NE2000 ISA clone FAQ

Dealing with ISA Plug n Play cards and your sanity.

In the beginning ....

Plug and Play (PNP)

After the jumper, but before PCI there was PNP. When it was new it was a disaster. It hasn't gotten much better. It was just another weak attempt to emulate the simplicity of MAC hardware.

ISA cards have two modes; *Jumpered* and *Jumperless*.

YOU must physically move a jumper on the card to change configuration

A Dos program is used to write the config to a flash memory on the board itself. This emulates a jumpered device. In this mode a device is usually NOT in PNP mode. There ARE jumperless cards that are NOT PNP! I will try to limit myself to non-mutants.

The ISA Board config problem.

Ethernet chips come from a small number of manufacturers. Those FABS sell or license the chips to other companies. The NE2000 was originally made for Novell Ethernet, (NE). The 2000 was used most likely because it was so "futuristic". The NE2000 spec became one of the most used network specs.

The ISA Ethernet board comes in a number of manufacturers chips. Most smaller manufacturers buy chips from a large chip house and rebrand them as their own. If you look at the small number of ethernet drivers that Linux distributions come with, you will notice there are not many drivers as there are ethernet cards. These many drivers cover many different network chips. Here is a list of the most commonly found NE200 chips.

Common NE2000 Chips

"Don't use addresses 0x300 or 0x320 for NE2000 type cards." [Ethernet Howto] Most ISA modules accept parameters like io=0x340 and irq=12 on the insmod command line. It is REQUIRED or at least STRONGLY ADVISED that you supply these parameters to avoid probing for the card. Unlike PCI and EISA devices, there is no real safe way to do auto-probing for most ISA devices, and so it should be avoided when using drivers as modules. [Ethernet Howto]

Probem: ISA Plug and Play NE2000 (such as RealTek 8019) is not detected. Reason: The original NE2000 specification (and hence the linux NE2000 driver) does not have support for Plug and Play.

Solution: Use the DOS configuration disk that came with the card to disable PnP, and to set the card to a specified I/O address and IRQ. Add a line to /etc/conf.modules like options ne io=0xNNN where 0xNNN is the hex I/O address you set the card to. (This assumes you are using a modular driver; if not then use an ether=0,0xNNN,eth0 argument at boot). You may also have to enter the BIOS/CMOS setup and mark the IRQ as Legacy-ISA instead of PnP

There are two major pieces of information needed for configuring the ISA PnP card.




System timer




Programmable IRQ


Comm port


Comm port


sound card


floppy Controller


Printer Port


CMOS Real Time Clock




PNP your name here


PNP Video


PS/2 Mouse


Math Co-Processor


hard disk


hard disk

Interrupts 3 and 4 are for serial ports. Five is for a second printer port or a sound card. IRQ 6 is used for the Floppy drive controller. IRQ 7 is sometimes used for sound cards but most often used for the first parallel, (printer) port. IRQ 8 is for the Real Time Clock, Don't mess with this one.

IRQ 9 is a mutant interrupt, unlike any other. IRQ 9 IS IRQ 2 in disguise. I don't think there is a network card alive today that will allow you to use IRQ2, but 9 is OK almost always. Now we come to my favorite of all interrupts. Number TEN. My favorite ethernet IRQ. UMMMM TEN it makes me warm all over. Like Pizza.


Things you should have learned in school, (had you been paying attention).

Your ISA eternet card may have up to THREE different connectors.

Credits and links:


NE2000 Clone Configuration programs

Linux Ethercard Status, Diagnostic and Setup Utilities