Correcting Common Setup Problems

Correcting Common Setup Problems

Setting up and configuring a server makes for a long afternoon. Hopefully you're done in time to go home for supper. If not, here are a few hints to help you at least make it home for the evening news.

The first thing to do is look for clues about what happened. Setup leaves behind several records of what it did and how it did it. If you can keep the machine operating for a little while, look for the following files in the \Windows folder:

  • Setuplog.txt. Describes in detail each driver and service that was loaded and each DLL that was registered during the character phase of Setup.

  • Setupact.log. Describes the file operations that took place during the Graphic phase of Setup.

  • Setuperr.log. Lists any errors that were reported by any devices or services during Setup. If this log is not zero bytes, Setup offers to display it at the end of the installation.

You can also boot with the Boot Log option. This lists the drivers that are loaded by Ntldr and SCREG. To do this, press F8 at the boot menu and select BOOT LOGGING. This writes an Ntbtlog.txt file to the \Windows directory.

Stop 0x0000007b Inaccessible_Boot_Device

Sometimes the system starts to boot following an installation, but then experiences a kernel-mode stop (Blue Screen of Death) with a bug-check code of 0x0000007b, Inaccessible_Boot_Device. This problem occurs when the Cylinder/Head/Sector (CHS) configuration reported by BIOS does not match the settings in the Master Boot Record. Frequently, the only way to recover the system is to format the drive and start over. A partition report from Partition Magic or System Commander can help in diagnosing this problem.

System Information

If you are a Windows NT administrator, it may be comforting to know that good, old Winmsd is still available at the Run command. In Windows Server 2003, Winmsd launches an alternate executable, Msinfo32.exe from \Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\MSInfo. This executable, in turn, loads the Help and Support Center executables that display system information obtained from Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI). Figure shows an example.

Figure. System Information display.


An alternate way to get system information, and one that you may like better because it works at the command line, is SYSTEMINFO. Here is an example listing:

Host Name:                 SERVER1
OS Name:                   Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition
OS Version:                5.1.3690 Build 3690
OS Manufacturer:           Microsoft Corporation
OS Configuration:          Primary Domain Controller
OS Build Type:             Uniprocessor Free
Registered Owner:          Admin
Registered Organization:   Company
Product ID:                55039-985-0023054-00576
Original Install Date:     2/21/2002, 11:06:47 AM
System Up Time:            3 Days, 11 Hours, 32 Minutes, 41 Seconds
System Manufacturer:       Dell Computer Corporation
System Model:              OptiPlex GX150
System type:               X86-based PC
Processor(s):              1 Processor(s) Installed.
                           [01]: x86 Family 6 Model 8 Stepping 3 GenuineIntel ~665 Mhz
BIOS Version:              DELL   - 7
Windows Directory:         C:\Windows
System Directory:          C:\Windows\System32
Boot Device:               \Device\HarddiskVolume1
System Locale:             en-us;English (United States)
Input Locale:              en-us;English (United States)
Time Zone:                 (GMT-07:00) Arizona
Total Physical Memory:     382 MB
Available Physical Memory: 146 MB
Virtual Memory: Max Size:  1,302 MB
Virtual Memory: Available: 867 MB
Virtual Memory: In Use:    435 MB
Page File Location(s):     C:\pagefile.sys
Logon Server:              \\SERVER1
NetWork Card(s):           1 NIC(s) Installed.
                           [01]: 3Com 3C920 Integrated Fast Ethernet Controller (
graphics/ccc.gif3C905C-TX Compatible)
                                 Connection Name: Local Area Connection
                                 DHCP Enabled:    No
                                 IP address(es)

Setup Hangs

Of all the possible frustrations that can occur during Setup, hangs are the worst because they cause no other overt symptoms. Setup just reaches a point when it seems to be thinking. And it thinks. And it thinks. And it keeps on thinking, like a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, while you sit in front of the console like Regis Philbin, trying to make pleasant conversation as you glance at your watch.

The first rule for dealing with hangs is to do nothing. Try to wait it out. Delays on the order of hours are not unheard of. The outcome is usually good, and any happy ending is worth waiting for.

If you get a serious hang during the device-detection portion of the Graphic phase, press Shift+F10 to open a console window and check the contents of Setuplog.txt. If there are entries, you know something is happening. If the progress bar doesn't move for a couple of hours and no further entries are written to the file, you can throw in the towel.

