Friday, December 16, 2016

Poor Man’s Test Lab + Intel 82579 Gigabit NIC + Windows Server 2016. It Can Be Done!!!

Background information
Some years ago I bought myself a new system in order to function as my personal test lab. Since budget didn’t allow for a state of the art system, I had to puzzle a lot. Yes, I needed storage with high IO, a reasonable fast CPU and fast AND loads of RAM.

But again, budget was limited. So after a lot of research I spent every euro of the allocated budget and got myself maximum value for money. All based on PC (desktop) hardware and not a single piece of server hardware because that was way outside the budget. But still the system I finally got allowed me to built my own test lab, running 16 VMs and still delivering good performance!

Since the system allowed for growth, in the past years I added more RAM, additional SSDs for storage and upgraded the CPU as well. On the server OS side of things the lab ran Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2 and now Windows Server 2016.

The NIC ‘issue’
But I was always a bit hesitant to upgrade the parent Windows Server OS since the Intel desktop motherboard (DZ68DB series) in this system has some quirks. The integrated Intel 82579 Gigabit NIC won’t install by default on a Windows Server OS. It requires some additional steps in order to make it work. The reason here is that the driver BLOCKS the installation on any Windows Server OS by default!

On itself understandable, but quite frustrating after having spend all my available budget on my new to be test lab!

So with every new Windows Server OS upgrade I went through the same challenge. Of course, I could use another NIC instead. And believe me, I tried! But here another quirck came up: that other NIC (I tried different brands with different chipsets) never worked!

In my other systems the same NIC worked without a sweat, but in the would be server it was a no go. No matter what I tried. And believe me, I went deep! So I HAD to make the onboard Intel 82579 Gigabit NIC work, no matter what!

Intel 82579 Gigabit NIC vs ME: 0-1!!!!
When Windows Server 2016 went GA I decided to upgrade my whole lab to this new Server OS. So I had to face the challenge, making the Intel 82579 Gigabit NIC work with Windows Server 2016.

Last weekend it was show time! And to my surprise I finally found out myself how to address it rather quickly and within less than an hour, Windows Server 2016 installed the driver, resulting in a fully functional NIC!

I decided to share this, since the same approach can be used for making any Intel desktop NIC work on Windows Server 2016.

How the west was won
First Windows Server must be put into ‘test mode’. As such it accepts the installation of unsigned drivers. Follow this procedure:

  • Run the command bcdedit -set loadoptions DISABLE_INTEGRITY_CHECKS
  • And afterwards the command bcdedit -set TESTSIGNING ON
  • Reboot the server

After the reboot the server is in test mode, as shown in the lower right corner of the desktop.

Now it’s time to get the hardware ID’s of the Intel NIC. You’ll need those ID’s later on.

  • Open Device Manager, select the Intel NIC > Properties > tab Details
  • Select as Property Hardware Ids and note them (or screenshot them) but PLEASE get them totally right! Also know that the first hardware ID won’t be used later on.
  • As such you only need the yellow highlighted entries. Three of them in total.

With this information it’s time to ‘hack’ the INF file so the driver will install just fine.

  1. Download the Intel 82579 Gigabit NIC drivers for Windows 8 x64
  2. Run the installer BUT DON’T go through the wizard, instead search for a folder with a name like RarSFX0. Most of the times it’s located in the temp folder of your user profile, like C:\Users\[USERNAME]\AppData\Local\Temp\[RANDOM NAME, MOSTLY A NUMBER]\RarSFX0. In my case it was: C:\Users\Administrator\AppData\Local\Temp\2\RarSFX0
  3. Copy the folder PRO1000 to another location, like C:\Temp\Intel NIC for instance
  4. Close the Intell NIC installer> Cancel > Yes > Finish
  5. Open the folder ~\PRO1000\Winx64\NDIS64
  6. Open the e1d64x64.inf file, I used the default Notepad application  to edit the file
  7. In the [ControlFlags] section delete ALL the 3 lines since this section blocks the installation of the driver on Windows Server! So this:
    Becomes this:
  8. Select and copy the three E153B lines found under the header [Intel.NTamd64.6.3.1]
  9. Paste the 3 lines in the [Intel.NTamd64.6.3] section below the E15A0 lines:
  10. Now you must alter the DeviceID of those copied lines so they match the earlier found three Hardware Ids:
  11. So now these three lines look like this:
  12. Save it
  13. Install the modified driver from Device Manager > select the NIC > Properties > Driver > Update Driver > choose Browse my computer for driver software > Browse > and select now the folder containing the modified file (in my case: C:\Temp\Intel NIC\PRO1000\Winx64\NDIS64) > Next
  14. You’ll get the warning about installing an unsigned driver, ignore it. Follow the wizard and soon the NIC is in working condition!
  15. As a last step, reenable the driver integrity checks and disable test signing again by using the following commands:
    • bcdedit -set loadoptions ENABLE_INTEGRITY_CHECKS
    • bcdedit -set TESTSIGNING OFF
    • Reboot the server
  16. And now all is ready!

And as stated before, this method can be used with any other Intel NIC. Just be sure to use the correct Hardware Ids.

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