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Troubleshooting Q&A - May 5, 2005

Sharing Your DSL Connection, The Inside Story

If you're using an internal DSL modem, what's the best way to share your connection with another PC? Buy an external DSL modem or keep the internal modem and use Windows' Internet Connection Sharing feature? Plus, how to turn off annoying 'debug error' popup messages.

By Ron Pacchiano

Q. I've read many discussions on DSL routers, but I can't find any information regarding DSL modems. My ISP provided me an internal DSL modem and I don't believe I can share the ISP connection with another PC or Mac because of the fact that's it's an internal model. I could buy an external DSL modem from my ISP, but I'm guessing that I could get a better deal from a third party. What do you think?

A. I'm guessing you got your internal adapter some time ago because I can't even remember the last time I heard of someone using an internal DSL modem. Early in the day of DSL, ISPs often offered customers a choice of internal or external adapters, but perhaps recognizing the limitations of the internal variety, comparatively few offer them today. Here are a couple of things for you to consider if you're planning to replace your internal DSL hardware with a newer external model.

Whether you can purchase a DSL modem on your own and use it with your account depends on a number of variables regarding how your account is set up. Most ISPs provide their customers with a DSL adapter that was manufactured by a third party, but there are a handful of different DSL signaling standards in use, and in some cases the hardware might be specifically configured with some hard-coded information appropriate to the characteristics of that ISP's network.

And, although you can often find cable modems sold in computer and consumer electronics stores, you generally won't find DSL hardware there alongside. However, many vendors' DSL hardware is available via VARs or directly to the public via the manufacturers' Web sites.

It sounds like you've already spoken to someone at your ISP, but you should get back on the phone with the customer service or technical support people there and specifically inquire as to what DSL standard they use to determine if buy a third-party product is feasible. Be patient and persistent, though, because many ISP personnel may not know this information, or may not be enthusiastic about sharing it.

If your queries indicate that it is possible to use your own hardware, you shouldn't have much trouble finding a compatible external DSL adapter for sale on the Web. Keep in mind that some vendors will combine the DSL adapter and a router/firewall into a single chassis, so that might be a simple and cost-effective way for you to go if you don't already have a router.

One final thing — and it's a big one — to keep in mind is that if you use your own hardware, your ISP may not provide technical support if you ever have a problem with your connection. For this reason, unless your ISP is quoting you an exorbitant price for the external adapter, it may be better in the long run to stick with ISP provided (and supported) hardware.

If you'd rather avoid the entire headache entirely, then you might want to try just sharing your DSL connection using Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) or some similar means. This does have its own set of drawbacks to contend with though. Most notably is the fact that the DSL modem won't work unless the computer it's installed in is left on all the time. However, it will get all of your other PCs online without incurring any addition expense.

You didn't mention which OS you were running, but considering the age of your DSL modem I'm going to assume Windows 98 Second Edition. In Windows 98, Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) doesn't get installed by default, but is available on the Windows 98 CD. Installing it is easy. All you need to do is go to the Control Panel and select the Add/Remove Programs applet. Once it opens, go to the Windows Setup tab, select Internet Tools and click Details. Select Internet Connection Sharing and click Ok. Click Ok again and the system will start installing the new software.

At this point you might be prompted for your Windows 98SE CD, so make sure you have it handy. Once it finishes installing just reboot your PC and configure the host and client computers to use ICS.

Once it has been installed on your system, it will need to be configured. Complete instructions for configuring Internet Connection Sharing for both the host and clients can be found here. This knowledge base article was written for Windows XP, but should work equally well for Windows 98 users. Good Luck!

Q. Not long ago, I purchased a new Windows XP computer and I've really been happy with it. However, since I started using this machine, whenever I launch Internet Explorer I almost always get this error message that says "RUNTIME ERROR DO YOU WISH TO DEBUG." It's not just when I launch IE either. It comes up on most of the sites that I visit. I would say at least 60 percent of them. These popup messages are just so annoying and I have tried to get rid of them. I checked the Windows Update site and downloaded all of the IE updates I could find and still haven't been able to get rid of it. Can you give me any suggestions that might help me resolve this situation? Thanks!

A. No problem! I was actually suffering from this exact same thing myself. It drove me crazy; especially when I would accidentally answer yes to the debug question. Lucky it was an easy problem to correct. Once I actually decided to sit down and look for it that is. Just do the following:

  1. Launch Internet Explorer, click Tools, and then click Internet Options.
  2. Click the Advanced tab.
  3. Under the Browsing section look for the entry that reads "Disable script debugging" and check it.
  4. Then scroll down a bit and locate the entry "Display a notification about every script error" and uncheck it.
  5. Click OK, and then close Internet Explorer.

You should discover that the next time you visit those sites, you won't find yourself inundated with those annoying popup messages any longer.

Use our feedback form to submit your questions on home or SOHO networking issues. We cannot guarantee to answer every question we get, but we’ll consider them all.



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