Windows 2000 is much more stable than any previous Microsoft operating system. This remains almost universally true until people, including network administrators, start messing with it. In the course of loading new device drivers or adding services to your Windows 2000 server, you may load something that causes Windows 2000 to lock or display a blue screen on startup. How do you deal with rogue services and device drivers without reinstalling Windows 2000 from scratch? In this Daily Feature, I’ll show you how.

How’d this happen?
Most of the time, when you boot Windows 2000, everything is pretty uneventful. You see a couple of screens of text, a few pretty graphics, and then you can log on. But you’re a network administrator. You can’t leave well enough alone.

You’ve got a program you used to run on your old Windows NT server or a cool device that runs on your Windows 9x workstation and you’re sure it runs under Windows 2000. You’ve just got to try it. Everything installs easily and you reboot your server. That’s when you see it: the good old Blue Screen of Death.

Microsoft did a good job of making Windows 2000 backward compatible. It runs almost all NT programs and a good many Windows 9x as well. Microsoft also helped us by adding Plug and Play support to Windows 2000 for hardware devices. Unfortunately, all of this help sometimes lulls people into a false sense of security. We forget the lessons that dealing with Windows NT 4 taught us.

First, make sure when you add a device that it supports Windows 2000. Many times, old Windows NT drivers will work on your Windows 2000 server. Occasionally, even Windows 9x drivers will work under Windows 2000. But if you want to keep your Windows 2000 server booting happily, check with your hardware vendor to make sure that the device you want to add has a Windows 2000 driver. If it doesn’t, no matter how cool it is, avoid it like the plague.

Likewise, when you install software on your Windows 2000 server, don’t trust Windows 2000’s backward compatibility to ensure that you won’t have any problems. Just because your program ran on Windows 9x or Windows NT doesn’t mean it will work on your Windows 2000 server. Check with the software vendor to make sure it has tested the program under Windows 2000.

So how do I fix it?
Fortunately, while Microsoft was making things easier for us, it also took a little time to create a safety net to catch us when we fall. When you encounter problems booting your Windows 2000 server, you can use the Windows 2000 Recovery Console. For information about the Windows 2000 Recovery Console, see the Daily Drill Down “Recovering from Windows 2000 boot problems.”

To start the Recovery Console, you’ll need to boot your Windows 2000 server from your server’s CD-ROM using the Windows 2000 CD. If your server’s CD-ROM can’t serve as a boot device, you’ll need to boot your server using a set of Windows 2000 boot disks. When you see the Windows 2000 Server Setup Welcome To Setup screen, press R to start the Windows 2000 Repair process. On the Windows 2000 Repair Options screen, press C to start the Recovery Console.

Recovery Console will then display a list of installations you can log in to. You’ll only have one to choose from unless you have multiple installations. Choose the number of the installation you want to use and enter the Administrator password for your server.

You’ll see a standard command prompt. Type listsvc and press [Enter]. Listsvc will display all of the devices and services that are configured on your server. Scroll down through the list using the [Enter] key to advance one line at a time or the Spacebar to advance an entire page.

Search through the list for the name of the offending service or device. You’ll need to know the exact name in order to disable it. If you accidentally disable the wrong thing, you may cause yourself more problems than you fix. If you’re not 100 percent sure, restart your server and wait for the blue screen to reappear. Then take careful notes and restart the Recovery Console.

Now that you have the name of the offending service, you can stop it. To do so, type disable offender, where offender is the name of the service or device you want to disable. (Before disabling the service, the disable command will display the start_type of the service. You’ll need to know that if you have to restart the service later.) Type exit and press [Enter] to restart your server and everything should work great.

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan—you install a new device or service, and your computer then refuses to boot properly. Fortunately, you can fix the problem using Windows 2000’s Recovery Console.
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