To get the most out of your NetWare server, Novell recommends that you use its client software, rather than Microsoft’s client, on your workstations. Most of the time the Novell client works great, but sometimes users complain that it slows down their computers. In this Daily Feature, I’ll identify ten things you can do to optimize the Novell Client on your workstations.

Author’s Note

For the purposes of this Daily Feature, I’ll focus on tuning the Novell Client 4.83 for Windows NT/2000/XP on a Windows 2000 Professional computer. However, most of the tuning tips will apply equally well on all versions of the Novell Client and on all platforms.

Check your installed client software
By default, when you install Windows 2000, it will install the Client For Microsoft Networks. You’ll only need this client if you plan to connect to a Windows NT server, connect to a Windows 2000 server, or use peer-to-peer sharing on the workstation. If you’re only going to connect to a NetWare server and don’t need these additional services, you can safely eliminate the Client For Microsoft Networks. If you don’t get rid of it, it will consume RAM on your workstation and cause your workstation to do extra work transmitting network packets using both clients.

To remove the client, right click My Network Places and select Properties. When the Network And Dial-up Connections window appears, right-click Local Area Connection and select Properties. This will display the Local Area Connection Properties screen.

In the Components scroll box, you’ll see all the clients, protocols, and network services configured for your workstation. To remove the Client For Microsoft Networks, select it and click Uninstall. When Uninstall finishes, you’ll need to restart the workstation.

If you must use both the Client For Microsoft Networks and the Novell Client, but primarily use NetWare resources, you can reorder Windows 2000’s preferences to make the Novell Client take priority. To do so, select Local Area Connection in the Network And Dial-Up Connections windows, and then select Advanced Settings from the Advanced menu.

From the resulting Advanced Settings window, click the Provider Order tab. This tab controls the order in which your Windows 2000 workstation uses network resources. Make sure the Novell Client is at the top of the list. If it isn’t, select Novell client, and then click the up arrow to the right of the Network Providers box. This will cause the Novell Client to rise to the top of the Network Provider list. Click OK to save your changes and then reboot your workstation.

Tune Novell Client settings
The Novell Client has many different settings you can change to tune the Novell client. You can find these settings by selecting the Novell Client in Local Area Connection Properties and then clicking Properties. When the Novell Client Properties window appears, click Advanced Settings.

When the Advanced Settings window appears, you’ll see a list of settings in a scroll box. As you select each setting, the default value for the setting will appear in the Setting list. Additionally, the range of values for the setting will appear directly underneath the Setting list as well as within the Description pane. The Description pane will also give you a detailed description of the setting. You can use the Settings and Description listings to tweak the values for the setting.

Settings that effect network performance include:

  • Burst Mode
  • File Caching
  • File Commit
  • Give Up On Requests To SAs
  • Large Internet Packets
  • Large Internet Packet Start Size
  • Link Support Max Buffer Size
  • Max Read Burst Size
  • Max Write Burst Size
  • Minimum Time To Net
  • Name Resolution Timeout
  • Quit Idle Connects
  • Replica Timeout
  • Server Cache Timeout
  • SLP Cache Replies
  • SLP Default Registration Timeout
  • SLP Multicast Radius
  • Wait Before Giving Up On DA
  • Wait Before Registering On Passive DA

Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule about which values you should assign to these settings. The effectiveness of changing the settings will vary depending on the network applications you use. Increasing the value of a setting may make one application go faster, but make something else go slower. Check with your application vendors to see if they have recommended settings for the Novell Client and their applications.

Some settings have a trade-off between speed and safety. For example, you can enable packet bursting in the Novell Client to increase performance, but doing so with some NICs can cause them to become unstable and/or to drop packets. Increasing the File Caching setting will cause the workstation to cache more data in memory, but you then risk losing data and corrupting files if your workstation crashes. Likewise, increasing the File Commit settings can cause the workstation to transmit data across the network less often, increasing performance but causing it to wait too long to write out data. This can increase the likelihood that you lose data in the case of a workstation failure. Conversely, shorting the setting may cause the NIC to write data to the server too often, flooding the network with needless packets.

The best course of action is to experiment with the settings in a lab environment. You can take general guidance from Novell’s Support Web site, Usenet, and other Internet resources, but don’t be surprised if you see conflicting recommendations. When you find what works best for your system, you can try rolling it out to other workstations, but be aware that even then the actual results may vary.

Another way you can tune the Novell client is by only using the features that you need. When you install the Novell client, you should always do a Custom Installation. That way, you can control which components and protocols Setup will configure for the client. On the Select Components screen, make sure you select only NetWare features that you plan to use. For example, if you’re not using ZENWorks, there’s no reason to install the ZENWorks Application Launcher or ZENWorks Imaging Service. Doing so will only cause the Novell Client to load additional services when it starts, taking away valuable workstation memory.

Likewise, when the Protocol Options screen appears, select only the protocols you plan to use. Don’t install support for both IPX and IP if you plan to actually only use one protocol. Doing so can cause the problems and conflicts I mentioned in the first section.

