When you can, it’s best to go to the hardware manufacturer’s web site and download the latest for whatever you have. But sometimes you’re dealing with products whose manufacturers are unhelpful. A very good resource is here:
In the properties of a device in Windows, you can pull a VEN (Vendor) and DEV (Device) number, put it into the above, and hopefully find what you’re looking for.
Many old friends, e.g. Hiren’s and UBCD4Win, are no longer in development, and for a while there was no clear replacement. alternativeTo is covering it now:
and two are very interesting to this writer, both with mini10:
For hard drives alone, we have another:
In the latter (its basis is 64-bit Ubuntu), open Disks, and find the hard drive test suite by clicking the round icon at the upper-right corner; it appears to have the same functionality as SeaTools, without the driver problems of the Seagate downloadables.
will test your keyboard, and will also report scan codes for all keys.
When configuring a NIC for performance, it is very important first to bring the driver up to date; there are special needs in this area for Intel NICs. It will usually do quite a lot of good to bring a NIC driver up to date, if it’s not. In order to do a whole lot more good, after drivers are as good and as up to date as possible, please continue below!
These settings apply to hardware NICs only. There have been warnings posted by Microsoft against changing settings against virtual NICs. Concerning virtual machines, it is the host’s NICs which should be optimized as much as possible.
It may also be worthwhile to note, that several more steps were best and strongly recommended by Microsoft, differently and changing over time, in different versions of Windows before Vista/2008. The below are very good for Vista/2008 and thenceforth.
To continue. Some of the items below are in an “Advanced” tab and then “Performance” category in some manufacturers’ NIC properties, the location varies. Some of them may not be present in any given NIC. But except for a very few, most of the items below will be represented, and if you have one of those few you might think about an upgrade to a nice juicy Intel server-class PCIe NIC:
- Turn “Adaptive Inter-Frame Spacing” on.
- Turn “Enable PME” off.
- For flow control, “Off” is preferred, but some network architectures rather rare today will only function properly with it on.
- Interrupt Moderation should be on, Interrupt Moderation Rate should be Adaptive.
- Turn all offloading on.
- There are cache settings on almost all NICs these days, separate for send and receive. They are usually called “Receive Buffers” and “Transmit Buffers”, or “Receive Descriptors” and “Transmit Descriptors”. Set them to the maximum. For current Intel NICs the defaults are usually 256 or 512, and the maximums are 2048; for a few others, one or the other is 5000 or more; for others it is much less. Each descriptor takes 2K of RAM, which in today’s world is well worthwhile. Some older Broadcom gigabit NICs will yellow-flag if they are set to 2048; for these, set receive to 750, transmit to 1500.
- Turn “Scaling”, to “on” or “Enabled”. Sometimes this is called “Receive Side Scaling”.
- “Receive Side Scaling Queues”, or “Queues”, or anything close. Set this to maximum. It’s usually one per CPU core.
- Turn “Green Ethernet”, “Smart Power Down”, “Reduce Speed On Power Down”, “Energy Efficient Ethernet”, all off. Some of these may be in the Power Management tab, some not.
- In the NIC’s “Power Management” tab, turn everything off. This may have to be abridged if Wake-On-LAN is used. Some NICs, notably some Realtek, will automatically turn power management back on at boot; this needs to be locked in place through group policy.
- In SBS 2008, only one NIC (or one NIC team) is permitted to represent the server on the network. If there are two active separated NICs, you will have to turn one off, or crashes and unpredictable behavior will result sooner or later.
The Intel network interface card is a great piece of hardware. However, if its driver is not complete and/or not up to date, the whole PC or server in which it exists often will exhibit poor performance, hesitations, and web-site and LAN connection problems of many sorts. After this driver work is done, it’s a great idea to set it up for performance, but it is best to do the driver first.
First of all, here’s how to check if the driver is likely good — not necessarily up to date, but still likely to be good, and possibly not to be updated given the time and effort and onsite hands needed. Go to Device Manager, go to the properties of the NIC object, and pull up the Advanced tab. You should see something very like this:
Note how the Settings list is fully populated, no blank space visible. If you see any blank space in that box, you are looking at a common problem situation. A great many PCs and some servers shipped by at least two major vendors, for many years, have been shipped with incomplete Intel NIC drivers. These drivers you really do want to replace ASAP with the most recent ones. In at least a few cases I have seen, the hardware vendor didn’t include any update on its web site; thus far, in every case, the download from Intel made things work far better.
At least one major vendor uses Intel NICs but places its own name in Device Manager, and thus far when tested the Intel downloads have worked just fine, and in one server, improved things tremendously.
There is also a circumstance where an Intel NIC has a reasonably recent driver, but the monitoring application’s add-ins are not installed or not working or not visible. Sometimes this occurs due to an unusual terminal server setup. It looks like this:
There are some Intel NICs, older ones, for which updates don’t exist for Microsoft’s newest operating systems. In this case, the screenshot immediately above will pertain, and this means the driver is as good as it will get.
But in most cases we have good work to do. Below are my steps for driver issues and updates.
If this is a server, this should be done in person or with BIOS-level GUI remote control, this is fairly radical change; you need to turn off server offerings while you’re doing this, and networking is temporarily halted twice during the actual successful install. For workstations, in-person may not be required, but hands onsite of some helpful kind are essential.
- Whether or not the driver you’re seeing is incomplete, definitely the first step is to replace it with the current. Intel releases more NIC driver updates than any other vendor I have studied, and at least subjectively each update seems to bring improvement.
- Finding the most recent driver is simple but not always obvious. If your OS is 32-bit, search the Intel web site for ‘Prowin32’. If your OS is 64-bit, search for ‘Prowinx64’ (remember the X). Itanium drivers still exist for download, these can be found by searching for ‘Prowin64’ (no X). There are usually downloads for older operating systems yet, these will indicate more complex searches.
- But you may not be able to update the driver. This is especially true on almost all PCs from one major vendor, and has been seen on others as well. This is the case when you see something like “This version of X is not supported for updates”, when you try to run the download. In some of these cases, you can remove the Intel monitoring application but leave the driver, as a Change in the Programs and Features applet in the Control Panel. If you can do this, the next time you run the update and install it will go fine, and it will install a version of the monitoring application which will update next time. But lately I have been seeing cases like this where one can either remove the driver and everything, or nothing.
- If the driver will not update and you cannot remove just the application, you should probably either be working onsite or have hands onsite which are comfortable traversing Explorer to the location in which you saved the update installer. You should then completely remove the OEM Intel NIC item in Programs and Features, and then run the update installer. In one remote case recently, after removal, Windows automatically searched for and found a working NIC driver, before the hands onsite had completed traversing in Explorer; but I am not certain this can be relied on in all cases.
Here is a tool which lets you find vendor name by MAC address, or MAC address by vendor name:
And another which just identifies vendors by MAC addresses.