Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Intel DH55TC network drivers for Windows Home Server client restore

Windows Home Server is superb, except for one really really annoying aspect. The WinPE-based restore procedure for client PCs doesn't detect the network card on any of my three home PCs, meaning I have to find the driver files and put them on a USB key for WHS to find manually. What's more, the drivers that WHS automatically extracts from the client PCs and stores with each backup image don't work either (not sure why, although the restore CD is based on Vista, whereas all my PCs are Windows 7), and in the case of the Realtek NIC in my Acer Aspire One netbook, even the correct drivers from Acer don't work due to some sort of bug.

I sorted out the Aspire One problem a while ago, thanks to this post on the Microsoft WHS forums, which pointed me to a suitable generic driver on the Realtek website. For the Intel DX48BT2 board in my main desktop PC, it was a little easier, but still a nuisance. And when I built my new media PC with a brand new DH55TC motherboard and onboard Intel Gigagibt NIC, I thought it would surely be supported. Nope.

The problem with Intel NIC drivers is that they are bundled in an installer package, so you can't just download a few versions and try them out. Luckily, the team at does this for you, collecting thousands of drivers for every conceivable device. The idea is to use the driver packs for slipstreaming Windows installs, or just to keep everything up to date. I got the latest LAN driver pack, extracted all the Intel driver directories onto a USB key and tried it - success! So if you have a WHS client using this board, here's the step-by-step procedure :

  • Download the latest Windows Vista (x86) driver pack for LAN drivers 
  • Using 7Zip, open the downloaded file and navigate to the x86/L/Intel directory. 
  • Copy the entire contents of the Intel directory to a USB key or CD
  • Boot from the WHS Client Restore CD, and when it doesn't find any network drivers, click 'Install Drivers'
  • Put the USB key into the PC, then click Scan. After a few moments it should say 'Drivers found...'. Click OK and you should now see that it has detected the Intel Gigabit NIC. Now continue the restore as usual.
Update: As Windows Server 'Vail' (the new version of WHS based on Windows Server 2008) uses a very similar restore procedure, this same procedure should work there too. I tried it successfully with my Aspire One netbook)


    1. Interesting, and timely. My dad's machine (he's a state away from me, so I can't see the results firsthand) sees a Realtek network card when it boots from the latest WHS recovery CD, but doesn't seem to enable the network adapter.

      I tried getting the drivers from the backup server and copying those files to a flash drive, but it never installed any new hardware drivers.

      Do you have any idea how to perhaps override the driver that it already installed? I'm assuming that the realtek driver that the CD loads is slightly different, and that's what is causing my problems trying to restore the machine.

    2. That's exactly the problem I had - WHS detects a Realtek card and shows that it's loaded a driver, but it doesn't work. It took me ages to work out what was happening.

      The solution is to let it detect the Realtek driver, then press the 'Install drivers' button, insert the USB key in with the correct driver and press 'Scan'. This will override the driver from the WHS restore CD.

      For the Aspire One, the driver that works is at

      Choose the "Vista and WinServer 2008" download, extract all the files from the zip file onto a USB key.

    3. I forwarded a link to this page to my dad. A while later he called me and was wanting to know the admin password for the home server.

      He followed your instructions, and got the network adapter working. He praised your information. I'm certainly happier. I was frustrated that he'd messed up the machine in the first place, but the knowledge that he could recover from a good backup made me feel a little better. When we were not able to connect to the server I was just that much more frustrated. (The WHS as backup is my suggested solution, and if it wasn't working, then I'm mad at myself.)

    4. Thanks for the tip. Got me all fixed up with a REALTEK card.