Replacing NICs on an SBS server

This topic comes up from time to time. In times past, the method of choice to replacing a NIC was to use the loopback connector approach, which went something like this:

  • Install the MS Loopback Adapter

  • Uninstall the real NIC, but don’t shutdown.

  • Configure loopback to same IP as real. Don’t forget to check your binding order. When you throw in the loopback you want it at the top of the list.

  • Shutdown, remove original, install new.

  • Install new drivers.

  • Remove loopback.

  • Configure real to original IP

  • Restart. Don’t forget to check your binding order. The new NIC goes at the top when you change from the loopback.

But with SBS 2003, it turns out we can do it sans the loopback connector. We have two variations, one by Charlie Russell, and the other by Les Connors.

Here is Charlie Russell’s approach:

  • Disconnect from all networks by pulling the plug(s)

  • Disable the old NICs. If they’re built in, disable them in Device Manager as well.

  • Shutdown

  • Remove the NICs, if you can, or disable them in the BIOS if they’re built in.

  • Insert the new NICs.

  • Power Up.

  • Log in. It’ll probably complain, but should let you in to the 500 account. If not, do safe mode.

  • Let Windows find the new NICs

  • Assign fixed IP address(s) to the NIC(s)

  • Run the CEICW (really only required if replacing the external WAN Nic)

  • Reboot

Les Connors has an even simpler process that he uses:

  • I prefer to power down, install new nic(s), power up and detect.

  • Disable old nic(s), transfer settings to new.

  • Run CEICW.

Les says that this avoids the usual very lengthy restart when things can’t bind to the NICs. Disabling the on-board nics in BIOS is optional, but does prevent
accidentally enabling them from the OS later.

I didn’t mention the cleanup ;-). It’s likely that the bios disabled nics remain in device manager as ghosted nics, and this can cause some later issues. They should be removed by showing non-present devices and show hidden devices, and removed. The advantage to the loopback adapters is that services don’t balk, keeping the event log red bangs to a minimum. They are also useful if doing a forklift to new hardware (or virtualizing a physical server). But for a simple nic swap, I agree – loopbacks don’t offer a huge advantage.


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