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Troubleshooting Network Problems from Command Prompt

You don’t have to be an IT expert to troubleshoot pesky network and Internet connection problems.  All you need is the Command Prompt utility. Any computer users familiar with MS-DOS and Windows 3.1 recognize it. Well, that utility hasn’t gone away; it’s still around, just hidden in the background.

Here’s how to access it, and how to troubleshoot basic network problems from your computer.

Press the Windows key on your keyboard. Type the text cmd in the search box – in XP this is called “Run” – and press Enter.

Here’s what should appear:

Basic rule of troubleshooting: always start with the closest possible source. You need to check your own computer for network connectivity first. Type ping and press Enter. Your Command Prompt window should look like this if your computer’s network card has no problems:

You’ve just sent four requests for dummy data to your computer’s “loopback” IP address and it (hopefully) replied to each one. An IP address is a unique tag for your computer that tells the server where to send data; the loopback address is used for testing your computer’s network card. If there were intermittent problems or if your card were completely non-functional, the ping would have experienced some loss.

The next step up the chain is your default gateway, which is in most cases the network router. Any data entering or exiting the network has to pass through the router. To diagnose the router, you need to ping its IP address. Type ipconfig at the command prompt and look for the entry next to “Default Gateway.”

Now, ping your router the same way you pinged the loopback address: type ping <your default gateway>. In this example, you’re pinging the default gateway at If the connection between your computer and the router is strong and stable, all four of your data packets should get a response. If not, your router has connectivity problems. As a note, wireless connections are prone to drop signal, so keep that in mind when working with a wireless router.

Let’s say you’ve tested your computer and router and that everything checks out, but you still can’t connect to a webpage. So, perform the ping test on it. Let’s use Yahoo! for an example:

Yahoo! works. Just to be sure, do another ping test, this time to Google:

Google’s homepage checks out. If you were able to ping two remote sites successfully,  you don’t have a problem with your network or Internet connection.

~Michael Smathers