How to Survive the Worst PC Disasters

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Problem: Your Net connection is dead.

Select 'Repair' to renew your IP address through Windows' network connection tools.
Select 'Repair' to renew your IP address through Windows' network connection tools.
Likely Cause: Your router could have seized up, sunspots might be mucking with the Web, or...

In Video: How to Reset Your Net Connection

The Fix: Start with the issues you can control. Modems and routers are vulnerable to frequent crashes. A simple reboot usually corrects the problem.

  1. First, try using another PC to reach the Web (you could have a faulty network card in the first machine). If you can't do that, check if your local network is working (if not, the culprit might be the router, which you may need to reboot or replace).
  2. Next, see if your cable or DSL modem is displaying error lights. If it indicates trouble, unplug it. You may as well do the same for your router and shut down your PC. Wait about 30 seconds after you've unplugged your gear, and then plug everything back in and start up your PC.
  3. If that doesn't work, try resetting your PC connection in Windows. The most reliable way in XP is to click Start, Run and type CMD (in Vista, type CMD at the search prompt). Then type ipconfig /renew at the terminal prompt. You'll get a similar outcome by right-clicking the network connection icon in the system tray and selecting Repair. However, I find the terminal method more effective.
  4. If you're still not online and you usually connect via a wireless adapter, try plugging in directly to the router via an ethernet cable. Still not working? Try skipping the router and connecting a PC directly to the modem to further isolate the problem. Check all cables and replace them if possible. Examine cable modems for fraying on the coaxial wiring.
  5. No dice? It's time to call your broadband provider to check for known outages in your area. (Don't forget to check the obvious: If you use a cable modem, is the cable TV working? Did you pay the bill?) Some providers can test your network gear remotely, as well; in some cases the ISP may need to send a reset signal to your modem. But at this point you're likely dealing with a network outage. Such outages are usually temporary, but reporting them and complaining--repeatedly--will likely result in a speedier resolution.

How to Avoid It Next Time: Invest in backup connectivity gear--find a nearby friend whose Wi-Fi signal you can use, or buy a wireless data card and account for your laptop. Even having dial-up numbers for your ISP or an AOL or NetZero CD handy can get you online in a pinch.

For a visual tutorial on this subject, watch our video.

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