The only way to successfully troubleshoot is by following these four important steps:

  • Stay calm and focused – While the initial reaction to an unexpected network problem may be “Oh crap!”, panicking won’t solve anything. A clear head and focus is essential to successful troubleshooting.
  • Understand the exact scenario at hand – In order to fix something, you have to understand how it works, what components are involved, and how they work together. This knowledge is half the solution to the problem.
  • Be methodical and logical – Randomly poking around and changing things will make the problem only worse, not better. The best approach is to make a list of possible problem areas and then handle each item one step at a time: Make one correction, test whether it fixed the issue. If not, set it back the way it was, then move on to the next item.
  • Be thorough and don’t make assumptions – Check every single component, leave nothing out. Don’t assume it’s not the network card because it was working yesterday. Maybe the computer got bumped and the network card became unseated from its slot. Don’t assume it’s not the cable because it’s brand-new. Maybe your kid’s pet rabbit chewed on it. You see where this is going. There are always unforseen circumstances beyond your knowledge that could be causing the problem. Make sure you check everything.

Armed with this knowledge, it’s time to move on to the actual troubleshooting process. Below are four common situations how a PC can be connected to a network. Pick the one that closest resembles your network, then proceed to the troubleshooting section. The majority of the steps are applicable to all four scenarios, but some of them vary depending on the network setup. In this case, the steps will refer separately to each setup. It is essential that you can identify the correct network setup and understand how the components are connected in order to successfully troubleshoot the problem.

Scenario 1: PC -> DSL or cable modem

Scenario 2: PC -> gateway device -> DSL or cable modem

Scenario 3: PC -> Hub/switch -> Gateway device -> DSL or cable modem

Scenario 4: PC -> company network

 

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