Windows Vista and Scalable Networking

Over a year ago, I explored an issue of Windows Vista and its problems with using default networking settings relevant to Windows Scaling. The first known problem with Windows Scaling was an exciting networking option called Receive Window AutoTuning, which became a problem when an older router was in use.

Besides AutoTuning, which is a problem with older routers, there are two additional networking options - TCP Offload ("Chimney") and Receive-side Scaling ("RSS"), which are a similar problem with older networking adapters. If your computer suffers from symptoms similar to the well known MTU setting problem, and you get no relief from disabling RWin AutoTuning, consider disabling TCP Offload and Receive-side Scaling.

In a Vista command window (Run as Admin), enter

netsh interface tcp set global chimney=disabled
netsh interface tcp set global rss=disabled

TCP Chimney Offload takes a portion of the TCP/IP network stack, currently run on your computer as part of the Windows operating system, and runs it in a dedicated processor on a TOE capable network adapter. Less work for the operating system + processing as part of the physical networking adapter = better performance.

Receive-side Scaling allows processing of incoming network traffic to be properly run on a multi-processor computer, by ensuring that all packets from a single TCP network connection are consistently processed by the same processor. All incoming packets for each TCP connection processed by the same processor = packets never getting out of sequence, which can be a problem otherwise with multiple processors. Obviously, you'll need a multiple processor system, to get any benefit here.

Try Internet access with TCP Offload and Receive-side Scaling disabled, and see if network performance improves. If it does, see if you can upgrade or replace your network card with one that is TOE capable, which was stated to cost $25 - $50 earlier this year. Once you have the right network hardware, or if the above change doesn't provide any relief from your symptoms, you can re enable TCP Offload and Receive-side Scaling
netsh interface tcp set global chimney=enable
netsh interface tcp set global rss=enable

If you do see a bandwidth improvement and / or network utilisation drop after enabling chimney and / or rss, restart the system. You may see still more improvement after restarting. Use of proper tools for objective measurement of bandwidth and network utilisation, access to high speed Internet service, and use of high bandwidth network applications like streaming video, will make the success of this change a bit easier to assess.

Besides Scalable Networking, look at other possible problems with Windows Vista Networking Innovations, in Windows Vista and Explicit Congestion Notification.

For more details about this issue, see