Tip

Using Safe Mode to resolve Windows Server 2003 startup issues

If you have problems starting a Windows server, the first thing to do is to figure out what has changed recently. If you or your other fellow administrators keep a change log, you should access the log to see what has recently changed on the server. Perhaps a new device driver, or even an application, was installed that incorrectly modified the system configuration.

You can often use Safe Mode to resolve server startup issues and troubleshoot system problems. In Safe Mode, Windows Server 2003 loads only basic files, services and drivers. Because Safe Mode loads a limited set of configuration information, it can help you troubleshoot problems. You start a system in Safe Mode by completing these steps:

  1.  

  2. If the system is currently running and you want to troubleshoot startup, shut down the server, then start it again. If the system is already powered down or has previously failed to start, start the server again.

     

  3. Press F8 during startup to access the Windows Advanced Options menu. You must press F8 before the Windows splash screen appears.

     

  4. In the Windows Advanced Options menu, select a startup mode. There are six basic options.

    * Safe Mode starts the computer and loads only basic files, services and drivers during the initialization sequence.

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  1. Drivers include the mouse, monitor, keyboard, mass storage and base video. No networking services or drivers are started.

    * Safe Mode With Command Prompt starts the computer and loads only basic files, services, and drivers, then starts a command prompt instead of the Windows Server 2003 GUI. No networking services or drivers are started.

    * Safe Mode With Networking starts the computer and loads only basic files, services and drivers, as well as the services and drivers needed to start networking.

    * Enable Boot Logging: Starts the computer with boot logging enabled, which allows you to create a record of all startup events in a boot log.

    * Enable VGA Mode: Starts the computer in Video Graphics Adapter (VGA) mode, which is useful if the system display is set to a mode that can't be used with the current monitor.

    * Last Known Good Configuration: Starts the computer in Safe Mode using Registry information that Windows Server 2003 saved at the last shutdown.

     

  2. If a problem doesn't reappear when you start in Safe Mode, you can eliminate the default settings and basic device drivers as possible causes. If a newly added device or updated driver is causing problems, you can use Safe Mode to remove the device or roll back the update.

     

  3. Make other changes as necessary to resolve startup problems. If you are still having a problem starting the system, you may need to uninstall recently installed applications or devices to try to correct the problem.

About the author: Rahul Shah currently works at a software firm in India, where he is a systems administrator maintaining Windows servers. He has also worked for various software firms in testing and analytics, and also has experience deploying client/server applications in different Windows configurations. 

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This was first published in July 2006

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