While paying attention to the Novell Client’s settings, don’t neglect your server’s memory. Remember that the Novell Client takes memory away from the workstation’s other tasks. A workstation that has an installed amount of RAM that is right at the borderline of being able to run an OS or OS/application combination will suffer tremendously when you add a memory intensive application like the Novell Client. Check the RAM requirements of both your OS and your applications to make sure you have more RAM in your workstation than the minimum requirements.

Prioritize protocols
NetWare can use either IPX or TCP/IP as a protocol for network packets. Windows 2000 Professional can support IPX, TCP/IP, and NetBEUI for network communication. Depending on how you configured your server and workstations, the workstation may be running more than one protocol. This isn’t a good idea because it causes the workstation to have to broadcast a packet for each protocol it’s running. This creates extra work for the workstation and extra traffic on your network.

If possible, you should consolidate protocols on your network, thus eliminating the ones you don’t need. The general trend is to eliminate legacy protocols, such as NetBEUI and IPX, and go with an all TCP/IP network. If you’re running NetWare 4.11 or later on your server, this isn’t a problem because these versions of NetWare can run TCP/IP as their native protocol. Additionally, the Novell Client can use either TCP/IP or IPX as its primary protocol.

Check the Local Area Connections Properties screen mentioned above and identify the protocols running on your workstation. If you’re running NetBEUI, you can kill it immediately without having any negative impact on your network. Just select it and click Uninstall.

If you’re running both TCP/IP and IPX, you’ll have to decide which to keep. Unless you have applications that require IPX or IPX’s companion protocol SPX, you can eliminate IPX safely. Check the documentation for any applications you have on your network to make sure they don’t require IPX. If they don’t, remove IPX from the NetWare server using INETCFG at the server. Doing this is beyond the scope of this article, but you can find out how to enable TCP/IP by reading the Daily Drill Down “Configuring TCP/IP on your NetWare server for Internet access.” This article will give you the feel for how INETCFG works, so you can remove IPX.

You can then remove IPX from the workstation by highlighting it in the Local Area Connection Properties page and clicking Uninstall. You should also check the Properties for the Novell Client and make sure IPX is removed there.

To do so, select Novell Client and open its Properties window. From there, click the Protocol Preferences tab. Check the selection in the Preferred Network Protocol drop-down list. By default, the Novell Client leaves this set to None. With a setting of None, the Novell client uses a protocol on a first-come, first-served basis. As such, performance suffers because the client may not be using the best protocol. Select IP from the Preferred Network Protocol drop-down list.

At the same time you do this, you’ll notice the Protocol Component Settings box become available with a list of services. This list contains the services that the protocol will use for name resolution. Don’t select more services than necessary. If you’re primarily using TCP/IP, you should only need NDS, Host File, DNS, and SLP. If IPX is still listed, you can select it and then deselect any highlighted components in the Protocol Component Settings box.

Check your network card
Many performance problems can arise as a result of problems with the workstation’s NIC. The fact that the card seems to be operating properly doesn’t mean it’s operating optimally.

Start by making sure the network card driver you’re using is the proper one for the card. Frequently, Windows 2000 installs the wrong network card driver for a NIC when it autodetects the card. Windows 2000 makes the best guess it can based on the chips it detects during the autodetection routine; however, on many generic cards, it guesses wrong. You can check the installed driver in the Local Area Network Connections Properties page.

You should obtain and install the proper and latest version of the NIC driver for the card. If you need to reinstall the driver, click the Configure button in Local Area Network Connections and then select the Driver tab. Click the Update Driver tab. When the Wizard opens, go through the screens and select the new driver, either from a manufacturer’s CD-ROM or from an updated driver that you download from the Internet.

If you have the wrong driver altogether, you have a lot of work to do. First, obtain the proper driver for the NIC maker or from the Internet. Next, uninstall the Novell Client along with all of the other protocols and clients on the workstation. Remove the wrong driver from Device Manager in My Computer. After that, you can run the Hardware Wizard to install the proper driver. Finally, reinstall the Novell client and any other client or protocol you need.

Even if you’re running the proper driver for the NIC, it doesn’t mean that the driver is configured properly. Commonly an NIC’s duplex settings will be set incorrectly. A NIC can either be set to full-duplex mode or half-duplex mode. In full-duplex mode an NIC can transmit and receive data at the same time. In half-duplex mode, the NIC can transmit data or receive data, but not both at the same time.

What most dictates how the NIC can transmit is whether the card connects to a hub or a switch at the other end. Switches usually support full duplex, while hubs do not. Check your hub or switch to see which duplex mode it supports. Then, check the settings for the NIC to make sure it matches.

You can verify the setting by clicking Configure in Local Area Connection Settings. Check the Advanced tab. The exact value you’ll change to indicate full-duplex or half-duplex mode will vary from NIC to NIC. Avoid an autodetect setting, because if the NIC autodetects and misconfigures itself, it may try communicating with the wrong duplex setting, which definitely will slow down network transmissions.

Tinker, tailor, soldier (on), spy (your performance)
The Novell Client is a complex piece of software. Getting the peak performance out of it can be a difficult task, but if you follow some basic steps and experiment with different settings, you can eventually find the best settings for your workstations. Keep an eye out for configurations that may lead to instability or reduced safety as the result of increased speed.