[AI] boost your network speed
ilovecold at gmail.com
Mon Sep 13 03:06:04 EDT 2010
Expert networker ROSEMARY HATTERSLEY explains how to speed up wired and wireless
networks, identify and manage bottlenecks and get everything running like
Network like a pro
Not being able to get online is an incredibly frustrating situation, as we've
discovered here at PCA Towers during recent losses of web access and network
connectivity. It's all very well taking a laptop to a nearby coffee shop, where
the Wi-Fi is free and the beans freshly roasted, but who's to say how secure
that wireless connection really is?
Other network problems arise in the office. While one employee is taking part
in a webcast or streaming a video clip, everyone else may find their web
connection clunky. Even Spotify and online radio stations can affect office
Similar issues occur at home. That all-you-caneat broadband connection suddenly
seems less impressive - and gets a lot slower - when Mum's making a Skype call
to a friend, Dad's checking his Fantasy Football team and the kids are
instant-messaging their mates. And it doesn't help if the technology needed to
deliver it all is prone to flakiness, or if the hardware or network software
limits the bandwidth.
We look at how to deal with some of these problems over the following pages.
There are several ways to speed up your home network. First is to upgrade from
an older 802.11b/g network to one that supports the latest, much faster
wireless-n standard. This is able to offer wireless video and music streaming -
ideal if you want to use a feature such as Windows 7's Play To function.
Laptops, network media drivers and peripherals such as printers that support
this protocol are now available. You'll need a suitable router to provide the
additional bandwidth, but prices are already competitive. It took almost two
years for the standard to be ratified, and many manufacturers brought out
'draft-n' products that are firmware-upgradable.
Office users aren't quite so lucky. The cost of upgrading the network
infrastructure is likely to be prohibitive, so a fatter pipe or faster network
switch won't necessarily cure the symptoms. Instead, you may have to look at
what's causing the bottlenecks in the first place.
Once you've identified the traffic hold-ups and resource hogs, you can limit
their video streaming to after hours or prioritise email traffic instead.
SPEED UP YOUR NETWORK
START Network slowdowns can be tricky to troubleshoot. Much depends on what
you're using the network for; copying files to another system might slow to a
crawl if you're writing to a NAS device attached to an old PC. However, a few
general tweaks and tricks can boost your network performance in Windows.
2 Check your PC's connection status. In XP, go to Start, Connect To and view
all connections. In Vista and Windows 7, type network connection into the
search field. You should also run the troubleshooting wizard and install any
new Windows updates ( update.microsoft.com) and the latest drivers for your
3 Next, check your router firmware is up to date; updates often provide
performance improvements and smooth out glitches. Check for updates at the
router manufacturer's website and initiate the firmware update using your
router's web administration panel. This could produce a noticeable speed boost.
4 Windows 7 features a dedicated Network and Sharing Center where you can get an
overview of your system's wireless connection status, see a map of connected
devices - a potentially useful feature that could help you quickly identify
which one is sucking all the bandwidth - and initiate a troubleshooter.
5 Now try adjusting the network card's auto-negotiating setting. In the Control
Panel, click Network and Sharing Center, Change Adapter Settings, then
right-click on your Local Area Connection and select Properties. Go to the
Connect Using field and tick Configure. Select Advanced. Set 'Speed & Duplex'
to its highest available setting.
6 Vista often throttles your network connection when playing movies. To adjust
this, press Windows, R, type regedit, Enter. In the Registry Editor, navigate
to the Hkey_Local_Machine\Software\
Microsoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersion\Multimedia\SystemProfile key. Enter a higher
decimal value under 'NetworkThrottlingIndex'. J
Advanced IP Scanner 1.5
For a quick, no-fuss way to view all the devices on your network, along with
their IP addresses and other information, give this small, free, simple utility
a try. It performs a lightning-fast scan of all IP addresses on your network,
or of all devices in an IP range you specify, then tells you what devices are at
what address, and whether each device is live or idle. It also provides each
device's status, machine name, NetBIOS information, ping information and MAC
Also included are a few other useful tools, such as the ability to shut down PCs
remotely. And the Wake-on-LAN feature can wake PCs containing network cards
that support the capability. radmin.com
Windows 7 shows you lots of information about what's part of your network, its
status, what else it's connected to and whether it's in active use. Previous
versions of Windows are less forthcoming. Paglo Crawler (recently relaunched as
GoToManage) crawls your network, identifies every device, and gives you thorough
information about each. It isn't especially easy to use but, if you know your
way around a network, you'll appreciate the level of detail. For example, for
each device you'll be able to view the NetBios name, the DNS information, the
network subnet and even port numbers. paglo.com/product
DIAGNOSE NETWORK BOTTLENECKS
Ethernet networks can run without any problems for a long time. But a disaster
can occur without warning, debilitating an underequipped network.
