NT 4.0 SP7 Scuttled; New NT 4.0 Issues

Microsoft Drops Plans For NT 4.0 SP7
Last week, Microsoft released a letter stating that it no longer plans to release Service Pack 7 (SP7) for Windows NT 4.0 because "the frequency of critical problems reported to Microsoft has declined significantly" since it released SP6a. (To review the 160 bug fixes that Microsoft has released for NT 4.0 since SP6a, go to http://www.microsoft.com/technet/support/searchkb.asp and select Windows NT Server 4.0 under "My search is about." Enter the string kbWinNT 400PreSP7Fix under "my question is.") From discussions with its customers, Microsoft concluded that most NT 4.0 sites are running stable environments with a combination of SP5, SP6a, and three or four additional hotfixes. In fact, I run this combination myself (in addition to a bevy of Windows 2000 systems), and I find both service pack versions to be quite stable.

According to customer feedback, NT 4.0 environments are most in need of the following three features, which Microsoft had planned to include in SP7:

  • the Active Directory (AD) client, which you can download from http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/news/bulletins/adextension.asp
  • high-encryption for international versions of NT 4.0, which is available in Internet Explorer (IE) 5.5
  • an easy mechanism for deploying security fixes; Microsoft plans to release a comprehensive collection of all NT 4.0 security vulnerabilities in third quarter 2001

Because Microsoft has released or plans to release these features independently, the company concluded that SP7 is no longer necessary. The letter closes with a disclaimer: "As new versions of Microsoft operating systems are released, Microsoft will continue to evaluate the need for service packs based on our customers' requirements and feedback, and the stability of the operating system."

So, it’s official—Microsoft will issue no more NT 4.0 service packs. If you haven’t started your migration to Win2K, this notice should serve as your final wake-up call. In my opinion, the learning curve for Win2K is steep, but it’s worth the price. I find this OS easier and faster to install, configure, and troubleshoot than NT 4.0—it just takes patience.

New NT 4.0 Issues
When I checked the Knowledge Base after a 3-week absence, I noticed that Microsoft has published 57 new articles since March 24! Several of the new postings are how-to articles, and this total also includes the usual collection of Systems Management Server (SMS) problems. However, I did find several items of interest. Here’s one that’s good for a laugh: Microsoft article Q281541, "Error Message: Query Contains Phrase Composed Entirely of Noise." I’ve met several people over the years whose questions fall into this category. On a more serious note, the following three issues might affect your NT 4.0 systems.

WinSock Bug Exhausts Nonpaged Pool. Under certain circumstances, heavy use of WinSock programs can exhaust nonpaged pool. WinSock’s ancillary function driver (AFD) component ignores a value that sets the maximum size of the bytes it can buffer, and the component eventually uses up all available nonpaged memory. This behavior is most likely to occur if the WinSock program is dealing with both Out-of-Band (MSG_OOB) and usual TCP traffic. When NT runs out of nonpaged pool, you might see a variety of error messages and experience poor performance and system hangs.

Possible error messages include the following:

  • Event ID: 2019 with the text, "The server was unable to allocate from the system nonpaged pool because the pool was empty."
  • Event ID: 2000 with the text, "The server's call to a system service failed unexpectedly."
  • Other events might not work and might generate status code 1450, "Insufficient System Resources."

To eliminate this problem, call Microsoft Support and ask for the new version of afd.sys, which has a file release date of March 29, 2001. Microsoft article Q293841 documents both the problem and the solution.

RPC System Hang. On a server that hosts RPC programs, the RPC service might stop responding to requests and generate the message "Error 1723: The RPC server is too busy to complete this operation." The server console might stop responding, but the server will respond to a TCP/IP ping. A heap damage problem in services.exe can cause this "too busy" situation. . When the heap is corrupted, it prevents the RPC service from dispatching work to RPC programs running on the server. Microsoft Support has an update that corrects this problem. Ask for the new version of rpcrt4.dll, which has a file release date of November 27, 2000. See Microsoft article Q277776 for more information.

IIS 5.0 Put/Append Error. When you append to a file immediately after you upload it to a system running Microsoft IIS 5.0 FTP services, you might see the message: 550 : "The process cannot access the file because it's being used by another process." The append command attempts to open the file that you uploaded before the redirector has fully committed the file to disk. To work around the problem, insert a delay between the Put and the Append commands to give the FTP server time to commit the file. To permanently correct the problem, call Microsoft Support and ask for the new version of ftpsvc2.dll released February 21, 2001. See Microsoft article Q287616 for more information.

TAGS: Security
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