Internet, you're being weird. Stop it.
February 7, 2013 6:01 PM   Subscribe

Trying to set up a new wireless network and running into all kinds of strange problems. Connections dropped every few hours! Some machines work, some don't! Can connect to internet, can't connect to router! DOGS AND CATS LIVING TOGETHER (literally). Please help.

The set-up is a little convoluted, but does work (until it doesn't).

The original router is an ISP-provided 2wire HomePortal 1700HW, a combination DSL modem/router that plugs directly into a phone jack and broadcasts it as a WiFi network. It's a few years old but has worked decently on its own up to this point, so I don't think the problem lies there.

The newcomer is a brand-new Western Digital My Net N600 router, acquired both to improve on the range of the old one and to provide networked storage capability for shared music and such.

Configuring the two of them to work properly was a bit of a dog, but I finally did get it working. The phone jack plugs into the old 2wire, now set to bridge mode to disable its built-in wireless capability. The 2wire plugs into the N600 via Ethernet. And the N600, armed with all the correct PPPoE login information from the ISP, correctly connects to and interprets the DSL coming in from the 2wire and broadcasts it out. Even the network storage works!

Problem is, every couple of hours this connection fails, and in the weirdest way possible.

Right now, I'm typing this on an old 'n' busted laptop running Windows XP. It's currently connected to the N600's wireless network and can browse the web no problem. All the status lights on the routers are green, running an ipconfig command returns normal IP address information (including the router's IP), I can ping the router at that location fine.

But I can't connect to the router's settings page ( WTF?

Also, a visiting Chromebook can connect to the network but can't load any websites... except for AOL webmail, of all things. A test email sent from a phone showed up in the inbox fine, while Google, Facebook, etc. look dead. Not even Gmail,, or even just plain old work -- just This Chromebook doesn't have a data connection, btw, just WiFi. I say again: WTF?

Meanwhile, a newer Windows 7 laptop can't connect to the N600 network at all ("Unable to connect..."), and even plugging directly into the N600 router via Ethernet won't work -- I can ping it fine, but neither websites nor the router settings page itself will load.

Various mobile devices are likewise denied -- various iPhones and iPads can't connect to the network at all.

Power-cycling the N600 router solves all these problems and things work alright for all devices... for a few hours. Until everything craps out again, for no apparent reason.

What could be triggering this issue, and how do I fix it? I've dealt with wonky router stuff before, but it seems totally bizarre to me that:

- the status lights on both routers are fine, including the N600's "internet connection OK" light
- ONE laptop can connect to the router's WiFi and browse the web, and can ping the router, but can't access the router itself
- the other laptop can ping the router through a wired connection, but can't access the router settings or browse the web that way
- a Chromebook can connect to the network and can load *one* website (, but nothing else
- no other device (apart from that first laptop that mysteriously works fine) can connect to the WiFi network at all

Any thoughts or advice appreciated; I'd love to get this problem fixed rather than have to venture back to Best Buy and try to find a replacement (maybe an N900? who knows).
posted by Rhaomi to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
After re-reading your previous question, and because I like simple, this would probably be the point where I'd go looking for a regular ol' DSL modem, and get your persnickety old router out of the equation (even better if you can borrow one to test, first, however).

What does your old laptop show for DNS servers vs. the Chromebook? It always seems to come back to DNS in my world, but I'd suggest seeing what happens if you manually set the IP address and DNS settings on machines to the same, and see if the issue is the same on each. (And, like I suggested in your other question, I'd use the OpenDNS servers/Google DNS, to eliminate any ISP DNS variables from the equation.)

The single web site loading sounds like some kind of weird DNS cache thing, but unless you have the same config in both machines, it's tough to see if the issue is DNS/DHCP/WiFi/cache/whatever.

And, does the Win7 laptop connect okay if it's plugged directly into the old router?

Hope that helps.
posted by liquado at 6:57 PM on February 7, 2013

DNS problems or duplicate IP would be my guess.
posted by empath at 7:14 PM on February 7, 2013

Response by poster: I don't know how to check the network configuration on the Chromebook, but the old laptop is already set to use Google DNS. I'm not sure it's a DNS issue anyway, since typing the raw IP address of a website wouldn't work on machines that were having trouble connecting to the web, including the Chromebook. Also, the Chromebook was receiving *new* email, so I don't think it had merely cached the inbox.

I did try plugging the Win7 into the old 2wire, but couldn't get anything to work -- no Default Gateway listed, junk IP address assigned, etc.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:14 PM on February 7, 2013

Response by poster: empath, now that you mention it, I do remember getting an alert for an IP address conflict when I was first setting things up. But I figured it wasn't a problem since all machines were operating OK simultaneously once everything was hooked up properly. Is there a good way to determine if that's still happening, or how to fix it? Maybe a hard reset of both routers -- or is it something you'd have to change on the laptop end?
posted by Rhaomi at 7:18 PM on February 7, 2013

Disconnect everything from your network except for one laptop and see if the problem goes away. That should sort out duplicate ip problems.
posted by empath at 8:30 PM on February 7, 2013

Also, what's the ip on your router? Are you sure the modem is in bridge mode?
posted by empath at 8:33 PM on February 7, 2013

Response by poster: empath's suggestion got me wondering about the protracted initial set-up process and whether I inadvertently screwed up some IP-related setting while trying to figure out the bridging process -- I went ahead and did a hard reset on both routers and set them up from scratch with no fiddling around with any other settings.

Everything's working so far right now -- there are multiple devices listed in the N600's devices table, all with unique IP addresses. I'll update the thread tomorrow on whether it's still going strong.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:59 PM on February 7, 2013

Response by poster: GRRR. I got *another* dropped connection this morning, same symptoms. After a little more searching I decided to try cloning the MAC address of the PC used to set up the original router -- apparently ISPs will sometimes kick unauthorized routing devices, which might explain why that one machine worked when all others were being denied.

Will update again later; any other ideas appreciated!

(PS to empath: I did three things to turn on bridge mode on my old modem/router, all of which were recommended by various online guides for the 2wire that I encountered:

- set the VPI and VCI to the 8 and 35 used by my ISP
- turned off PVC search
- set the connection method to Direct Connect rather than PPPoE (I've tried leaving it as this by default AND switching it to PPPoE to establish a connection then back to Direct Connect)
- disable routing, which explicitly enables Bridge Mode)
posted by Rhaomi at 3:00 PM on February 8, 2013

Response by poster: Still dropping connections. I'm at the end of my rope, and junking both the 2wire and the N600 for a regular modem (suggestions welcome) and an Airport Extreme tomorrow if I can't deduce anything else. Nuke from orbit, it's the only way to keep me from tearing my hair out.

Also, just as a little curio, turns out that Spotify unaccountably works on the Win7 laptop after the connection drops, even while Chrome, Firefox, IE, and iTunes fail to load anything. INSANITY.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:52 PM on February 8, 2013

Response by poster: UPDATE: In the course of those last-minute tweaks, I discovered the source of the problem was the external drive. The wifi would operate fine for days with nothing plugged in, but within hours of attaching and using the enclosure, the router would crash. Whether from overheating or data overload I don't know, but a failure of the router firmware would explain the strange, inconsistent network behavior.

I exchanged the N600 for an N750 the other day, hoping the higher specs would be able to handle the drive, but ran into more problems (ridiculously sluggish web interface), and then an attempted firmware update killed the thing completely. Not even a factory reset will get it to boot properly.

So I'm done with Western Digital and am looking for alternatives in this thread; suggestions much appreciated!
posted by Rhaomi at 7:14 AM on March 3, 2013

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