Category Archives: How To

How To documents with practical advices and detailed description for various Information Technology tasks.
The articles are mainly focused on Small and Medium Businisses but they can easily apply to large businisses as well.

How to troubleshoot a slow computer network?

Troubleshoot Network - Ping
Pinging Google

Your network is slow. What do you do to make it faster?
The answer is not simple and the reason for your slow network could be a lot of things. You have to take a step by step approach and isolate the bottleneck. Once you isolate the point of failure it is easier to find the problem.

Many times a packet sniffer will help you find the problem faster. A good free packet sniffer is Wireshark. Another packet sniffer is Microsoft Network Monitor.

Here is a list of Windows-based network tools that can help you troubleshoot almost any problem in a Computer Network:
Ping – a network utility to test if a computer is up and reachable or not. Ping uses the ICMP protocol to send echo requests.
Nmap – a port scanner. You need a port scanner to enumerate open ports and live IP addresses.
Tracert – a utility that traces the path of a network packet enumerating all of the routers that it passes through.
Wireshark – a packet sniffer.
Netstat – a utility that enumerates all the open ports on the local computer.
Ipconfig – a utility to list or modify the properties of a network adapter.
Netsh – a powerful Windows utility to modify various network properties. It is a scripting utility that basically controls every aspect of the Network on a Windows computer.
One of the cool usages of the netsh is to reset the TCP/IP stack to the defaults without the need to uninstall and reinstall the TCP/IP protocol as we needed with the older OSs.
Route – enables the view and manipulation of routing.
Nslookup – a name resolution utility. Very useful to check DNS servers and validity of name records.
Arp – a utility that allows you to get information about MAC address to IP address resolution.
Getmac – Provides the MAC address and lists associated network protocols for all network cards for a local or remote computer.
Getname – displays the computer name.
PathPing – Combines the functions of Traceroute and Ping, very powerful tool.
Net services commands – Performs a broad range of network tasks such as Network mapping, authentication, controls services, etc…

If you are not sure how to use these tools read the Help or from the command line, (all of these are command line tools), issue the command with the help option, for instance: “pathping /?”. This will give you a list of other valid options.  

This article is part of a five posts series regarding Network Troubleshooting.

  1. How to troubleshoot a slow computer network?
  2. Troubleshoot a Slow Network – The entire Network is Slow
  3. Troubleshoot a Slow Network – Slow Server
  4. Troubleshoot a Slow Computer Network – Only One Computer on the Network is Slow
  5. Troubleshoot a Slow Computer Network – Your Computer is Slow and Not the Network

Compress files in Windows

As a Windows Network Administrator I always have to make space delete unneeded files, archive old files, compress files that we don’t need but we might need at some point.
I don’t use the same compression method every time, because the scenario is different. Here are a three compression methods for Windows.

Compress Files Using the NTFS Compression

Compress Contents to Save Disk Space

This method of compression only works on NTFS partitions. You don’t have the option for a FAT or FAT32 partition.
The most usual and easier way to do this is to use the Windows’ Graphical Interface and access the Advanced File Properties and select Compress contents to save disk space.

Compact – Compress files or folders from command line

If you would like to compress files from a batch file use this command line variant. Usually if you access the advanced file properties, (right-click => properties and => advanced) you have the option to compress contents to save space. Another good use of the command line is that it gives you a better view of the progress. The graphic interface sometimes hangs and you don’t know if the job is still active.

The command to compress a folder from within the folder is compact /c /s. It compresses all of the files within the folder and marks the folder as compressed so that new files are created compressed.

Why would you choose Compact and not Zipped Folder?

The main reason is that a compacted folder can be used by applications. In other words if the path of a log file points to a compacted folder this is transparent for the application that writes the log file. As a result your log files will be compacted. You cannot do this with Zipped folders or files.

Compress files using the Windows’ built-in zip archiving utility

Send to Compressed (Zipped) folder

Why would you choose Compressed (Zipped) Folder over the Compacted Folder?

The zipped Folder has better compression and better portability. The zipped folder has a slightly better compression rate, and you can copy the files to any other Operating System, send them by email and they will retain the compression. The compacted folders will only be compressed on the original location unless you compress the file again at the new destination. Note in the image below the difference between the two file compression formats. The Windows shell has the option to “show NTFS compressed files in color”, which is a great option. Note that the zipped file is slightly smaller than the compacted, (blue colored), one.

