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Solve a problem

  1. Check the general problem solving advice below and peruse the table of contents.
  2. To find specific information, use  Search  in the top right corner.
  3. If the solution is not here, search the Web. Try a newsgroup search also, for example using Google Groups.

Ask a question

If you have a problem, have not found a solution, and want to ask, do not email support requests. Instead, do this:

  1. Read the article: How to ask in a forum or newsgroup
  2. Be sure you have created an account for yourself. You can only write if you are logged on. Also, you get "new" tags on new articles, others can write to you through your contact form, etc.
  3. Write your question into the appropriate forum on this web site, which also allows others to participate and benefit.

In the forum proceed as follows.

  • If an article about the topic already exists:
    • Click on: reply
    • Or click on: Add new comment
  • If you want to write about an entirely new topic, click on: Post new forum topic

No links to unrelated sites!

Forum topics, comments, replies, or personal information on the user page are always welcome, except if they contain any links to web sites that have nothing to do with the problem on hand.

Trying to advertise, lodge a link to an unrelated web site or to one that aims primarily at advertising revenue leads to instant blocking and removal of your postings. It is permissible to link from your personal information to a personal web site or to other web sites, but only if there is not the slightest suspicion that the motive is to fool search engines. If in doubt, do not link.

If you can use public newsgroups, then yet another alternative would be to describe your problem in the most suitable newsgroup in the microsoft.public.… range, for example to the newsgroup microsoft.public.windowsxp.network_web, where others and I will gladly try to give support.

If you find any errors, omissions, links that don't work, or if you have new solutions or improvements, please do this:

  1. If you don't have an account here yet, create one for yourself.
  2. For Windows-related issues, write an article, comment, or reply into the appropriate forum. Only for issues regarding the design, operation, or content of this web site, send me a personal message.

If you're not sure which forum is best, just use any. Your friendly admin can move forum posts around.

Authors of good articles may get their own blog on this site.

I (your admin) also incorporate useful information from comments or emails into articles. In this case I will mention your username, which will also enable other readers to send you personal emails through the web form here, without learning your email address, which is never revealed. If you don't want your username mentioned, please let me know.

Browse this web site

  • For a table of the main content, click on Forums – main content.
  • For news and personal articles click on Blogs.
  • For the technology and people behind this web site, read the Impressum.

Call for solutions

If you post solutions, rather than problems, you are very welcome here too. Your first reward will be that you get your own private blog on this web site, where you can post your own information and opinions. Your personal blog will have its own address (URL), which you can give to others, and even its own RSS feed.

If you are even more active, you can get a mailbox here. Your email address would then be: yourname@winhlp.com

Spam

Spammers have not the slightest chance on this web site. Any text with a link to a commercial web site is instantly deleted, unless the link helps to solve the particular problem on hand. This web site is checked for spam several times a day.

Exceptions can be granted. For example, an independent and critical product review can contain a link to the product web site. The article has to be a lot better than simple advertising though.

General problem solving advice

This page contains general advice that is not specific to your problem. Please read it anyway, as it solves half of all problems.

Analyzing computer problems may require some basic knowledge of computers. If you are a computer novice and are stumped by a request to open a command line window or cannot fulfill some other demands, it may be a good idea to ask a friend for assistance, somone who has some more experience.

Use good quality equipment. If, for example, you use very cheap hardware, this web site may only with some additional luck be able to help you. Try anyway, but the first recommendation is to remove it and buy something better. Examples for poor equipment are Linksys routers, HP printers (good hardware, but poor drivers), various USB devices from obscure manufacturers, etc.

If you have or had ever installed AOL software, this web site may also not be able to help you any more, at least not with any networking problems.

Important security advice

Make sure you are never connected to the Internet without any firewall (or at least all current security updates and passwords). Activate the Windows XP firewall before you establish an Internet connection.

If in doubt, pull the plug that connects you to the Internet until you are sure you have an active firewall. Then use http://update.microsoft.com/ to obtain at least all security patches.

Have admin rights

If you can't change a setting, log on with administrator rights for troubleshooting.

Cycle the power

A general troubleshooting method, particularly after changing hardware, is to power everything down, including any display units, printers, scanners, routers, cable modems, switches, hubs, and the like, wait 10 seconds, then power them up again in a logical sequence from the Internet to the computers. Rebooting without powering down is not enough in some cases.

Remove external devices

Disconnect all external devices that you can do without, particularly USB devices. Then retest.

Backup

Before you start changing the installation, do a complete backup or at least back up everything you cannot afford to lose. There is always a residual risk of damage when troubleshooting.

