Windows XP Pro randomly loses connection to network

By beverins ·
Hi there, I've been poking around the site and I've seen related posts about this, but no real solutions yet, figured I'd post my query about this and see if someone can help...

I have a lab of 17 Dell Precisions, and 1 Dell Poweredge 2900. The workstations are running WinXP Pro all patched and with the latest drivers. The server is running Server 2003, patched and good. The network runs my own private Active Directory domain.

All the machines have a static IP address given to me by the IT department, defined by MAC address.

There are two more labs connected to the same switches, running MAC OSX. These labs do not have the problem.

The problem began in February of 2007. Seemingly if a machine is left on for about 6~8 hours (doesn't matter if it is idle or being heavily used; doesn't matter if it is logged in or not logged in) the machine will spontaneously lose network connection, and will not see the internet. It will, however, still see the server if the user has a drive mapped.

Repairing the connection does not work. Re-inserting the ethernet plug does not work. Restarting the machine (not power cycling) does not work. Only Power Cycling the machine works to restore the connection.

Curiously, when the server loses connection, restarting (no power cycle) fixes the problem. I do not have to powercycle the server, only the workstations. When the server loses its connection, its connection to the AD Domain also fails. The restart fixes this too. As mentioned above, however, machines attached to the server via a mapped network drive can still access the server.

When the network connection goes out, there is no indication that the network has lost connectivity. The network icon indicator says the ethernet is connected at 1Gbps.

The wiring is all brand new and tested. The NICS are all brand new. All the machines exhibit this problem. The lab worked fine from Sept 2006 to feb 2007.

No software has been added or deleted from the machines since Sept 2006, save for Microsoft Patches through

The workstations exhibit this problem regardless of whether they are logged into the AD Domain or logged in as a local administrator.

There is antivirus software, MCaffee 8.5, updated and the settings are set to a moderate level. Microsoft firewall is running.

I have another PC lab running all the same software on similar spec machines in a different location (connected to the same IT infrastructure) that does NOT exhibit ANY of these problems.

When the machines lose connection, ipconfig shows the IP addresses and DNS servers (i.e. - does not show, its shows the #'s its supposed to); pinging an IP locally and to the internet fail.

Hibernation mode is deactivated.
Power save mode on the NIC is disabled.
Once rebooted, it works for another 6~8 hours.

I appreciate any help.
Thanks much!!

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All Answers

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That's a strange one.

by bart777 In reply to Windows XP Pro randomly l ...

Sounds like it's a DHCP problem though.
If you have no address when the connection is lost that machines are not getting an address assigned to them. These machines are not statically assigned but have a DHCP reservation from the server assigned to that MAC address.

Try this...
Take one of the PCs and set the address on the NIC to what the reservation says it should be. Then run the same machine for that timeframe and see if the connection is lost.

Your reservation is evidently set to an 8 hour lease and for some reason cannot renew the lease from the DHCP server.

Let me know how the test goes.

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by beverins In reply to That's a strange one.

Forgot to put in some info, sorry about that. In fact, all the IP addresses are already set in manual mode to the IP that I found in the DHCP. Found I had to do that to allow for network rendering (well, when the system didn't "forget" how to connect!).

Now, perhaps it seems illogical to do it in reverse, but I'll set a few of them to DHCP mode and see what happens if they go offline.

I'll let you know what happens anyway.

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Lost connections

by mrjjp In reply to interesting!

Sounds like a network issue

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anything in the event logs? will Safe Mode w/networking stay up?

by sgt_shultz In reply to That's a strange one.

If safe mode w/networking doesn't have the problem, i'd look for viruii or malware.
the only other thing i can think of to try is to set the media type on the nics something other than 'auto sense' such as 10mb half duplex or 100mb full duplex.
I would also start keeping a log of when stuff lost the connection.
this sounds like hardware to me but i can't offer more than that, sorry.
i'd try a new brand of nic if i could and i'd try a different switch (like, trade with the lab that doesn't have this problem, see if problem follows the switch)

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beverins@... see reply

by michael In reply to anything in the event log ...

