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How to troubleshoot a slow computer network?

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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

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.

Troubleshoot a Slow Computer Network – Only One Computer on the Network is Slow

Only One Computer on the Network is Slow

Client Computer Network Mask Wrongly Configured
Your network is a class C network, (net-mask 255.255.255.0), and your client computer has its IP address configuration on a class B network, (255.255.0.0). Change the network mask of the client to match the network configuration.

Poor network cards
Bad network cards or bad drivers are very often the reason for poor transfer rates. Test the transfer rate with a different network card.
An outdated computer can also slow down your network transfer.

Bad Network Configuration
DNS Configuration
can be the cause a of slow network connections.
Wrong DNS address in the IP configuration can slow your network dramatically. Your DNS client will try to connect to an inexistent or not working DNS server then give up and try your secondary DNS server. This translates in slowdowns and sometimes even DNS resolution errors.
Fix: Ping the DNS address or, even better, use nslookup and connect to both of your DNS servers to check if they work.

The TCP/IP protocol stack corrupted.

Sometimes no matter what you do you can’t fix the network and this is because the TCP/IP becomes corrupted. The only thing that fixes it is a reset. On older Operating Systems, such as Windows 98 and Windows NT, the fix was to uninstall and reinstall the whole TCP/IP suite of protocols.
Fix: issue the following command to reset it: netsh int ip reset c:\resetlog.txt.

More Than One Default Route
Advanced Lan SettingsA very common mistake is to assign more than on default route to the same computer. Do not confuse load balancing with multiple Default Gateways. You are configuring two network cards, and both of them have a default gateway. This configuration will not work. Usually, a Windows computer will warn you that this is not a good idea, but some users will choose to ignore the warning.
This is a typical problem for laptop users, they connect into the Lan environment and leave the wireless connection on. This will create a lot of problems for corporate users and even for home users.
In order for this type of configuration to work, special routing rules and IP configuration is needed. it is easier to turn the wireless of or have an adapter manager that will automatically do that for you based on your rules.
Advanced Tcp/IP Settings
On a Windows XP there is a way to assign priorities to network cards using a graphic interface. from the Network Connections applet in the Control Panel, click on the Advanced menu and choose Advanced Settings.
On the Advanced Settings window arrange the network cards according to the correct priority.
Another way to achieve this is to change the gateway’s metric for each of the network adapters on the computer. To do this, open the TCP/IP properties on each of the network addapters with a default gateway configured, and click on the Advanced button. On the Advanced TCP/IP Settings window, uncheck the Automatic Metric for the Default Gateway, and enter a value according to your network topology. The lower the metric, the higher the preference for a default route.

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