One of the foundational issues computer support technicians deal with relates to configuring a desktop or laptop computer on a network and getting it connected to the Internet. It is important to have a foundational knowledge of networking hardware, protocols, and operating system software issues related to networking. It is also important to know the various types of cables, connectors, and devices used to network computers and related equipment together. This knowledge is valuable for your success on the CompTIA A+ certification exams as well as your career in IT systems support.
Ethernet networks are the most common type of network in use today, with TCP/IP being the de-facto networking protocol. The IP protocol is part of the larger TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) that computer administrators will deal with. Ethernet network cables are made of copper wire and are UTP (unshielded twisted pair) cables. CAT 5/5e/6 is the standard for modern network cables in use today. Computers are connected to a larger network that consists of switches, routers, and other network devices that provide connectivity to the Internet.
One of the more common tasks you will be asked to perform as a computer support technician is to troubleshoot network connectivity issues. There are 3 common networking commands that can be run from within Windows to troubleshoot connectivity problems. These commands are run from the command line (or terminal):
ipconfig – The ipconfig command will display the information about your network connection. By default, it displays information about the IP address, subnet mask, and default gateway for each network adapter. The “ipconfig /all” command will display all of the networking information for each adapter, including the MAC address of each network interface. Knowing this basic information can be helpful for troubleshooting network related problems.
ping – The ping command is used to send out a packet to another computer or network device and measure the response time. The target device will return a response for each ping it receives. This is a simple way to tell if your computer is able to communicate with another computer or test the quality of the connection to a particular computer or website. From the command prompt, type “ping” then the name or IP address of the computer you are trying to reach. For example, “ping www.google.com” will ping the web server of Google.com and return the details of how long it took the ping to respond.
tracert – The tracert (short for traceroute) command is used to show the route that a network connection takes from one system to another. It displays information about different routes or hops that a packet takes, much like knowing how a letter is passed from one place to another until it reaches its final destination. From the command prompt, type “tracert” then the name or IP address of the computer you are trying to reach. For example, “tracert www.google.com” will send a packet of data from your computer to www.google.com and show the steps that it takes as it passes from one router to the next. You can use this information to determine if there are problems with the local network connection or if the problem exists with a router outside of your system.
By understanding more about Ethernet networks and using these basic network troubleshooting commands, you will be better prepared to find a solution to potential networking issues. Don’t forget to check the obvious things first, like if the cable is connected properly. But once you are sure that the computer is plugged in properly and connected, you can use these commands to verify the status of the connection and begin to troubleshoot any potential issues that may be present.
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