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Issue #506: April 2-8, 2017

Q: About every 10 minutes my computer slows down or locks up. I get the small square saying “Internet Explorer has stopped working.” Sometimes, the icon on the screen shows no internet connection. Sometimes, not. When I try to do a speed test, it says “No internet connection”.  After about a minute, I connect and I am getting 9mbps. I have had Century Link out 2 times and they say everything is working. I have had Geek Squad do a tuneup, but after they are done, it goes back to doing the same thing. Do I have a provider problem or a computer problem?

– Don B.
Niceville, Florida

A: It might not be either one, Don.  A successful connection to the Internet is made up of far more than just your provider and your computer.  There is a modem, probably a router, possibly one or more network switches, and multiple interconnecting cables (yes, even if you’re connected via Wi-Fi).  If even one of these components is not working properly it could compromise your connection, including causing intermittent connectivity issues such as you are experiencing. It is also worth mentioning that such problems can be caused by malware infestation.  If that’s the case, and it’s a tenacious-enough virus, that might account for why your system seems to be fixed after a tune-up, then goes back to its former behavior. Having said that though, if it were me, and I had paid someone to fix my computer and I found out that it still had the problem, I think I’d be back on their doorstep with my computer in one hand, and my paid receipt in the other, demanding that they complete the job they had been paid for. 

As for so-called speed tests, I think it would help you to understand exactly what they are testing.  To get an accurate reading of the speed of your actual Internet connection, the speed test would need to originate in your modem, and then your provider would need to have a speed test function available at the connection site.  Beyond that, you’re testing the speed of your connection, plus the speed of all the equipment that interconnects your computer and the website at the distant end that is performing the test.  That puts all the equipment in your house, and everything between your provider and the test site in the speed test loop, and the result is going to reflect the speed of the slowest component in the chain.  So, take all those results with a grain of salt.

If your PC connects via Wi-Fi, connectivity problems can be caused by several things, including radio frequency interference from other electronic devices, or even misconfiguration of your router settings.  Older routers use a frequency band that is shared with cordless phones, remote controls, radio controlled toyes, etc.  Devices like an operating microwave oven, vacuum cleaner, or electric fan can have a negative effect on data transmission.

So far I’ve imparted a lot of knowledge about Internet connectivity and speed testing; and technically I did answer the question you asked.  However, I feel like I didn’t really impart any information to actually help you to fix the issue (although, if it makes you feel any better, I occasionally get the “Internet Explorer has stopped working” message too).  Anyway, to make it up to you, and hopefully help you to actually take some steps toward a resolution, I offer you a link to an article in the Microsoft Community web pages that addresses an issue similar to yours.  Visit and follow the steps offered.  Good luck and happy computing!

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