A Humbling Problem by Guy Thomas


A Humbling Computer Problem – Solved Thanks to Microsoft Support

What this page is really about saying a big thank you to Chetana at Microsoft.  Chetana is a member of the Microsoft’s ‘Rolls Royce’ support team.  I am also grateful for the MVP rewards program that gave me the free Microsoft support ticket.

My Windows Server 2003 Computer Would Not Boot

The boot-up got as far as the screen with a bitmap of Windows Server 2003 in color and the marching dots.  When I booted into safe mode, the start-up halted on a file called acpitabl.dat.  This file was probably a ‘red herring’.

Booting from the CD, I could run the Windows Server 2003 Recovery Console surprisingly, it would not run chkdsk.  (Could not find autochk.exe.)  I could not effect a repair and I could not install a parallel operating system.

The first thing that impressed me with Chetana was her calm manner.  She had a computer(s) at her end to mimic the solutions I was attempting at my stricken server. Not only did Chetana have a great technical understanding but she also developed action plans.  In time of trouble it really helps to talk with an IT professional who can give a mixture of re-assurance that I had not missed anything obvious and the technical knowledge to try advanced problem solving techniques.

One of her first questions was what did you just before the incident.  For once, I could honestly say – nothing.  More often then not, I would have been installing a test program, adding new hardware, but this time – nothing.

We should have given greater credence to the fact that the machine failed out of the blue, instead, we got side tracked into possible BIOS problems, researching acpitabl.dat and other blind alleys.  Then it came to me in the bath, I felt sure that it was a hard disk problem.  Sure enough the underlying cause turned out to be several clusters becoming crossed linked or destroyed, as a result key operating system files were corrupted.

The Solution

As luck would have it my machine had two disks.  I reversed the jumpers on the master disk slave disk and then rebooted.  Now I was able to install a parallel operating system and run chkdsk which showed lots of lost clusters.  In fact I could have gone straight to a Windows Server 2003 Repair.

To tell the truth, I had never before taken the ‘Repair’ option on Windows Server 2003 install.  It was nerve-wracking.  The first surprise was it asked for the Product ID, I thought, wrongly, this meant setup was trying a fresh installation.  Next it recognised the UK keyboard, and did not ask for any network information, this increased my hopes that I was repairing the existing Windows Server 2003 and not freshly installing a new version.

The repair took longer than a fresh install, it sometimes seemed to do nothing for 10 minutes, then a the timer reduced a few more minutes 39, 37, 28, 10, 7 then 0.  At last it appeared to have completed a repair. However it then would not let me logon until I activated the product.  I was so relieved to have a proper legitimate copy of Windows Server 2003, and it activated swiftly and to my joy, the desktop was just as I left it 12 hours before.

Thank you Chetana for helping me find a solution.  Without your help I would have trashed the machine and then laboriously rebuild the server by hand.  For the last few days every time I use Outlook, Word or log on to my many web sites, I thought I would still be repairing these links, finding these passwords or configuring the options – if it was not for Chetana encouraging me to stay cool, have faith and use an action plan.

Other Cases Where Microsoft Support Helped Guy Thomas