If you’ve ever tried your hand at configuring a home network, chances as good that you’ve run into communications problems at some point. All Windows versions include a variety of network diagnostic tools, although you’ll find more in Windows XP than Windows 98. Regardless of your operating system version, the two basic tools that you’ll want to be familiar with include both the ipconfig and ping command line utilities.
The basic purpose of ipconfig is to allow you to view basic TCP/IP information about your system including its IP address, subnet mask, and default gateway. Conveniently, this tool will also let you know if your network cable is unplugged. Typing ipconfig at the prompt provides basic information, but typing ipconfig /all provides variety of additional data, including how your system acquired its address, for example statically or dynamically. If your system has what appears to be an address starting with 169.254, this likely means that a DHCP server wasn’t available – to try to acquire an address again, type ipconfig /renew and press Enter.
In the world of networking, ping is the most basic diagnostic utility to test communications. If you cannot connect to a system, try to ping its IP address using the format ping 192.168.0.1. You can also use the name of the server, for example ping www.pcanswers.co.uk. If you’re trying to fix your own system and want to ping continuously for testing purposes, use the –t option, for example ping –t 192.168.0.1. Finally, if you want to try to obtain the name of the computer for which you already know the IP address, type ping –a 192.168.0.1, and the name of the system will usually be returned.