Crazy web browsing problem (Tech support required)

Setenza

Well-known Member
My father started complaining that since last sunday he couldn't access certain web sites. He runs a Toshiba laptop via a Netgear router on a 1 MB Freeserve/Wanadoo/Orange broadband connection.

Now he's 77 and tries his best to keep his machine virus and spyware free, but he has run into difficulties in the past. His laptop was a bit of a mess, so I backed up his data and used the system restore disks.

Still the problem persisted. Yahoo was not available but Google was. Do a search and produce a list of a dozen links, and only two or three would be accessible. Yet despite the websites not being available, we had no problem pinging any of the "unavailable" sites.

So as the laptop was now clean, I thought may be the router was a little fubar. So I upgraded he firmware in accordance to Netgears instructions. Bad idea. I then found that I couldn't access the router via a web browser and that he router no longer displayed a broadband connection. Stranger still, while the router remained plugged into the phone extension, it "killed" all other phones in the house. None of them had a dialing tone. Disconnect the router and the phones now worked.

So I replaced the router with a identical make and model. This one had a slightly higher version of the firmware on it, but not the same as the firmware that I used which killed the old one.

Guess what, the web browsing problem persisted. I've tried varying the DNS entries on the router. No dice.

So I then added every possible update to the laptop O/S that I could think of. I even lowered the MTU on the router. Same ****e still happened.

Tried using different phone extensions to check that this wasn't some foible of the internal wiring. Again the problem persisted.

So I finally bit the bullet and phoned the broadband tech support line. I told them all the above, without pause for breath. I think I may have bamboozled the guy on the other end.

He bottled it and blamed it all on a "server" problem at their end and nicked off. Apparently this is affecting a lot of users and will be sorted in two hours. Sounds like a load of cak to me. Now I don't doubt that the probelm is at the service providers end, but I really want to know what the actual problem is.

Any ideas anyone. Selective web browsing? Kind of weird.
 

OldAndSenile

Active Member
Sounds like your ISP has DNS issues - who are they?
 

sbowler

Well-known Member
I always asked these guys http://www.pchelpforum.com/ there a pretty knowledgeable lot. I would have used system restore origanaly to turn back the laptop to a time before the probs started. Have you tried altering the firewall and security settings, it could be this that preventing access to the sites. Try doing a scan of the laptop in safe mode, press F8 during startup and select safe mode. Before scanning turn of system restore, that way no nasties can reinstal themselves when you reboot. Scan with all your security programs, Adaware and Spybot Search and Destroy are good freebies also try Hijack this, this will provide a text log of any thing found you can then post it on the link above for advice. Good luck. PS a good preventative program is Winpatrol, this monitors changes in your Hosts file, this is used when any program on your pc is initially loaded onto the system. Nothing can be ran without Winpatrol asking your permission.
 

kelvin

Active Member
Definitely sounds like a DNS issue of some kind.

When you changed the DNS entries on the router did you also clear the cache on the machine? (ipconfig /flushdns from the command prompt)...
 

Setenza

Well-known Member
When I changed DNS entries on the router I did forget to flush the DNS cache. I'll give this another try when I pop round my Dads house tonight.
 

BrianC

Active Member
Let me get this right, you can ping the server (e.g., www.avforums.com) but can't access it via a browser? If so then its not likely to be DNS issue as ping would be resolving the DNS entry via the DNS server.

So if ping is working but the browser isn't then it possible that the browser is being messed with by spyware. Try the usual spyware clean up tools such as ad-ware, but I've seen this sort of behaviour before on my father in laws pc and I had to use hijack this to sort it out. I used hijack this to remove anything that was loading within IE and it fixed the problem.

If you can't ping the unavailable addresses then I suspect your DNS settings are incorrect or you can't communicate reliably to the DNS servers. Have you verified the DNS settings on the router and the PC (do a ipconfig /all in a dos window) against the settings given by the ISP?
 

Mario Nicholas

Active Member
I've experienced the same problem myself and it is always either;

Tools>internet options>security or privacy settings too high
or
The DNS settings on my firewall are blocking some of the servers that BT have changed - I identify these by looking in the firewall log and providing they are BT DNS idents I add them in. Then re-boot both router and PC
 

Setenza

Well-known Member
BrianC said:
Let me get this right, you can ping the server (e.g., www.avforums.com) but can't access it via a browser? If so then its not likely to be DNS issue as ping would be resolving the DNS entry via the DNS server.

So if ping is working but the browser isn't then it possible that the browser is being messed with by spyware. Try the usual spyware clean up tools such as ad-ware, but I've seen this sort of behaviour before on my father in laws pc and I had to use hijack this to sort it out. I used hijack this to remove anything that was loading within IE and it fixed the problem.

If you can't ping the unavailable addresses then I suspect your DNS settings are incorrect or you can't communicate reliably to the DNS servers. Have you verified the DNS settings on the router and the PC (do a ipconfig /all in a dos window) against the settings given by the ISP?

How can it be Spyware when we trashed the hardrive and did a fresh installation. We can't browse anything to actually catch any spyware. Also, the same symptoms occur whether you use IE6, Mozilla or Opera.

It is an intrigiuing connundrum.

I'll try running some anti-spyware software. Pest Patrol and Spybot are already installed. I'll even try "Hijack This" but I don't think it will find anything.
 

BrianC

Active Member
But can you successfully ping the same address that you can't access via the browser?

Also when you did the system restore did you format the hard drive or just repair the install/install over the top? Anything less than a full format isn't enough. Although if you know what you are going you don't need to do a system restore to remove spy ware in the first place.

Finally my father in law kept going back to the same sites installing the same software that stuffed up his PC time and again (even though hes been caught out with one of those dial a premium rate number). I refuse to support him any more. Is there any chance that he is running/installing some shareware that has been compromised?
 

Setenza

Well-known Member
The recovery discs remove the old partition and reformat the hard drive before re-installing the O/S.

I think the problem is the DNS servers at Orange. I chnaged the settings on the router to Star Technologies DNS servers, then flushed the DNS cache and now it's happily web browsing.

Thanks for all the help and assistance.
 

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