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Troubleshooting computer networks requires more than the basic scientific approach.

Is troubleshooting easy or difficult? When we do troubleshooting, we are trying to determine why something is not working as intended. Often the troubleshooting is unexpected. Many writers on the topic of troubleshooting provide the scientific method as the solution to problems. The flowchart is simple.

Fault Detection: note symptoms
Fault Isolation: make hypothesis
  incorrect hypothesis
Fault Repair

  correct hypothesis

Test hypothesis

Unfortunately, this solution is not very satisfying. Many people follow these steps instinctively as a common sense approach to solving problems. Internet Genealogy

Computer network troubleshooting is unique because of the extensive number of complex components. Because of this difficulty, we need a more detailed and instructive approach to troubleshooting.

The following flowchart shows the basic approach presented in this book. The main idea is to divide the big problem into smaller problems until a solution is discovered. Many of the steps may not be understood at this time, but will be explained in the appropriate chapter.

Identify the problematic network node


Use commands such as PING & TraceRt







Is there a problem with one of the network protocols?

Isolate the problem to a protocol layer and fix it







Is there a memory problem?

Is there a memory leak?

Fix or eliminate the software with the memory leak





Is there sufficient memory?

Add more memory






Does the system freeze?

Investigate priority and device driver problems







Is there high processor utilization?

Is it caused by hardware or software?

Provide adequate processor resources






Can an upgraded device driver fix the problem?

Upgrade you hardware to offload the processor






Is there a disk problem?

Is there sufficient file cache?

Add more memory to ensure sufficient cache





Use NTFS and do regular maintenance






Is there a boot record problem?

Use FixBoot or FixMBR from the recovery console






Is there a network problem?

Use Network Monitor to identify top broadcasters

Eliminate unnecessary broadcasts







Use Network Monitor to identify top talkers

Eliminate unnecessary network traffic







Correct poor configuration

Reorganize & upgrade network for more capacity







Is there a address or name resolution problem?

Examine ARP cache, WINS, DNS, and NBTstats

 What is the worst job in the world?

Complaint Department Receptionist
Midnight Backup Tape Change Operator
Windows Troubleshooter
None of the above 

Windows troubleshooting is not the worst job in the world, but it is challenging! What makes it so difficult is that there are so many components. Windows 2000 is said to have more than 40 million lines of code. If something goes wrong, then where is the fault? What makes it worst is that this operating system runs on hundreds of different types of computer, different types of components, cables, hubs, switches, routers, firewalls, network printers, SAN Storage Area Networks, and other components. We not only have Windows Servers, but Windows clients; Windows Professional, NT Workstation, Windows 95, 98, ME, maybe even Windows for Workgroups and DOS. We might even have Linux, Unix, RISC workstation, minicomputers, and mainframes. Potentially, thousands of different application programs run in this environment.

Every network is unique. No one in the world manages a network like yours. Even if the equipment is the same, the people, our customers, make it different. Don't be discouraged, a methodical approach can solve all system problems. You know the solution, it just hasn't been revealed to you yet.  This book will help you to develop such an approach and it will teach you about the many troubleshooting tools available in Windows.

Troubleshooting and Optimization

Troubleshooting can be divided into two categories;

  • Troubleshooting failures
  • Optimization = troubleshooting poor performance
You need to troubleshoot when failures cause your system to stop
You need to optimize when your system has a bottleneck that causes poor performance
        - add resources or lower utilization

Our goal is a well balanced system

What do you need to understand to troubleshoot Windows?

In this book we will cover each of the following major topics.

  •    The Windows architecture defines the components that we troubleshoot.
  • Microsoft includes many troubleshooting tools with Windows.
  •    You must monitor the key system resources; processor, memory, and I/O.
  •    Repairing system configuration is centralized in the Registry database.

This document has information on the important software tools used to troubleshoot Windows in a networked environment. In addition to the tools, there is background information on the key resources that must be investigated;

  •    Processor
  • Memory
  •    Disk and Network I/O

In Windows troubleshooting, we need to focus on;

  • Inadequate hardware, e.g.. insufficient memory, slow processor, etc.
                - We need to determine which component is a bottleneck
  • Faulty device drivers, e.g. version 1.0 often does not work properly
  •     Poor configuration, e.g. excessive replication between Domain Controllers
  • Inefficient applications, e.g. programs that read more data than necessary.

Gradual growth usually leads to system overload. You need to monitor your system to avoid problems. Your main monitoring tool is the System Monitor.

It could be worse!

Troubleshooting the current Windows environment is easier that troubleshooting older operating system. Windows has many automatic features that eliminates some of the traditional troubleshooting hot spots.

  • Windows automatically detects plug-and-play devices and installs and configures the correct device driver without administrative intervention. You can avoid troubleshooting devices by using plug-and-play hardware.
  • Core services in Windows are self-tuning. There is no need to configure disk cache size, memory pool size, etc.