Windows XP network can’t acquire DHCP address

July 4, 2006 at 5:33 pm 28 comments

Have you gotten in a situation where you have a network cable plugged in, and the connection light is ok indicating a good connection, but you can’t get DHCP? The symptoms in Windows is that you can’t acquire a network ip address and selecting repair network does not fix the problem. I have notice the following causes:

1. Your router is holding on to the lease for your computer. Try disconnecting the cable and see if the router will create a new lease.

2. If this does not work, then shutdown the router for a minute and then restart it. This should clear the lease.

3. Sometimes if you have bad ground, you could get enough noise that the connection seems to be OK, but you can’t acquire a lease.


Entry filed under: Network and Security, Windows.

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28 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mac  |  July 13, 2006 at 11:11 pm

    Maybe it’s nitpicking, but routers don’t hold leases (your router may have NAT running, though). If you can’t get your IP info assigned from a DHCP server, rebooting your pc or hub/switch/router might help if the NIC on the pc flipped out or if the router is acting crazy. If something happens where you boot up and can’t get a DHCP-assigned address and you have your network seetings setup to get one that way, Windows will give you a 169.254.x.x address. Once you fix your network problem (bad cable, reboot the router, etc.), if you want to get a good IP address from the DHCP server without rebooting your pc, do this:
    Click on the Start button.
    Click Run.
    Type cmd in the box and hit the enter key.
    Type ipconfig /release and hit the enter key.
    Type ipconfig /renew and hit the enter key.
    Type ipconfig /all to see if you have a good IP address now.

  • 2. paulsiu  |  July 21, 2006 at 7:54 pm

    I tried ipconfig /release, but for some reason I don’t get a DHCP until I reboot the router in some situations.

  • 3. David Chesler  |  January 2, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    Did you ever figure this out?

    I had 2 newish XP-home boxes running on my Linksys router (an eMachines and a Compaq, both CompUSA $250 specials) and all were happy as well as a third connected to the router by wireless and sometimes a laptop; the router was connected by Ethernet to a Motorola surfboard cable-modem.

    All of a sudden the eMachines doesn’t have internet connectivity. I’ve unplugged and replugged, rebooted, released, renewed. It no longer complains about “A cable is unplugged”, and if I give it a hard IP address it’s a little happier, and the LEDs on both the NIC and the router are lit, but I can’t acquire an IP address and I can’t ping machines, even on the LAN. And the PC doesn’t show up on the router’s admin page.

    I swapped out the router and attached my old (recent) Belkin non-wireless router to the cable-modem, letting the Linksys be a client of it. The Linksys and the wireless computers, and the other PC on the Belkin are happy, but this one still isn’t, and it doesn’t show up on the Belkin’s client list.

    I’ve done some Control Panel uninstalls, and I get sequentially higher numbers on the Network Connection, otherwise nothing. I haven’t physically removed the NIC yet — it came with the computer, not even sure if it’s on an expansion card.

    I’ve also done some Windows System Restores to a point when I had connectivity, but no luck.

  • 4. paulsiu  |  January 3, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    In my case, it turned out to be a bad ground. Did you plug in a AC outlet to see if your outlet has a ground. Mines did not and without the ground there was too much noise for the ethernet to work.

    I would also power down everything and restart.

  • 5. David Chesler  |  January 3, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    Thank you.
    It’s all powered from an APC battery backup, and the AC power is grounded as it ought to be. (Both wired computers are in the same room, and the room has only one outlet that is not switched — 1955 house.) The CAT-5 cables aren’t explicitly grounded to anything except at the connections. I’ve powered down everything, even the cable-modem, and left it off overnight, as well as hitting the reset button on the wireless router for 15+ seconds. I’ve swapped cables. I plugged the laptop to the distant end of the long CAT-5 for the problem computer (the laptop usually runs off the wireless) and it got an address fine.

    (Lately the wireless net has been flakier than usual, and a lot of times I’m getting connected to my neighbor’s usecure wireless net — I hope this is just because I have the wireless router connected to the old wired router.)

    Like I said, this used to work. I suppose I could move everything except the cable-modem to a different room and connect the problem computer to a router with a shorter CAT-5 cable.

    My other next step is to remove the NIC from the problem computer, if I can, and let all of that go away, and then reinstall it and let Windows discover the “new” hardware and hope whatever is problematic and cached goes away.

  • 6. paulsiu  |  January 9, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    Couple of things to try:
    1. Try a new cable (you probably already did this).
    2. Double check the network setting. Perhaps you set it up at one point to point to particular DHCP server.
    3. You can delete the device and have windows reinstalled it (you seemed to have tried this already though).
    4. Try a different NIC.

    Did you check your router log to see if it shows a connection? Is there a MAC filter on the router that filters out certain ranges?

