Sabtu, 26 April 2008

ZTE MF622 USB HSDPA modem, windows installation problem, drivers, 3 mobile broadband

n the UK the mobile operator "3" provides a good value mobile broadband service -and if you sign up on a long contract you can get the USB modem for free. It is HSDPA which basically means you can get fast mobile broadband (almost 3Mbps) where available, and it will degrade down to lower speed mobile networks where required. In theory you can get online almost anywhere.

The modem provided is by ZTE (a chinese telecommunications electronics company) and it all seems quite clever because it is capable of "self-installing" (on windows at least, for mac a disc is provided, and for linux: you're on your own).

Although on windows XP and Vista it should install automatically I have found it extremely hit and miss. One PC required 30 minutes onto technical support and my other PC I spent about 10 hours trying to get it to work...

The way it seems it should work is when you plug it in, windows detects it as some kind of mass storage device. It loads the drivers for this device, and then in doing so somehow then detects it is some kind of data interface (you can watch what happens in Device Manager - it's interesting). Windows plug and play then looks for drivers for this interface, and (my guess is) it finds them on the modem (remember it looks like a storage device at the moment) and installs them from there. There are three "data interfaces" to install - so it appears to install three items in three separate "add hardware" wizards. Once these install they appear as "ZTE Proprietary USB Modem" under the Modem section in device manager, and as "ZTE Diagnostics Interface" and "ZTE NMEA Device" in the "Ports" section.

Once this has happened, somehow the device also then gets detected as a CDROM drive and appears in "My Computer" as a new USB Storage drive. It has an auto-install script which then runs and installs the ZTE "control panel" software. This software allows you to connect/disconnect from the mobile network and configure your modem. The software installs to your PC, and from then on every time you plug the modem in, the installed software runs (instead of installing itself again).

On paper, as you can see, it all looks very slick and clever - because it saves you having to do all those steps manually....

..that is, of course, if it works - and on both my PCs it didn't. If you've have the same trouble, then by now you have probably spent several hours tearing your hair out trying to figure out what's going on. I spent many hours going backwards and forwards between restore points, and one thing I just couldn't fathom was that in fact the process behaved different each time; sometimes I would get errors saying drivers not found; other times it would say it's installed but won't work until reboot (and then after reboot, all the drivers have disappeared again); sometimes it would say the installation didn't work properly and the device probably won't work; twice I even got a message saying drivers were corrupted.

I don't have an explanation for this, other than perhaps, something is a bit ropey about the way the modem communicates and changes between being a storage device and a data interface.

Anyway - in the end i got it to work with the following combination of steps - the order may or may not be relevant.

  • plugged it in - and regardless of whether the data interfaces installed I let the main software control panel installed (this is fairly obvious - instead of installing as a USB device, it actually runs installshield and adds a new program to your START menu.)
  • Now, it seems some of the drivers are stored along with this program. So locate c:\program files\zte mobile connection\drivers - and right click on both the .inf files and choose install. This should copy the drivers into your windows system area.
  • There's also an Intel32 directory with a "DotNetInstaller.exe" in it. I ran this too, even though I have an AMD processor! By now I was getting desparate.
  • So far it still didn't even cause the USB modem to install as a MODEM, it was appearing as a CDROM drive in device manager; so, I went into device manager DISABLED the ZTE CDROM drive. This is when things started to get interesting.
  • After about a minute the CDROM drive ("USB Storage") disappeared and the 3 DATA INTERFACEs appeared in device manager (under "other devices" to begin with. They then installed themselves (this time without asking to look for drivers - perhaps because they were already there from step 2). This looked promising and the light on the modem was green.
  • Next I ran the ZTE connection program (this is the "control panel" program installed in your start menu. Now it was reporting the modem was "online" (note - these means communicating with the PC, not connected to the internet) which was a step forward, but it was showing no SIM card and no mobile network...
  • I created a restore point at this point, just so I could get back to this "half working" siutation if I needed.
  • I unplugged the modem took out the sim card, cleaned it, blew on it, played with it a bit and put it back in (and out again) several times; then plugged the modem back in.
  • To my horror, the first thing to appear in device manager was the flaming ZTE CDROM again! Arrrgghhhh - no modem device! BUT - it came up with the red-cross that indicates it is disabled (remember, I disabled it earlier) and then disappeared. Shortly after, the Modem re-installed and appeared in device manager.
  • Next I ran the ZTE connection manager again (you know, that one in your start menu) and it came up showing the modem online AND this time showing the sim ok and showing the mobile network strength.. YAY!!!! It works...
  • Every once in a while I have to disable the CDROM/ZTE USB storage device again and unplug and plug in again to get it to work... It's a pain, but at least it's now repeatable.

Now - the only downside to this if you leave the "ZTE USB Storage" disabled is that it won't automatically start the connection manager when you plug the modem in - you'll need to choose it from your START menu.... I can live with that....

I also sometimes find that I plug the modem in and the "3" software starts, but the modem shows as offline (red). No amount of plugging/unplugging seems to fix this - but a reboot usually does. Sometimes I also have to plug the modem in and then leave it for about 2 minutes for anything to happen. It's all very frustrating.

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