HP DC7900 and Intel Quad Port ET, BIOS hangs



  • I have been lurking here a few years, and thought I'd finally take the plunge with a pfsense home firewall-cum-IDS system.

    So… because of how cheap second-hand business PCs are, and some reading here, I picked up an HP DC7900 small form factor desktop. I was really planning to use an 8000 because it uses DDR3, but my bid on a DC7900 turned out to be high enough.

    I was thinking I could set up pfsense in a VM on top of ESXi, and do other things with the box. Anyway, I also got hold of an Intel Gigabit ET Quad Port Server Adapter, a PCI Express 4x add-in card, and bumped the RAM to 8GB, the economically reasonable maximum (4GB sticks of DDR2 are expensive, around $120-150 each, second user, in my area).

    So, the problem is that the machine will not post with the Intel adapter. Video comes up, the memory check happens, and then it just hangs with no beep code or other error message. If I enable it in BIOS, I see a message that the internal NIC is initialising PXE boot. That is all. I can't even get into BIOS Setup, although the machine appears to respond to my first key press by displaying the message "Setup" ... but then nothing happens.

    The card works fine in another machine (a self-build HTPC). I have tried both x4 slots, swapped out the PSU, tried all available BIOS settings, cleared CMOS, unprovisioned AMT. In my other machine, I tried prepping the Intel card by disabling all its option ROMs, and using IOUTIL to disable I/O Map Mode. No dice. I am on the latest BIOS, which is said to be undowngradeable.

    So, from reading here it seems as though the Intel cards are very popular, and even the HP desktops are used by some. Does anyone have any experience with this type of issue?

    My thoughts are that I should give up now and maybe try another model of PC or another quad-port card, maybe a bridgeless one such as the i340/i350. However, the NICs are harder to find than the PCs, and the bridgeless ones more expensive, so I would rather change the machine. Does anyone here have a quad-port Intel NIC working in an HP SFF desktop?

    Alternatively, maybe there is something I haven't tried yet. As a "big iron" solution, I have looked at Intel's datasheet for non-volatile memory of the 82576EB ethernet controller, and it seems as though there may be scope for tweaking the configuration of the NIC using ethtool, but honestly I am out of my depth here. Besides, it seems more likely that it is the HP Insyde BIOS that should be tweaked, and there doesn't seem to be much documentation out there, and I would be even more out of my depth anyway.

    But maybe there are some ethtool "recipes" for people to tweak the NIC, to make it present a different face to the PC's BIOS?

    One other thing: it seems as though the NIC itself doesn't get firmware updates, except for its option ROMs. The Bootutil Readme just talks about PXE, iSCSI, FCoE, and EFI utility - so I haven't bothered to flash the card with the latest combo FLB file. Am I wrong, and if so is the "core firmware" flashed as part of the Bootutil thing, or do I have to look elsewhere?



  • I've got three DC7900s  :-[  but I've only ever tried a dual-port adapter.

    Did you try it in different slots?  There is some gotcha with the slots in these machines that will, for example, cause a video card in the wrong slot (or maybe adjacent slot to something else) to do the same.

    That's the only problem I've ever had with the DC7900 but it was easy enough to work around it.



  • It's interesting that you have had success with a dual port card - I do think the bridge in the old quad cards may be a problem with some BIOSes.

    Yes, I have tried both x4 capable slots, and there is no other card in the machine.

    I was thinking I might want to add a SAS RAID adapter in one of the two x4 slots, which is why I am leaning towards getting a quad port card. But I could maybe get by with a dual port.

    What card do you have working in your DC7900(s)?



  • The dual-port is now in an N40L that's being used as an ESXi host.  I'd have to pull it from there to find out.  They are not easy boxes to get cards in and out of!  I'll see if I can find some other way to ID the card but it was an HP-branded Intel.



  • OK, pulled it from the N40L.  It's an HP NC360T (2 x 82571EB controllers).

    As it was out, I plugged it in to the DC7900 with ESXi 5.1 installed.  No boot problem and both ports recognized.

    I was looking for a quad port NIC myself but got this card for $60.  A whole lot less expensive than any quad I had seen.



  • @biggsy:

    OK, pulled it from the N40L.  It's an HP NC360T (2 x 82571EB controllers).

    As it was out, I plugged it in to the DC7900 with ESXi 5.1 installed.  No boot problem and both ports recognized.

    I was looking for a quad port NIC myself but got this card for $60.  A whole lot less expensive than any quad I had seen.

    Thanks very much for doing this. I think your card has one 82571EB controller, with two ports. That could be the issue with the early quads, because they have 2 controllers and a PCI Express bridge, making it a more complex task to enumerate the devices.

    Yes, the quads are more expensive, but I managed to get hold of the ET for about $75, which is why I am reluctant to give up on it - just need to find a machine that can handle it. I think I might see if I can acquire a DC7800, which is based on the Q35 chipset, to see if it happens to cope. Q35 is mostly the same as Q45 other than the integrated video and an 8GB max.



  • I think your card has one 82571EB controller, with two ports.

    Yes, you're right.

    Good luck with the DC7800.