In the dark ages of computing, error messages were for experts. If a program failed, and the programmer had anticipated the event, you ended up with a brief, cryptic message, typically containing a numeric code (Error 1722, for instance) that you had to look up in a book. Can't find the book? Tough.
So maybe we're not that far out of the dark ages after all. Last month, I challenged TechRepublic members to help a fellow network administrator track down a tricky Windows 2000 error message that was flooding his Event Viewer logs:
Event ID: 1000
User: NT AUTHORITY/SYSTEM
Description: Windows cannot determine the user or computer name. Return value (1722).
Despite the event description, which appeared to be in plain English, the real key to decoding this error message revolved around two numeric error codes: Event ID 1000 and Return Value 1722. No secret decoder ring or master list of error messages required—the information was already available online in Microsoft's Knowledge Base.
TechRepublic member jaystar was first to jump in with what turned out to be the correct answer. He searched Microsoft's Web site and found Knowledge Base article Q261007, which contained a description of the exact Event ID I reported, with a suggested solution. Apparently, DNS was misconfigured on the workstations in question, pointing to an external DNS server before the DNS server running on the Windows 2000 domain controller. By juggling the order of the DNS servers, he was able to successfully banish those error messages.
That challenge turned out to be easy to solve, but the second half of the puzzle—tracking down a comprehensive source of information on Event Viewer codes—was a stumper. Jay added an explanation for his successful search: "I found it by searching for the return code in the text. From searching the TechNet site, it appears Windows 2000 maps multiple errors to the 1000 event ID code. If this is the practice for other event codes, it may be impractical to try to generate a list of event codes to solutions without including descriptions with each event code."
That guess turned out to be right on the money. Although I was initially encouraged by a TechNet page called Windows 2000 Error and Event Messages, it turned out to be less than comprehensive, offering only some common-sense instructions on how to search the Knowledge Base for event IDs. That page does offer a downloadable list of 6,572 error codes and their associated IDs but offered nothing that isn't already visible in the Event Viewer window.
Another TechRepublic member, jessed, offered a suggested solution that wasn't relevant in this case. But he earns 1000 TechPoints anyway for pointing out a superb independent resource for anyone trying to troubleshoot Windows NT/2000 problems, JSI Inc.'s Windows NT/2000 Tips, Tricks, Registry Hacks and more…. "This is by far the best resource I've come across for event log type troubleshooting, actually providing answers a lot of the time." When I searched the list, I found the answer immediately, although the information came straight out of the same articles available on the Knowledge Base. The JSI site is more valuable as a source of tips and tricks that you won't find elsewhere.
Here's Ed's new Challenge
How do you become an Active Directory expert in your spare time, without having to become an MCSE? That's the question that landed in my mailbox this week from the part-time administrator of a small (one server, 10 workstations) network. He's not an IT professional, but he regularly rolls up his sleeve to maintain his company's small network. Over time, he's learned enough about primary and backup controllers to master his NT4 domain. Now he's completely lost after upgrading his domain server from NT4 to Windows 2000. The Server Setup wizards seemed easy enough, but that can't be everything. What steps has he missed? If he relies on the wizards to set up Active Directory, is he about to step into any traps? Where can he turn for an accurate, thorough tutorial and setup instructions without having to earn an MCSE? Any and all suggestions are welcome: books, courses, Web sites, you name it. Click here to tackle this week's Microsoft Challenge.