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SMC 8416 (ETHEREZ) Lockups

Posted on 1998-07-09
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Last Modified: 2013-12-23
I have a 300+ user network, and 95% of the workstations are Win95 (950a) Zenith P133's on a 10BaseT Ethernet LAN using SMC 8416 EtherEZ PNP NIC's.  We are running a Netware 3.12 network.  The servers are working fine.  No one had any problems (almost) when we used Win3.1.  However, now that everyone is Win95, I have a *lot* of users complaining of lockups.  For months I've tried everything.  Updated Netware clients, forced frame type settings (802.2) for the ipx protocols, complete removal and addition of the network clients, format C: and FDisk (which works better than most, but the pc eventually goes to hell again).  I've been combing Microsofts' and Novell's forums/KB's for answers, and finally found a post by someone complaining of the same problem on their network using, SMC EtherEZ cards.  

So, on a hunch, I substituted the EtherEZ (which is ISA, BTW) with an SMC EtherPower PCI NIC on a user who was having a large amount of lockups daily, particularily during peak times (about 5-10 per day).  I followed SMC's instructions for proper installation of the card to the T, installing it without a hitch.  This user now has 0 lockups.

My question is this:  is it the new NIC with brand new drivers that solved the problem?  Or does it sound like a driver issue?  I have never updated the EtherEZ drivers, assuming that the new Novell clients did this for me.  However, just playing around, I downloaded SMC's ETHER.EXE driver update specifically for this card, and ran the update procedure.  I noticed that only two files appeared to update driver wise:  SMC8000.dos and SMC8000n.sys ....are these the only drivers for the EtherEZ card??  I have yet to test and see if updating these 8416 drivers will do the trick but I thought a post here might give me some clues.  

My typical workstation network config is:

Novell Client32 (2.12 & 2.2 mixed)
SMC EtherEZ (8416)
IPX 32 Bit protocol for Netware --> SMC etherEZ
IPX/SPX compatible protocol --> SMC etherEZ
TCP/IP --> SMC etherEZ

I have tried forcing both IPX protocol settings to use our server frame type (802.2) and this hasn't made a diff that I can tell.  When everything works, it works very well, but the workstations will lock up out of the blue.

I've investigated hardware conflicts (IRQ, etc) and this is not the problem.  I've upgraded the RAM in the machines, no dice (all machines are 16Mb minimum RAM).  HDD space is also not the issue.  

My only other idea was that possibly the installation of different software/shareware/freeware out there eventually screwing the pc network settings, but now I wonder.  I've also tried updating the tcp/ip stack to 2.0 and using the OLE update and the kernel32 update from MS.  Didn't hurt the pc's but it didn't help either.  Any help would be greatly appreciated!
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Question by:ranxerox
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by:ranxerox
ID: 1553067
Edited text of question
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by:ranxerox
ID: 1553068
Adjusted points to 200
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Accepted Solution

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Maxim5 earned 200 total points
ID: 1553069
Firstly, these cards are old. I have used them in a 95 environment with less than average success. If you have the budget, you will save yourself a lot of headaches by upgrading to a better card.
Dees ain' no generic ne2000 compatible cards, yanowudamean?

I suspect two problems exist with them:

1. Plug and Play is really not doing the trick properly. The card was put out in the early Plug and Pray days, and I hardly think things were stable back then. Heck, dey ain' stable ni! I always disabled PnP and forced the 8416 in manually.

2. I have NEVER had it help by manually setting the frame type on these cards. Some models of >3com's< cards (such as the 3c905B) and other card types seem to require this, but not these. I am about 93.7967 percent certain we are dealing with a fundamental problem here. Possibly a driver problem with NDIS3 support, but since I have been able to get the card to work reasonably well with very little loaded, I suspect the problem is more fundamental.

Secondly (and perhaps relatedly), if you are loading EMM386 (or any other memory management software), or >anything< that would even think of laying a claim on adapter RAM space, then just git rid of it, or at least exclude adapter RAM address space. Do the stuff below if you are loading EMM386 (but I hope you are not. It just ain worth it).

DEVICE=(path junk)\EMM386.EXE X=D000-D1FF

If you are loading something that occassionally clobbers the NIC driver, this will cause the problems you describe. When I used these cards, I loaded up nothing (just barely loaded 95), OK maybe Word and Excel, but that's about it. Most users hobbled along until I could replace them. Now everybody's sittin pretty.

Replace the card and save yourself thwe headache.
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Expert Comment

by:Maxim5
ID: 1553070
Oh.

I forgot to mention this.

I have never found it to be of much use to me on the 8416 NIC (maybe its me), but SMC has a web site (I'm almost sure you're aware of it, but one neva knows, DO one?), www.smc.com.

I think almost all their efforts, where NICS are concerned, are going into their PCI cards. Some of these cards aren't bad.
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Expert Comment

by:Maxim5
ID: 1553071
Another thing. Upgrade your 95 950a's with the patch. If I remember correctly, the patch provides >some< better networking junk. I did this so long ago, I had nearly forgotten about it. <g>
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Author Comment

by:ranxerox
ID: 1553072
Sounds good enough to me...I replaced one of the machines with an SMC PCI Etherpower card, and the lock ups have gone away (as stated above).  My comm. guys highly recommend 3Com cards....do you also recommend these, or do you have any cards that you swear by?  If a pci slot is available, do you recommend it over an ISA card?  FWIW, 90+% of these machines are *not* using EMM386 or any other memory tweek (to my knowledge, but we do have some tinkerers out there).  Thanks for the info.
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Expert Comment

by:Maxim5
ID: 1553073
Yup. I like 3Com cards a lot. Ocassionally you WILL have to force the frame type with some NICS for some motherboards (it seems, for example, some ASUS boards require this when using the 3c905b's). But this is not really an issue. The cards work great.

I use some SMC and Intel PCI based cards and they work nicely also.

I use PCI whenever I can. Its simply better than ISA. Also Pray and Plug seems to work reasonably with most PCI NICS.

Good luck.
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