Simple Troubleshooting for Your Broadband Internet Connection
Old models of the Internet suggest that 5% packet loss was acceptable. Typical applications that are sending and receiving e-mails, browsing websites and downloading files may not have trouble on Internet connections with no more than 5% loss. However, real-time applications like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), streaming video and online gaming are likely to experience difficulty with packet loss greater than 0.1%.
Packet loss will cause VoIP calls to have choppy, broken, robotic and distorted voice quality and may disconnect calls in progress. Streaming video may frequently pause, experience pixilation or take too long to download. Online gamers may suffer lag, stuttering and disconnects from gaming servers.
Packet loss may be caused by the computer, the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and anything in between. To solve the problem, the source of packet loss must first be found. This article is written to help the typical user locate the source.
Basic Troubleshooting Concepts
Expert troubleshooters systematically eliminate potential areas of trouble until the source is identified. For the performance problems discussed above, divide the Internet logically into three areas: 1) the ISP including the broadband modem/router; 2) the Local Area Network (LAN) which includes routers, switches and cabling inside the house or office; and 3) the computer. Now the goal is to determine which area produces the packet loss. Sometimes to learn the area producing the packet loss, areas that are not producing packet loss must be eliminated until only one area is left.
There is no correct order to eliminating each area. Usually, the areas that are the most suspicious or the easiest to eliminate are tested first. For purposes of a different IP endpoint other than a computer such as a VoIP telephone or an Internet TV, the IP endpoint is the 3rd logical area.
Testing the ISP and Internet Modem
This Packet Loss Test will determine whether the ISP and Internet modem may be the source of the problem. If it finds significant packet loss or latency at the IP address of the Internet modem, then the problem is between the last node of the ISP and the Internet modem. Before calling the ISP, check to make sure the modem is properly vented and any integrated wireless access point is turned off. Also, inspect all cables and connectors. Rebooting the modem is always a good idea. For cable modems, check the Signal Noise Ratio or SNR. For DSL modems, check the SNR and attenuation.
Is the Problem in the LAN?
To eliminate the LAN as the potential source, connect the PC directly into the Internet modem and test the application. If that solves the problem, then the LAN is the source. Start putting switches and routers back into service while testing the application each step of the way. When the problem returns, the source of the issue will be what just went back into service. It is important to remember that the source can be cables, jacks and/or connectors.
If the problem was not solved by plugging directly into the Internet modem, then the LAN has been eliminated as the source of trouble.
Is the Computer the Problem?
Eliminating the computer as the source of lost packets can be as simple as finding another PC on the same network and connected to the Internet in a similar fashion. Does it experience the same problem? If so, then the problem is something in common to both. If it does not experience the same problem, then the issue is with the computer or something unique to its connection to the Internet such as cable, connector or Ethernet switch port. Tech Support Forums offers the ability to describe problems in detail and get knowledgeable help for free on PC related matters.
If another computer is not available for this test, then the computer could be taken to another network to test the application. If neither of these actions are feasible, then eliminate the other areas first.
Drawing a Conclusion
Once 2 of the 3 areas have been eliminated, the problem is likely in the 3rd. If it is possible, test that assumption before hours are spent focused in the wrong area. Internet trouble can be particularly frustrating because of the many pieces required for proper operation, gaps in knowledge and faceless ISPs. However, most Internet problems can be solved with patience and perseverance.