I considered that now perhaps a splitter had gone bad or ultraviolet decay on the cable lines meant it was time to run new. However before I started climbing all over the place outside my home I thought it would be best to check the direct connection of the modem to the computer bypassing the router as the router was the most likely problem since the problems seems to be isolated to one computer at a time, but in a cascading sequence.

I did a speed test connecting through the router and found about one to two megabytes per second was the best I was getting most of the time. When I bypassed the router the connection immediately improved to a full fifteen. The router was surely the problem. I replaced my old LinkSys BEFSR41 with a new router (costing around one hundred dollars with tax (theft of a man’s labour and life)) and everything is fine now on all the computers and internet speed and reliability are as they should be.

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