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Where do you start when troubleshooting network problems?

  • Do you have tips or a checklist you start with when your network is experiencing problems? How do you check to make sure it's even a network problem and not just someone's PC?

    I know the first question on the list for most customer service folks at computer companies is, "Can you make sure your computer is plugged in?" But where do you go from there?

    Share your network troubleshooting tips here, since a lot of nonprofits may have non-tech staff helping to troubleshoot. Are you missing something obvious from your own list? Are there time-wasters that aren't worth the effort to check? Are there tools or programs that can help sniff out a network-wide problem for you?

    Here's one article that might help inspire some ideas, but there are more to come. I'll post to this thread when more resources are live.

    Do-It-Yourself Desktop Troubleshooting

    Becky Wiegand is the Webinar Program Manager at TechSoup.org
    @bajeckabean on Twitter

  • For networking issues I follow the Half Split rule for trouble shooting.  This involves looking at the system from beginning to end and then going to the middle to see if it works or not.

    so typically you might have set up of

    PC (Network stack) (NIC card) -- patch Cable -- Horizontal plant -- patch Cable -- Switch -- cable -- Router -- ISP -- Internet -- End destination

    If the complaint is I can't get on the Internet.  Then by half splitting, can I get to local resources?  If I can then most likely it's Router to the Internet.   If I can't get to local resources, then it's usually between the PC and Switch.

    Here is a Tech brief written for electronic trouble shooting, but it describes the half split process, and you can adapt to Data and Networking for the concepts.

    http://www.hparchive.com/Bench_Briefs/HP-Bench-Briefs-1981-06-08.pdf

    Dave

  • Hi Becky, the first step I take when a user calls up with a networking problem is to have them reboot.  90% of my help calls are sucessfully fixed via rebooting their computer.  If that doesn't work, I move from simple to more complex.

    Gary Network/Systems Admin Berlin, NH
    Host Non-profit Tech Careers, Security Forums
    Co-Host Networks, Hardware, & Telecommunications Forum

  • I agree that rebooting, or often simply logging off/in, solves almost all network problems. Beyond that I don't have any formal approach. This weekend I installed a new router and had a small problem; I just examined the router's setup parameters and found the error; there was no half to split. I cannot say what I'd have done if that did not work.

  • Rebooting is always a good 1st step.

    Isolate the part of the system that is not working, then go from there. Can't connect to the Internet? Ping google. No google? Ping gateway.  No gateway? Can other computers in your subnet ping gateway? If yes, then problem is with that PC or its cable/connections... start isolating within this "block".

    Once you know what's not working, start with the most likely problem (based on experience, quick google searches).

    If that does not fix the issue fairly quickly, then I start checking the simple stuff (turned on and plugged in, checking connections, checking configurations) and work my way up.

    If you haven't seen xkcd's Tech Support Cheat Sheet, it's worth checking out (pretty funny), here:
    http://xkcd.com/627/

     

     

    David Janke
     

  • I've seen that cheat sheet before, its very funny.  I think Megan posted it before.  Everyone has raised very good points.  I think we have similar methods of troubleshooting problems.  Start simple and get more difficult.  I don't know how many times I've made the mistake of not asking the simple questions to my users.   

    Gary Network/Systems Admin Berlin, NH
    Host Non-profit Tech Careers, Security Forums
    Co-Host Networks, Hardware, & Telecommunications Forum

  • Ping and Tracert are your friends. Those two commands can often give you a hint as to where the issue lies.

    Note that your approach will be different if we are talking about a lack of connectivity from a computer that worked at one time versus a computer that is just trying to connect for the FIRST time.

    Finally, "I can't connect to the internet" could mean anything from "an atomic bomb destroyed my computer" to "The keyboard is not plugged in" to "The monitor is not turned on". Therefore, the very first step is a simple series of questions to the end user in order to determine exactly what the symptoms are. Without accurate symptoms it is hard to hone in on the correct solution. The way to approach all of these is the tried and true system reboot mentioned above. By doing this, you can follow the user's actions from power-on all the way through to connectivity without "guessing" as to what might be running in the background, or what username they are logged in as or who-knows-what. So, while a reboot cures many ills, my real objective in a remote reboot is to understand the steps that lead up to the problem.

    Tim Claremont
    Systems Administrator
    Rochester, NY

  • wow, thanks