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Troubleshooting Network Connections

Hi, I'm responsible for helping people out here with computers (although I don't have much real training). I have a problem mainly with the Windows 98 computers. Most work fine, but some seem unable to obtain an IP. Running 'ipconfig' gives an IP of the form 169.xxx.xxx.xxx, which I know means that a proper IP couldn't be obtained. 'ipconfig /release_all' fails to reset these to, and similarly 'ipconfig /renew_all' simply takes a long time, then returns with the 169.xxx.xxx.xxx IP.
I've tested these computers with different cables, so I know that is not the problem. It *has* occurred before that the hub or data ports in the individual locations are faulty, but in many cases I've used a known working laptop to test the rooms' connectivity.

I am wondering mainly what would you do to find the source of the problem? It's a hassle to try different network cards so I'd prefer isolating the problem before then. Similarly, reinstalling Windows would probably help but I feel it's more effort than necessary. A friend commented that it may be a corrupt TCP/IP stack, but I don't think that would account for all the cases.

One more bit of information that may help is that in many cases there are multiple devices installed when running 'ipconfig'. These are usually something like infra-red ports or modems etc, but sometimes I have no idea what they are.

So basically: is this a known issue with Windows 98, and how do I go about isolating/fixing the problem. Be as detailed or vague as you like, anything could help! I don't have many points to give, so don't try too hard if you feel it's not worth the effort :)
Thanks for your time.
1 Solution
Delete all the network adapters that are not in use (dial-up, IR etc) and make sure the NIC that is in use is the only active adapter. Then configure TCP/IP for the NIC. Also take away all other protocols (NetBEUI can be left active). Verify that the NIC drivers are correctly installed (no exclamation marks or similar in Device Manager).

If users move these machines around, using different methods of connecting to different networks, you are in trouble. 98 will not handle multiple TCP/IP settings very well, so if a user wants to connect from home via dial-up and he needs another connction at work, some third-party software is probably needed for network settings switching. I got the advice here to look for a program called netswitcher in a case like this.

Only thing I'd add is to make sure you download the latest NIC drivers for these cards.

are you sure there are enough ip addresses in the scope of the dhcp server?
typically in troubleshooting network problems you start with the physical layer, check the cables, hubs, NIC
check the drivers for the NIC and try forcing the NIC to 10mbit, half duplex for troubleshooting
next on the troubled machines, set a static ip (in the correct range and subnet, etc) and see if you can ping the dhcp server
ping the loopback (, then it's own ip and then the gateway, then the dhcp server
are there any routers between the dhcp server and these machines? you may need to add a dhcp relay agent (if the routers are not RFC 1532 compliant)
nicko_philloAuthor Commented:
Thanks! Your answers all helped a little, but steven's did the most. I managed to fix a few today.

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