Mysterious Dr. Watson Errors

I support a network that comprises two servers and numerous workstations. Each server is a Dell PowerEdge 6400 with dual 733MHz Pentium III processors, 1GB of RAM, and a SCSI RAID 5 controller with five 36GB 10,000rpm hard disks, running Windows NT Server 4.0 Service Pack 6a (SP6a). One server hosts 169 users, and the other hosts 152 users. Each workstation has at least 128MB of RAM, runs NT Workstation 4.0 SP6a and McAfee's VirusScan, and accesses Microsoft Office 2000 Service Release 1 (SR1), which runs on the servers.

Recently, users have been getting numerous Dr. Watson errors when they use Microsoft Outlook 2000 to send email or when they use Microsoft Word to edit, save, or print a document. I can't consistently reproduce these seemingly random errors: A user might run into five errors in a day, then not get an error for a week. The errors occur regardless of which server the users connect to, but I don't think either server is near its load capacity. Can you help?

I'm not sure that you can get rid of the Dr. Watson errors without running checked builds of the OS—not a practical idea for your environment. However, I think your problems are probably network-related rather than hardware-related, and I can make a few suggestions that might help.

Change your basic environment. Install Office 2000 on each machine and instruct users to save files in central subdirectories on the servers. Set up Microsoft Exchange Server on one or both servers, and let users employ Outlook in conjunction with Exchange. (If your users are geographically scattered, they can access the central file server and Exchange server through a dial-up connection.) Also, ensure that all printers are properly attached, correctly configured, quality network printers.

I realize that you give up some control over users when you configure your systems as I suggest. However, you can maintain reasonable control through the use of accounts and permissions. (For information about creating NT user and group accounts, see Michael D. Reilly, Getting Started with NT, "Windows NT Users and Groups," July 1998.)

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.