Build Your Skills: Hardware installation tips to help pass Win2K exams

Master Microsofts hardware installation techniques

Before you can pass the Managing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Environment exam (test 70-218), you must know Redmond's approved procedures for installing hardware. Even though you may have your own hardware configuration process in place, you'll be tested on Microsoft's recommended methods on several exams, including 70-218.

First, know the four resource types
The first items to memorize are the four resources associated with hardware devices:
  • Interrupt requests (IRQs)
  • Direct memory access (DMA) channels
  • Input/output (I/O) port addresses
  • Memory ranges

Any time a hardware device or peripheral, such as a mouse or keyboard, needs to communicate with the CPU, it uses interrupt request paths. PCs and servers possess 16 IRQs, which are labeled 0 to 15. Typically, many IRQs are dedicated to specific components. For example, a PS/2 mouse usually uses IRQ 12, while the keyboard usually receives IRQ 1. Thus, 16 IRQs aren't automatically available when a new device, such as a network adapter, is added to a system. As a result, conflicts can occur.

Devices use DMA channels to send and retrieve information directly from memory without processor assistance. There are only eight DMA channels, and they are numbered 0 through 7.

When a device sends an interrupt request to the CPU, the CPU checks the specific portion of memory, known as the I/O port address, dedicated to that device. Information found in memory at that address helps the CPU know how to respond to the device's request. Thousands of I/O port addresses exist, so conflicts are rare, especially with Plug and Play devices. When I/O port address conflicts arise, they are usually due to manually specified overlapping address ranges. I/O port devices are composed of a base address and a parameter specifying length. These addresses are specified using hexadecimal notation, which for a network adapter can read 2000 - 201F.

Memory ranges are more complicated. The operating system, video cards, and other devices regularly use the CPU to store and retrieve information from a system's memory. Specific ranges are allotted for each application and device, and these ranges must be unique to each source. Memory ranges are specified as eight-digit hexadecimal addresses. For example, a network adapter might receive a memory address range of 42000000 - 42000FFF. Most modern chips use flat 32-bit address spaces that support up to 4 GB of address ranges, so memory range conflicts are rare with newer systems.

When a device fails to work properly, use the Windows 2000 Device Manager to check the device's settings for these four resources. You can view and edit each of these resources for a device by clicking Start | Settings | Control Panel | System. Next, select the Hardware tab, click the Device Manager button, right-click on the device in question (not just its category), and select Properties from the pop-up menu. Select the Resources tab, and you'll see settings similar to those shown in Figure A.

Figure A
Use Device Manager to troubleshoot resource settings.

Second, know Plug and Play procedures
Windows 2000 recognizes most hardware. However, it is not uncommon to find that an occasional device doesn't get recognized properly. Plug and Play is smart enough to reconfigure other devices, should a new peripheral require that other device settings change to accommodate the new peripheral. However, Windows 2000 doesn't always automatically configure new hardware, even if the new hardware is Plug and Play compatible.

You can trigger Plug and Play configuration in some of these cases by opening Control Panel's Add/Remove Hardware Wizard and selecting Add/Troubleshoot A Device. Sometimes, though, it is necessary to manually specify the settings used by a Plug and Play peripheral that has failed to configure properly, and it's almost always necessary to manually enter configuration information for non-Plug and Play hardware.

Third, know how to configure non-Plug and Play hardware
Use Control Panel's Add/Remove Hardware applet to manually install a device. The Add/Remove Hardware Wizard will open. Click Next on the welcome screen, and two options will become available. Select the first, Add/Troubleshoot A Device. Plug and Play will then attempt to detect the device.

If the device is listed in the Devices window, highlight the troublesome peripheral and click Next. If the device isn't detected, you'll need to click Add A New Device in the Devices window and then click Yes, Search For New Hardware in the next window. The Add/Remove Hardware Wizard will try to detect non-Plug and Play devices. If the system finds new devices, it will display them in the Detected Hardware window. Select the device you want to install and click Next.

Should the system fail again to find the non-Plug and Play device, click Next. The Hardware Type window will open. Specify the peripheral you want to add from the Hardware Types window and click Next.

In the last step, you must specify the driver that the device should use. This is true both for devices that Plug and Play found and those it did not. Choose the manufacturer from the left pane and the respective device model in the right pane. Or click Have Disk if you have the driver on a floppy or hard disk, CD-ROM, or network share. Click Next to load the driver and specify the driver's location, if necessary.

Eckel's take
Those are the prescribed methods for troubleshooting Plug and Play and hardware resource errors. Keep these methodologies in mind when preparing for any Microsoft exam that's likely to test you on hardware configuration.

In the real world, other utilities are available. Many manufacturers and vendors include their own diagnostic tools with their drivers, and often a device is installed using its own Setup file, which can eliminate the need for the Add/Remove Hardware Wizard.

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