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any knowledge-able, reliable advice on network cards?

I got a new computer in Nov. 2007. It is on most of the time from about 9am to 7pm.
Sometimes I shut down for some hours but most times I do not, unless I'm gone for many hours.
Last night I shutdown. Then I remembered I forgot to send someone an e-mail. I booted up and could not connect to the internet. I got a "first time ever on this machine" two computer icon bottom right of my screen near the clock (like the two little computers that blink green back and forth to show you are connected). I think it said cable not installed or something related to a cable. I called my ISP tech support and I have cable modem. I unplugged all cables and connected again and they led me thru a few things in control panel. Finally they said on our end it looks like your ethernet, etc. is fine. Then he said you may have a bad network card.
I shut down at midnight and planned to take it to the shop at 10am and re-booted at 9am for the fun of it and no issues. I left twice and shutdown twice while I was away and still no issues.
Was my network card possibly overheated?
What makes it go bad?
Do they have a "normal life span" or should they never need replacing?
Is that something I could replace myself like a video card?

My computer has a fan and it does not take too much room heat to get it roaring. It can be rather loud and run along time, so that should-could prevent a part from overheating.

Is the network card and ethernet card two different things?
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4 Solutions
"Was my network card possibly overheated?"
Possibly, but normally you would notice other anomalies from your system prior to losing connectivity, such as random reboots, etc.

"What makes it go bad?"
Electronics are elctronics. Many things can cause them to fail. Faulty components, a voltage spike, etc. And just because they are new is no gurantee that they cannot fail. I've had many failures right out of the box.

"Do they have a "normal life span" or should they never need replacing?"
Normally your network card should last for years. This depends on your environment though (and this includes any voltage spikes that your system may encounter). As for replacing, I've had the same two network cards (Or NIC's) in my systems for over six years. But again, electronics are electronics and where I am lucky in this respect someone else may have gone through two or three. I've always had great success with the 3Com brand.

"Is that something I could replace myself like a video card?"
Absolutely replaceable. Very easy to do if the network card is a daughter card (meaning it has it's own slot) and not integrated on your motherboard. The bad thing about integration is that if you lose something on the motherboard (like video, etc.) you either use a daughter card in its place or you replace the motherboard. (Repair costs now almost prohibit troubleshooting and repairing an integrated component.)

"Is the network card and ethernet card two different things?"
They are one and the same.

You might be able to determine the root cause by checking your Event Viewer.

Other than that, make sure your system is properly cooled. If it is, and you continue to have issues with ONLY this component you may have a bad circuit or card.

nickg5Author Commented:
so should I stop staying connected for 8+ continous hours?

and call my shop and find out when my warranty on such a card expires?

what else?

Network card and Ethernet card are the same.
I have seen Ethernet cards last years and some last months. Most cards will last about 5 years.
You can change the card yourself unless it is intergraded on the motherboard otherwise you will have to disable it in the BIOS then add a new one.
As for changing the card I have a rule of thumb if it not broken do not fix it.
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Network card and ethernet card are the same thing. I suppose they have a life span, but we have run some of our computers for years all the time without ever having to change the card.  As far as changing it yourself you can do that easily assuming that it's an add on card.  Many times the "card" is built into the motherboard, but you if it ever fails and you have a free slot on the motherboard for a standard PCI card, you can disable the built-in one through the BIOS and add in a card to a slot and you're back up again.

As far as what happened, it's unlikely that the card over heated.  If the box got hot enough to take down the network connection, you'd be seeing other issues as well... like the whole system probably shutting down. Cable connections sometimes become flakey.  The best way to reestablish them is the following:

1.  Power down your PC.
2. Power down your cable modem and, if you have one, your router.
3. Unhook the cable coax from the back of the cable modem and leave it out for one minute.
4. Reattach the coax cable to the modem and power it on.
5. Once the lights have settled down to a "normal" pattern, power back on the router, or if you don't have a router, power back on your PC.
6. You should be able to connect again.

