To maintain peak performance from your WINS (Windows Internet Name Service), you need to engage in preventive maintenance and be prepared for trouble should it strike. Information is one of the most important tools at your disposal for surviving a serious problem, whether you end up solving it internally or turning to Microsoft for help.

Performance Monitor to the rescue!
WINS allows a number of configuration changes that can improve its overall performance. However, a WINS server with a single hard disk doesn’t allow for these changes. Thus, your company should ensure that the WINS database is on a partition different from that of the page file whenever possible. The log files should reside on yet another partition.

These steps address WINS performance but not the performance of the WINS server itself. Your company can best assess the load and performance of its WINS servers by using the Windows NT Performance Monitor program.

Performance Monitor is a graphical measuring tool that charts every conceivable aspect of the various subsystems that Windows NT comprises. It works by measuring hundreds of counters. Performance Monitor can simultaneously chart, alert, and report on the computer where it’s running, as well as any other Windows NT computer on the network.

Performance Monitor plays a crucial role in proactively tuning and optimizing Windows NT and reactively determining the source of bottlenecks or other problems. Regular use of Performance Monitor can alert WINS administrators of developing performance and server load issues. Administrators should use this tool first to determine a baseline performance profile on their WINS servers and then to monitor the servers daily. Daily monitoring is a critical step in keeping WINS performing optimally.

If your organization contracts with Microsoft Premier Support, and you encounter any serious issues involving a computer running Windows NT Server or Workstation, your administrator will almost certainly need to use Performance Monitor and forward those results to the support engineer working on the case. Network administrators should learn this tool well and use it often.

LMHOSTS to the rescue!
One critical factor to consider is what happens if the WINS server goes down. As discussed in the article “Need a WINS refresher? Here’s all you need to know ,” WINS servers provide NetBIOS name-to-IP mapping for all servers, including domain controllers. Without a backup plan, WINS server failure would mean all other servers suddenly lose contact with one another. To ensure that critical servers can contact one another in case of WINS server failure, your company should consider using LMHOSTS files containing IP addresses of mission-critical servers.

The LMHOSTS files should be available on all domain controllers and member servers. If WINS services are temporarily unavailable, the server can continue resolving the names of other servers in the network by accessing a centrally updated LMHOSTS file. This scenario also allows for a wider availability of the central LMHOSTS file because it can be retrieved from alternate servers.

Troubleshooting, troubleshooting, troubleshooting
Troubleshooting a WINS server revolves around a few specific items. The most important troubleshooting steps are as follows:

  • Check and record the size of the WINS database. If it seems large compared to a baseline measurement, check to see when the last scavenge was run. An automatic function of WINS, the scavenge utility cleans up the database by releasing old records, making records extinct when appropriate, deleting extinct records, and verifying replica records.
  • Check and record the event log for error messages, and compare it against articles that match the error log. The Microsoft Knowledge Base contains a half-dozen articles that list event log IDs that can help troubleshoot WINS problems. The articles are available on the TechNet subscription delivered to Microsoft Premier Support customers.
  • Check and record the most recent changes in the WINS service.
  • Check the Jetpack log file, found in %SystemRoot%\System 32\Wins. Jetpack is a WINS database maintenance utility that cleans and compresses the WINS database.

When trouble arises, WINS server administrators should always check TechNet or relevant troubleshooting articles. They should also refer to the Windows NT Server 4.0 Resource Kit Networking Guide for the chapter on troubleshooting the WINS server database.

Some good tips regarding server failures
Recovery from catastrophic server failures requires a number of preemptive steps. The administrator should update the server hardware configuration documentation to include any hardware firmware levels. The software configuration documentation should include information about service packs, hotfixes, and third-party drivers for each server. Microsoft support engineers require this information in case they need to install debugging symbols before analyzing a memory dump. By collecting this information ahead of time, the administrator can reduce some server downtime.

The administrator should configure servers to write a memory dump file to disk in the event of a blue screen error message. This dump file contains vital troubleshooting information that will allow the administrator to diagnose the blue screen error and enable the server to be brought back into production if possible. The Control Panel contains other recovery options, including automatic reboot, event log recording, and administrative alerts. Finally, administrators should familiarize themselves with Knowledge Base articles regarding blue screens and stop screens.

Hotfix.exe and Srvinfo.exe in the spotlight
An administrator who’s troubleshooting server problems can gather useful information by running two utilities: Hotfix.exe and Srvinfo.exe. The Hotfix.exe utility informs you which hotfixes are installed on the server. You can find this program on the Microsoft FTP server, along with posted hotfixes. Srvinfo.exe provides details such as which services or drivers are present on a particular server. It can also give disk information for a remote server. You can find this utility in the Windows NT Resource Kit. The online help contains information about running the utility.
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