Q: I just upgraded to Windows Vista and occasionally have trouble establishing my VPN connection when I'm on the road. When I try to connect to my VPN by clicking Start, Connect to a network, a message pops up that says This connection requires an active connection to the Internet, even though I'm already connected to the Internet.

A: I hate software that’s too smart for its own good, don’t you? Sometimes Vista has trouble recognizing that you have a healthy Internet connection. Here’s what I do. First, I open Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) and browse to a Web site. Sometimes that gets Vista to enable my VPN connection. If that doesn’t work, I disable and reenable my wireless connection.

This problem is definitely worse if you're connected to more than one network and one of them isn't the Internet, such as when your Ethernet port is connected to an isolated LAN and your Wi-Fi card or wireless WAN card is connected to the Internet. Vista also gets confused by the virtual network connections created by VMware. On a computer that runs VMware, I temporarily disable the virtual network connections, get Vista to recognize the Internet connection, then reenable the virtual connections.