  • 7. David Chesler  |  January 9, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    It is working.
    I did three things at once, so I can’t be sure.
    I removed the NIC from the system (software.) Then I opened the case intending to remove the card, but I saw that it is on the motherboard. I also saw a lot of dust bunnies inside the case (less than a year in operation, but it’s a dusty location.) So I blew all that out.
    Then I carried the machine to where the working machine is and plugged everything into the non-working machine. I booted up the non-working machine, and it worked like a charm.
    It was referring to the Network Connection as “Network Connection 2” so I did a system restore and it said Network Connection.

    I then moved it back to its original location with its original keyboard, video, mouse, power and ethernet (and for good measure that cable plugged into the slot on the router that the always-working cable had been in.)

    Now all is good. I am using my newer wireless router (instead of the hack, that didn’t work anyway, of using the wired router on the cable modem and hooking the wireless into it — that was giving me flakier WLAN.)

    I figure either disabling the hardware cleared out some persistent software (I thought I’d tried it already) or, similar to your problem, it was so sensitive to noise that the dust was an issue. (The NIC part of the board wasn’t particularly dusty.)

    Remaining problem is that the Belkin Router doesn’t show this formerly-non-working computer on the DHCP client list — even when I’m logged in as admin from that computer. Router gives computer a local IP address, router sees computer’s MAC address (as when I set the restrict to listed MAC addresses flag) but it never shows up in the DHCP client list. The always-working computer shows up as do the wireless clients. (On the other hand, I have all my hard drives shared, but I can’t get the hard drive in the always-working computer to announce itself. I did what I was supposed to, but it remains one of those shared drives that you can access if you know the name but it is hidden on network content listings.)

    And meanwhile, hoping to make things easier I turned on “respond to ping” on the Belkin wireless router, and even with a weak admin password, it appears that somebody hacked into it overnight (and whois suggested it was a .mil address.) Rather than deal with that I pulled the power for 15 seconds and everything seems nice. (I turned “respond to ping” back to off.)

  • 8. Liz  |  March 17, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    I’m having the same problem! I know NOTHING about computers, except how to access my email — but after dealing with this missing IP address thing, now I know enough about DHCP servers to know that my Linkys wireless USB stick can’t contact my DHCP server. (Or, something can’t connect to it.) How do I get the computer to connect to that? Many thanks!

  • 9. Russell  |  April 17, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    I recently encountered the same problem – the network is seen but it can’t get an IP address from the DHCP server. The machine is a HP Pavilion desktop, dual-boot (XP Home and XP Pro), which I’ve had for years. XP Home is what we use regularly. XP Pro is used for gaming and other stuff.
    Just this week, the wireless network connection in XP Home started becoming unstable – very slow, unavailable for half an hour at a time, etc. At first, I thought it was the Belkin wireless ADSL router (F5D8630) but other devices are able to browse the web when XP Home says the network is unavailable. Then I think it may be the Belkin network card (F5D8000). I reboot into XP Pro and it’s fine (which is how I’m able to type this).
    I can access the internet from XP Pro but not from XP Home. Home is where everything is set up – Outlook, bookmarks, etc. so don’t want to go re-installing everything in Pro.
    Tried rebooting PC several times, restarting router several times. Nothing seems to work. It seems like it’s some sort of software conflict within XP Home.

  • 10. James Bennet  |  May 28, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    I had an issue where if i left my xp machine on for too long the DHCP client service would just die

  • 11. Reto  |  July 10, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks for the comments. I started to get desperate as I had the same thing. The network connection was getting established on an XP Professional (that worked without problems for years) and then the notebook didn’t get an IP address assigned and even if I assigned everything manually (IP address, default route, DNS Server) I did not get a valid internet connection, could not ping any servers etc etc. It did not matter if I was connecting to the router through a network cable or the wireless.

    What helped me was to deinstall the network cards (not hardware – just remove it from the system by going to My Computer – Properties – Hardware – Device Manager – Network Cards) and then let the device manager discover the hardware again. This then solved the problem. Go figure – and let’s cross the fingers that it was really this.

    Thanks everybody for posting their experiences – it helped me a lot!

  • 12. mc wong  |  October 31, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    uninstall device did not work for me

  • 13. Tania  |  January 12, 2009 at 5:39 am

    Hi I had a similar case at a client of mine, where the pc didn’t pick up an ip address from DHCP and then Windows defaulted to the 169.254.x.x ip.
    I unplugged the network cable, restarted the pc, uninstalled the NIC (software), change the cable, tried the release command in DOS.
    Nothing worked I also tried to give the pc a static ip. It would accept it but I couldn’t go out to internet and get into the mapped drives so it was as if it didn’t even have an IP set.
    I then changed the network point on the wall to another and….VOILA worked immediately.

