Windows 2003 Server

Chapter 2

Managing Hardware Devices

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At the end of this chapter you should be able to:

  • Understand the importance of managing hardware

  • Understand the purpose of device drivers

  • Configure hardware resource settings and resolve resource setting conflicts

  • Configure driver signing options

  • Optimize server processor and memory usage

  • Create and configure hardware profiles

  • Configure server power options

Introduction to Managing Hardware

As a network administrator you will be given the task of maintaining and upgrading server hardware.  This chapter will look at different things to consider and be aware of when working with hardware.


Hardware Compatibility

In earlier versions of Windows, Microsoft published a Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) that contained a list of all hardware that was compatible with it's OS's.  In Windows Server 2003 they introduced the Windows Server Catalog.  The Windows Server Catalog contains a list of all hardware that officially contains the "Designed for Windows Sever 2003" logo.  It is possible that hardware not found in the catalog will work, but the Microsoft will require it's removal before any troubleshooting can begin.

Understanding Device Drivers

A device driver is software that allows the OS to interact with hardware.  If you install a new modem in your server you need to install the device driver so the OS knows how to access the modem.  Since the device driver is a software program it sometimes can have bugs and need an upgrade.  As an administrator you will want to keep your server device drivers up to date.


Device Manager

The device manager is the snap-in that allows you to view the status of your device drivers.  Using this tool you can do the following:

  • Determine whether installed hardware is functioning properly

  • View and change hardware resource settings

  • Determine and change the drivers used by a device

  • Enable, disable and uninstall devices

  • Configure advanced settings for devices

  • View and print summary information about devices installed on a server

LAB ACTIVITY - Do the lab on page 50. (10 Minutes)

Adding New Devices

There are two types of devices that you will add to a computer.  Plug and play devices and legacy devices.  Plug and play devices will usually be detected by the OS automatically, and legacy devices will need to be manually configured.  Legacy devices are usually older hardware.  We will now look at each type in more detail.


Plug and Play Devices

In order for plug and play to work it has to be built into the device, enabled in the servers BIOS, and built into the OS kernel.  Windows Server 2003 does have it built in and our servers have it enabled.  When a new device is inserted into the computer and the computer is turned Windows will discover it, set the hardware settings, and install a driver.  If Windows can't find an appropriate driver it will ask for the location of the driver.  At this point the media that came with the device would need to be inserted.


LAB ACTIVITY - Do the lab on page 52. (5 Minutes)


Legacy Devices

Usually legacy devices use the Industry Standard Architecture  (ISA) to connect to the server.  When a legacy device is installed Windows may detect it but it won't be able to set its hardware settings.  You will need to use the Add Hardware Wizard to install the device driver.  You may also have to set jumpers on the card to give it the correct hardware settings.

Hardware Resource Settings

In the previous section we talked about the hardware settings that are set when a device is installed.  We will look at what those hardware settings are now.  The four types of resources that a hardware can utilize.

  • Direct Memory Access (DMA) channels

  • Input/Output (I/O) ranges

  • Interrupt request (IRQ) lines

  • Memory address ranges

Direct Memory Access Channels

This allows a device to transfer information directly to memory without involving the CPU.  Drives usually use this resource, hard drives, cd-roms, and floppy drives.


Input/Output Rages

This is the location in memory where a device sends data to and receives data from when it is talking with the system.


Interrupt Request Lines

IRQ are what the devices use to let the CPU know they want attention.  When a NIC sends all its data to its I/O range it will send an IRQ to let the processor know the data is there.  In older systems you could only have one device on an IRQ.  With Plug and Play and Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) devices can now have multiple device share an IRQ, you can also go above the 15th IRQ.  Below is a table that shows the common IRQ's
IRQ# Usage   IRQ# Usage
0 System Timer 8 Real-time Clock
1 Keyboard Controller 9 Redirected to IRQ2
2 Cascade for IRQ8 - 15 10 Primary SCSI Controller
3 Serial Port (COM2 & 4) 11 Secondary SCSI Controller
4 Serial Port (COM1 & 3) 12 PS/2 Mouse
5 NIC / Sound / LPT2 13 Math Coprocessor
6 Floppy Disk Controller 14 Hard Drive Controller
7 Parallel Port (LPT1) 15 Unassigned


Memory Addresses

Memory addresses are used to communicate with hardware devices and the operating system.  The range must be unique for each device.


LAB ACTIVITY - Do the lab on page 58. (5 Minutes)


Troubleshooting Resource Settings Conflicts

By now you have already seen how to find the resource setting using the device manager.  Another tool you can use is the System Information tool.  Take a few minutes to look at it by clicking Start - Run and typing msinfo32.exe and click OK.

Configuring Device Driver Signing

Microsoft will sign all drivers that it tests with a digital signature.  You can control what happens if a device is installed that doesn't have a signature.  The three modes for driver signing are:

  • Ignore - Install the software anyway and don't ask for my approval

  • Warn - Prompt me each time to choose an action.

  • Block - Never install unsigned driver software.

LAB ACTIVITY - Do the lab on page 62. (10 Minutes)

LAB ACTIVITY - Do the lab on page 63. (10 Minutes)

Roll Back Driver Feature

If you upgrade to a newer driver that turns out to be unstable you can roll back to a previous version of that driver.


LAB ACTIVITY - Do the lab on page 65. (15 Minutes)

Configuring Processor and Memory Settings

Windows Server 2003 allows you to configure settings that can help increase performance of your processor and memory.  They will be covered in this section.


Processor Scheduling

You can set the processor to be optimized for background services or programs.  In most cases you will want the server to be optimized for background services.  The server should not be used as a workstation so it doesn't need to be optimized for applications. 

By default the memory usage is set to be allocated to system cache.  This will provide better performance to network services.


Virtual Memory

Virtual memory is using part of your hard drive to expand memory.  This is a file stored on your hard drive called pagefile.sys.  The default location of this file and size can be changed.  Some common rules to use when trying to optimize Virtual Memory (page file) are outlined below

  • Move the page file off the boot partition.  (Partition that contains the Windows folder)

  • If you have multiple disks place a paging file on each disk

  • In a mirrored set or volume place the page file on the the main disk and not the mirrored.

  • Do not place the page file on stripe set or volume, stripe set with parity, or RAID-5 volume

LAB ACTIVITY - Do the lab on page 68. (10 Minutes)


Memory for Network Performance

You can choose how you want memory to be optimized by choosing the File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks properties.

Hardware Profiles

Hardware profiles allow you to choose what devices will start on boot up.  Laptops use this feature since they travel more then desktops.  You may have dock at work and no dock at home.  Using hardware profiles you can have the dock NIC active when you are at work and the laptop NIC active when you are at home.


LAB ACTIVITY - Do the lab on page 72. (15 Minutes)

Configuring Power Options

In the power options applet you can set the sleep settings are for the computer, what happens when the power button is pressed, enable/disable hibernation, or setup a UPS.


LAB ACTIVITY - Do the lab on page 75. (5 Minutes)

More Information


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