Most households today connect to the Internet through a broadband modem connected to a wireless home router. The laptop computers owned by family members connect to the router using the laptop's wireless adapter. This kind of setup brings about a number of possible connection breakdowns that may sometimes be difficult to find out. A little background knowledge on the workings of the Internet communication protocol could go a long way in helping you solve your Internet connection problems.
I have a Gateway laptop running on Vista with a wireless connection to a DLink DIR-300 Wireless Router which in turn is connected to a DSL modem. I have been using this setup for quite some time now and so far I have experienced very few problems in with it. Maybe I'm just lucky that I happen to be physically near the telephone central so I get a pretty good signal in my telephone line.
I will be writing as I think about what problems I have encountered and possibly on how I was able to resolve them. I must remind you that some problems are beyond your capacity to resolve and you just have to wait until those responsible have resolved the problems at their end. Once you are confident that there is nothing wrong with your settings and your hardware are functioning well, it could be that your Internet Service Provider is experiencing some problems.
The first symptom of a lost connection is that nothing is displayed on your browser except an error message that the page you are requesting cannot be displayed. When this happens, look down toward the right hand bottom part of your screen and check the status of your connection. If the two computer icons are in blue color, then you have a good wireless connection with your router. If you notice a big red dot on the icon, then there is a problem with your router. Your router is most probably turned off.
If the icon is of blue color, hover your mouse over the icon and make sure that the balloon message says local and Internet. This means that your wireless router is still in contact with the Internet gateway of your service provider. If it says local only, that means most probably that it has stopped exchanging Internet protocol (IP) packets with the gateway.
This happens because the gateway was unable to provide your router with a valid Internet protocol address which it can use to exchange IP packets with other Internet routers. You see your home router is given an IP address by your provider gateway which is valid for a certain period of time only. Your router informs the gateway when its IP address is nearing the end of its life but if there is congestion in the network and packets are getting lost, then a new IP address might not be forthcoming and so when the life of the address comes to an end, your router changes its address to 0.0.0.0 which is not a valid IP address. You cannot do anything in this situation but wait until your router receives a valid IP address from your provider's gateway.
Something Amiss has Happened
If your router is off and your Vista laptop is already running, something amiss has happened and your computer was not able to get a valid local address from your router. Your laptop may inform you that there are available networks that you could connect with. If you click on the small icon at the right hand bottom part of your screen, you may be given an option of connecting to a network near you. But not as savvy as you are when it comes to these things, you might find yourself doing tasks that you don't fully understand. My suggestion at this point is just close whatever it is that you're working on and restart your Vista laptop.
When computers are turned on, they automatically look for networks that they know and have connected previously. When routers are turned on, they announce the availability of the networks outside that they have connection and invite computers to join their local network. If you turned on your laptop when your router is already up and running, it asks your router for a local address and is promptly given the next available address by your router. But if the situation is the other way around, then this important exchange can no longer be performed and so your computer is left in the cold with no one to talk with. Your options then are to connect manually with your router or just let your computer connect automatically by restarting it.
Your wireless connection icon at the bottom right hand corner of you screen should now be in blue color and when you hover your mousse over it, the message will hopefully say local and Internet. But what if your browser says it still cannot display the page that you want?
Go to a Different Website
Try accessing another page from another website and see if you can successfully get the page. If yes, then something is probably not well with the server hosting the first web page. But the most probable cause would be that your computer is unable to get the IP address of the server that is hosting the web page. Your service provider is running a Domain Name Server (DNS) that serves as a directory of IP addresses for Internet domains.
A domain is just a concept that defines to whom does a web page belong or in other words who is responsible for providing a particular bit of information regarding a specific topic. For everything to work perfectly in the Internet, each domain must be associated with a unique IP address. This is what makes the Internet works. Everyone is sharing in the work of making this pairing of domain and IP address alive throughout the cyberspace. Your service provider is participating in this task by providing you with a domain name association with an IP address service.
However, the Internet is not perfect and problems are bound to arise. Your service provider's DNS server might be experiencing too much load that some packets that cannot be serviced at time period threshold that has been set are simply dropped. But don't worry because there is a solution for this and that is to use another DNS service. You can google for a free domain name service available at the Internet and let your computer avail of a faster resolution of domain names to IP addresses. Google is offering its free DNS to anyone who is interested so why don't you try using it. Other organizations are doing the same so you have a choice on which free service to avail of.
What you will do is to override your automatic network setting which is to avail of your service provider's DNS service. You can do this by manually setting the DNS service for your network connection to an alternative IP address. You can do this using the control panel of your Vista laptop. Look for the connection settings of your wireless connection and set the IP version 4 DNS server to the address which you found earlier from researching on the Internet. These free DNS providers may be using technologies that can make IP address resolution faster. Or, maybe they just have more powerful servers and more available domain-address pairings on their data bases that they don't have to verify with domain owners each time a request comes in.
Now here is another situation. You have just logged on to your Vista laptop, you look at your screen and noticed that there is a red mark on your wireless networking icon at the right hand bottom part of your screen. When you open your Internet browser, an error message is displayed saying the page was not found. You are prompted to enter a network security key so you can be connected to your home wireless network. And when you hover your mouse over the icon, it says wireless networks are available. What could have happened?
Again timing is very important when two entities would like to start a connection relationship. Your laptop again missed the introduction to each other that is so vital when two end points would like to set up an Internet protocol session with each other. You can enter your wireless home network key to connect to your DLink DIR-300 router or if that is not possible you can use your Vista control panel to connect to your home network. I can go on and enumerate the steps that you need to take to perform this task but I would just suggest that you restart your computer and let it do the connection automatically.
If you have done these workarounds and you're now back on track with your Internet surfing, then I'm glad to be of help. If not, well, try others who might have a solution for your particular problem. But generally, these are the main reasons why you can't see a page displayed on your Internet browser. The Internet Protocol has been designed to be a fault-tolerant system, but it may not be able to recover smoothly from some faults.
Read my other article on how to connect a laptop to an access-protected wireless network at: http://publishtoweb.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-to-connect-friends-laptop-computer.html.
Read an article on using Google DNS to speed up your Internet connection at: http://sites.google.com/site/ournewapproach/use-the-google-dns-service-to-speed-up-internet-on-your-vista-laptop.
Read an article on how you can turn your old desktop equipment into peripherals for your new laptop at: http://sites.google.com/site/thetechnicaljournal/turn-your-old-desktop-equipment-into-peripherals-for-your-laptop.