Bafflingly consistent wireless problems
June 15, 2005 3:50 PM   Subscribe

Using two different Netgear WiFi adapters under Windows XP, we can connect to our home network, but can't ping any domains or see any websites (though we can under Knoppix).

My wife just bought an Averatec notebook from a friend, who never had any problems with it. It runs Windows XP Home Edition and came with a Netgear WG111v1 wireless USB dongle. We can connect from the laptop to our home network via our Linksys WAP11, but can't see the Internet. The Netgear software says we have made a strong connection and we can even see some traffic in the monitor utility, but we can't ping or surf via IE. My wife's old laptop connected wirelessly via a Netgear MA401 PCMCIA card, but when I plug that card into her new laptop, we get the same problem. (I am using the latest drivers for both adapters.) I can also connect wirelessly to our LAN with my Zaurus PDA (runs Linux). Oh, AND I can surf the web using the PCMCIA card on her laptop if I run Knoppix on it! There seems to be something peculiar about the combination of Windows XP and our home network, but I'm damned if I can figure what it is. (I'm probably damned for letting "Win" XP in the front door anyway.) I've been working on this night and day, and my google-fu quails before the task. Can anyone help me? I would love to fix this for my dear wife.
posted by rwhe to Computers & Internet (27 answers total)
Have you tried downloading the latest Netgear drivers? Is your Windows install fully up to date?

When you run the "ipconfig" from a command line what do you see? Are you getting a DHCP address? Can you connect to the Linksys from a browser? (I'm not sure what address it uses for configuration, but my Linksys router uses
posted by bshort1974 at 4:00 PM on June 15, 2005

First, the windows system is set up to use DHCP? Knoppix will out of the box, but the Windows settings might have been changed.

If it's set up to use DHCP, does it get an IP? type "ipconfig /all" at the command line to see.

If you have an IP, see if you can ping the router by IP. If you can, see if you have a DNS problem by trying to ping a public site by IP.
posted by sohcahtoa at 4:01 PM on June 15, 2005

totally sounds like a DNS problem. Ping either,, or -- those are IPs my nslookup shoots back for google. If those go through, your Windows install isn't resolving DNS properly. You'll need to A) either enter in DNS servers by hand in the network setup or B) make sure they can retrieve them properly using DHCP (some routers do a poor job of this).
posted by fishfucker at 4:04 PM on June 15, 2005

Also, how exactly is the WAP11 connected to your net connection? Is the ethernet cable from your dsl / cable modem going directly into the WAP?
posted by bshort1974 at 4:06 PM on June 15, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everyone so far! Yes, I have the latest drivers. FYI, my LAN has a small number of static IPs, and "ipconfig /all" shows that the laptop has the right one. Pinging works! However, entering "" in IE does not bring up Google. How do I go about diagnosing a WinXP DNS problem?
posted by rwhe at 4:15 PM on June 15, 2005

Response by poster: The WAP11 has its own static IP and is connected to an Ethernet hub connected to my DSL modem.
posted by rwhe at 4:18 PM on June 15, 2005

Response by poster: BTW, pinging the laptop from another machine just hangs.
posted by rwhe at 4:34 PM on June 15, 2005

try typing "nslookup" at the command prompt. You should see "Default Server:" and then your server name/ip. If nothing's there, you need to set some servers -- either copy them from your knoppix box/router or get them from your ISP.

these are set under network connection/status/properties/TCPIP/properties (at the bottom -- click use these DNS servers and put something in).
posted by fishfucker at 5:02 PM on June 15, 2005

is the WAP connected to a hub or another router? Connecting a WAP router to another router generally works, but sometimes you can get weird gateway problems.
posted by fishfucker at 5:04 PM on June 15, 2005

rwhe writes "However, entering '' in IE does not bring up Google."

I think this rules out a DNS problem, doesn't it? Is it a gateway thing? Do you have the right IP address for your default gateway (probably the local ip address claimed by your wireless router)?

rwhe writes "Pinging works!"

Hrm... Firewall issues? Try bringing down the XP firewall maybe?