While you're waiting, search the documentation for known incompatibilities. This includes a search of the following:

  • Release Notes and Readme files on the Windows Server 2003 CD

  • KnowledgeBase listings at

  • Vendor web sites

If you decide to give up and restart, take a few preliminary steps to keep from returning right back to another multi-hour wait. Forget about scientific method. The idea is to get the machine running under Windows Server 2003. You can figure out the precise problem later. Here are some suggestions:

  • Go through the pre-installation checklist at the start of this chapter to make sure you didn't miss anything such as firmware upgrades, removing UPS serial line connections, turning off Plug and Play, or setting up legacy components. All of these are notorious sources of hangs.

  • Remove the NIC.

  • Remove any multimedia boards.

  • Disable infrared devices.

  • Go through Txtsetup.sif and remark out (semicolon) any unneeded drivers. This requires you to run Setup from a network distribution point.

  • If you have two monitor cards, remove one.

  • Remove any legacy ISA cards.

  • Move PCI cards to different slots.

  • If your machine has multiple PCI buses, try moving all the cards to one bus.

  • If you have special SCSI components such as scanners or tape drives, take them off the bus.

  • If you have any FireWire components, take them off the bus.

  • For laptops, take out any PCMCIA cards and remove the unit from its docking station.

  • Remove USB components (use a PS/2 keyboard, if a PS/2 connector is available).

Now try Setup again. If it still hangs, double-check the HCL to make sure it lists your system. If so, strip the machine down to hull metal with nothing more than a vanilla VGA card, a keyboard, and a mouse. Disable everything in CMOS that even smells like an advanced option. Then try again. If the system still hangs, try installing Windows Server 2003 on a similar piece of hardware. If you get similar results, it's time to call the vendor.

Some Devices Fail

If you can get the operating system to load but some functions are not available, you may have device malfunctions or resource conflicts. The Device Manager shows these kinds of problems. There are several ways to open Device Manager:

  • Open the Computer Management console by right-clicking the My Computer icon on the desktop and selecting MANAGE from the flyout menu. Expand the tree under SYSTEM TOOLS, DEVICE MANAGER.

  • Open the Device Manager console by right-clicking the My Computer icon, selecting PROPERTIES from the flyout menu, selecting the Hardware tab, and then clicking Device Manager.

  • (My personal favorite) Open the Run window, enter devmgmt.msc, and press Enter.

If a device shows a question mark or a red X, double-click it to view the conflict. Some device failures are more common than others. Some have become downright notorious. See Chapter 3, "Adding Hardware," for details on troubleshooting PnP and hardware problems.

You might need to boot to Safe mode to get to the Device Manager. Press F8 at the boot menu and then select SAFE MODE from the option list.

Problems Copying Files to the Hard Drive

On occasion, Windows will refuse to recognize a hard drive. If the drive is not listed in Setup's partition manager screen, Ntdetect did not recognize it for some reason. There are several possible causes:

  • Check seating for all cable connectors. Also make sure the cables are all there—not to mention the drive, if this is a new machine. Boot to DOS and see whether you can see the drive using FDISK.

  • Verify that shadow RAM and write-back cache has been disabled in CMOS. Hardware caching is a frequent cause of kernel-mode stops and corrupted data. Windows Server 2003 handles all disk caching. You will get better and more reliable performance without a hardware cache unless it is certified to work with Windows Server 2003.

  • Supported disk translations. Check that drives have not been configured with a special disk manager that is not compatible with Windows Server 2003. Some unique flavors of sector maps are not recognized. If the drive uses a cylinder translation utility such as OnTrack, make sure it is certified to work with Windows Server 2003.

  • IDE recognized in CMOS. If you have a large IDE drive, make sure that the drive configuration is correct in CMOS.

  • Scan for viruses. Windows Server 2003 will not install on an infected hard drive. Scan the drive using a DOS or Windows virus detection tool.

  • Check for proper Master Boot Record. The Master Boot Record might be corrupt. Boot to DOS and run Fdisk /mbr to build a new boot record.

  • SCSI terminations. If you have a SCSI drive, make sure that the SCSI cable is terminated correctly. Even if the drive worked fine under DOS or Windows, it might fail under Windows Server 2003 owing to the different nature of the SCSI driver. Also check to make sure that the SCSI drive you used for Setup is still listed on the SCSI scan that runs during POST.

  • SCSI boot settings. Make sure that SCSI boot drive settings are correct. You may think you're booting to one drive, but are actually booting to another.

  • Problems with Ultra-DMA ATA interface cards. If you are using a high-performance ATA mass storage interface, check with the vendor to get the most current driver. This technology changes rapidly. Also, check that you have an 80-wire ribbon connector between the interface card and the drive so that you get full performance.

  • No DriveSpace volumes. Make sure that the installation volume has not been compressed using DriveSpace or DoubleSpace.