    Why is this so????

  • 14. Craig  |  January 29, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    I then changed the network point on the wall to another and….VOILA worked immediately.

    Why is this so????
    Most likely cause is a poorly wired cat-5 cable connection to the network point where you originally had it plugged in, especially if the cables were “homemade”. Possibly the wires are not properly arranged (ordered) within the clip, possibly there’s a pinprick hole in that segment of cable.

  • 15. ranjan  |  May 13, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    My one ibm thinkpad laptop has worked well for the longest time, but I have been experiencing the above mentioned problems.

    i have tried all of the above mentioned recommendations. After mutliple tries things start to work again, but I can’t pinpoint as to what particular thing makes a difference. I know the network/router etc is not the problem because i have another ibm thinkpad laptop that works fine while the first one cannot connect, so the problem is localized to the computer that doesn’t work. My suspicion is that something in the hardware or the netgear 111 USB key is flaky or one of the MS upgrades has introduced the problem.

  • 16. Greg  |  August 1, 2009 at 3:36 pm


    • 17. Sleestak  |  October 28, 2009 at 10:11 pm

      Thanks for the comment Greg!

  • 18. Russ  |  May 28, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    I fixed my problem thanks to this blog.

    I just formatted and reinstalled winxp for a co-worker on an old ass Toshiba Tecra using a Netgear pcmcia 10/100 nic. NIC works fine. Device manager sees it, says it’s working, shows when a cable is unplugged, etc.. but will not pull a DHCP address, even on a known working network using different switches and cables. Even setting it to static, it would never get fully connected. Couldn’t ping anything on the LAN, not to mention get to anything outside.

    I couldn’t figure it out. Un/reinstalled the NIC, installed newer pcmcia drivers, manually installed a bunch of service packs, reset the tcp/ip stack, nothing.

    Then read here that electrical noise could cause this. I’d never had that problem before in my decades of computer experience, but hey why not. So I plugged it into another power strip on another outlet and, Holy Christ it works!

  • 19. robbie  |  July 15, 2010 at 11:01 am

    I have the same problem on xp pro
    I have chnge the nic
    removed nic drivers
    still nothing.
    I have another pc that works fine using the same cable
    I have even tried static ip and still nothing

  • 20. Micah Henning  |  August 31, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Hi all–

    If you find that your PC cannot obtain an IP address across any network adapter, ensure that the DHCP service is running in services.msc.

    Start -> Run -> Type “services.msc” and hit OK. -> Find DHCP service and ensure it is running. If it is, try restarting it. If it won’t start, AFD or NetBIOS over TCP/IP may be disabled.

    Hold the Windows key and press the Pause/Break key. Computer Properties open. Navigate to the Hardware tab and click on Device Manager. Go to the View menu and select “Show hidden devices.” Double-click on AFD from the Non-Plug and Play Drivers section and click the Driver tab. If Startup type does not read System or Automatic, change it to Automatic and then hit Ok. Double-click on AFD again and navigate back to the Driver tab. Ensure the status is Started. If it is not, click Start. Repeat the same steps for the NetBios over Tcpip non-plug and play driver.

    Then try starting the DHCP service again.

    • 21. Itsarapong  |  March 14, 2012 at 8:55 pm

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  • 23. Don  |  February 14, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    I am having the same problem but cannot get it resolved trying above methods. Thinking of some electrically charged dust particles short circuiting the network card, I opened my Compaq (HP) C306US laptop, blew off as much dust as I could, sprayed static guard on all of the places inside, the laptop still cannot get DHCP from router. From a Linux box connected to the same switch I issued arp -a command and found my laptop’s hardware address displayed as FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF. This can’t be right. Somehow my network card is showing very offensive hardware address to the world. That’s the reason why the laptop cannot get an IP. The network card is Realtek RTL8139 family. Maybe I should pull out the hard disk and immerse the laptop in water to discharge some mysterious static?

  • 24. Mirko  |  August 23, 2011 at 7:08 am

    20. Micah resolved it for me. AFD had failed.

  • 25. dadan  |  September 19, 2011 at 6:06 am

    my afd is stop, the start button is disabled. how come?

  • 26. Dan  |  August 14, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Many thanks Guys (and Girls): I had the same problem and dinstalling the Wireless card worked. My next step was going to use Mycah’s answer.

    One strange thing: I regularly use quite a few different wireless networks and it worked fine with all of them: Only at home this netbook would get a 169 address where all of the other wireless devices in the house would connect fine. It worked fine before and that started getting this a couple of weeks ago. It would still work when connected via the RJ45. I had left the netbook on overnight. I did wonder at the time if this behavior could have been the result of some kind of attack?

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