The transition to 2.5Gbps Ethernet has not been an easy one for Intel. The company's I225/I226 2.5 GbE Ethernet controllers (codename Foxville), a prevalent choice on Intel platform motherboards for the last few years, has presented a fair share of issues since its introduction, including random networking disconnections and stuttering. And while Intel has been working through the issues with multiple revisions of the hardware, they apparently haven't hammered out all of the bugs yet, as evidenced by the latest bug mitigation suggestion from the company. In short, Intel is suggesting that users experiencing connection issues on the latest I226-V controller disable some of the its energy efficiency features, which appear to be a major contributor in the connection stability issues I226-V has been seeing.

To mitigate the connection problems on the I226-V Ethernet controller, Intel is advising affected users to disable Energy-Efficient Ethernet (EEE) mode through Windows Device Manager. The same guidance applies to Linux users as well. EEE mode aims to lower power consumption when the Ethernet connection is in an idle state. The issue is that EEE mode seems to activate when an Ethernet connection is in active use, causing it to drop out momentarily.

And while deactivating EEE does reportedly improve connection stability, deactivating it doesn't seem to be the ultimate solution. Intel has received reports that some users still experienced disconnections with EEE mode disabled. Furthermore, disabling EEE mode forgoes its intended benefits – such as reducing power draw by up to 50% when an Ethernet connection is idling – so it's not an option that cost-conscious consumers would normally want to disable.

Intel has also released an updated driver set for the I226-V/I225-V family of Ethernet controllers that automatically makes this adjustment. Specifically, the patch deactivates EEE mode for connection speeds above 100 Mbps, but users may have to disable it entirely if the workaround doesn't work with their combination of hardware. MSI and Asus have already deployed the new Ethernet driver for their respective Intel 700-series motherboards, so other vendors shouldn't take long to do the same.

In the interim, Intel will continue investigating the root cause and provide a concrete solution for motherboards with the I226-V Ethernet controller. The Foxville family of Intel Ethernet controllers has a long history of connectivity quirks – going back to the original I225-V in 2019 and E3100 in 2020 – ultimately requiring multiple hardware revisions (B1, B2, & B3 steppings) before finding solutions to many of its issues. As a result, it's not off the table that the I226-V Ethernet controller may suffer the same fate.

Source: Intel (via TPU)

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  • dwillmore - Tuesday, March 7, 2023 - link

    I was using DEC Tulip cards in that era, so I never noticed that problems with the various fast ethernet MACs/PHYs.
  • thestryker - Monday, March 6, 2023 - link

    I have a N5105 based box with 4 of these i226 controllers running pfsense and have never had an issue with their operation. I am putting together a new server box which has two of them onboard, but I'm not sure I will have windows on it long enough to really test stability though I would like to try.

    Seeing as there haven't been any recalls, new revisions, or much solid info as to what could be going on it doesn't seem like it's a hardware flaw like the i225. I've not seen anyone experiencing the problem running anything other than windows, and I've not seen anyone test anything else to see if it still happens.
  • DigitalFreak - Monday, March 6, 2023 - link

    I would assume pfsense disables the power savings features. Either that or the FreeBSD driver is less flawed.
  • - Monday, March 6, 2023 - link

    Netgate (the developer of pfSense) wrote the FreeBSD driver.
  • Samus - Tuesday, March 7, 2023 - link

    I've seen TORRENT CLIENTS recommend disabling EEE, Green Ethernet, and "allow computer to turn off this device to save power' settings, though the clients do not do it for you.

    But it says a lot when software creators making programs that depend on 24/7 connectivity know there are reliability issues with these modern NICs and PHY's they are going out of their way to warn you.
  • Skeptical123 - Wednesday, March 8, 2023 - link

    One user and one system is way too small of sample size to draw any conclusions.

    “Seeing as there haven't been any recalls, new revisions, or much solid info as to what could be going on it doesn't seem like it's a hardware flaw like the i225” Yup that’s not the case nor how it works.

    If I recall correctly the i226 is the latest revision of the i225-V. The i225-v had three hardware revisions ending in i225-V (REV_03). So they bumped up the number to i226. With the history and nature of nic chips (networkstack/ PHYs) I’d be shocked if anyone with knowledge on the subject did not at least suspect some level of issue.

    “ I've not seen anyone experiencing the problem running anything other than windows, and I've not seen anyone test anything else to see if it still happens” because that’s the only user base really using these atm.
  • thestryker - Thursday, March 9, 2023 - link

    They've been sold in networking boxes out of china for going on 6 months and this is where they appeared first. Nobody in the giant STH thread on these devices has reported any problems, but nobody runs bare windows on them. STH reviewed at least 3 different types of the boxes using these controllers and reported no problems there either. They certainly experienced the problems with the first two revisions of the i225, but nothing after.
  • Skeptical123 - Thursday, March 9, 2023 - link

    Yup, like I said that does not matter much. "Real" deployments in industry are at best just starting to happen. Even LTT noted this in one of their recent server updates. Even pfsense just recently got support for the chip for context.

    It’s still too soon to say these nics are free of major hardware issues. Windows running on them is not really a factor. I’m aware of the great work STH does and their forms. You're welcome to check out my post there on a said i226 box.
  • lopri - Saturday, March 11, 2023 - link

    There have been 3 revisions.
  • blzd - Monday, March 6, 2023 - link

    How is Intel still selling these flawed ethernet controller?

    I had to dig through motherboard options to make sure I didn't get one with it. Of course the boards that use the flawed Intel ethernet are on sale more often so ended up paying more just to avoid Intel ethernet.

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