Warning: for those who are looking for my thoughts on poetry or cooking, this is one of my techie posts. Now and then, I become a complete nerd. My apologies! Look around my blog for other more interesting stuff, if you’re not looking for arcane information on internet connections or Apple products.
Disclaimer: ATT’s help desk might have been able to help me if I had given all the information. I didn’t realize they might need some of the information that follows, so I didn’t volunteer it, and ATT help dude did not ask the appropriate questions to resolve my issue without suggesting I send back the modem.
Note to ATT: Your hold notices that constantly tell me how I could easily troubleshoot my problem online really don’t put me in the best mood when my problem is that I can’t get online.
Okay, now that I’ve gotten those mini-rants out of the way, here’s the deal…
Tonight our internet connection went down. I did the usual steps of restarting the modem, waiting awhile, restarting my computer and the modem, and then trying to connect directly to the modem from my computer with an ethernet cable. I even tried a second ethernet cable. But nothing worked. That’s when I thought there must be a serious problem, so I called ATT’s help desk, actually hoping they might be able to tell me if there was an internet problem in my area, but fearing there was a problem with the modem.
ATT’s helpdesk walked me through the usual troubleshooting steps, including resetting the modem, which should have resolved the problem, but didn’t. He had me hold the reset button for 5 seconds. The instructions just say “Press the reset button.” When my computer was getting the wrong IP address from the DNS server, I was told that the modem must be bad and would need to be replaced. Or he thought it might be my computer. He didn’t think to ask me the one question that would have resolved the issue, and if I had remembered to tell him, that could have made a better support experience, too. But it’s been awhile since I set up the modem, so I wasn’t thinking about this…
I run a Motorola 3360 DSL modem with an Apple Airport Express base station. To do this, I have the modem set up in Bridged Mode, so that the Airport Express can make the PPPoE connection (login to my DSL account). Why? Because my modem doesn’t assign DNS addresses to computers on my network: it only works with one computer or router, so I have to have the Airport give our computers, iPad, etc. their DNS addresses. To have it do this, I also have to set the Airport to login to ATT DSL (and tell the modem not to do that, which is called operating in Bridged Mode).
When I hung up the phone with ATT support, I was very frustrated that my modem wouldn’t work. I really needed it tonight, and fortunately, I had told the support tech that I would take the modem back to the store in the morning, rather than have him replace it (because I didn’t want to wait for them to ship a new modem). I thought I would try resetting it one more time, and this time I held the button for 30 seconds (remembering that trick from past modems). All the lights went green, and I had an ‘internet connection,’ though actually, as I learned, I really didn’t.
It took me a little while to figure out that I was logged into the default account. I remembered that I had to go back in and change my username and password, so that I could actually get online. Fortunately, after the hard reset, I was now able to access the setup menus on the modem (see below for an explanation). I entered my information, and restarted the modem. Low and behold, I was back online, though I was tethered to the modem with an ethernet cable.
I did the most important communications that I’d been in a hurry to do, then got to thinking about restoring my wireless setup. A little searching online reminded me that I had to change the PPP Location setting to On Computer, instead of the default On Modem. I knew this, but didn’t remember what it was called or where to change the setting. And I hadn’t remembered one key thing…
When I made these changes, the modem gave me a warning as it restarted. Essentially, it told me that I wouldn’t be able to access the modem’s settings interface unless I made the right changes on my computer (I saved these instructions and hope I’ll remember where I put them) or reset the modem. This explains why I wasn’t able to make a direct connection to the modem’s interface until I had succeeded in resetting the modem.
If I had remembered that, I might never have called ATT, or if the tech support guy had thought to ask about bridge mode, then I would have told him. Since I had disconnected my Airport and was trying to connect directly from my computer, I didn’t think it was relevant to tell him that I had the Airport connected at one point. If I’d said that, he probably would have figured it out.
So, if you’re troubleshooting a DSL modem connection problem, it’s probably worth asking whether the modem has ever been set to Bridged Mode. Or if you’re resetting the modem, it’s probably worth holding that button for at least 30 seconds to force a complete reset to factory settings. My 5-second reset gave me the appropriate flashing lights, but obviously didn’t reset everything.
What I don’t know is why the modem stopped working in the first place. My guess is that it was something on ATT’s end that cleared up eventually on its own. Usually restarting the modem fixes the issue when that happens occasionally.
What I do know is how to reset the modem and set everything back up again if this happens again (and I wrote myself instructions for when it happens again). And I know that there’s not a problem with the modem just because my computer can’t connect to the setup screen. Maybe that will help me avoid calling ATT for ‘support’ in the future.