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How to Set up a Home Windows Hacker Lab

A newbie-friendly version of the chapter from Carolyn Meinel's latest book, Uberhacker!


 What?  You say setting up your network didn’t go perfectly?  Imagine that!  Fortunately for you, the rest of us are victims of Murphy’s Law, too.  The following techniques have fixed many a recalcitrant network -- they may help yours, too.

In this section you will learn what to do if:  

  • Device Manager says the NIC failed to properly install
  • NIC won’t respond to a ping from inside its computer
  • NIC won’t respond to a ping from across the network

Device Manager says the NIC failed to properly install?

 If you ended up getting the dread yellow question mark, either I’m lame or you’re lame or -- golly, maybe the NIC manufacturer or Win 95/98 is lame.  Here are some things that could have failed, and how to fix them.

1) Did the installation process say it couldn’t find certain files on the CD-ROM?  Check the path to the CD-ROM.  Regardless of how many hard drives your computer has, Windows driver installations assume your CD-ROM is the D: drive.  Tell it where to look for your CD-ROM!  Also, if you have an installation disk, put it in the floppy drive and tell the installation process to look there, too.  If your computer has a modem, click on “Windows update,” too.  (See Figure 6.) 

2) On bootup, did Windows fail to discover your new hardware?  Click “start,” then “control panel,” then “Add New Hardware.”  After this search ends, click on “details” to see what Windows found.

Figure 6:  Looking in all the right places for a NIC driver.  Be sure to tell Windows where to find your CD-ROM drive!

3) If this didn’t work, in control panel, click “network,” click “add” from the “configuration” tab, then highlight “adapter” and click “add.”  In the “Select Network Adapter” dialog box, select the manufacturer of your NIC in the left hand list, and model in the right hand list.  If your computer tells you to turn off the computer and install that NIC first, you may have a problem with a messed up installation.  In Control Panel click on System, then Device Manager and look for a yellow question mark.  Highlight that device and click remove.  Then reboot and try the installation again.

4) Maybe you decided to save money and get a used NIC that didn’t come with a floppy with the drivers on it, and it wasn’t on the list Windows offered you for installation.  However, you usually can get the drivers from the manufacturer’s web site.  Remember where you put the driver on your computer so you can tell Windows during installation where to find it (see Figure 3).

5) You decided to get a mystery NIC that doesn’t even have the manufacturer’s name stenciled on the circuit board.  Oh, yes, I’ve found a few like that.  Those are the orphan cards you get for free from your buddy who works at a computer repair shop, the brand X cards from Lower Slobovia.  If you live in the US, there is always a way to find out who built it.  The Federal Communications Commission requires that an identifying code be stenciled on the circuit board of everything that emits RF (radio frequencies) sold in the US.  Yes, NICs emit RF, too, not on purpose but as a side effect of their operation.  You can look up these FCC codes at http://www.sbsdirect.com/fccenter.html or http://www.fcc.gov/oet/fccid/.  From there -- if lucky or persistent -- you should be able to figure out how to get a driver for your NIC.

6)  Or, here’s a way that is brutal but effective.  I regularly reinstall Windows 98 just because I get tired of all the ways it progressively screws up.  This also helps wonderfully with device problems.  The surest way I have found to install a NIC is to put it into a card slot, reformat the hard drive, reinstall Win98, then put all your other stuff back on from a backup.  While reinstalling, use expert mode and choose virtual private networking support.  You’ll use it later if you are serious about becoming a networking expert.

Can’t Ping your NIC from inside its computer?

 Click “System” in Control Panel.  Then click device manager and look for any yellow question marks.  Chances are you will discover an unhappy network adapter.  Here is how to fix it.

Look for conflicts of interrupt request (IRQ) or input/output (I/O) range.  Each device (hardware item) on your computer that uses an IRQ and I/O range must use it only for itself and not share it with any other device.  Highlight your NIC.  Then click the “properties” tab at the bottom of Device Manager.  This brings up a Properties window.  Click on the "resources” tab.  It has a window you can scroll to look at resources used.  The only two you care about are “Interrupt Request” and “Input/Output Range.”  At the bottom of this tab it will tell you whether there are any conflicts in resource use. 

 If there is a resource conflict, here is how you might be able to fix it. 

 First, are there free IRQ and I/O ranges left on your computer?  Here’s how to find out.  In control panel, click on System.  This brings up the System Properties box.  Then click Properties and highlight Computer at the top of the list.  Then click on Properties. 

More troubleshooting--->>

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