What is making this Windows ME laptop freeze every time you plug in the ethernet and the Windows Shell runs?
August 8, 2004 2:51 PM   Subscribe

I consider myself a reasonably good computer person, so the fact that I'm having this problem angers me. I'm working on a laptop for a friend -- a Toshiba Satellite 1805-S253 -- that runs Windows ME. When she gave it to me, it had a trivial problem with the Content Advisor, which I fixed; it also ran fine on a network. Now, 28 critical updates later, it runs fine off the network (which is the way she uses it), but the minute you plug a network cable into its built-in ethernet port and then try to run anything which uses the Windows Shell (e.g., Windows Explorer, Internet Explorer, any open/save dialog box), it freezes solid, and you have to manually quit the Explorer process in order to recover it. I've tried everything -- deleted all the clients in the Network control panel, plugged it into three different Ethernet switches, updated every single driver and/or BIOS that I could, prayed to the Holy Gods Of Built-In Hardware -- to no avail. Any ideas?
posted by delfuego to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
First off, Windows ME sucks. I say this as someone who used it for about two years with relatively few problems, not as a blathering knee-jerk idiot. If you can afford the investment in time, switching to just about any other OS you can name -- including other versions of Windows -- will save you some headaches.

Nextly, does "every single driver" include, you know, the actual NIC driver itself? I'm not convinced that's the root of the problem, but you don't mention it outright.
posted by majick at 3:02 PM on August 8, 2004

Response by poster: I'm right there with you on the WinME suckage; it's not my laptop, though, and it's a bit underpowered for XP (120 Mb RAM, namely).

As for the network card driver, there is no update available. That being said, it worked fine before the Windows Update onslaught, so unless one of those updates then broke communication with the driver, I didn't think it was going to be the problem. That being said, I just tested that out -- I installed a third-party Cardbus 10/100 ethernet card, and I get the same symptoms when I plug into that. So to me, that means that the problem exists in one of the layers between the OS and the network card driver (like the NDIS layer, or one of the dozen other ones). Bleah! And given that WinME doesn't have the overt ability to just reinstall the network stack -- so far as I can tell -- I may be up a creek at this point.
posted by delfuego at 3:18 PM on August 8, 2004

I suppose it's too late for you and your friend, delfuego, but I've learned the hard way to never, ever, ever let Windows Update touch a device driver. I've had some huge problems created when WU decided that it knew better than I did what sort of drivers my hardware needed. Ugh. (And now Microsoft wants me to turn on "automatic updates" so they can install stuff on my computer whenever they like? Not likely.)

Can you reinstall the original drivers that the machine came with? (They may be on a CD that came with the machine.) If that helps with your problem, you might be all right if you only update the drivers manually.

Failing that, are you able to just scrub the hard drive blank (after backing up all data, natch) and reinstall WinME and whatever apps your friend uses? There may be less drastic options, but it would take someone more knowledgeable than me to see them.
posted by Zonker at 3:25 PM on August 8, 2004

If you can afford the investment in time, switching to just about any other OS you can name -- including other versions of Windows -- will save you some headaches.

I know its not helpful to dump some more on ME, but to be clear, more stable versions of windows includes prior versions like a properly service-packed 98 or even 95.

ME crashes/locks up if you look at it funny or breathe on it.
posted by juv3nal at 3:29 PM on August 8, 2004

Response by poster: Zonker, I didn't let it touch the device drivers -- I share your view of the danger of that, from many years of experience -- so that's what's so confusing to me. It's clearly something in the middle, between the driver and the operating system, but so far, I can't figure out what it is.
posted by delfuego at 3:35 PM on August 8, 2004

Is the laptop connected to a network drive? I find the same behavior occurs on my WinXP box whenever I unplug or close the lid on my powerbook, which the XP box is mapped to. Run anything when it's no longer connected to the mac drive creates a ten minute lockup for explorer. After about ten minutes, everything works fine and the mac drive shows up as an "x" in windows explorer.

Is the ME laptop trying to connect to network drives?
posted by mathowie at 4:21 PM on August 8, 2004

In the absolute worst case, have you tried re-installing ME? It's not pretty, and you get to go through update hell all over again, but it will give you a known starting point to work from.
posted by majick at 4:24 PM on August 8, 2004

Response by poster: OK, I think I figured it out -- freaking UPnP.

I decided to start with what I knew: that before I did the Windows Updates, everything worked, and after, dial-up networking worked fine, but wired connections hung the computer within moments of plugging in the network cable. That led me to think: what's a list of networking components that apply to a wired connection but not to a dialup connection? There weren't many; I came up with about two or three, but number one on the list was UPnP. I then realized that all of my routers/switches are UPnP-enabled, so I did a little digging, and ended up remembering that I can uninstall UPnP in WinME (or disable it on each of the routers). So I chose to uninstall it on the WinME side, and then restarted the machine... and bang, it worked perfectly.

I guess WinME tries to poll UPnP devices during its process of displaying anything related to the Windows Shell, and there must have been some update to UPnP in that batch of Windows Updates that horked it. Every time I plugged the network cable in, the laptop saw the UPnP packets and didn't know how to handle them; that's so damn annoying. I'm going to try to reinstall UPnP support next to see if it was just a corrupt file or something, but I'm pretty OK with just leaving it totally uninstalled (since I've yet to find anything with which it's a necessity). Seriously, annoying.

Oh, and as for the System Restore stuff: as "luck" would have it, System Restore was turned off on this laptop until after I noticed that there was a problem. Something else to go onto the checklist of things to make sure are running before I start working on someone's computer...
posted by delfuego at 5:44 PM on August 8, 2004

You've got to be kidding me! I've never even seen UPnP used for anything, let alone bring a box to its knees. It would never have occurred to me to include it in the scope of troubleshooting. Congratulations on nailing it!

Thanks for following up with the thread -- your experience is going to be pasted into my little knowledge base, and hopefully the next sufferer of UPnP woes won't go through what you had to.
posted by majick at 7:32 PM on August 8, 2004

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