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I don't really have a lot of detail to provide on this issue. I am hoping someone has seen this and can possibly point me to a solution.

I have a Windows Server 2003 box that seems to "hang" when trying to login. The login process goes very slow, but once it gets to applying user profile settings, it does not proceed. The services are starting up. This server hosts some websites that are still available. So it seems that the services are starting up as expected, but we cannot login to the server.

The only information I can provide before this started happening was that the server had been set to auto-update. One of the system admins logged into the server and it prompted him to restart to finish applying updates. He selected restart later in order to reboot the machine during scheduled down time. I cannot say how long after he did that, but our backups of this server started to fail. When he tried to remote into the machine, he was presented with the desktop background. There were no icons or start menu/task bar. It was as if the explorer process had been killed. At this time the websites were still available so IIS was still running. The server would not respond to a shutdown -r command. Not knowing how else to proceed, he did a hard shutdown (held in the power button).

When he described what was going on it sounded to me as if the machine tried rebooting itself but it wasn't able to. I have seen this at home on Windows XP when saying to restart later after updates were applied. I would come back to the computer after a period of time and it had rebooted and I was presented with message that updates had been applied when logging in.

Any thoughts on what might be causing the server to hang when logging in or how we should proceed to solve this problem?

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2 Answers

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It doesn't sound to me like you have done a lot of the usual 'startup issues troubleshooting' such as login in as a different user, or into safe mode (or both). There are different things you can do, but unfortunately there isn't much to recommend on from your post. Check out Microsoft's documentation about troubleshooting startup problems in Windows 2003:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/325375

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I did forget to mention that we tried logging in with domain admin and local admin accounts with the same problem. We were able to boot to safe mode. I think the information in the article will be really helpful. I don't think anyone was aware of the logs created in safe mode that we could reference. Thanks for giving us a good starting point. –  bfrancis Jan 8 '10 at 15:19
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It sounds to me like a service isn't starting properly and holding up Service Control Manager.

I'd boot the machine in "Safe Mode". If it boots and works fine in "Safe Mode" the root cause of your "Normal Mode" issue is probably a hanging service. At that point it's a matter of digging thru the event log and seeing what "clues" are there, and perhaps disabling some services, booting in "Normal Mode", and repeating until you identify the service that's causing the problem.

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