  • No older dynamic partitioning. Utilities that keep their own hidden partitions or that enable you to dynamically resize partitions may cause Setup to fail. The NTFS version in Windows Server 2003 changed, rendering older utilities inoperable.

Missing or Incorrect CD-ROM Drives

If Setup prompts you over and over and over again to insert the Windows Server 2003 CD-ROM, you know you have an unsupported or misconfigured CD-ROM drive. Use the following list as a starting point to look for problems:

  • Verify supported drive. Some CD-ROM drives are not supported by Windows Server 2003, especially older drives with proprietary interfaces. Some drives that worked in NT4 were retired and are no longer supported in Windows Server 2003. As with all hardware, check to make sure your CD-ROM drive is on the HCL.

  • Timing problems. CD-ROM drives that work fine under DOS/Windows or Windows 95/98 sometimes fail to work under Windows Server 2003 because of tighter timing specifications. If you have a SCSI or modified SCSI interface, using the interface BIOS routines to check the device.

  • SCSI terminations. If you have a SCSI CD-ROM drive, check the device list displayed during the POST scan. If the drive does not appear, check the power connections, ribbon or external cable connections, bus terminations, and possible conflicts with SCSI ID. If the SCSI ID is listed with no name or vendor information, the drive might not be supported by the SCSI BIOS or the drive might be defective.

  • IDE configuration. If the CD-ROM drive is on an IDE bus that is shared with a hard drive, check for proper master/slave configuration. Check CMOS to make sure the controller interface is enabled.

Missing or Non-Functioning Network Adapters

Network adapters are a common cause of Setup hangs and PnP disasters. Use the following list as a starting point when looking for problems:

  • Incorrect resource allocation. Use Device Manager to check the resources that have been assigned to the adapter. If there is a conflict, the adapter icon will have either a yellow circle with an exclamation point or a red circle with an X. Double-click on the network adapter to open the Adapter Properties window. Select the Resources tab.

  • Improper PCI resource sharing. PCI adapters rarely have a problem with memory conflicts but they can get I/O base and IRQ conflicts if the system BIOS attempts to share resources or if HAL changes the PCI settings. If this happens with a legacy adapter, disable PnP in CMOS then assign resources manually. Seriously consider spending a few dollars for a newer adapter.

  • Verify the physical layer. If the network drivers load but you cannot see the network, you may have a plain old bad adapter (POBA). See whether you can ping the loopback address, This checks the IP stack down to the NDIS MAC driver, which implies that the Ethernet controller is functioning properly. The problem could then be with the transceiver, the cables and connectors, or the hub or switch. Use known good cable or test the port connection from another computer. Make sure you don't have crossover cable installed—that is, cable that swaps the 1-2 and 3-6 pairs for use in connecting hubs together.

  • Duplex mismatches. A very common problem when using 10/100Mbps adapters and switches is a mismatch between duplex settings at the adapter and the switch. In full-duplex mode, collision detection is turned off. This permits the port and the NIC to transmit and receive at the same time. If the switch is still in half-duplex mode, however, it will interpret full-duplex transmissions as a collision and reject the frame. The network response turns to molasses and the CRC/alignment check error rate at the switch skyrockets. If you have an autosensing 10/100 NIC, make sure the hub is properly configured. Don't trust the link lights. Try another computer in the same port.

Video Problems

If Setup cannot detect the make and model of the video adapter installed in the machine, it will fall back on standard VGA drivers. Video problems are another common cause of Setup hangs. You may also get kernel-mode stop errors. Check the HCL to see whether the adapter is supported. Use the following list as a starting point when looking for problems:

  • Loss of video sync. If you change video settings and lose the display as soon as you accept the changes, do nothing. The system returns to its old configuration after 15 seconds. If this does not happen, restart and press F8 at the boot menu. Select SAFE MODE from the ADVANCED OPTIONS menu. This loads standard VGA drivers and gives you the chance to poke around for a different configuration or driver that works. Avoid the VGA MODE option in the ADVANCED OPTIONS menu. This also loads stock VGA drivers, but does so with persistent Registry entries rather than the transient ones used by Safe mode.

  • Unable to get full range of video options. Windows Server 2003 relies totally on PnP to discover the video adapter and monitor. If PnP gets the wrong driver, or if the driver on the CD is not recent enough, you may not get the full set of horizontal sweep rates or color densities that the card is advertised to have. Check the vendor's web site for updated drivers.

Online Error Reporting Tools

If you get an error that results in a protection fault or system crash, Windows Server 2003 will collect information about the crash and send it to Microsoft. This is done purely for data collection. It will not result in a call from Product Support Services. See Chapter 3, "Adding Hardware," for the contents of the files sent to Microsoft and the purpose of this online reporting.

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