I've also seen where the network card just loses contact with it's driver.  If you open up device manager  (assuming Windows) and look at the Network connections section, there may be a yellow exclamation point on the reference to your network card.  If this is the case, right click on it and run through the Update Driver wizard... it should find the driver files on the hard disk so you shouldn't actually have to install new drivers.  When it's done the exclamation point should go away and you should be up.
Staying connected shouldn't be an issue under normal circumstances. There are times when I leave my system up and running for days on end. Again, if you're experiencing issues with only this component you may have a card or interface issue. I wouldn't rush my system off to the local repair shop just yet. Do some testing. The main thing at this point that you can ensure is that your system is well cooled. After that is established then you can start taking a look at connect/disconnet times and perhaps determine the cause. As a side note, I wouldn't rely solely on one system fan for case cooling. You said that it didn't take much for your fan to come on. If that's the case, you may need more cooling. In the meantime, make sure your fans and your case vents are not clogged with debris.
nickg5Author Commented:
I bought and installed my own Ethernet card on my previous machine, so if that and network card are the same, it should be a simple repair if mine is a pci slot kind.

I think tech support had me disable or change something. I don't remember changing it back but I guess we did. It would not connect before he trouble shot and it would not connect after that.
They may have had you disable the current NIC (ethernet card) prior to installing the new one at that time.
Once that is done, you would shut the system down, install the new device and boot up. Normally XP will detect the new device and request either automatic installation or the installation source (the software that accompanied your NIC).
nickg5Author Commented:
yes that is exactly what we did.
It was not that warm around here last night. I'd think overheating was a low possibilty unless the length of time you are connected is related to over heating of the network card.
There's a slim chance it was your network card. A chance but slim.

Your internet went away, not your your NIC.
The idea that those techs have the ability for those techs to check if you have internet all the way to your house -reliably- is ridiculous. They basically check if the main router in your general area is working. From that router [which may be a few blocks away] to your house is not checked.

The tech apparently then had you change things and screwed up your PC.
I would make them come out and fix it.

If they give you any guff or are slow file a complaint with the BBB. [Can be done quickly on-line.]
That get's attention from higher up in the company coming down to the tech support from within the company.
I had to do that a few months ago over Qwest DSL. I ended up having 3 techs show up instead of one, got an apologetic letter from the regional (my whole state) manager, and 3 months of free service for my trouble.
nickg5Author Commented:
I've used their service for years and when there are interruptions, things get slow and sometimes I have to even re-boot.
Never had a error about this card until last night.
Surely their routers have been down last 3 years.
The two little computers icon being dark does not mean the NIC is dead.

If the NIC was dead they wouldn't be there at all.

What that told you was that you didn't have a connection (a signal) to the NIC.
nickg5Author Commented:
You are not understanding.

they have never been there even when connected and 500 miles per hour service.

They were not there when the NIC was new, the first day I used the computer.

My new and old computer were both running XP so not sure why my old computer showed the tiny computers and this one does not, never has.

When there IS a signal to the NIC there are still no little computers.

So, it seems, Iost, for the first time ever, the signal. That is doubtful.
I didn't misunderstand anything.
You seem to have not understood me.

That phone support person lied to you (perhaps not knowing any better) and then messed up your PC.
You are paying for internet and you aren't getting it. AND, THEY broke it.  Make them fix it.
It will probably require a house call at this point.

The existance of those computers when connected is a preference setting relating to the NIC.
It can be turned on and off.
- However, if the NIC is not working that image WILL NOT be there.
NIC drivers have to be loaded for the little PC's image to be present at all.
NIC drivers won't load if the NIC is dead.
>>So, it seems, Iost, for the first time ever, the signal. That is doubtful.<<
You can say EXACTLY the same thing about the function of the NIC.

ISP problems are 100's of times more common than NIC problems.
nickg5Author Commented:
9 days and no more symptoms. I am not remembering to cut it off when I leave, so it is on 6-9 hours a day.
nickg5Author Commented:
ISP problems are 100's of times more common than NIC problems.
........yes, but the ISP tech support blames it on other issues which is vaguely = reason to complain to some state agency over consumer affairs or consumer protection.
Who wants to be lied too?
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