Circumventing Intel’s Discontinued Driver Support for Intel PRO 1000/MT Network Adapters in Server 2008 R2

In a previous life, my Dell PowerEdge SC1425 home server has an on-board Intel PRO 1000/MT Dual Port adapter, which introduced me to the world of adapter teaming. At the time I used the adapters in Adapter Fault Tolerance mode because it was the simplest to configure and gave be redundancy in the event that a cable, server port or a switch port failed.

In my current home server, I have been running since its conception with the on-board adapter, a Realtek Gigabit adapter which worked, however it kept dropping packets and causing the orange light of death on my Catalyst 2950 switch.

Not being happy with it’s performance, I decided to invest £20 in a used PCI-X version of the Intel PRO 1000/MT Dual Port adapter for the server. Although it’s a PCI-X card, it is compatible with all PCI interfaces too, which means it plays nice with my ASUS AMD E-350 motherboard, however I didn’t realise that Intel doesn’t play nice with Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7.

When trying to download the drivers for it from the Intel site, after selecting either Server 2008 R2 or Windows 7 64-bit, you get a message that they don’t support this operating system for this version of network card, which I can kind of understand due to the age of this family of cards, however it posed me an issue. Windows Server 2008 R2 running on the Home Server automatically installed Microsoft drivers and detected the NICs, however that left me without the Advanced Network features to enable the team.

I set off my downloading the Vista 64-bit driver for the adapter and extracting the contents of the package using WinRAR. After extraction, I tried to install the driver and sure enough the MSI reported that no adapters were detected, presumably because of the differences in the driver models between the two OS’s. After this defeat, I launched Device Manager and attempted to manually install the drivers by using the Update Device Driver method. After specifying the Intel directory as the source directory, sure enough, Windows installed the Intel versions of the drivers, digitally signed without any complaints.

With the proper Intel driver installed, I was now left with one problem and that was still the teaming. Inside the package, was a folder called APPS with a sub-directory called PROSETDX. Anyone who has previously used Intel NIC drivers will realise that PROSET is the name used for the Intel management software, so I decided to look inside, and sure enough, there is an MSI file called PROSETDX.msi. I launched the installer, and to my immediate horror, it launches the installer which the autorun starts.

Not wanting to give up hope, I ran through the installer and completed the wizard, expecting it to again say that no adapters were found, however it proceeded with the installation, and soon enough completed.

This part may change for some of you – Intel made a bold move somewhere between version 8.0 of the Intel PROSet driver and version 15.0 of the PROSet driver and moved the configuration features from a standalone executable, to an extension in the Device Manager tabs for the network card. I poured open the device properties, and to my surprise, all of the Intel Advanced Features were installed and available.

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I promptly began to configure my team and it setup without any problems and it created the virtual adapter without any issues too including installing the new driver for it and the new protocols on the existing network adapters.

With this new server, I decided to do things properly, and I’ve configured the team using Static Link Aggregation. I initially tried IEEE 802.3ad Dynamic Link Aggregation, however the server was bouncing up and down like a yoyo, so I set it back to Static. Reading the information for the Static Link Aggregation mode is a note about Cisco:

This team type is supported on Cisco switches with channelling mode set to "ON", Intel switches capable of Link Aggregation, and other switches capable of static 802.3ad.

Following this advice, I switched back to my SSH prompt (which was already open after trying to get LACP working for the IEEE 802.3ad team). Two commands completes the config: one to enable the Etherchannel and one to set the mode to LACP instead of PAgP.

interface GigabitEthernet0/1
description Windows Home Server Team Primary
switchport mode access
speed 1000
duplex full
channel-group 1 mode on
spanning-tree portfast
spanning-tree bpduguard enable
!
interface GigabitEthernet0/2
description Windows Home Server Team Secondary
switchport mode access
speed 1000
duplex full
channel-group 1 mode on
spanning-tree portfast
spanning-tree bpduguard enable
!

The finishing touch is to check the Link Status and Speed in the Network Connection Properties. 2.0Gbps displayed speed for the two bonded 1.0Gbps interfaces. Thank you Intel.

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richardjgreen

Richard works as a Cloud Consultant for Fordway Solution where his primary focus is to help customers understand, adopt and develop with Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and System Center. Richard Green is an IT Pro with over 15 years' of experience in all things Microsoft including System Center and Office 365. He has previously worked as a System Center consultant and as an internal solutions architect across many verticals. Outside of work, he loves motorbikes and is part of the orange army, marshaling for NGRRC, British Superbikes and MotoGP. He is also an Assistant Cub Scout Leader.