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Server Crashes at Logon

I have a Small Business Server 2003 which crashed the other day. When it rebooted the BIOS said the system memory had changed. The server had a backup 256Mb of RAM which allowed the server to reboot but it ran very slowly.
I assumed the RAM chip had failed and as they work in pairs I replaced both sticks. The Server boots and get to the logon screen. All users can logon from their PCs and use the files and exchange. The Server seems faster as we upgraded thew amount of RAM.
However, if you try to logon to the server console (at the Server or RDP) the server hangs and users stop working.
Any ideas?
Watch Question

Bad RAM may have caused some files to corrupt in that profile.
Probably the user's registry.  If you can access the server from the network you can hit the hidden shares.

From a domain-joined client PC, login as a Domain Administrator account and go to Start -> Run ->  \\YourServerName\c$

Then go to Documents and Settings and rename the profile folder of the account you are trying to login with.  Then try to login as that user again on the server.  It will recreate the profile folder with default settings.  You can then copy whatever you need to from the renamed profile folder.


I could not rename the administrator account as it said there were open files. A different user had logon rights to the console so I tried going on as that person. They were not logged on when the server crashed.
The same problem occurred and the screen just freezes after pressing enter once user and password entered. The server then hangs and users can no longer use the system. Only forcing the server off sorts the problem.
Any more ideas I can try before either reloading the server or replacing it!

Can you login via Active Directory Restore Mode? I have had some SBS servers crash after power outages etc and the exchange services fail to start due to dirty shutdown. If you can get into Directory Restore mode you should be able to view the logs and see what services are failing and troubleshoot from there.
You may also be able to restore system state from a good backup prior to the crash.
Cris HannaSr IT Support Engineer

Just want to be clear on what's going on.   You say you had a server crash, which resulted in bios thinking you had a memory change.  You assumed a memory chip went bad so you "upgraded" the RAM (replaced both sticks of RAM and increased the amount of RAM)
based on other information it sounds like the server originally had 512 MB of RAM?  How much RAM is in the server now?  Did you purchase Error Correcting (ECC) RAM
Is this a brand name server?  if so it would be helpful to know the make and model.  I"m thinking that perhaps the new RAM is not supported on this motherboard.
The other possibility is that something corrupted during the crash
Have you tried booting to Safe Mode or Last Known good configuration?
I would create a BART's PE disk and use it to run a run a chkdsk  /f repair.
If it crashes on boot up ,you know there is a HW issue somewhere.

"I would create a BART's PE disk and use it to run a run a chkdsk  /f repair.
If it crashes on boot up ,you know there is a HW issue somewhere."

That's a good idea but no need to make a PE disk.  You can just boot to your Windows CD and choose R for the recovery console and run chkdsk /r instead of /f.

 /F              Fixes errors on the disk.
 /R              Locates bad sectors and recovers readable information
                 (implies /F).
After running CHKDSK /F, which is the first thing to do, you need to check the Windows Management Instrumentation.  Problems with it would explain the second Admin account behaving the same: http://windowsxp.mvps.org/repairwmi.htm
Roshan MohammedCloud Engineering Officer

Can you reboot your server and ensure that users don't log onto their pc/sdesktops etc. see if you can can logon to the sbs console. check licensing, if u have enough cals? also, if it's a HP server, check the systems management and array configuration diagnostic utility!!
Martin KühnSystem Administrator

can you check the eventlog from a different machine? as fa as I understodd you can contact the server as long as you do not try to logon locally.


The Server is a Dell Poweredge 2800 and had 1Gb RAM originally installed. I have increased it to 2Gb and the RAM is branded sticks. The company I purchased the RAM from did a check using the Service tag of the Server so it is all fine. The Server seems okay and only crashes when I try to logon to the Server Console.
I tried to logon as a different user who has rights to do so and the same thing happened.
Read my earlier post

Have you run the CHKDSK /R from the Recovery Console yet?
(And YES it is /R not /F as everyone keeps saying.  /R does everything /F does plus a sector scan which is more thorough.)

That is your best bet at repair at this point.  As was already stated by several of us, IF your RAM is 100% and your sure of that, then this leaves file/registry corruption as the most likely culprit.  As was stated, temporarily running the system with bad RAM (especially non-ECC) can cause file corruption.  This is because data being written to disk can get stored to a bad portion of the memory.  System thinks it wrote to RAM fine and then reads the data from RAM and does not notice that it's corrupt or inconsistent.  It then writes this corrupt data from RAM to file creating corrupt files.

Based on the fact that a login event triggers it and instead of a few errors you get a major system crash, odds are that you've got a corrupt registry.  I had hoped it was the registry of just that one user (hence I told you to rename the profile folder) but it would appear that it may be the common user registry area.

That being said... PLEASE try to boot to the Recovery Console and run the CHKDSK /R
We can't help you if you don't help us.


Many thanks for the reminder. I am not ignoring your suggestions. The client whose Server it is is unhappy for me to spend time and money on a server which is now 6 years old and out of warranty. He is deciding whether to replace the Server. Until he decides what to do he does not want the existing server touched as it works (ie users can access the files and emails.
I will update you when he has decided what to do, hopefully tomorrow.


I will close this question as the client has decided to purchase a new Server. Providing the old Server lasts until the new one arrives I should now be okay. Many thanks for all your suggestions.


sorry I have a question relating to this server crash.
As you are aware I cannot logon to the console without crashing the server and that the client has decided to purchase a new Server as this one is 6 years old.
Is there a way I can run active directory from a PC on the domain so I can see user details etc
System Administrator
just install the AD tools on your PC. In case of vista or win7 it is called rsat tools (see the discription at MS how to make it visible afterwards) in case of XP you need adminpak.msi from the windows/system32 directory from your server. (access with \\servername\c$)