BIOS & Conclusion: Multiple Causes

Welcome to Comcast browser greeting

unwelcome Welcome to Comcast (click image)

This concludes the saga of “BIOS Won’t Boot“, a most unfortunate sequence of events occurring on April 1 (yes). The story was posted here April 8.

On April 11, Sunday afternoon, the second day of my return from Phoenix, you couldn’t tell there had ever been any issue(s) on my Castro Valley machines, and I didn’t have to spend a nickel to replace any hardware, either. It’s always nice to have the spare 3V CR2032 BIOS battery I bought for this occasion in Phoenix, wouldn’t you think? But I didn’t need to use it.

(1) PC Issues

I disconnected all the PC peripherals and the BIOS booted right up. I went into Windows Safe Mode, then regular startup, and could find no problems except for internet connectivity.

Gradually adding back all the peripherals, I indeed did find a problem with the external USB “Backup” drive, but it wasn’t a showstopper. I let Windows scan the drive and repair any bad files. This USB drive is now back in use.

(2) Internet connectivity

This was, by far, the more time-consuming problem. I spend over two hours on the phone with the Comcast cable internet providers yesterday. This was in addition to the three hours already spent at the beginning of the month.  I had FTP and email internet access, but every browser session would become infested with multiple-tab copies of a dread Welcome to Comcast screen (image at top of this post), inviting me to set up my account and begin browsing. I’ve had an account since 2003.   Tech Support was friendly, patient and seemingly knowledgeable. He  found and fixed a host of problems on their side related to registration of my new Motorola SB6120 cable modem.

Every time we thought everything was fixed and I was back in business, one last test would have the problem back with a vengeance. It was obvious I had connectivity, but I couldn’t browse.  Finally he scheduled a service call for 8AM this morning – Sunday!

The senior tech arrived and he quickly reproduced the problem. He had more settings changes made to the Comcast account configuration. That didn’t make the problem go away either.

Finally his laptop diagnostics determined the problem. The new Motorola supports a new DOCSIS 3.0 broadband standard, which, he explained, is essentially three streams bundled into one high-speed cable signal. The Motorola is backwards-compatible with the older 2.0 standard. The problem seems to be that the Comcast configuration is not fully compatible with the newer modems; their system kept trying to push the 3.0 service onto an account set up for (and only paying for) 2.0 speeds, so the set-up would fail. Comcast is still setting up their 3.0 service and, it appears, hasn’t worked out all the compatibility issues.

I had the senior tech swap out modems and put in a generic 2.0 modem, and the problem went away. It hasn’t been back since.

In Phoenix, Cox Communications is already on 3.0, but I didn’t want to go into all that with them. I will just take the new Motorola modem down south, call Cox, and look into the cost of 3.0 there.

The Moral of the Story?

(1) USB shutdown problems: if a tech support person asks you to reboot your computer, and Windows hangs on shutdown, don’t use the power button to do a forced shutdown. “Just say no.” I more recently had a similar problem while in Phoenix: a USB drive was attached to a cheap USB hub. Disconnecting the hub allowed Windows to complete the shutdown.

(2) Buying a new modem? Though an incredible affront to common sense, I would suggest calling your broadband provider before purchasing a new cable modem, especially if it supports DOCSIS 3.0. Make sure it is on their “approved” list. and is compatible with the level of service you are paying for.

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2 thoughts on “BIOS & Conclusion: Multiple Causes

  1. Actually, the problem DID come back after I made this post. The senior tech who left me with a new modem also left me with a remark: if the problem occurred again, all he could think of was to replace the router (NetGear FR114P). So I did that, with a newer and cheaper D-Link. That was about 4 days ago. I haven’t seen the “Comcast Welcome screen” since. Go figure.

  2. Still haven’t had a Comcast Welcome screen since installing the new router. I may have an important clue: FM radio static. I live in a valley and FM reception can be a problem. The little compact receiver by my desk has a hard time pulling in a signal. It sits just in front of my LAN wiring cables. In the last year or so, static became so bad it obliterated my local classical station. I noticed this only happened when the computer was on. Much of the time it became necessary to just turn the radio OFF. Since installation of the new D-Link, reception of this hard-to-pull-in station has been almost crystal clear. Is it possible that a table radio could be an early warning detector for network signal issues?

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