With laptop prices decreasing and laptop processing power increasing, these portable powerhouses have become the computer of choice for many end users and IT pros alike. But these mobile machines bring with them a host of problems specific to portable computers. TechRepublic member Jredding is experiencing such a problem with his laptop.

Jredding runs Windows 98 Second Edition and connects to his organization’s network via a 10/100 3Com NIC. He writes, “The card registers and boots up fine, and everything is great as long as I am attached to the network. As soon as it [the NIC] is detached, the boot up is extremely slow.” Trying to resolve the problem, Jredding ran WINIPCFG. He quickly noticed that when not connected to the network, his laptop is being assigned an IP address that is not from his organization’s address pool. At this point, Jredding turned to his TechRepublic peers for help. Here’s what they said.

Try a static IP or dual hardware profiles
Member Ins413 is quick to point out that Windows 98SE uses automatic private IP addressing. “When the NIC is set to obtain [an] IP automatically, and there is no DHCP server present, it will assign itself the private IP address you are seeing,” Ins413 writes. “This can be most easily solved by adding a static IP.” However, a static IP many not be available to Jredding, so Ins413 also suggests creating a second hardware profile on the laptop.

Ins413 suggests making separate hardware profiles for home (with the NIC disabled) and LAN (with the NIC enabled). Member Bohicam1 concurs, writing, “Realistically, your laptop should have two hardware profiles: one for on the network and one for off the network.” Bohicam1 also recommends disabling the NIC for the disconnected hardware profile. “The reason your boot up is slow is because it [the laptop] is waiting for a DHCP server to give it [the laptop] an address.”

Try a software solution
As we have seen, dual hardware profiles will allow Jredding to efficiently manage his laptop, both on and off the network. But, like many IT challenges, multiple solutions exist. Member Mm212 writes, “Another idea is to install a network configuration switching piece of software.”

This member enthusiastically recommends NetSwitcher, which costs $9.00 per machine. “All of our laptop users love it,” Mm212 writes. “It allows you to create any number of profiles and switch between them with only a click or two of the mouse and a reboot.” Mm212 points out that this handy application, available for a 30-day free trial from Download.com, supports NetWare clients, Internet Explorer proxy and connection settings, and Eudora and Outlook settings, to name just a few. Mm212 gives the following example of NetSwitcher’s usefulness: “If a laptop user works in three different offices, all with different subnets and no DHCP and also uses it [the laptop] at home, you just set up four different network profiles, each with its own IP settings.”

A happy ending
Thanks to TechRepublic’s Technical Q&A and the input of members like you, Jredding’s laptop networking problems will soon be a thing of the past. Jredding writes that he will be implementing Ins413’s and Bohicam1’s multiple profile solution until he can install NetSwitcher. Jredding gratefully writes, “Thanks; this idea (of an added software package) may be great. We have several users that bounce from subnet to subnet without DHCP.”

Laptop mania

Does your organization allow end users to choose either a laptop or a desktop? Do laptops take more time to support? Should laptops be reserved only for traveling workers? Post a comment to this article and tell us how you feel about supporting laptops.