Compact (the native NTFS compression) vs Compress the send to Zipped Folder
Compact vs Compress click to enlarge

Is there a Compressed (zipped) Folder – command line variant?

Unfortunately, there isn’t any Windows built-in option. The good news though is that there is a free archiver that has a command line version as well. 7zip is a great free utility very flexible that manipulates all of the popular archiving file formats.

Compressing from the command line with 7zip is very simple, the simplest command is 7z a “New Folder” that compresses the folder New Folder into the archive: For more options and switches type: 7z –h, note that 7z doesn’t understand the /? switch, usual on any Windows application.

Why would you choose 7Zip over the Windows’ built in compressing solutions?

The main reason is flexibility. 7zip has a lot of options/switches that control a lot of the compression aspects and it is very easy to use in a batch file.

An interesting application is to separately archive a lot of folders from a batch file. Let’s say you have 500 folders that you want to archive and you know you will be accessing those folders on a regular. It makes more sense to archive the folders separately and not in one big file. It is easier to access smaller zip files from the Windows shell and keeps the system responsive. To do this manually for 500 folders is a nightmare. Here is a command that runs from a batch file that will compress those folders separately, each folder one zip file:

for /D %%d in (*.*) do 7z a -tzip “” “.\%%d\*”

To run the command from the command line and not from a batch file the command is slightly different:

for /D %d in (*.*) do 7z a -tzip “” “.\%d\*”

There are other great archiving utilities such as Winzip, Winrar, Pkzip, etc… They are not free, but you can get a trial-ware which in many cases is good enough for anybody.

A few tips on what to compress and what not.
Usually Installation files are already compressed so there is no benefit in compressing.
Digital photos in a jpg or gif format are already compressed using special algorithms.
PDF files don’t compress.
Text files, (plain text, log files, etc…) compress the best.
Word files can be compressed but not as much as the text files.

Troubleshoot a Slow Computer Network – Your Computer is Slow and Not the Network

Slow Data Transfer is not Always caused by the Network

Slow data transfers are sometimes caused by a slow computer. Determine if the computer is the reason by comparing the transfer speed with a different computer connected on the same switch port. If the speed is the same, the problem is your network. If you get faster data transfers with a different computer then the problem is the computer.

A computer could be slow because of various reasons:

A bad network card. Troubleshoot: Swap the network card and test the data transfers afterwards.
The computer is outdated and it runs software that needs more resources. Troubleshoot: change the computer.
Slow hard-drive. The hard-drive will always be the computer’s bottle neck. It is the slowest part of a desktop computer. Old hard-disks are very often seen in new computers. Hard-disk fragmentation is a frequent reason for slow computers. Troubleshoot: Defragment often your hard-drive and reserve a 25% free space on the drive.
The computer might be infected with a virus or a Trojan. Troubleshoot: scan the computer for viruses. On a Windows machine run the command “netstat -a -b” to see what ports are being used and which program is using them. Use a network sniffer and monitor the network activity on the specific computer.
The transfer is intermittently slow, check what background processes are using the CPU, Memory, and hard-drives. Windows Vista can sometimes be a resources hog by allocating too many resources for background processes such as indexing and running the antispyware. Antivirus or other antimalware can consume a lot of the computers’ resources. Troubleshoot: Change the schedule for maintenance tasks to a time when you are not using the computer. Check what other programs are running in the background and configure accordingly. Some antivirus programs enable scanning the network drives by default.
A slow network printer. A slow network printer can be caused by the power save feature. If you use the printer very often you might consider turning off the power save.
A slow Network Attached Storage device. A slow NAS could be caused by improper SAMBA configuration or a disk power save feature. The power save feature is fairly easy to fix, just disable it if you find that you are using the drive very often. The SAMBA tune up is more difficult and usually it is complicated to have terminal access to the device itself. Many manufacturers do not allow direct access to the OS. SAMBA is a free implementation of Microsoft’s SMB protocol. SAMBA, SMB and CIFS offer file and print sharing services for Windows and Linux/Unix machines

This article is part of a five posts series regarding Network Troubleshooting.