Windows 7 losing Internet connection all the time!

We’ve all had times when we’re surfing along, quite happily, on the Internet and suddenly everything grinds to a halt. We look in the system tray and the network connection icon is sitting there with the little yellow exclamation mark glaring at us.

Most of the time, when this happened to me, I could just right click on the icon, select Troubleshoot problem and sit back while everything got reset and I was back online.

The problem was that it was happening 10 to 15 times a day.

I finally broke down and called Cox technical support as it seemed as if everything on my end was ok. They sent a technician out and checked all the wiring leading up to my office. I’m sure they did it so quickly because I’m such an influential member of the computer media. Hah! 🙂

According to them, there was nothing wrong with any of the signal levels or wiring. Rats!

I replaced the modem I’d had for the last five years or so, and while I could detect a little faster experience, the disconnects continued to happen.

So, I started doing more in-depth research. The system was running Windows 7 Ultimate, 64-bit. It is a Shuttle XPC system I built years ago that is still extremely fast for what I use it for using an AMD 64 X2 6000+ CPU with 4GB of DDR2-SDRAM.

The motherboard uses an nVidia chipset, nForce 250, so it’s a little long in the tooth but working fine. nVidia doesn’t offer any Windows 7 drivers for this version of the chipset and appears to have no plans to, either.

I finally solved the problem by turning of Receive Side Scaling on my network adapter.

Right-click on Computer
Select Manage
When the dialog window comes up, select Device Manager.
In Device Manager, select Network Adapters
Right Click on the built in Network Adapter
Select Properties
Click the Advanced tab
Scroll down the list of Advanced properties
Click on Receive Side Scaling
In the drop down list on the right, change it from Enabled to Disabled
Click the OK button and close Device Manager

Immediately, my problems disappeared and I’ve had no problems with losing connectivity since. I’m talking about dropping from losing my connection 10 to 15 times per day to having no drops for three days!

What is Receive Side Scaling anyway, and why didn’t my XP system exhibit this problem?

Receive-Side Scaling is a technology which allows a Windows Vista and later Microsoft Operating Systems to utilize multiple processors to handle the network stack. Technically it allows large file transmissions to be processed in a parallel manner. Packets are balanced between your processors (or cores) through the use of software and hardware hash codes for each connection.

In multi-core and multi-processor systems not having Receive-Side Scaling might mean one processor would be utilizing 100% CPU, while the other would be virtually doing nothing. In the case of a File Server you might want both processors to be used and the load to be balanced.

The problem with Receive-Side Scaling is it’s susceptible to packets that were changed before they were received. The hashes don’t match in that case and the connection is dropped. Microsoft acknowledges this is a problem when NAT, ICS, ISA Server or other firewall products are used. If your anti-virus software includes a firewall (and most do) this might present a problem.

The easiest fix at this time is to just disable it as most of us don’t have a high intensity environment where we are going to see much difference. Besides, while it does seem as if I’ve lost a little performance, a little slower all the time is still better than a little faster unreliably!

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