Evaluation (eval) CDs are typically included with new hardware. Like car dealers letting you take a car home for the weekend, vendors provide evals as a sales tool to entice you into trying out their software. The hope, of course, is that when the eval period ends, you will purchase the product. However, evals can sometimes cause big problems. For example, the Eval copy of NT Server can wreak major havoc if you inadvertently install it on a production machine. Unfortunately, restoring a server to its pre-Eval condition is not as easy as you might think—and Microsoft’s recommended fix doesn’t cover all the bases. So TechRepublic created “The NT 4 Evaluation fix,” which documents the steps necessary for cleaning up your server if an Eval copy of NT Server has been installed.
Learn from past mistakes
Here’s a cautionary tale that illustrates the importance of documenting this fix. At my previous job, one of our administrators configured two servers and then shipped them out of state. Little did he know that the number 3 boot disk he used from the computer manufacturer was the NT Server 4 Eval Edition. Even though he used a retail CD to load the server, the diskettes actually loaded the Eval kernel. After the 120-day Eval time was up, the server would run for only two hours before shutting down. You could reboot and get another two hours out of the server, but it’s unlikely that users would put up with this kind of downtime in a production environment.
We researched the Microsoft site and found a fix, but unfortunately, it left out a lot of details. So we made a test server with the same disk, advanced the time, watched it fail, and set about the process of fixing it. Once again the server crashed, and it never came back up. We received additional assistance from Microsoft and found that we needed to load some drivers for the drive array during the boot cycle of the three diskettes. After loading the drivers, we were finally able to get the server up and running.
Accidentally putting a copy of the NT Eval into production could have disastrous consequences. So if you have an absentminded administrator working on your network—or you simply want to be prepared in case Murphy’s Law targets your shop—download this resource document. The Eval might be free, but it could wind up costing you big bucks in downtime.
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