Diagnose Dataflow Problems: Potential Issues on the Local Computer

Leading on from the last couple of posts outlining how to do a ping test and a traceroute to attempt to troubleshoot dataflow issues there are also some other things to look out for as common offenders on your own computer. These may or may not apply in all situations nor is this an exhaustive list by any means but it provides a basis from which to start.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) software in the form of BitTorrent clients like uTorrent can often saturate broadband connections when incorrectly setup. This either occurs as a result of exhausting all of the available upload bandwidth or by having too many open connections which can overwhelm your router. Rather than reinvent the wheel I would recommend using the built in tool in uTorrent to optimise your settings located under “Options” then “Setup Guide”. Similarly, if you use other P2P software you should probably look at the bandwidth settings and dial them back a bit to see if that will make your connection usable again.

Another common occurrence is poor dataflow due to corrupted network card drivers. Later operating systems like Windows Vista and Windows 7 do a better job of managing and repairing drivers but sometimes the ball can still be dropped. One way to reload the drivers is to browse to Device Manager (either through the Control Panel or type in “Device Manager” in the search box in the Start Menu under Vista/7), delete the network card from the list and then reboot your computer. Windows should then reinstall the network card and you’ll be back to square one. If you reinstalled a wireless network card you might need to undertake a couple more steps to rejoin your wireless network so make sure you have your network password handy.

Otherwise, another potential cause of poor dataflow may be from a computer that is generally performing poorly across the board. High levels of disk fragmentation on slower hard drives can make web browsing a real chore as can file system errors. Ironically, a Team Leader at a company at which we both used to work often quipped that he recommended a “scandisk and defrag” when he was on the phones to satisfy customers unhappy with their connections. Low powered computers such as netbooks and entry level desktops will be more sensitive to increasing levels of performance degradation compared to performance desktop computers with bucketloads of RAM and high end CPUs.

These days, disk defragmentation is managed automatically by Windows Vista and Windows 7 so this should be less of an issue but older operating systems may need you to manual kick off the task. Before you do though, make sure you run a chkdsk to sort out any errors on the drive.

Again, this is just a few things that might help you out but there could be other things like malware or virus infections that can also chew up your bandwidth or your browser being chocked up with toolbars and add-ons which will slow things down. If you’re stumped as to how to fix your problem then you might consider asking a friendly geek to help you out (and make sure you look after them too).

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