I got them ol' DHCP blues
November 28, 2007 4:59 PM   Subscribe

My PC has completely lost interest in automatically obtaining an IP address from any network, by any method.

My Toshiba Satellite Pro has been my tireless servant for over 3 years. Last week, while plugged into my ADSL router via an ethernet cable, I went to get a cup of tea. When I got back, 5 minutes later, I had 'limited or no connectivity' on the network. Restarting the router had no effect, restarting the PC had no effect. I can assign an IP address manually, and connect to the internet with ease and joy via both ethernet cable and PCMCIA wireless card and USB wireless dongle thingy. The moment I entrust the computer with the oh-so-difficult task of attempting automatic IP acquisition, the taskbar icon hangs at 'acquiring network address' and then gives up some minutes later.

Some additional facts:
There's another computer on the same network, it has no problem getting an automatic IP address. DHCP is enabled on the router, there's a wide enough range of available addresses, and it's been working fine for many months prior to this.
I've tried the PC on 3 different networks, with the same result - automatic is hopeless, manual is ok.
My DHCP service is active on the PC, and is set to automatically start on start-up.
WinSockFix does nothing to help.
Enabling NetBIOS over TCP/IP does nothing to help.
Google tells me that seemingly lots of other people have had similar problems, but either only with wireless, or because they forgot to enable DHCP on their router, or some other fairly straightforward thing that doesn't seem to apply to me. And lots of advice online has been stuff like 'try restarting the computer', or 'make sure your router is switched on'.

This is driving me insane, and while I can access the internet at home, because I know the right DNS gateways to use for manual DHCP, it means I can't use the laptop away from home.

What have I missed? Can anyone help?!
posted by nylon to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Did you try resetting your registry to an earlier date? "System Restore" -- it's surprising how many problems this fixes.
posted by Eringatang at 5:11 PM on November 28, 2007

Best thing I can suggest is re-installing the nic for the machine. In device manager right click and select uninstall...naturally make sure you have the drivers before you do this...
posted by iamabot at 5:11 PM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Try a new cable and a different port on the router.
posted by rhizome at 5:54 PM on November 28, 2007

I was coming in to tell you that I had the same issue a few months back and resolved it by reinstalling NIC drivers.

Seconding iambot on that one.

You might also try rebooting into Safe-mode with networking. If you can get a connection there, it is almost certainly software or hardware and not drivers or SP2 bugs.

I am going to assume that you are on XP SP2 - if not, disregard - do you have this (KB884020) update installed? You can check through Add/Remove Programs. If not, try installing the update. Remember to restart after install.

Check your firewall. Norton, ZoneAlarm, and others could be mis-configured. Try disabling.

As somebody above mentioned, you can try a system restore - I would save that for last.

If none of these steps work. You might check for malware or a virus. You may also be having a hardware issue with your NIC (probably not if you can connect with a static IP).
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 6:27 PM on November 28, 2007

Sorry for the double post, but I should have followed up further on the firewall thing. If you disable, and it works, you need to re-enable and configure it properly; maybe even reinstall. You may not even be able to disable your firewall in some cases, so you would need to make sure it is configured properly. The fact is though, if you rebooted into Safe-mode, two steps above and it still did not work, it is probably not your firewall.

If the above steps do not help, and you post results and system information, I will try to help you further.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 6:32 PM on November 28, 2007


Reinstalled both the Realtek onboard ethernet and the D-Link PCMCIA wireless card, and they now have the latest drivers. No change. Neither of them can auto-assign IP, but both can connect with static IP.

Windows update KB884020 does nothing (you're right, B(oYo)BIES, I'm on XP Home SP2).

Safemode with networking behaves exactly the same way - cannot acquire auto IP, but can connect with static.

No change with firewall disabled.

You may also be having a hardware issue with your NIC

But a bit funny that all 3 - USB, PCMCIA and onboard ethernet - started behaving in exactly the same way at exactly the same time.

I need to go to bed, but will report back with more info in the morning - thanks all for your contributions so far.
posted by nylon at 7:38 PM on November 28, 2007

Do you mind creating a new Windows User Account just to see if it pertains to this user profile? If it works, we know that it is something about the profile. If it doesn't, we can pretty much rule out wacky settings in your current profile.

Just trying to think of any other ideas.

We have ruled out:
- the router (happens on other routers)
- SP2 fix
- NIC (pretty sure we can rule this out)
- Drivers
- WinSock
- 3rd party software / firewalls (safe-mode)

Almost certainly a bad setting or maybe corrupt file locally to the machine. Pretty much ruled out all that is hardware. I am going to get with somebody else on this and I will let you know if I get any further feedback. Would be interested to know if it works in a new profile though.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 8:02 PM on November 28, 2007

I had exactly the same problem on a machine a few months ago. Dredging through my memory, it sounds like you've got a corrupt Winsock entry. There are a few ways to fix it:

1) Winsock Fix may do it, but it didn't for me.

2) This (response #11) (IIRC) resolved the issue nicely, if my dim brain remembers correctly. :)
posted by liquado at 8:09 PM on November 28, 2007

Uninstall and reinstall TCP/IP on the adapters?
posted by Cyrano at 8:09 PM on November 28, 2007

My next three steps( if i were in your shoes):
1) Try the Windows Profile
---- If it works, skip next step and either try a system restore or hunt down the crap settings or whatever in the hosed profile (if it doesn't work - move on to step 2).

2) System File Checker

3) System restore
Beyond that, I am waiting for any other suggestions from a partner of mine.

On Preview - liquado's second suggestion looks knda promising. I was unaware that there is an alternative fix for this. I would try his suggestion before my above steps.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 8:13 PM on November 28, 2007

Open a command prompt (start/run, enter cmd in the box, and click OK

type netsh winsock reset

Reboot the computer.
posted by disclaimer at 8:15 PM on November 28, 2007

I'd also suggest getting rid of all of your wireless for the moment and focusing on making a hardwired connection work first. Make sure they're not estranged for some reason.
posted by Cyrano at 8:19 PM on November 28, 2007

(In other words, you've got three connection variables that could be causing problems right now and it's best to start with just one.)
posted by Cyrano at 8:22 PM on November 28, 2007

All of this will soon be irrelevant when I throw the laptop across the room in blind, impotent rage, but:

Two new Windows accounts created, one with admin privileges, one without. Both act in exactly the same way. Problem not solved.

liquado's computing.net fix had no effect.

System file checker run, no effect.

winsock reset: no effect.

System Restore is turned off, sadly, so I'm now even more stumped that I was before. Argh.
posted by nylon at 6:11 AM on November 29, 2007

I'm probably making some sort of limited progress, although possibly not. Resetting (effectively uninstalling/reinstalling) TCP/IP with >netsh int ip reset causes the LAN connection to go from 'limited or no connectivity' to 'connected' and with an IP address assigned by DHCP. However: the IP address is incorrect (it's 169.254... same as the automatic private IP assigned after the 'acquiring network address' cycle eventually gives up), attempting to repair it leads to 'could not renew IP address', and restarting the computer while it's in this state causes everything to reset back to the limited or no connectivity charade.

Does that help anyone?
posted by nylon at 8:57 AM on November 29, 2007

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