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In my work with the small-business community, in one of the phone calls I dread, the client tells me, "The Internet has stopped working." It's rarely obvious what the real problem is, and walking the client through diagnostic steps over the phone can often be quite frustrating.
I provide a basic diagnostic checklist to my small-business clients, but I find that going over it with them is often the best way to make sure they have followed the steps. Simply asking whether something other than the desktop computer has been restarted invariably gets me a "yes" answer, regardless of whether the device has been restarted or not. This checklist has saved me a lot of time in dealing with simple support tasks.
1. Does the problem affect all the computers in the office or just a specific computer or group of computers? 2. If the problem affects all the computers in the office, has the network connection device (e.g., cable modem, DSL modem) been rebooted? 3. If the problem is limited to a subset of the computers in the office, such as a wireless network, has the router been rebooted? 4. If the problem is a specific computer, has the computer been rebooted?
Notice the theme? In most cases, you can solve local-hardware-related connection problems by restarting the appropriate hardware and letting it rediscover the network on its own. Also, the order in which the user restarts devices can make a difference. Restarting in incorrect order (e.g., restarting the router when the cable connection is down) can prevent the restarted downstream device from finding the connection to the outside world, which means needing to reboot the downstream device yet again. For clients who have multiple devices between their desktops and the Internet, I provide a hard-copy checklist of tasks to complete to restart the client's network, listed in the order the tasks must be completed.
Getting clients comfortable with using the Network Connection Repair utility can also cut down on support calls. If a client can't access network resources from a desktop computer, I always suggest that he or she first try repairing the connection. To repair the connection, right-click the network connection icon in the system tray and select Repair. (Or Repair Link, for Windows XP.) If the network icon isn’t in the system tray, open My Network Places from the Start menu, click View network connections, then right-click the Local Area Connection that comes up in the right pane of the window. (For Windows XP, in the Status dialog box click the Support tab.) Select Repair from the context menu. The dialog will state whether Repair runs successfully; if Repair fails, a failure message will appear and the user will have to take additional steps, usually with network devices rather than the desktop computer.
When local connectivity won't work for Windows XP users and you're getting “Page Cannot Be Displayed” messages, you can take several steps to fix the problem. For end users, the simplest solution is to install the Network Diagnostics Tool for Windows XP, which adds a Diagnose Connection Problems entry to the Tools menu of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE). When you execute the tool, it runs tests on your local computer's IP configuration, Winsock, DNS, firewall, and general Internet connectivity.
To install the tool, go to http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb%3Ben-us%3B326155 and download Guided Help. Doing so will download the tool to your computer, where it can be installed locally. Additional assistance for solving Internet connection problems can be found at that Web site.