No internet connection on desktop

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Hello, I didn't find an answer that addressed my concern ... so I'm asking the question. I have cable modem; desktop computer; router and a laptop. I had not powered-up my desktop for several weeks but continued to use my laptop and had no internet issues. I tried my desktop recently and cannot get a connection to the internet. Still no problem with my laptop. I've turned everything off ... powered back up in sequence ... still nothing on desktop. I've connected the desktop directly to the cable modem and still it tells me the same thing ... cable unplugged. I remember that I used to have a flashing light visible inside the port (on the computer) that connects to the cable modem. That is no longer the case. I've tried to run troubleshooting but it always comes back and tells me the cable is unplugged. I've read some posts that suggest the NIC (not sure what that is) ... may be faulty. Can anyone suggest a way I can check it. This is a Dell Dim4600 (bought in 2004) ... I hate to retire it because it has XP and I love it ... but don't really want to spend money on such an old computer.

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Yes the light should be on if the computer is connected to the router. I could be a problem with the LAN cable/or the plugs on each end or a problem with the router. If you have multiple sockets on the router I would try to use a different one. It could be a problem with the NIC (Network Interface Card). A new NIC card costs about $10.

You can connect directly from the cable modem to the desktop and see if you get lights on the NIC. Use the cable that currently connects the modem to the router. If you get connected then it's most likely it's a problem with the router or the cable.

I have had three of them quit on me over the last 15 years. Some of them in as little as 6 months.

Good Luck
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If you have USB ports on the desktop then you can buy a USB network adapter and you will not need to open the computer case. Just load the software CD and plug in the adapter (or plug-in the adapter and wait for the computer to ask for the CD - it depends on the manufacturer's instructions). Then plug in the LAN cable to the new adapter. This type of adapter might cost $25 to $30.
Yes, I do. So I'll need to buy a USB network adapter (and not a NIC card) and it will come with a CD. Install ... and I'll be up and running. Thanks again ...
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Here is a link to a USB adapter

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=1354224&CatId=589
I was just looking on-line for one ... I'll order from the link. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your assistance ... you've been amazing.
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Glad to be of assistance.
I got the cable today ... easy to install ... and it corrected my problem. Thank you again for your help.
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Great