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Virtual Windows Server 2008 R2 on VMware ESXI 5.1 crashes consisntantly

Hi all,

I recently build a new virtual machine to use as a terminal server, (for the accountancy firm). Everything seemed to work perfectly till I deployed it. It crashed as soon as a few users logged in and started working. When I asked, most of the users couldn't tell me what they were doing. But those who could said they were typing in Word, Excel or Outlook. One was using a superannuation program.

Checking the logs, and from what I've seen when I've been able to catch the console during a crash, it's always the same stop error with the same reference to Win32k.sys. Unfortunately, that appears to be a generic "oops, something broke".

I've spent 5 nights working till after midnight trying to figure out what's happening. So far I have no real clues. And I feel I'm missing something obvious.

So, can anyone suggest things to look at please? Hopefully it's something really stupid I've missed, and I can fix it quickly. But I'm willing to check anything you guys suggest.

3 Solutions
AusRobAuthor Commented:
By the way, this is my first question on Experts Exchange, so feel free to treat me like a noob and ask "stupid questions".
Stop error - you mean the server is blue screening?
If so get the minidump files from C:\Windows\Minidump folder and post them here, we can take a look and see if we can locate the issue

Note if the file in that folder is large(i.e. not a minidump) then you'll need to change a few settings on the server first
Click Start - find the Computer icon - right click and select Properties
Go into Advanced System Settings(on left hand side)
Then into Startup and Recovery
In there change the option at the bottom from 'Kernel memory dump' to 'Small memory dump'

This will mean next time it blue screens it will create a smaller dump file - attach that here for analysis...
Can I please ask the specification of this ESXI server? In particular I am interested in the RAID setup and Disks?

I ask because I have seen issues before with ESXI servers setup without a dedicated Hardware RAID controller which uses either Battery Backed Write Cache or Flash Backed Write Cache, especially on HP servers.
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Maybe try reinstalling vmware tools
AusRobAuthor Commented:
OK, it was configured for Kernel dump, so I've changed that. I will get some users to log in and see if I can get it to crash again, (it never crashes for me).

The server is an IBM x3400 M2, single Quad Core Xeon E5520, 48 GB RAM, IBM 8 port MegaRAID card with BBU, 6 x 300GB SAS drives in two RAID 5 arrays, and one 80GB SATA drive that the ESXI boots from.

The VMware server has two virtual servers;
An SBS 2008 that is running without error, using 24GB RAM and one of the RAID 5 arrays with 4 VDs, (150GB system, 80GB Exchange, 200GB Data & 115GB User Data, and a 40GB WSUS VD on the other RAID 5 array).
The other is the new WIndows 2008 R2 VM that we are discussing. Using 22GB ram, and 2 x 200GB VDs, (system and data).

By the way, I already tried removing and reloading VMtools.
I don't think this is the issue but you're using 46gb Ram over the 2 vms leaving 2gb for the the hypervisor. I'm pretty sure the memory overhead for those VM's will be more than 2gb.

Out of interest why have you allocated so much ram?
AusRobAuthor Commented:
I got the 6 x 8GB RAM sticks pretty cheap, (cheaper than I saw 3 x 8GB sticks elsewhere). SO I upgraded from the existing 12GB for the base server because EVERYTHING was bog slow. I allocated that much RAM to the SBS because they have a fairly hefty Exchange database at the moment, (I'm working on email archiving but one thing at a time), as well as just starting to use Sharepoint. They also use the SBS as the file/database server for MYOB and Quickbooks.

I allocated 22GBG for the Terminal Server because both Quickbooks and MYOB recommended as much RAM as possible for that configuration, both internal and external users accessing multiple MYOB and Quickbooks files all at the same time. This is an accountancy firm, and has 10 internal users plus 11 external hosted clients.

At the moment vSphere reports a memory overhead of 200MB for the SBS and 190MB for the TS. It reports only 46GB of the 48GB in use. I'm fairly new to ESXI, but I presume this means I have the settings pretty close to what they need to be? It won't be hard to change it if needed, ( I can edit the settings and restart both overnight).

For the record, it was originally a Cirtrix Xen server. Both I and the other guy now looking after it, and the previous IT company we use for fallback support, are less familiar with Xen than VMware though, so I did a full image backup and restored to VMware VMs. I'm far more familiar with Windows 2008 R2 Hyper-V, but was told it has far more overhead than VMware, Plus Hyper-V wont allow me to use a USB drive for SBS backup, so went with the consensus.

AusRobAuthor Commented:
"Touch wood", everything seems fine now. It hasn't crashed for 4 days. The frustrating thing is  I don't know what I did to fix it. But as long as it stays working, I don't care. Thanks for the suggestions guys.
AusRobAuthor Commented:
OK, it turned out that the mainboard in the server, and two of the hard drives were failing. IBM replaced those and all is good now. Thanks for the tips everyone. There are other problems with the virtual machines, but they are unrelated, so I'm closing this question now and will ask a new one..
AusRobAuthor Commented:
Problem was caused by hardware fault that was masked by host of virtual machine, RAM ECC errors not logged), as well as RAID array issues. Solved by IBM under warranty.
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