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Hot add memory hangs Windows Server 2003 system

Shutting down a server for maintenance or upgrades is a major source of downtime for Windows systems. Adding memory is a common upgrade. The hot add feature in WinServer 2003 is a big plus for administrators – when it works.

Microsoft has added new features to Windows in an effort to reduce downtime and increase availability. One of these features is the ability to add memory to Windows Server 2003 without rebooting the computer.

Since shutting down the computer for maintenance or upgrades is a significant source of downtime for Windows systems, and since adding additional memory is a common upgrade to Windows servers, the hot add feature is a big advantage to administrators – that is, when it is available and when it works.

The hot-add capability requires the server manufacturer to make changes to the BIOS (and elsewhere). These changes allow memory to be inserted into the system while it is still running, while enabling the system to recognize the new memory once it is installed. Several manufacturers, including IBM, Dell and HP, now offer servers with hot add memory.

In some cases, however, not only will the server not recognize the newly added memory, but the system will actually hang. This occurs when:

  • The server is running Windows Server 2003 with SP1 installed, and.
  • The server has a 64-bit chip set, and
  • The server starts with less than 4 GB of RAM, and
  • After the hot add operation, the server has at least 4 GB of RAM.

After the memory is added, the server stops responding. You may also get the error message: Stop 0x0000007F.

When the problem was first reported last year, Microsoft's suggestion was to not hot-add memory if the server had less than 4GB of RAM installed. But Microsoft has since released a hotfix for the problem.

About the author: Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term often meant an 80K floppy disk. Today he specializes in writing about issues related to storage and storage management.

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