Ask Dr. Bob Your NT Questions - 14 Sep 1999

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Potential SP5 Glitch
I recently upgraded from Service Pack 4 (SP4) to SP5. When I tried to dial in and use Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), the Internet kicked me off within 5 minutes. I checked all my modem's settings, and everything seemed fine. I uninstalled SP5, but the problems continued. After I replaced the old modem with a new modem, the problems disappeared. The SP5 upgrade seems to have corrupted the old modem's settings. This service pack upgrade is the first to cause me any problems. Perhaps my problem was coincidental, but the rumor mill says other users are experiencing it.

My company has several hundred systems running Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 3 (SP3). Microsoft released SP5 just as we were about to install SP4. Do we need to install SP4 before we install SP5, or can we go straight to SP5?

Your question highlights a common misconception about service packs. NT service packs are cumulative with regard to system files and fixes, but SP5 doesn't duplicate the optional features and utilities that SP4 provides. Therefore, I'd install SP4 before installing SP5. SP5 doesn't include the following SP4 features:

  • NetShow Services—This enhancement lets ISPs and corporations deliver the highest-quality audio and video at every possible bandwidth across the Internet or enterprise networks.
  • Microsoft Windows Media Player—This utility replaces ActiveMovie and NetShow Player and adds many new features that are essential to today's media content. For example, Media Player uses sophisticated compression and buffering techniques to deliver live and on-demand audio, video, and illustrated audio. Media Player continuously decompresses content and plays it in realtime, letting users listen to and watch live audio and video programs or navigate on-demand audio and video content.
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 4.01 SP1—A service pack update.
  • Microsoft Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM)—This feature represents an industrywide (i.e., BMC Software, Cisco Systems, Compaq, Intel, and Microsoft) initiative to develop a standardized technology for accessing management information in enterprise environments.
  • Microsoft Site Server Express—This utility collects and analyzes Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) log files from one server.

I know that most BIOS manufacturers post beep codes, but I don't know how to fix the errors these codes represent. Can you summarize known fixes to the most common beep code errors?

Beep codes vary according to the BIOS manufacturer. However, the fixes for various beep codes are fairly uniform. The following codes apply to the AMI WinBIOS setup for most new Pentium II and Pentium III systems.

  • 1, 2, or 3 beeps—Memory failures. In all three cases, reseat the DIMMs. If the beeps recur at boot, remove the DIMMs and ensure that the DIMMs' contacts and sockets are clean, then reseat the DIMMs. If the errors continue, replace the DIMMs. Make certain that the speed and voltage of the DIMMs are correct. If you still have problems, you probably need to replace the motherboard.
  • 4 beeps—The timer isn't operational. Replace the motherboard.
  • 5 beeps—A CPU error. Replace the motherboard.
  • 6 beeps—Gate A20 failure. Reseat the keyboard controller chip. If this fix fails, replace the keyboard controller chip. If the socket is bad, you need a new motherboard.
  • 7 beeps—A processor exception interrupt error. Replace the motherboard.
  • 8 beeps—A video memory problem. Replace the adapter or the VRAM.
  • 9 beeps—The BIOS ROM chip is bad. Replace the chip.
  • 10 beeps—A shutdown error for the CMOS register. Replace the motherboard.

For more information about beep codes, see Michael D. Reilly, "The NT Boot Process," December 1998.

I recently upgraded my system to a SCSI 3 Ultra 2 chipset. To my surprise, Windows NT 4.0 recognized only the first eight LUs of my new CD-ROM jukebox. How can I fix this problem?

NT 4.0 detects only the first eight LUs on a SCSI device. To work around this limitation, install Service Pack 4 (SP4) and open a Registry editor (e.g., regedit.exe). Remember that altering the Registry can cause serious problems in NT. Always update your Emergency Repair Disk (ERD) before proceeding. Go to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ CurrentControlSet\Services\Driver Service\Parameters Registry key (Driver Service is your SCSI driver's name). Create the Devicen LargeLuns subkey (n is the SCSI bus number) of type REG_DWORD, and set the value to 0x1. Screen 1 shows this value for an Adaptec 2940 Ultra Wide SCSI controller (the SCSI bus number is 0).

What is Synchronous DRAM (SDRAM), and what advantages does it offer?

