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Dodgy Realtek network card drivers


Unless you are in a big corporate network where you can bulk buy identical computers for a uniform hardware specification, you are most likely buying computers in small batches with different hardware.

One of the side effects of this is that you are more than likely to get a computer with a Realtek network card in it. Realtek seems to be the choice of budget to mid range motherboards, with Marvell and Broadcom cards in the slightly higher bracket.

I’ve never really had a problem with Realtek cards, I used to love the 8139 100MB network card. Lately however, I’ve been less impressed. During our network migration at work, we had some issues with 11 pc’s not properly applying the Computer policy section of Group Policy. The most telling error was that the computer couldn’t find a domain controller, even though it actually could. Intensive investigation discovered that all the computers had the same Realtek network card in it, the 8110SC.

I had downloaded the latest drivers from the motherboards manufacturer’s website prior to the migration, and we used these drivers. Previous experience has taught me to use these rather than drivers at Realtek’s website, as those are usually plain drivers, incompatible with the modifications made by the manufacturers.

After almost buying a box of Intel network cards, I discovered later drivers on Realtek’s website, and I decided to use those. Lo and behold, after rebooting the computer, everything was working properly. This couldn’t come too soon, as we discovered that our second computer lab had the exact same issue, and buying 38 network cards was out of the question. It seems that the earlier drivers were buggy, and didn’t bring the network card up properly during boot up, hence the Computer policies not applying.

This whole experience has motivated me to make sure that when we next buy computers, they will only be with Intel motherboards in them. While lacking some features, Intel boards are solid and stable, and they have Intel network cards on them, cards I know will never give strange issues.

In short, many network cards out there will work absolutely fine in a home or small office environment, but are totally unsuitable for a bigger network. Be careful, and if you have no choice, try to get the latest possible drivers.

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  1. April 22, 2010 at 17:55

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