It's weird that ping can get through but http can't. But you already knew that.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:14 PM on June 15, 2005

I should clarify: It rules out a problem that's exclusively DNS-related. You might still have a problems resolving domain names, but you've got something else, too.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:17 PM on June 15, 2005

Response by poster: (1) Typing "nslookup" shows that the laptop knows its default DNS server, just not its name, for obvious reasons. (2) The WAP is connected to a hub, not another router. (3) "ipconfig /all" shows that the laptop has the right gateway IP. (4) Bringing down the XP firewall does not let me browse in IE via IP numbers, but DOES let me ping the laptop. (5) I called my ISP (Qwest) and they were utterly stumped. I'm still putting my money on MeFi. Continued thanks...
posted by rwhe at 5:36 PM on June 15, 2005

Can you give us a little more info on your home network? Are these the only computers on it? What kind of connection/modem?

I'd eliminate some of the complication by removing all of that equipment so it goes straight from your internet connection (dsl/cable modem) to your Averatec laptop...

Let us know what happens...
posted by jackofsaxons at 6:22 PM on June 15, 2005

does telnet 80 work? if so, it looks like a problem with ie.

it's not clear to me what the "obvious" reason is for it not to know the name of your dns server. if it knows the address, it should contact and get the name.

did you explain to comcast that you had several machines on the network? you don't have a plan for just one, or something similarly odd, right? they might conceivably be blocking on the tcp ttl value, but that seems really unlikely (if you google, you'll find how to change it via the registry).

are you sure knoppix works for an identical config? same address (sounds like it should be since it seems to be static)? no ethernet cable also connected? no strange config over-riding the mac address? you've rebooted / power cycled everything? done ipconfig /renew? checked the tcp/ip properties? allobvious things, but when things get this weird it normally means i've missed something obvious.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:28 PM on June 15, 2005

you could try taking the laptop to a cafe - does it work on anyone else's network?
posted by andrew cooke at 6:29 PM on June 15, 2005

virus messing up .hosts or similar?
posted by andrew cooke at 6:32 PM on June 15, 2005

well, I was going to mention this earlier, but it sounded crazy since ping was working:

it's possible that a bunch of ports are blocked for some stupid reason. If you were to lockdown the port for DNS, for example, you wouldn't be able to resolve DNS names or visit IP addresses on port 80, but you'd still be able to ping (assuming for some reason pinging is allowed). Since the knoppix box seems to have no trouble with it (and if it is also configured through DHCP), the only guess left would be the windows xp box. Def. check to make sure the firewall isn't doing some crazy lockdown. Also make sure IE isn't using a proxy, for some dumb reason. Can you get a mail client to work? IRC? IE, what ports aren't working?

sounds like a real stumper though. I would see if you can get a Linux-on-a-cd type thing running on the XP box to see if it's software related or not.
posted by fishfucker at 7:21 PM on June 15, 2005

oh, also last guess after re-reading the question: make sure the WAP11 is permitting isn't locking down MAC addresses -- I'm not sure why this would account for knoppix still working, but if the problem is persistent with the card across computers, well.... although yeah, I guess ping wouldn't be an issue then either.
posted by fishfucker at 7:23 PM on June 15, 2005

Response by poster: (1) jackofsaxons: Out of the five static IPs allotted to me, I have two Linux boxes, an HP laser printer, the WAP, and this laptop connected. I cannot connect the DSL modem directly to the laptop because I have a web server that needs to be up 24/7.

(2) andrew cooke: "telnet 80" produces the message "Could not open connection to the host, on port 80. The requested service provider could not be loaded or initialized." (3) The "obvious" reason that I meant when I mentioned the laptop doesn't know the name of the DNS server is that it is having problems with DNS resolution. (4) Qwest knows I have several machines; in fact, their rationale for not helping me after their skulls timed out was that since I had several machines that did work, it obviously wasn't their problem! (5) I've already checked all the things you mentioned, except... (6) "ipconfig /renew" produces the message, "The operation failed as no adapter is in the state permissible for this operation." (7) I plan to take the laptop to the library, where there's an open network, but haven't done so yet. (8) Isn't .hosts only used when DNS servers are not?

