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PCMCIA Network Card: What NIC to buy?

Posted on 2006-07-24
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Last Modified: 2013-11-09
Hello Everyone,

I am looking at buying some PCMCIA Nics that will grab an IP address on bootup INSTEAD of during login to a Windows Operating System.

The recent PCMCIA Nics I have tried will not grab a NIC until after you login, which causes me problems getting laptops on my Windows 2003 Domain.

Any Suggestions or Thoughts??

Thanks
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Question by:dgriffit55
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by:jhance
ID: 17170863
Ummm, _all_ network cards, when configured for DHCP (i.e. Obtain IP address automatically) will issue the request at boot time, NOT login time.

If your adapter is currently doing this, it's either broken from totally obsolete.
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by:rid
ID: 17171640
I can only agree with the above. What cards are in use? You may want to take a look at what kinds of software is running on the machines in question, some freakish security measure that prevents DHCP requests until user profile is loaded or so?
/RID
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Expert Comment

by:knoxzoo
ID: 17171729
It's possible that the system isn't loading the PCMCIA adapter drivers until the boot is complete and a user logs on.  A rather stupid thing for the manufacturer to do with the drivers, but some did it that way.  If that's the case, it can't load the NIC until the PCMCIA is loaded.

Have you tried USB devices?
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by:rid
ID: 17174301
I just tried booting into windows on a laptop with a PCMCIA NIC (wireless). The link didn't even come up until I did a login. Seems I was a bit premature in my comment. Perhaps this is due to some processes being started for a certain user instead of being system-level processes and this could possibly depend on how drivers are designed. Guesswork here, as you may see and I don't know if this is consistent behaviour for different types of NICs, or if this is depending on drivers for the PCMCIA/cardbus controller.
/RID
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jhance earned 500 total points
ID: 17174425
I still have never encountered one that did this.  While it's not really an issue for a standalone workstation, if your computer was a part of an AD domain you would not be able to authenticate at logon it the network were not up and running.

The PCMCIA bus driver is a "core" driver like the PCI bus driver that gets loaded very early in the boot process.  The network card drivers, which are dependent on their host-bus drivers will get loaded right after that.

The only exceptions that I've seen to this are wireless card drivers which are NOT fully Windows XP (i.e. NDIS 5.1) compliant and require their own software to run.  If this software is implemented as a service (which is should be) then you will not have a problem.  But some implement their wireless configuration as a user process that load at logon time.  These will not establish a wireless link until the user logs in. These, of course, are unsuitable for use in an AD environment.

Check the registry entries for your PCMCIA and NIC drivers and make sure they are configured correctly.  See:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;103000&sd=tech

for background information.  The PCMCIA driver is at:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\PCMCIA

You should see its "Type" as 0x01 or the "SYSTEM" start type.  Same with your NIC card, mine a 3Com that uses a driver called "EL90XBC" is set to 0x03 which is "Load on demand".  As soon as a network service of any kind attempts an operation on it, Windows will load this driver.  Most NICs will use this setting although some will be set to 0x02 for AUTOMATIC.  It's up to the vendor to decide.
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