Blank Desktop after rebooting Server 2003

Posted on 2009-04-11
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-05-06
I have a problem with Server 2003. All of the programs in Administrative Tools stopped working. About half of the
 icons lost their proper icon and reverted to the default icon. Server Management stopped working.  Task Manager
 does not start by any of the three ways. After rebooting Server 2003, the logon screen appears normally, when
the administrator (or any user) logs on nothing appears on the desktop, it is totally blank. There are no icons, no
start button and no taskbar. Ctrl-Alt-Del opens the options window but clicking on task manager does nothing but
return me to a blank desktop.  If I log off the only way to log back on is to reboot. The workstations all run
normally and they get can access the server and its services. Exchange continues to work fine.

This is the third time that within 9 months that this same thing has occurred.  The only way to remedy the issue is
to reinstall Server 2003. The question is WHAT is this happening.  I am at a loss.

Question by:Willard Smith
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LVL 39

Expert Comment

ID: 24123740
what happens if you right click on the desktop, click arrange icons, and select show desktop icons?
LVL 39

Expert Comment

ID: 24123839
If you can remote into the server, try stopping and restarting the shell hardware detection service. Other than that, i have seen it where if you put in the install disk and remote into the computer, then run SFC /scannow it will replace/fix or upload the compatible version to a probable corrupt Explorer.exe file.

Author Comment

by:Willard Smith
ID: 24125751
although the mouse pointer can move right clicking does nothing. I can remote to the server and it makes the connection but again there is only a blank desktop no matter what user logon is tried.  Thanks for the thoughts.
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Expert Comment

ID: 24125829
Perhaps you can view the event logs remotely from one of the workstations.  Are you using Active Directory?  If so, log into a workstation as a domain admin and run the following from the RUN prompt or a CMD window

compmgmt.msc /computer:servername

LVL 39

Expert Comment

ID: 24130213
When you do a cntrl alt del and bring up the menu options task manager will not work. So, going in and starting the explorer.exe program is not a viable solution, I assume. It looks like you are stuck with either a repair install or if you can get to the command prompt, typing sfc /scannow. SFC stands for System File Checker, and its function is to check you major system files to make sure they are on compatible versions. Why this is happening to you is beyond me, UNLESS you have a bad hard drive that has corrupt data within the boot sector.

One other thing you might look at is a boot.ini file. You might be looking at a partial install of an OS on top of the operative OS. If the boot.ini lists that other OS to boot to, you may not be getting the full OS boot and therefore seeing the symtpoms you are seeing. I call this a ghost OS. Ghosted data is left over from an improperly formatted disk, or terrible software that isn't completely formatting the disk. I have seen this before after a rebuild of the OS.

If you are left with no alternative, you might get a new hard drive, (set of hard drives if you are in an array). and use cleansweep or driveclean to properly format the disk (or set of disks).

But try to see if your boot.ini file is corrupt in recovery console>>

Author Comment

by:Willard Smith
ID: 24130481
Thanks: I an going check the boot.ini file right now

Author Comment

by:Willard Smith
ID: 24151907
The bootini flie looks normal:
[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Windows Server 2003 for Small Business Server" /noexecute=optout /fastdetect

The issue seems to occur over time, I have rebooted the fresh install several time without issue.  I appresiate your help.
LVL 39

Accepted Solution

ChiefIT earned 1500 total points
ID: 24158667
This is odd that this occurs after a period of time. It almost sounds like you may have a driver conflict that this runs into during a boot. This driver may have been downloaded as an update to a previous driver. Can you logon using safe mode with network support?  What about safe mode with VGA support?

Loading up safeboot with network or with VGA support will load the default Microsoft drivers. These are very generic drivers. If able to logon in safemode with the support options, then you can remove the driver that is conflicting and revert back to the generic microsoft driver. Also if you are able to logon to safe mode, you can go into view menu>>show hidden devices. Any drivers that have an exclamation point on them are conflicting drivers and will interfere with your OS. So, you will want to remove these as well. Once done, go to your thrid party drivers for chipset, video and audio drivers. Driver conflicts are pretty common.

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