In-Depth

Troubleshooting Under Pressure

The root of your problems may lie in your event logs.

I was working on the help desk of a regional public transportation agency, and we were implementing a standardization project to move people away from DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, and mainframes to a Windows NT Workstation base. Contractors were doing the actual rollout, removing the old hardware, distributing the new machines and configuring the users.

We added a new station in one of the maintenance garages. Previously there was only a mainframe terminal; now those users were getting a shiny new PC. New Ethernet cabling was run, the new box put in place and the old terminal removed.

The maintenance shop supervisor returned from user training, perhaps not eager to put these new skills to work, but at least ready to try. But the new workstation gave an error dialog that it was unable to log into the domain. Of course, with NT, if you can’t log in, you can’t do anything.

Also in this issue:

 Get Active Directory Replication Right!
by Andrew Lindley

 Exchange 2000 Upgrade, Times Two
by Cynthia Balusek

 Wireless Meets Mother Nature
by Justin Melot

 The Expiration Date That Did Us In
by Jeremy Dillinger

 Hard Drive Fall Down, Go Boom!
by Christopher M. Roscoe

(Back to introduction.)

Because of the new wiring, we immediately suspected the physical connection and called the cabling contractor to come out and check it. The contractor said the wiring was just fine and left (probably saying unkind things about us). Of course, a simple check of the link LED on the NIC would have shown us that it had a good connection to the hub.

Next, we sent out the primary contractor to fix the problem. He tried changing out the NIC, unloading and reloading the driver and loading and unloading components, all with no success.

We sent out another technician the next morning. He repeated many of the same troubleshooting steps, with exactly the same results: No ability to log in, and no way to work on the computer at all.

The shop supervisor, who fit the stereotype of a union bus maintenance shop supervisor—forearms like Popeye—wasn’t happy.

This is where I got involved. The supervisor was asking politely if we would consider returning the terminal he had previously, so he could get some work done. I grabbed one of the terminals and drove out to the site. I was met there by the supervisor, who was holding a three-foot crescent wrench in his hand. He never left the office while I was there. Considering the wrench and who was holding it, I didn’t want to leave without fixing the problem.

I logged on locally to the machine and checked the System Event Log. There were about 300 messages, all identical: A duplicate name was found and all network functions were disabled. We were using computer names that were five-digit numbers; they shouldn’t have had any duplicates, but this one had a transposition error in it. I changed the computer’s name to what it should have been, rebooted, and helped the shop supervisor log on. Total time on site: Maybe 10 minutes.

The moral: Check the event logs first. The other technicians had experience with Windows 9x, but not NT, so they didn’t know about the Event Log service.

About the Author

James D. Pollock, MCSE, MCSA, successfully escaped from the maintenance garage and now works as a systems administrator at Pioneer Pacific College, where he’s also a senior instructor teaching Microsoft networking.

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Oct 15, 2002 Matt R Anonymous

It seems that there is another lesson here.

Not only did you have the intuition to look at your event logs, ( a mark of every good tech), but you also KNEW your network.

Who elso could know that you use a type of 5 digits in your naming convention?

So I think it should be 1. Check your logs
2. Know your network. If you don't know both of these. Find someone who knows either of them and make it your reponsability to put two and two together.

Thu, Oct 3, 2002 Skip Reading (England)

Ahhhh i get it all the time!! Working under pressure is not good for the head folicles as i am now bald!!

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Good advice.

Tue, Sep 24, 2002 Mengis G. Anonymous

It is a good story. It reminds me that easy can be overlooked and to always
check basic staff first.

Thu, Sep 19, 2002 Michael J. Carter Anonymous

No offense, but why would you have a "primary contractor" be involved in a major NT rollout who had NO experience with NT. Seems like you guys were asking for trouble.

Thu, Sep 19, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Been there done that 3 but still very useful advice.

Thu, Sep 19, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

ALWAYS work smarter not harder !

Wed, Sep 18, 2002 Sondra http://www.padalecki.com

Been there done that 2 ! Excellent story !

Wed, Sep 18, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

been there done that ! Great story !

Wed, Sep 18, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Well

Wed, Sep 18, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

ALWAYS check the event logs if there's "something odd" with NT-based systems!

Wed, Sep 18, 2002 Christy Anonymous

You can't beat the old tried and true: "Check the easy stuff first".

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