SDRAM is a DRAM technology that synchronizes a system's memory to the timing of its CPU. SDRAM differs from standard DRAM in several ways:

  • Synchronous operation—Unlike conventional asynchronous DRAM, SDRAM has a clock input that lets the system clock control the CPU's step-by-step operation and SDRAM's operation. This arrangement produces effective communication (i.e., access) between the memory and the CPU.
  • Cell banks—The memory cells inside the SDRAM chip reside in two independent cell banks. These banks enable interleaving, which reduces the total memory cycle and results in faster transfer rates.
  • Burst mode—Bursting is a rapid data-transfer technique that automatically generates a block of data every time the processor requests an address. Bursting applies to read operations and write operations.

SDRAM supports data transfers as fast as 125MHz. In earlier memory designs, you had to set wait states on the CPU so that memory could supply needed data to the CPU. SDRAM seems to eliminate this bottleneck.

Since I upgraded to Service Pack 4 (SP4), I can't stop my servers from logging crashes in their event logs. What's going on?

SP4 records three events in the system event log that are new to the service pack:

  1. Clean Shutdown Event (Event ID: 6006)—The Event Log Service records a clean shutdown event whenever a user or program initiates OS shutdown.
  2. Dirty Shutdown Event (Event ID: 6008)—The Event Log Service records a dirty shutdown event whenever the OS doesn't shut down cleanly. The most common dirty shutdown occurs because of power loss. The system records this event when you reboot. While Windows NT Server is running, the system periodically writes a time stamp to the Registry. Each time the system writes a last alive time stamp to the Registry, the time stamp also flushes to disk (so that you can read the event when you reboot). By default, the system writes the last alive time stamp every 5 minutes to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Reliability\ LastAliveStamp Registry key. To change the interval, add the D_WORD value TimeStampInterval. When you set this value to 0 minutes, you prevent any last alive time-stamp logging, and the system will write only the boot and Clean Shutdown stamps to the event log.
  3. Whenever you boot the system, the Event Log Service records a system version event containing OS version information. This event lets you easily analyze NT system event logs by OS version.

Before SP4, logging OS crashes in the event log (Save Dump events) was optional. The system recorded crash events by default, but a systems administrator could disable this behavior in the System applet in Control Panel by clearing the Write an event to the system log check box on the Startup/Shutdown tab. In SP4, recording crashes in the event log is mandatory for NT Server (i.e., an administrator can't disable it) but remains optional in NT Workstation.

I'm new to Windows NT 4.0 and am seeking setup tips. For example, how much disk space does an installation require? Does NT support all hardware? If not, what do I need to avoid?

A standard installation requires a minimum of 124MB of hard disk space. If you copy the i386 directory to the local machine, you'll need 223MB of hard disk space. I always recommend that you also reserve sufficient space for your pagefile (i.e., RAM plus 12MB).

NT 4.0's hardware support is impressive. Check out the latest Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) on Microsoft's Web site at hwtest/hcl.idc. If your computer uses nonstandard or proprietary bus components, NT might incorrectly detect controllers and settings. In addition, some nonstandard enhancements (e.g., special bus drivers, caching chips for burst-mode transfer) don't follow industry standards. If the information that NT gathers is incorrect, Setup might fail at a late stage. Incorrect detection is often a symptom of a hardware or configuration problem that might also cause Setup failure.

I've heard that Windows NT can support up to 8GB on the bootable partition. However, when I run Setup, NT limits me to 4GB on this volume. What can I do to get the full 8GB?

NT can support up to 8GB on the system partition (i.e., the primary partition the system boots from). However, to achieve this support, you need to work around a limitation in the NT Setup utility.

NT Setup always formats your hard disk as FAT, even if you select NTFS as the format type when managing disks during Setup. When you select NTFS, the hard disk first formats as FAT, then converts to NTFS later in the setup process.

FAT volumes have a maximum size of 4GB under NT; this limitation effectively restricts the maximum size of the system partition that NT Setup creates to 4GB. (Typically, FAT16 is limited to 2GB, but NT supports 4GB because of the OS's support for 64KB cluster sizes.)

One way around this problem is to connect the hard disk to another NT computer and format the disk as an NTFS volume before you run NT Setup on the original system. Another option is to use a third-party disk-preparation utility capable of formatting the hard disk as NTFS. (I've had some problems using such third-party utilities, so I recommend using the first method, if possible.) Using these methods, you can create bootable NTFS system partitions of up to 8GB in size.

Editor's Note: Sean Daily contributed this answer to Tricks & Traps.

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