So it’s 1:46 a.m. and I’m still awake. I had planned to get to bed nice and early to celebrate my birthday but I wound up fixing a computer instead. How can you say no when a totally gorgeous girl1 mentions that IT is about to charge her $80 to fix her Internet connection?
I assumed it would be an easy fix. The wireless driver seemed to be bad; I could scan but no networks showed up. I uninstalled the driver and planned to grab a new one via the wired connection. Except it didn’t work either. Well, if TCP/IP in general is busted, the most obvious problems are Winsock2 corruption, and LSP stack issues. I popped open the computer and saw that it wasn’t picking up an IP address ( “limited or no connectivity” ). Okay, so either DHCP is bad, or Winsock is gone. However, there was a more immediate problem… over half a dozen different firewalls, antivirus apps, spyware scanners, all configured to start and run on boot. With all that junk running, I couldn’t get anything done, so I first took a bit to wipe most of them out. One of the last ones I uninstalled was McAfee Firewall; since OU has its own firewall, software-level stuff isn’t particularly needed. And that was my mistake.
Warning of doom: do not use McAfee Firewall. Upon uninstalling it, it informed me that the Winsock2 keys were corrupted. The catch is, I think it was the culprit to begin with. Or at least, it happens enough that Microsoft’s KB has an entry devoted just to McAfee…
All right, Winsock corruption isn’t that hard to fix. It took about 10 minutes to hack the registry keys out, reinstall TCP/IP, and reboot. Golden, right? Nope. The “Winsock2 Catalog corrupt” errors had gone, but only 2 of the 10 required protocols remained intact. I tried to put them back in by hand, but it was futile. I configured the IP address manually, just to see what would happen. “Connection Enabled,” the system chirped. I couldn’t hit any web pages because of DNS, but I could ping IPs and go directly to IPs in the browser fine. So it had to be a DHCP problem. I sighed and popped in a Windows XP Pro SP2 CD and performed a repair installation. It went fine, but as I logged back in an hour later, a familiar star-shaped icon popped up… Windows wasn’t activated? But the CD had a slipstreamed CD key— oops. It had the wrong key, obviously2. I changed keys via OOBE, tried again, but now Windows was being petulant and refused to allow me to skip activation. So I tried to activate, only to find the network still broken The protocols were all in place, but the system just wouldn’t pick up an IP address!
I started issuing arcane command after arcane command, throwing everything I knew how to do at the system.
ipconfig, no program was left untried. And still nothing worked. Out of pure annoyance, I plugged the computer into a router I had lying around instead of into the wall jack. And watched as it happily grabbed an IP. Wow. So the problem was the interaction of the computer with OU’s network, since I could plug my box into the same jack and get an IP. I called IT to see if they had a block on the computer’s MAC… they claimed no! The guy seemed to take me seriously after he realized I could talk shop just as well as he could, and started to open a case number. I idly fiddled with
ipconfig to give him the pertinent details, when all of a sudden an IP address snapped into view.
“Did you just do something on your end? I think I just got an IP.”
—”Uh, no, I haven’t altered any settings, just been opening this case for you.”
“Well, whatever magic button you pushed, it worked, after 3 hours of trying…”
—”I really wish I could take the credit, but I don’t know either; glad it worked, have a good night!”
Completely baffling, that. Armed with Internet access, I tried to activate again. And was again rejected by Windows, which was probably convinced by this time that I was a evil Windows pirate from Vietnam3 or something. I called the Microsoft number, fed my ID to the automated voice (voice recognition has come a long ways for it to understand me speaking the whole alphabet at it!), and was rejected a third time. My ego can’t take much more, Microsoft… let me talk to a real person! The “real person” came in the form of Michael (whose real name was probably something like Shridharmanadavan), who quickly took my ID a third time and rattled back magic numbers to let me activate. Phew.
After that, it was cake. The system was clean; I just needed to put on AVG anti-virus and do some Windows updates. Still, that’s the closest I’ve ever come to failing to fix a computer. The things I do for pretty girls… on my birthday, no less?
1 Totally as in, like, really, for sure, definitely, yow.
2 I slipstreamed my system’s CD key into the CD for easy reinstallation. Since they were both OEM XP Pro keys, I was able to install, just not activate.
3 This is not a stereotypical generalization of all Vietnamese (but maybe it should be— oops, I just generalized!)