Getting Ethernet to work with Windows XP involves having compatible devices, proper connections, and updated driver software. When the Ethernet connection is not working, the first thing to do is to figure out where the problem lies.
1. Check the hardware. The modem and router are the chief external hardware components for an Ethernet connection. The modem has LED displays that indicate if a connection or port is functioning properly. Modems have LED indicators for Ethernet, Power and DSL/Cable. The Ethernet light points to the modem-to-network card connection, the Power light indicates if there is sufficient electricity, and the DSL or Cable light points to the modem-to-phone or modem-to-cable line connection. If these LED indicators are green and steady then their associated ports and connections are operating normally. The same applies to the router.
2. Check the cables. Cables can get worn out, twisted or cut inside the insulation. Their end connectors can also get loose. First check if their connectors firmly fit into the ports they should connect to. Then go through each port-to-port connection replacing the cable to test if the issue lies with the cable. For example, if the Ethernet LED on the modem or router is red or blinking, try replacing the current RJ45 cable connecting the modem to the computer with a new one. If the signal returns then cable was the problem. Do this test for all the cable connections one at a time.
3. Check network card. The network card is usually an internal piece of hardware either integrated into the motherboard or plugged into one of the PCI slots. It’s port is located at the back of the computer tower casing. It also has LED indicators. When the RJ45 cable from modem or router is plugged in properly and the port itself is showing green then a signal is coming through. If the port is showing orange or displays no light at all then there could be either a hardware or software issue. In the case of a PCI network card, you should also check if the card itself is properly plugged into the PCI slot. You will need to turn off the PC so you can open up the tower casing and look at the motherboard.
4. Check the compatibility of the network card with the motherboard. Compatibility is only an issue for PCI type network cards because this is a third party hardware. Check the manual or literature that came with the PCI network card and see if there are recommended motherboards to which they work better with. The same goes with the motherboard. You can also do some Internet research by going to the manufacturers’ websites or PC tech forums.
5. Update the network card’s drivers. Drivers are small programs that facilitate communication between various pieces of hardware. If the network card is apparently compatible and plugged in properly, then the problem may lie in old drivers. Since you currently have no Internet connection, you will either have to borrow a friend’s PC or use a public one. Search for the specific model of the network card on the web. This will usually lead you to the manufacturer’s website. The download links for the latest patches or driver updates are usually categorized by operating system. Be sure to download the latest one for Windows XP. Save the file in a thumb drive, bring it back to your computer, load it and then run the program by clicking on the file. The process is usually automatic.