One danger is a broadcast storm, in which a defective or misconfigured network
device forces your network to shut down by flooding it with traffic. A
malware-infected computer that sends a barrage of email or tries to replicate to
computers on the network or internet is another potential headache. As well as
slowing down everything on the network, it's likely to create friction with your
Another common complaint is resource-hungry users, applications or services
using up all the bandwidth to stream video or download huge files.
Identify the problems
Wireshark ( wireshark.org) is a user-friendly freeware tool that allows you to
identify bandwidth hogs. It can also warn you of an email account that's
barraging others with messages, suggesting a possible malware infestation.
The tool captures network packets, analyses them and displays detailed packet
data. Download the version you need from the site. When you run the program
(the file is approximately 77MB) you may be prompted to install WinCap at the
same time. Click the 'What is WinCap?' button for details of its functions.
Now you need to identify the traffic you're monitoring. Plug a PC running
Wireshark into any available switch port and you'll see only traffic to and from
your system and broadcast/multicast traffic - interesting, but not always
To monitor traffic from an ethernet port other than the one your PC is plugged
into, you need to mirror your ports. You may want to check on the port for your
internet connection, for example. Consult your router documentation for
specifics; there may be a simple browser interface to do so, as there was on our
24-port Netgear switch.
Next, let's capture some network traffic. Click Capture, Options and select the
correct interface; to focus on a specific type of traffic, choose Capture Filter
and select or create a filter. You can specify a time period or amount of data
Wireshark should collect by ticking the appropriate Stop Capture box and select
a suitable drop-down menu value. If you let Wireshark run for an extended
period of time, file sizes can become unmanageably large. Now click Start, and
you'll see traffic flowing in real time. Press Stop to automatically cease data
Now you need to interpret the data. If you're investigating a network slowdown,
you'll want to pinpoint the source of traffic. Choose Statistics, Conversations
and select the IPv4 tab; from there, you can sort by such criteria as 'Bytes'
(to pinpoint a PC that's generating too much traffic). To search for a
particular type of traffic, click Analyze, 'Enabled protocols', and tick the
protocols you want.
Wireshark is a flexible tool for locating network problems and analysing your
traffic. It can be a handful at first, but is well worth learning to wield
Another open-source option is NetworkActiv PIAFCTM ( bit.ly/bLD3dI). This
content-management tool works on the same principle, mirroring the port where
traffic enters the network from outside and identifying unacceptably large
files. It allows you to search for offending files by type and then drill down
to see who has been flouting the office acceptable-use policy. J Michael
CREATE A WI-FI HOTSPOT WITH CONNECTIFY
A few months before Microsoft launched Windows 7, eagle-eyed developers noticed
an incomplete bit of code that allowed users to connect with each other on an
ad-hoc basis. The feature in the final version of Windows 7 is HomeGroups and
allows pre-approved sets of users to connect and share content without having to
negotiate tricky network protocols.
Connectify (connectify.me) is based on the same principle, and allows a Windows
7 user to turn their laptop into a hotspot that others can use. Developer Gizis
suggests the use of a wireless printer without any setup. Another scenario
allows a smartphone user to use the Wi-Fi connection rather than their 3G or
Edge data allowance.
What's useful is that, while Connectify requires a Windows 7 PC as the host, any
Wi-Fienabled laptop (Windows, Linux or Mac) can use the hotspot without
installing any software.
BANISH WIRELESS BLUES
START Wireless networks have got faster but can still go wrong. And if your
network's down, so is your web access. PCs and laptops have ethernet ports, so
can be added to a wired network; each system simply needs an NIC (network
interface card), and the 'server' machine must be connected to the router.
2 If your router has a Quality of Service (QoS) feature, use this to make
clearer Skype calls without the voice dropouts and scrambling you'd otherwise
get on a congested network. QoS options are often found in the Settings menu on
the configuration and administration panes. Consult the router manual for
3 Another way around wireless woes is to switch to a different sort of network,
at least for the most important elements of the network. HomePlugs (also known
as powerline plugs) use the electrical circuit in the building to form a
physical network. You need to have pairs of HomePlugs of the same type,
4 If a device disappears from the network or can no longer get online, you may
need to release its IP address and generate a new one. Go to Start, Run and
type cmd. In the black screen that appears, type ipconfig/renew. Assuming you
aren't using a static IP address, Windows should provide a new IP address.
5 The useful thing about phones and laptops with multiple connection options is
that, if you can't get one type of coverage, you've got a fallback option. If
you can't get 3G, find an internet cafe and search at your wireless provider's
site for local options, or switch to the more widely supported and cheaper
6 If you've got a patchy wireless network, consider moving the router or
replacing its antennae with high-gain ones - remember that routers can be
impeded by thick walls. If this doesn't work, a booster may help. You can buy
or make an aluminium cone that intensifies the signal ( cantenna.com).
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