Troubleshooting Device and BIOS Problems

Windows 2000 (Win2K) supports Plug and Play (PnP), which makes setting up Win2K easier on newer computers. However, if you have a mixture of new and old devices on your system, installing Win2K can be tricky. Let's look at some hardware-related hurdles you might face when installing Win2K.

ACPI-Compliant BIOS
If there's one thing you have to watch when you install Win2K, it's the BIOS. A computer's OS uses the BIOS to communicate with its hardware. An older BIOS can cause boot errors and crashes with Win2K. Newer systems use an Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI)-compliant BIOS. ACPI lets you control individual devices. The ACPI standard OnNow, for example, lets you start a PC by touching a key on the keyboard. With OnNow, a device such as a monitor can enter a sleep mode, and you can wake it up with a keystroke. ACPI supports PnP, so you can install hardware devices while the computer is running. Your system detects the PnP hardware and automatically installs the appropriate drivers. If PnP can’t locate a driver, it prompts you for a location.

If your computer doesn’t support these newer standards, you might run into problems because the setup program will have difficulty communicating with the hardware devices—if it can communicate at all. If the Win2K setup fails, it might provide some helpful information for contacting your vendor or some other methods to resolve the problem.

Older Advanced Power Management (APM) BIOS versions might work with Win2K, if you're lucky, because Win2K supports some of them. With APM, your entire system can enter a standby mode where it uses less power; however, individual devices can’t stand by. Regardless of what type of BIOS you're using, you should make upgrading your BIOS to the latest version a priority. To verify that your BIOS is ACPI-compliant, check the hardware manual, check the Hardware Compatibility List (HCL), or contact your PC vendor.

If you update a BIOS that's not ACPI-compliant, you'll have to run the Win2K setup again to activate the ACPI features. It won’t take very long for setup to finish when you update your BIOS.

I have installed Win2K hundreds of times in the past 3 years, and one of the most common errors that I have seen during setup is the INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE error—an error that has many causes. During setup, you might encounter system crashes because of Sound Blaster and PCI SCSI-card failure. The crash occurs because the BIOS assigns an interrupt to a SCSI card that's already in use. You can modify your BIOS configuration, or you can simply remove the SCSI card, run setup, and reinstall the card after a successful setup.

At the Win2K Tech Week last fall, I picked up a couple 3COM 3CR990-TX-97 10/100 PCI network cards, which have an integrated 3XP processor that maximizes system performance. However, according to Microsoft, the cards have some known problems. I have to remove the cards from the system before I run Win2K setup. I can install the cards after the setup completes, but in some cases upgrading my perfectly healthy system to the release to manufacturing (RTM) version has really messed things up. I tracked down the problem, and the network cards are the culprits. I forgot to take the card out of another multihomed system, and I kept getting the INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE error when I tried to install Win2K. The system had a couple non-PnP ISA devices, an ISA 3COM 3C509B-TX network card, and a PCI 3CR-990-TX network card. The error message instructed me to set my system BIOS to reserve IRQs that ISA devices had reserved. I tried various settings, but the Win2K setup worked only after I removed the 3CR-990-TX card from the system.

It's not easy to throw away old devices that worked fine with Windows NT and Windows 9x and replace them with the latest and greatest PnP versions, but Win2K is much happier if you don’t mix PnP devices with non-PnP devices. Of course, any techie with a knowledge of hardware, IRQs, and a little patience can get the devices to work, but my philosophy is that you should experiment with such things on Windows 2000 Professional (Win2K Pro) test machines and stick to supported devices, BIOS, and the HCL for Windows 2000 Server (Win2K Server).

Non-supported SCSI drivers are another possible cause for the INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE error. Check out the HCL for supported drivers and hardware devices. Here's a brief list of some common non-supported NICs from 3Com, Intel, and SMC. Microsoft has included these adapters in the Win2K release notes but has removed them from the HCL because the vendors no longer support them or because of hardware instability.


  • TokenLink III ISA (3C619B, 3C619C in EISA mode) (ISA)
  • Fast EtherLink 10/100Mb Bus-Master PCI (3C595-TX) (PCI)
  • EtherLink III Bus-Master PCI Ethernet (3C590C) (PCI)
  • EtherLink III Bus-Master PCI Ethernet (3C590TPO) (PCI)
  • EtherLink III Bus-Master PCI Ethernet (3C590) (PCI)


  • EtherExpress 16 (ISA)
  • EtherExpress 16TP (ISA)
  • Ethernet 16E (ISA)
  • EtherExpress Flash 32 (EISA)
  • EtherExpress PRO/10 (PCI)
  • EtherExpress PRO/100 PCI Adapter


  • EtherCard Elite 32 Ultra (8232) (EISA)
  • EtherCard PLUS Elite 16 (WD/8013EP, 8013EPC) (ISA)
  • SMC 8013 WB EtherCard PLUS (ISA)
  • EtherCard PLUS Elite 16 Combo (WD/8013EW or 8013EWC) (ISA)
  • EtherCard PLUS Elite 16T (WD/8013W, 8013WC) (ISA)
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