A painful Vista networking bug

A painful Vista networking bug

Summary: Why is Windows Vista still not ready for its public beta? One reason is a nasty networking bug that disables Internet access on a slew of popular routers.

TOPICS: Networking

When I installed the latest Windows Vista release - the February Customer Technology Preview (CTP), build 5308 - I ran into an odd networking bug. After a little research, I discovered I'm not alone.

The symptoms are baffling. The network adapter installs correctly, and Vista can see all the other computers on the local network. Simple networking commands like nslookup, ping, and tracert show that DNS is working just fine and the system can reach external sites. But trying to open a web site in a browser results in a 404 message, and trying to access e-mail is equally troublesome.

I talked to a couple other testers who were experiencing similar problems, and none of us had a solution. A little extra digging revealed that my Windows Vista installation using the December CTP code (build 5270) was displaying the same symptoms after working fairly well a month ago. What changed since then? Two weeks ago, I installed a brand-new D-Link DI-724U router and have since encountered no problems at all on my Windows XP/2003 network. On a hunch, I called a technical contact at D-Link, who confirmed that the router is indeed part of the problem. According to this source, a known bug in recent builds of Windows Vista affects a slew of recent-vintage routers.

The culprit is the built-in firewall software on the DI-724U router, which features Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI). This is not the only router in the SOHO market that features SPI - Netgear's WGR614 and Linksys' WRT54GS are among dozens of products that offer similar capabilities. Trouble is, the new and improved TCP/IP stack in Windows Vista falls apart when it encounters an SPI-enabled router.

One workaround is to disable SPI on the router. That significantly weakens a key layer of network security, but it allows Internet traffic to get through. Unfortunately, the D-Link DI-724U, like several other products in the same family, doesn't allow SPI to be disabled.

For now, I've replaced the router with a five-year-old Linksys BEFSR81, which handles basic networking just fine. I've also ordered a new DGL-4300 gigabit gaming router, which should arrive today or Monday. My D-Link contacts say this one includes the option to disable SPI, and thus will work just fine with Windows Vista.

Finding and fixing bugs like this one is the whole point of a beta test program. Given the popularity of firewall-equipped routers, this bug needs to be completely squashed before Windows Vista Beta 2 goes out to the general public.

Topic: Networking

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • That's not a bug, that's a feature! ;)

    Given my own problems trying to update XP, I'm not suprised to see a major bug in Vista. It seems that anything net-related in Windows is buggy at best. Maybe Billy Gates is trying to tell us something? ]:)

    Considering this is still beta, we might get lucky. Maybe the problem will be corrected, or I'll finally finish downloading that DVD edition Linux tonight so I can install and use it this weekend. ;)
    Mr. Roboto
  • Don't be silly

    Why should Microsoft change their network stack (introducing the risk of other things breaking) just to accomodate a few routers?

    Let the router manufacturers fix their products. They're probably using Linux, and if they replaced it with WinCE they wouldn't have this problem.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • "The Pain!" Will Robinson, "The Pain"

      "What is it Robot?"
    • firewall products

      I hope to god you are being sarcastic when you say that. 1) Most consumer routers (the kind you buy from the electonic store) run on something called vxworks. 2) Many enterprise class firewalls (for example Cisco Pix) use spi or similar, so what are the large networks going to do open their network because of an OS. 3) WinCE takes to much ram and processor power to run on a router.
  • Or maybe it's those damn standards!

    That's it! The router was actually working acording to accepted standards. Silly old router, standards ain't for Microsoft.
  • Networking problem

    I had a networking problem the other day. Couldn't copy large files between computers on my network using a D-Link router. Tried everything, but I finally removed a USB 2 card and it all worked!!!

    Is this boring, marginally interesting or superfluous? Yep and so is this article. If someone wants to tell everyone about a bug in new routers with the beta version of Vista, perhaps they could just count to ten and forget about it.
  • The bug is in IE 7

    I use Windows XP SP2 and I installed IE 7 beta 2 to test on my laptop. As soon as I tried to connect thru my new cheap Airlink router I showed that I had internet access but no dice. As soon as I turned off SPI in my router and it rebooted I was good to go. My other computers all run IE6 and they have no problems just my laptop with IE 7. I thought I was alone in this problem until I found this article.
    • IE7 Problem

      I think it's due to problem ie 7.I had install ie 7 on windows sp 2.Now it's not working.Even i am not able to un install it.
    • Except it happens in Firefox too on Vista RC1

      Try IE7 RC1, or the newest build available. I have no problems with WinXP and IE7 RC1. But, my Vista RC1 has problems with several SPI routers I've tested.

      The known issue with Windows Vista RC1 build 5600 is an OS level problem. I can tell you that Firefox and IE7 have trouble on Vista RC1 (and earlier) with a consumer-grade SPI enabled router in place. So, for Vista it's definitely at the OS level or Router non-compliance to standards level.

      But, I have not seen any trouble on my WinXP machines running IE7, RC1 that is.
  • Downgrade

    I hope this version is smaller faster and less buggy or is this yet another downgrade of windows
  • Message has been deleted.

    Pop 3
    • What?

  • IF the problem is in IE

    what happens for people running Firefox?
    if it's a IE problem does it extend to FF and other browsers?
    something that would be nice to know.
    • Router problem with VISTA

      Firefox present the same problem. It a "bug" in Vista not to support routers which are installed lot of places.
    • Vista Router problems!!

      I have had router problems with my new Dell computer with Vista installed on it. Can't access the internet through my dlink router, either by my old computer with windows 98, or my new computer with Vista. How do I disable spi, I understand that it can be the culprit.
  • Vista and WRT54g

    Encountered the same problem with the vista RC1 version. Disabled spi firewall but can still not connect to the internet... Are there other options?
  • Vista release

    Still a problem in the offical release of Vista. Turned of SPI firewall on my DD-WRT SP2 hacked WRT54G and browsing is back to normal. Stupid if you ask me, hopefully Microsoft can sort it out.
  • Vista and SPI

    FYI: I renabled SPI after disabling it and I am still able to browse without fail. Weird man. It is working normally as of now. Disabled SPI -> browsed -> re-enabled SPI -> rebooted and am still browsing without fail.
  • networking

    new pc with vista can not connect to internet. i've called comcast was referred to micro soft. called d-link referred to micro soft. also bought a laptop it works fine thru my existing router(d-link di-624), also bought a new adapter d-link wda-2320 still can not connect get error 814. help
  • VISTA and LOCAL only

    I have had the same issues of local only access on my new vista machine of sony ar350e. I use a DGL-4300 gaming router and connection to the internet is very intermittent and only goes on and off when it wants but 98% of the time it is just connected to the network but not the internet