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True IT Blooper #30: IT gone AWOL

When a Windows 2000 Server goes AWOL, an IT instructor and her class of military personnel enter The Blooper Zone.

For a relatively new teacher, the first day in front of a brand new class is pretty stressful. In this true story, sophomore IT instructor Carol Miller faces a class full of hardened military personnel. When her Windows 2000 Server goes AWOL, she enters that school of hard knocks known as The Blooper Zone.

The class started normally. Miller was delivering a corporate Microsoft course to a group of soldiers at an army base in Ontario, and they were hanging on her every word. She asked the ranks to fall in and stop the service on their installations of Windows 2000 Advanced Server.

They followed her orders to the letter. When they rebooted their machines and restarted their server service, one unlucky recruit asked for permission to speak freely. Permission was granted, and he told Miller that he didn't have anything displaying on his console. Miller told the class to stand at ease, and she quickly got to work diagnosing the error.

Initially, Miller chalked the problem up to user error. The recruit was probably looking for the service in the wrong place, she thought. When she arrived at the console, however, she found that the server service was indeed missing.

Thinking that the MMC had become corrupt, Miller closed the console and re-launched it from Windows Explorer. When this didn't work, she switched the situation status to Defcon one. Then she began running down a list of things that could be causing the problem, asking: "Can the workstation connect to others in the room? Yes. Can others connect to this machine? Yes. Has the student modified anything in the registry? No."

Checklist completed, Miller again rebooted the machine. Nothing happened.

Undaunted -- well, slightly daunted -- Miller turned to her event viewer for assistance. Aha! She found that the applications were failing to boot because the dependency service of the server service was not starting properly.

The next logical step seemed to be to scan the Microsoft site for information regarding similar issues. She only found two articles.

The first "discussed how system services will access physical memory when and where necessary, and that there may be conflicts occasionally between system services," she said. She read on to discover that because of the non-contiguous memory allocations that Windows 2000 supports, these conflicts shouldn't be causing any issues.

"The other article simply pertained to the possibility that the file 'SRV.sys' could be corrupt and should be reinstalled," Miller said. For lack of a better idea, Miller accepted the possibility that such a corruption occurred and performed a full reinstall on the recruit's machine. That did not resolve the issue.

Miller was feeling like Custer at his last stand. Class morale was sinking. Without a brilliant stratagem, she and her class would be forced to retreat for the day.

On the verge of admitting defeat, Miller had an epiphany. "I remembered that the first article had mentioned physical memory," she said. She instructed the student to remove the cover of the machine and replace the RAM with that from another PC.

As soon as the new RAM was inserted and the machine was booted up, the server service appeared again! "Remarkable," Miller said. "Nerve-racking, but remarkable!"

Miller was able to finish the class in spite of the delay and went on to lead her troops through the fray and onto a full understanding of Windows 2000 Advanced Server.

Share your bloopers with us. E-mail them to Read more of our past IT Blooper Series, which originially appeared at, part of the TechTarget network.

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