Tips for maintaining your home/office network
They’re everywhere! They’re in your office and in your home! You can’t get away from them. Computer networks have invaded! Oh, wait. That’s a good thing, right? Well, I think it is. It’s what’s helping us keep connected to the world in the 21st century. Lots of information and lots of ways to access it. And now that you have your network, it always runs perfectly and has never a problem. Right? Mmm…maybe not.
Can’t access the Internet? Can’t share with other computers on your network? Router configuration getting you down? DCHP? IP? ADSL? Viruses? Firewall? Wireless? Wired? Where will it all end? Ahh! But this is just the beginning. Now that you’ve built the beast, he needs to be fed and cared for along with all those computers attached to him.
Generally speaking, when you configure or troubleshoot a network gone bad, you start from the bottom and work up. In other words, start at the lowest level of hardware (cables and ports) and work up to the highest level (modems, routers, software). For wired networks, the lowest level of hardware you encounter is the cat5 network wire. The following are general guidelines. Your mileage may vary. Let’s get started.
1) The cables.
Sometimes network cables come loose and network ports break. Most times you get “Network Cable Unplugged Errors” in Windows. Sometimes it’s those cables you see and sometimes it’s those cables you don’t see (as in a wall port). Work on the cables you do see. Make sure they’re fit and snug and unbroken. If you find broken cables or ports, call a tech to fix’em (that would be me).
Still no connection? Let’s move on.
2) The modem.
(The following assumes you have properly configured your modem to dial out and connect to the Internet)
First, check the lights on the modem. Are they lit properly? (There are many models of modems and therefore many configurations of lights. Check with your cable or telephone company about your particular situation.) If the lights seem correct, connect a separate computer directly to the modem. Wait thirty seconds for the connection to kick in. Try surfing. Success? Cool. Not? Unplug the modem from the electricity for thirty seconds, then plug it back in and wait for it to restart. Try surfing. Success? Cool. Not? Call your cable or telephone company. The problem might be on their end. You might need a new modem.
3) The router.
First, check the lights on the router. Are they lit properly? Steady lights steady, flashing lights flashing. Good? Good. No good? Unplug the router from the electricity for thirty seconds, then plug it back in and wait for it to restart. Check the lights again. Try surfing. Success? Cool. Not? The problem might be a dead router. Or it might be the local area connection on the computer. Let’s check that next.
4) The local area connection and network driver
There are two main areas to check on your computer in connection with the local area connection: the network driver(s) properties and the local area connection status.
First, let’s bring up the Device Manager and have a look. In the illustration above, notice that the network driver is not installed properly, as indicated by the yellow mark. This network driver was not installed and this bad boy is in need of some attention. At this point, you can either try installing the driver from the original motherboard disk (you do have that, don’t you?) or you can try updating it from the Internet. Right-click on the driver name and then click where it says something like, “Update Driver” and follow the wizard. If neither of these solutions work, you need to call a tech to fix it (again, that would be me).
5) Wireless configuration
As with all things Windows, you can generally get “there” from more than one place and/or direction; this includes wireless connections. With every wireless device you buy, there is an application that you install that assists you in connecting your device to your network. There is also the built-in Windows application that will do the same thing. The Windows app is bland and straight forward, whereas the apps that come with the wireless device are easy to use but varied. If you go with the 3rd party’s software, RTFM! (That means, please be so kind as to read the manual). In this article, I’ll restrict myself to an explanation of how to use the Windows wireless setup. The one thing you must be sure to do is to make sure you indeed have a wireless network card on your computer (all laptops will have this) and to make sure that it is turned on. It may sound simple, but many people forget to actually turn on the wireless button/switch.
The first this you want to do is to open the wireless configuration screen:
Click on the computer icon on the lower right hand side of the screen; the one with the radio waves emanating from it. Then click on “View Available Wireless Networks.” You’ll see the following screen:
Two things to take note of here: 1) The “Use Windows to configure my wireless network settings” check box. Hey, if you’re gonna use Windows for your wireless, this box has to be checked. 2) The “View Wireless Networks” button.
Click it. You’ll see any wireless networks in the immediate area, like this:
Choose the wireless network you want to connect to and click the “Connect” button. Your computer will immediately start to connect to that signal. It will prompt you for a password if it has security enabled (You do know the code, don’t you?). If all goes well, you’ll be connected wirelessly. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to figure out the problem or invite a highly trained tech to check out the problem (that would be.., uh..me!).
6) Computer names
Isn’t it annoying when you’re in a crowded room and someone calls your name and you turn around, only to discover that it was someone else with the same name they were calling? Would it work better if everyone had a different name? That way we could avoid those same-name conflicts. It’s same thing with computers on a network. Each one must have a unique name, otherwise you end of with conflicts on the network.
To set or change a computer name, right-click on My Computer, choose Properties, then the Computer Name tab. Click the Change button and enter a new computer name. Click OK twice and you’re done (after a reboot, of course)
7) Workgroup name
In order to share information between computers on the network, the workgroup name must be the same for all computers on the network.
To set or change a workgroup name, right-click on My Computer, choose Properties, then the Computer Name tab. Click the Change button and enter a new workgroup name. Click OK twice and you’re done (after a reboot, of course). Gee, does this all sounds familiar?
There are, of course, many other aspects to maintaining and troubleshooting your network. In future articles I will discuss them more at length. In the meantime, if you following the tips presented here, you should be well on your way to keeping your home network up and running. If you run into trouble, you can always can a good tech to come to the rescue (Uh, that would be me! Daniel 053.726.5175).
And, as always, referrals are always appreciated.