Network issue with strange symptoms [resolved]

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Quercus
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Network issue with strange symptoms [resolved]

Postby Quercus » Wed Mar 11, 2015 11:00 pm UTC

Okay, I have a (home) networking issue that has some pretty strange and specific symptoms, that I'm not even sure how to google. I was wondering if someone here could point me in the right direction:

My network architecture looks like this:

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Windows 7 box             -> Unmanaged ethernet switch -> Powerline network adaptor -> Power cables -> Powerline network adaptor -> cable modem/router supplied by ISP
Wireless access point

I know that powerline ethernet is not an ideal solution, but I'm renting so I can't run cable, and WiFi doesn't reach from the modem/router to my room, so powerline is what I'm stuck with. The symptoms are as follows:

  1. Once every few hours the wired network connection to my windows 7 box drops out. It's not just the internet connection, as I can't reach my router's IP address when this happens. At the same time the wireless access point also drops its connection.
  2. The connection comes back after about 5 minutes. Resetting my PC's network adaptor appears to be ineffective.
  3. I can bring the network back instantly by power-cycling the network switch (not the router).
  4. This started happening when the network switch was put into the system (a lot of other changes happened at the same time, so that doesn't pinpoint it exactly)
  5. This happens with two different brands of switch, so it's not just a bad switch.
  6. If I get rid of the switch and just connect the powerline adaptor directly to my windows 7 box the problem goes away.

At the moment I'm thinking this could be one of two things, but I might be wrong. I suspect either A) the modem/router supplied by the ISP has gone bad, in which case I need to ask for a replacement from them (this is apparently quite a hassle, so I'm keen to avoid doing that merely as another troubleshooting step if I can avoid it*); or B) the router for some reason can't handle the network switch, because it's a crappy router, in which case I need to buy a decent router and run the ISP's modem/router in modem-only mode. I'm stuck with using the ISP supplied box as at least a modem, that's not possible to avoid without changing ISP.

What do you reckon is the most likely issue, A, B, or something else? Should I be getting a replacement modem/router, or a decent router to replace the crappy ISP-supplied one? Thanks!

*I have heard they are quite reluctant to support more complex networks, so the fact that without a network switch everything works fine means they might try to get me to pay for a replacement, rather than providing one under warranty.
Last edited by Quercus on Thu Mar 12, 2015 10:30 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

cphite
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Re: Network issue with strange symptoms

Postby cphite » Thu Mar 12, 2015 9:06 pm UTC

At the moment I'm thinking this could be one of two things, but I might be wrong. I suspect either A) the modem/router supplied by the ISP has gone bad, in which case I need to ask for a replacement from them (this is apparently quite a hassle, so I'm keen to avoid doing that merely as another troubleshooting step if I can avoid it*); or B) the router for some reason can't handle the network switch, because it's a crappy router, in which case I need to buy a decent router and run the ISP's modem/router in modem-only mode. I'm stuck with using the ISP supplied box as at least a modem, that's not possible to avoid without changing ISP.


One thing you could try is go into the settings on your network adapter in Windows and turn off auto-detection for speed. Most devices monitor speed for changes; and if they don't all decide on the same speed, it can cause performance issues or even dropped connections. Worse case, it does nothing and you set it back to auto. Power cycling the switch would force the network adapter to re-check and re-establish the connection - if that is indeed the problem. So would cycling the router - it just wouldn't seem like it, because the router takes more time to reset. Start with the highest speed that seems reasonable and work down.

My best guess would have been the power-line thing, but since you said removing the switch makes the problem go away, that seems less likely. Still, do you notice the dropped connections coinciding with any sort of power draw in your place? For example, furnace or water heater kicking on, even a fridge? It might be that the switch(s) you have just aren't handling it well.

What do you reckon is the most likely issue, A, B, or something else? Should I be getting a replacement modem/router, or a decent router to replace the crappy ISP-supplied one? Thanks!


Personally, I would try getting a decent router with enough range to make it to your room. Try to put it in as central a location as you can; but most decent routers can cover a standard sized house with no problem.

*I have heard they are quite reluctant to support more complex networks, so the fact that without a network switch everything works fine means they might try to get me to pay for a replacement, rather than providing one under warranty.


Well... as much as I hate to say it, I can't blame them. Their job is to provide you with a connection to the internet. Trying to know and accommodate every possible combination of equipment that you might place between that connection and your devices, is a bit much from a business perspective.

I would try the speed thing; I've seen that issue a number of times. Aside from that, I'd definitely recommend going with a good wireless router with better range, versus the power-line thing.

Also, as an aside, if you're using power-line then please - please - make sure you've got some kind of surge protection on the ethernet connection to your computer. You can buy a surge protector (or UPS) that has an ethernet input and output. Use that. Otherwise one power surge could make your dropped connection issue seem pretty minor :shock:

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Quercus
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Re: Network issue with strange symptoms

Postby Quercus » Thu Mar 12, 2015 9:39 pm UTC

Thanks for your very detailed reply! I'll definitely try the speed thing.

cphite wrote: Personally, I would try getting a decent router with enough range to make it to your room. Try to put it in as central a location as you can; but most decent routers can cover a standard sized house with no problem.


That's probably indeed the best solution. I have to weigh the fact that I'm probably going to be living at this address for only 6 months or so, so whether it's worth it for me is another question.

It's a distinctly suboptimal situation for wifi - the cable termination is in the room diagonally opposite from my computer, and downstairs, so the only place I can put my computer and the only place I can put my router are separated by the single longest straight line you can draw while remaining in the house. That straight line goes through a water tank, a floor and at least three walls.

Also, as an aside, if you're using power-line then please - please - make sure you've got some kind of surge protection on the ethernet connection to your computer. You can buy a surge protector (or UPS) that has an ethernet input and output. Use that. Otherwise one power surge could make your dropped connection issue seem pretty minor :shock:


Eek, I hadn't considered that...[goest to Amazon to check out surge protectors with ethernet protection]

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hotaru
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Re: Network issue with strange symptoms

Postby hotaru » Fri Mar 13, 2015 4:32 pm UTC

Quercus wrote:It's a distinctly suboptimal situation for wifi - the cable termination is in the room diagonally opposite from my computer, and downstairs, so the only place I can put my computer and the only place I can put my router are separated by the single longest straight line you can draw while remaining in the house. That straight line goes through a water tank, a floor and at least three walls.

you might not need a better router... a better antenna might do the trick.

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