(9) fishfucker: The WAP11 is not blocking any MAC addresses. (10) The problem is not consistent with the card across computers; my wife's old laptop connected fine with the MA401 PCMCIA card, which the new laptop can't use. (11) If I turn the firewall completely off, I still have almost all of the same problems (but I can ping the laptop).

Sigh... If we can't get it going at the library, it may be time to ask for our money back.
posted by rwhe at 7:49 PM on June 15, 2005

Response by poster: Any other ideas?
posted by rwhe at 8:37 PM on June 15, 2005

Well, I think Qwest was right to leave you to your own, um, devices here. It isn't their connection. Knoppix also shows that it's a configuration issue.

If ipconfig is screwing up, I'd blast out the whole network configuration and start from scratch -- remove the network adapter driver completely, redetect via the new hardware wizard, and work through the wizard for a standard "this computer connects to the internet through a LAN" script. Seriously, that shouldn't be happening.

I had something similar once that turned out to be a corrupted TCP driver, of all things, but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

And yeah, you need to double-check the hardware/config against another network, to be sure.
posted by dhartung at 9:59 PM on June 15, 2005

you need to ipconfig /release before you can ipconfig /renew. try that quickly -- it only takes a second.

try temporarily disabling any other ethernet/network adapters you might have.

i'm doubtful it's anything off of the computer at this point, if your network is not having a problem with its other computers. The WAP should have built-in firewalling, but it's wide-open by default, and since it works on the old laptop I suppose that's not the issue either.

the wap is doing network address translation, right? from static -> private (or vice versa, however you like to think of it)?

what's the output you get when you type ipconfig? (you can leave off the first quad if you're worried about someone messing with your IPs). What's your netmask/gateway on your static range?

You're definitely having some sort of port blockage -- it's just, well, where's it coming from? DNS is an issue probably because the ports are blocked. nslookup will come up with the IP if you just run it, but it won't have the server name (because it can't hit it to reverse IP it) and won't be able to perform any lookups. So, basically, you have the strange condition of being able to ping, but not able to do anything else. Which I can imagine happening as a lot of firewalling software interfaces treat ping specially (usually it'll try to turn it off, but you know, the reverse can happen)

i have to admit, i'm pretty stumped. the fact that you CAN ping outside your private network implies that the card is working properly, and that network settings are correct.

Ethernet out works fine, right?

good luck.

it's gonna be something really stupid, i promise you.

(8) Isn't .hosts only used when DNS servers are not?

nope, afaik .hosts takes precedent over DNS servers -- if you have entries in your .hosts file, your computer will go there FIRST instead of querying DNS. But even if some practical joker did mess around with your .hosts file, nslookup should still work, and definitely the IP telnet thing.
posted by fishfucker at 10:06 PM on June 15, 2005

Response by poster: fishfucker and dhartung, thanks very much. You've given me more stuff to look at / work on / think about. If I can't get it working tonight, I'll post sometime tomorrow with a progress report.
posted by rwhe at 10:40 PM on June 15, 2005

Best answer: rwhe

If you cannot resolve urls or ips in internet explorer and you cannot ping urls but you can ping ips you may have a winsock error. This would explain why it only happens on one machine and only under windows xp.

If you have xp service pack 2 its a pretty quick fix, they've put some new commands in, the relevant one should be
"netsh winsock reset" then just restart the pc.

If you don't have service pack 2 it means uninstalling and reinstalling tcp/ip and deleting some registry keys
see microsoft kb 811259 for more info.
posted by TheCassiniDivision at 2:31 AM on June 16, 2005

Response by poster: TheCassiniDivision: That was it! I didn't have SP2, so I started downloading it and meanwhile went to delete the registry keys and reinstall TCP/IP. The latter technique worked beautifully. I can now surf the web on the laptop. Thanks so much!

Thanks to everyone else who also helped me shoot this trouble. In a battle of skulls between Qwest tech support and AskMeFi, MeFi reigns supreme. Chalk another one up for distributed intelligence.
posted by rwhe at 10:49 AM on June 16, 2005

whoa. crazy. good job TCD. this thread is totally going in the "ghost errors" file.
posted by fishfucker at 11:28 AM on June 16, 2005

Nice, TCD. This one's completely new to me.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:57 AM on June 16, 2005

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