Intel’s Obstacles

I’ve been using Microsoft’s Windows Home Server since 2007. In the years that it’s been installed, it’s been doing sterling work, acting as our server for digital media around the house, and also being responsible for taking nightly backups of our other computers. Unfortunately, the motherboard in our homebuilt server developed a fault, so that was all the excuse I needed to replace the old motherboard with a modern Intel Haswell-based design. I chose an ASUS H87I-Plus board, since it had six SATA ports and also came with an Intel controller for the Ethernet LAN interface to the network. The previous board had a RealTek LAN controller, and while it worked, I kept reading that the Intel design was better. So I decided to switch.

That decision caused a few hours of cursing.

Replacing the old motherboard with the new one was straightforward, and being a mini-ITX form factor, it is smaller than the old board, gives more room in the case and should be more energy-efficient. After booting it up into the BIOS to check that the hardware was all working as expected, I began to install Windows Home Server 2011. At first, everything went as expected, but then the installation process halted with an error – there was no driver installed for the Ethernet LAN controller.

No problem, thought I, I have all the necessary software on the CD that ASUS supply with the motherboard. I quickly located the folder for the LAN drivers, and started the setup procedure. First of all, the ASUS setup software refused to run because it discovered that it was on a machine running WHS 2011 instead of Windows 7 or Windows 8. So I dug down a bit and located the Intel setup software and started that running directly. After accepting the license agreement and a few screens marking the progress, everything came to a grinding halt when the setup stated that it wasn’t going to install the necessary drivers on this machine.

Fighting a rising sense of panic, I went to Intel’s download site, and downloaded the necessary drivers straight from there. Trying to install these produced the same result – no network drivers were installed.

A search on the internet produced the reason why.

Intel have decided that consumers should not be running a “server” operating system on a chipset that Intel deem to be for the consumer market. Intel have the i217-V (desktop) and i217-LM (server) versions of their gigabit Ethernet chip. They are in fact the same chip. The only difference is that the –V variant has support for Windows 7 and Windows 8 (desktop operating systems) while the -LM variant has support for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2012, i.e. server operating systems. Unfortunately, Microsoft built WHS 2011 (which is intended for the consumer market) on top of Windows Server 2008. So when the driver installation software detected  that it was running on a “server” operating system, and the motherboard had the consumer variant of the Ethernet chip, then it simply refused to install the driver.

Fortunately, the same search produced a solution. Ivo Beerens has a post on his blog describing this situation, and giving a solution – a few simple edits to an Intel configuration file. I was able to follow his instructions and have successfully installed the driver. WHS 2011 has now been able to connect to the network and complete its installation. It’s now downloading and installing a further 120 updates to itself. Hopefully, I will have been able to complete the rebuild of the server by the end of the weekend…

Thanks to Ivo, and no thanks at all to Intel.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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One Response to Intel’s Obstacles

  1. Tim Makins says:

    Well done – glad that you found a fix, and have posted it to help others.

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