I tried all of the suggestions that have been made here and it did not change. They were the first things that MS and Netgear told me to try. I've switched everything, ran every kind of spyware, and even tried changing settings throughout the user profiles, and the settings on my routers, but nothing makes a difference. I am going to continue searching and if I find any answers, I will post them here.

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some update

by beverins In reply to anything in the event log ...

Sorry I didnt monitor this thread closer, had to fix other things. I wanted to post an update and get any further ideas why this network loss happens.

To recap - when the XP machines and the 2003 Server machine lose network connection, the machine still reports itself as being connected. However, when one computer tries to either access the internet or each other, then we get the error messages.

This is also affecting Active Directory as two of the server machines can't connect to this machine and I get log on errors.

I'm working around the problem by having the server reset itself every morning using a utility. It still fails at night, but at least in the day when most classes are up the problems on the server end are minimized.

I reinstalled all the lab computers and they seem to not exhibit the problem anymore, but more testing is needed. I am loathe to reinstall the server at the moment.

If I log in locally and not as part of the domain, then the computers never lose network connectivity.

What frustrates me about this problem is that the OS doesn't report it. You never get that little yellow arrow or a red x over the network icon - and in part, why should it? It IS connected - its apparently the OS that's doing it.

What is also interesting is that the server's network loss can be cured with a reboot but when the lab XP computers did it, they needed to be Powered Down to fix the problem. Keep in mind, they only lost connectivity when part of the domain.

The lab computers are now reattached to the domain, and aside from the server still losing connectivity they seem alright for the moment.

So, long story short, I'm almost 100% positive its something in the OS. The network card is set to be on all the time, the profile is set to Presentation Mode as well.

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Still having the problems too

by michael In reply to some update

I'm also still having this problem and I have tried everything that everyone has suggested to me, but nothing will resolve this issue on our computers. I'm not using AD, and even more strange, it is NOT happening on my new Dell 820 notebook, which is also running XP and is a wired connection. If I come up with any possible fixes, I will post them here. Take care. Mike

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easy to fix

by 666mr666 In reply to That's a strange one.

Right click "my computer" and left click manage. in the computer management box left click device manager. in the right hand pane click the + sign beside "network adapters".
right click your network card and left click properties. a new box appears. thew last tab is "power management"
if the box "allow computer to turn off this device
2 is ticked then there is your problem. untick it and ok/apply and close all windows.
job done!.

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Thanks, but it didn't work

by michael In reply to easy to fix

I tried your suggestion and it did not resolve the issue. Our issue is pretty specific, although the original post stated that the network connection was lost randomly, to be more specific, the connection to network resources is lost every day after approximately 8 hours after we login to the network. The reason I used the word randomly, is because we cannot determine exactly when it loses the connection to the network. It might very well be exactly 8 hours or 7 hours and 56 minutes, but there is no way to tell. We can use the internet connection, but we cannot access resources on the server and our printers. I have checked the event logs on my computer and here are the Warning entries when this seems to occur every day:
The browser was unable to retrieve a list of servers from the browser master \\SERVER on the network.
The other event description is:
The Security System could not establish a secured connection with the server cifs/Server. No authentication protocol was available.
Under Category is shows SPNEGO (Negotiator) and I don't know what that means.
These two Warnings seem to occur every day at different times, but I'm guessing that it has to do with the time that I login to my computer. I am going to continue to check the logs to see if I can figure out more information.
Thank you for your help. Michael

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Same problem for 2 years

by michael In reply to Windows XP Pro randomly l ...

I have had the EXACT same problem for the better part of 2 years. I have a simple home office network with a Dell Poweredge 1800 Server running Win Server for SB 2003 and various yet current Dell Workstations and Desktops. All are completely updated using McAfee and no firewall, using NAT for this simple network. I use Netgear Routers and Gigabit Switches. I was an IT/Network Consultant in NYC for 15 years, and I have not been able to resolve this issue, even with help from MS and Netgear. There is no simple reason why this is happening, but I share your frustration. If you would like to work together to try to resolve this, I would be most happy to. You can reply here and I will get an email about the post. I have noticed that my laptop when connected wirelessly, does not drop the network connection, so it seems to me that it is in the network components and not the server. Have you tried testing a laptop?

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