Frustrations of a Bad NIC

I’d recently mentioned that the performance of my WHS 2011 box wasn’t up to what I expected, and worse, it was inconsistent. Well, Saturday morning it was absolutely terrible, with constant timeouts when I tried to access files on the server.

It was easy enough to isolate the problem to the server, rather than the network since communication between other computers was fine and fast. But throwing a wrench into this was the fact that copies run from an RDP session into the server copied files to the PCs just fine. But just to be sure I swapped ports in the switch in case it was a bad port and then rebooted all the network devices.

Then I rebooted the WHS 2011 box. Granted, that should probably have been first, but since the RAID array is in a constant inconsistent state I’m trying to stay hands off until I rebuild it with the final release. That didn’t help and actually made it worse as the RDP connection was not unstable, pretty much timing out after every click.

By this time I was seriously considering rebuilding the OS, although I really wanted to avoid it since I’ll need to do it anyway when the final build of Windows Home Server 2011 is available. So in taking stock of the other things to check I came across the Intel network card I use in the server. After changing the auto-negotiation settings to various hard coded speed values without improvement I decided to switch to the NIC built into the motherboard. So I had to re-enable it in the BIOS then download and install the drivers. But after that, all my problems went away.

It wasn’t how I planned to spend my Saturday morning, but when I was done I had a much more reliable and stable performance. While peak performance seems slightly under what the Intel card provided the performance is much more consistent. All that stuttering and hesitation I had seen previously has gone away. I’ve also been able to stream video from the server, while doing other copies, without any problems.

Figures, I always go for the add-on NIC for better performance and have stuck with the Intel brand since it treated me well. On the other hand, at least it was a cheap part that went bad.

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