By Ray Geroski

It’s easy to take for granted the utilities that PC and component manufacturers include in their products. When you upgrade your OS, you pay careful attention to compatibility with the applications you’ve installed, and you even download updates to ensure that the programs will continue to work after the upgrade. But, until problems arise, few users give a second thought to utilities such as power management programs.

Such was the case for one member who posted in the Technical Q&A forums that his Toshiba laptop began experiencing problems with a particular utility after he upgraded from WinNT 4.0 Server SP6 to Win2K SP3.

“After upgrading,” wrote member John Gordon, “a process called bser.exe uses all the available CPU, running at between 89 percent and 99 percent.”

Gordon also found that he could not terminate BSER.EXE. His question about the process was twofold: What purpose does it serve? Can it be disabled without causing other issues? A tip from a TechRepublic member gave Gordon the information he needed to solve the problem. Additional details available on Toshiba’s Web site explain the nature of the problem, and present—in Gordon’s case at least—a simple fix.

What is BSER.EXE anyway?
BSER stands for BIOS Server Service, which member RCOM said provides an interface for Toshiba’s Advanced Power Management (APM) features. According to RCOM, such utilities were developed because NT lacked APM functionality.

Gordon’s problem likely occurred because he upgraded without first uninstalling Toshiba’s APM. A technical support bulletin on Toshiba’s Web site states that, in most cases, problems with BSER.EXE are caused by improper installations, and that includes uninstalling the current APM subsystem and rebooting prior to installing service packs, upgrading APM, and installing a new OS.

RCOM noted, “If the service is still running after the upgrade is complete, then it wasn’t uninstalled.” To fix the problem, RCOM suggested reloading the system’s ghost image and then uninstalling the Toshiba APM subsystem before migrating to Win2K.

The CPU usage issue is a known problem that Toshiba addresses on its Web site. Toshiba suggests that most users install version 2.05.41 of the APM subsystem. A technical support bulletin on Toshiba Canada’s Web site offers the full details.

In this case, however, Gordon apparently doesn’t need APM at all. According to Toshiba, the system is incompatible with Win2K and isn’t needed. The support bulletin states that upon upgrading to Win2K, users should uninstall APM altogether.

Because Win2K provides native support for APM features, Toshiba’s utilities aren’t needed, but if users would prefer to use Toshiba Common Modules and Toshiba Utilities for these functions, they are available for many, but not all, of its laptop models. But Toshiba acknowledges that even if the utilities aren’t available for your particular system, Win2K’s native components offer all the functionality you need. It makes sense to take advantage of features that are already available rather than install additional software.

Check the fine print
Gordon’s experience with the Toshiba laptop shows that it’s easy to overlook many potential compatibility issues if you don’t research carefully and if your system manufacturer doesn’t provide adequate information. In this case, a manufacturer utility that Gordon didn’t even need was causing problems.

If you have a Toshiba laptop and have experienced similar CPU utilization issues, you have a couple of options:

  • If you’ve just upgraded to Win2K from WinNT, simply uninstall Toshiba’s APM subsystem; you don’t need it anymore.
  • If you’re running an OS other than Win2K and are experiencing the same problem, try downloading a newer version of the APM from Toshiba’s support site.