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Posts Tagged ‘windows

Windows 7 network disconnections

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Problem: I have a Dell laptop under Windows 7 connected to a GBit LAN. The network link keeps disconnecting as soon as I leave the machine unattended for more than 10-15 minutes. This breaks down all connected network shares, running downloads, connected IM sessions. It also happens during Webex conf calls, Skype sessions, or any other activity during which I am actively using the computer but not touching any input device.

Re-connecting to the network takes about 30-60 seconds, time enough for the other connecting party to leave the conf call wondering why I shut them down.

After about a month of trial-and-error it seems I finally found a working solution, documented below in hope it might be useful to somebody else.

Attempt #1: change energy settings

If you leave a Windows box unattended for long enough everything shuts down on its own, especially on laptops. Editing power saving settings seemed like a first thing to do.

    Control Panel
        Hardware and Sound
            Power Options
                Edit Plan Settings

Switching to “Never go to sleep” did not have the intended effect: the machine effectively stayed awake but network was still lost. The only way I found to maintain Webex sessions alive was to random-click around in the browser to call up web pages and cause network activity.

Attempt #2: blame the network

Asked network admins about potential issues: seemed I was the only one suffering from random disconnections. Back to Windows.

Attempt #3: change network adapter settings

A copious amount of googling unearthed the fact that no matter what you choose for Power Plan Settings, a network card can still be turned off by the OS when it decides to. The only way to change that is to modify power management settings directly on network interfaces:

Open Network and Sharing Center
    Local Area Connection
            Configure (top-right)
                Power Management
                    [ ] Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power

Still no joy.

Attempt #4: update network card drivers

This is Windows after all: the first thing you do when you have issues is reboot the machine and if it was not fixed, update all your drivers.

Dell laptops have interesting stories to tell about drivers: there are the ones you find on Microsoft through Windows Update, and a whole other bunch available on Dell’s web site. That is: if you are patient enough to click through millions of pages designed as an incredible maze of incomprehensible references, dead links and serial numbers.

According to Windows all card drivers are up-to-date, which pushed me onto Dell’s web site for further software. Abandon all hope, ye who enters here.

Attempt #5: look for dedicated software from Dell

Couple of hours spent on the site entering serial numbers, downloading files named like A12017402941.exe in large quantities, installing them, rebooting the machine, to no avail. The laptop got a boatload of crapware installed but network still failed after a random interval between 10 and 15 minutes.

Attempt #6: mess up network settings

Turned off IPv6, switched the address to fixed vs DHCP, changed DNS servers, started/stopped Internet sharing, all of the above one by one and then together. These had no effect whatsoever.

Attempt #7: keep pinging

Will it change with constant network activity? I wrote a short Python script to ping a remote server every ten seconds and left it to run in background. Still no joy. It seemed the only way to keep things alive was to animate input devices, and I refused to resort to Fischer-Price technologies.

Attempt #8: fix autodisconnect in registry

More googling, more information about the mysteries of Windows network configuration. Found on Microsoft support site: fire up regedit and change the key in


Key name is autodisconnect, set by default to 15 minutes. Changed it to 65535 (0000ffff) seconds. It can also be temporarily changed from command-line by issuing:

net config server /autodisconnect:-1

It kinda worked for a couple of hours, and then not. Back to square one.

Attempt #9: voodoo

Still found on Google: somebody reported getting less trouble by changing a network card parameter you would normally never touch. Why not?

Open Network and Sharing Center
    Local Area Connection
                    Property: Link Speed & Duplex

Change value from Auto Negotiation to something corresponding to your LAN capabilities, e.g. 1.0 Gbps Full Duplex for a Gbit local network.

The network stopped disconnecting at that point. I have absolutely no idea which parameter or combination thereof changed this behaviour, but I can also safely say I do not give a damn as long as it works.

Written by nicolas314

Tuesday 22 May 2012 at 11:35 pm

Open Windows, throw Mobile

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Windows Mobile device

Open Windows, throw Mobile

Today I was reminded that Windows Mobile is a disaster and switching on such a device can be a real pain.

I just wanted to check a feature on a Windows Mobile phone and retrieved the only one I have, hidden under several aging layers of lint in my bottow drawer. Battery is empty of course: I plug it into the charger, wait for a couple of minutes and switch it on. About 10 seconds later the damn thing starts making the loudest noises you could possibly imagine, mixing various alarms, emitting at full power without pausing. In a state of panic I start pushing all buttons randomly (everything that looks red), selecting menus, then pulling off the plug but nothing changes. The damn thing is still yelling at the top of its lungs and everybody in the office is converging towards me, wondering if this is a fire alarm or just a bad prank.

After twiddling with the controls for an eternity and resisting the urge to tear out the battery, the damn stuff finally stops… and starts again five minutes later. More panic, more frantic button-twiddling, and finally silence.

Looking up through the menus showed that the phone was programmed to deliver a daily alarm every day at 7.15am. The phone had not been turned on in more than a year and was dutifully delivering them all as soon as it got an opportunity to do so. I had to manually dismiss all alarms, deprogram the daily ring and switch off all sounds just to be sure this would never happen again.

Not just a question of bad software design. How could someone possibly program an alarm clock that catches up on alarms in the past? The sheer incompetence and lack of quality control that came with this software is just unbelievable.

I have to admit the phone itself looks like a joke: a tiny screen trying to faithfully reproduce a Windows XP home screen (and miserably failing at that, of course), a tiny keyboard boastering 5 switches per key in the most unconventional places, and abysmal usability in general. Typing a URL on this takes 5-15 minutes on average (for short URLs). The poor device dates from a time when it was obvious to everyone that Windows had won the war on smartphones without it ever being fought, like it had for desktops. Apple’s large R&D efforts on the iPhone showed the world that nothing replaces true engineering.

And yet the device is just 3 years old. Funny how fast things can change.

Written by nicolas314

Friday 25 February 2011 at 11:27 am