Check the hard disk

Run the command:

chkdsk c: /f /r

If your hard disk is not C:, change the drive letter accordingly.

Note that this procedure can take an hour or two on a large hard disk.

Remove malware infections

Make sure your computer is not infected by a virus, worm, or other malware. Some of these cause certain network failures. An example is the W32.Spybot.Worm, which can cause logon type refusals.

Unfortunately, viruses and worms can cause all kinds of errors and malfunctions, so they can be impossible to diagnose, unless you detect them outright. Particularly if a malfunction occurred out of the blue, try your best to make sure the computer is not infected. Try a second anti-spyware and antivirus program.

Update the firmware

Make sure you have the latest BIOS version for your computer's motherboard and the latest firmware in all hardware devices that may have any bearing on the problem, particularly routers in case of networking problems.

Update the software

The next general step before any detailed troubleshooting is to update all involved computers to the latest service pack and patch status as well, using http://update.microsoft.com/, Product Updates, particularly any computers running older operating systems.

Then do the same with every driver and all other software that may have any bearing on the problem. Download the drivers and other updates from the manufacturers' web sites and install them.

Take third party software out of the picture

This web page assumes that you have no third party software installed that can have adverse effects.
This is particularly relevant to networking problems. Examples are:

  • Proxy servers
  • Firewalls
  • Network-scanning virus checkers
  • Network adapter configuration software

Disabling is often not enough—to be sure, you have to uninstall them completely. Of course you can first try other ways, but all of these program types have been shown to damage networking, some of them permanently, even after they have been uninstalled. Examples are several Norton/Symantec and McAfee products, Zone Alarm, several anti-virus programs. You can later try to install them again after the problem is solved.

Services

Have you disabled any system services? Lots of bad advice is circulating that instructs you to disable various services. The truth is that the service settings should be left untouched unless you have the same knowledge as a trained system administrator or unless truly competently advised, not just through some questionable web site.

Event Viewer

Are there any messages in Event Viewer that could help to pinpoint the problem? You can open it through Start, Control Panel, Performance and Maintenance, Administrative Tools, Event Viewer. Check particularly for system errors that occurred during the time when you observed the problem. For more information please see the follwing Microsoft Knowledge Base article.

HOW TO: View and Manage Event Logs in Event Viewer in Windows XP
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/308427/

System Restore

If your computer still worked a few days ago, use System Restore to roll back to a working state before the problem appeared for the first time. You lose all installation and settings changes done since then, but you do not lose data changes like mail or documents.

If you make any changes that may go wrong, like applying repair procedures, set a System Restore point first, so you can undo the changes.

You can find System Restore in: Acessories, System Tools

Step by step instructions

More information about System Restore

Repair installation

If too many things go wrong and you get the impression that the installation suffers from severe or multiple damage, the second last resort (before installing from scratch) is a repair installation, which keeps all your installed software, all your data, and most settings. For this you need a full retail Windows installation CD. Many OEM CDs that come with pre-installed Windows will not do.

If you don't have a full retail system installation DVD for Windows Vista, you can request a Windows Vista recovery disk from the manufacturer of your computer or use the Windows Vista Recovery Disc Download (BitTorrent client required for the download). It will only do a repair installation, not a full installation.

If you already have a service pack installed, you may want to use an installation CD that already contains the service pack (a "slipstream" CD). If that is not readily available, you can create one. Otherwise you'd have to install the latest service pack again after the repair installation.

Links:

Courtesy of fellow MVP Michael Stevens: How to Perform a Windows XP Repair Install

More links

To start the repair installation, proceed as follows.

  1. If you have Internet Explorer 7 installed, you may have to uninstall it. Read, "How to perform a repair installation of Windows XP if Internet Explorer 7 is installed" at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/917964/.
  2. Boot from a full retail Windows XP installation CD. Most OEM CDs do not allow repair installations.
  3. First choose to install Windows XP, so when you see, "To setup Windows XP now, press ENTER.", press enter. Do not choose the option to press R to enter the Recovery Console.
  4. The installation procedure should now find your existing installation and offer to repair it or to install a new instance of Windows XP. If you have assured yourself that the installer has indeed found the Windows XP installation you want to repair, then choose this repair option.

Use the Windows Problem Solver

This page only contains general advice that applies to all installations.

Please use the [Search] box in the top right corner of the blue header to locate specific information or click on Forums for a table of the main content.

You may add comments to this page, but, unlike on other pages, these here will be removed after having been read. Useful information will get edited into the main text.