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We have a Win2008 R2 server (64-bit) used for testing/development. This server gets shutdown at the end of most days and if there are any Windows updates then these are installed.

Last night there were 18 updates applied when the server was shutdown, but this morning the server would not start. It gets past post, trys to load Windows but then powers off and restarts all over. Next cycle it warns windows failed to load, what do I want to do, try to load windows, get so far, auto-powers off.

To resolve it I do what I've done at least half a dozen times before - remove 2 of the RAM sticks from the server and try again.

The server is nearly 2 years old, i7 with 6GB (3 x 2GB Corsair simms). When it was about 4 months old we replaced the RAM (server just would not boot, period) and didn't have any issue for about 7/8 months.

Once the server is up and running again I can shut it down, reinstall the 2 simms, and the server will boot happily. I'm 99% certain it only happens after applying windows updates, not all windows updates cause the server to fail.

What's the cause? How can I figure it out?

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I can't see that updates could possibly cause you RAM issues and cause your computer not to boot, RAM is handled by the memory controller on your i7 chip and by the bios on your motherboard, neither of which can be in any way touched by updates; the processor has no writeable memory and the bios is effectively a seperate OS that doesn't get updated unless you specifically download a bios update from the manufacturer, it will never be updated by windows update.

I think the more likely answer lies with either a) the type of RAM you're using, b) the bios version you're running, c) a faulty motherboard or d) a faulty processor. I think it's unlikely to be faulty RAM unless you've overclocked the cpu or memory since replacing it, as it sounds like you've had issues since before this current set. If you have overclocked this computer I recommend setting the clock back to factory to see if it's more stable.

a) i7 setups have very specific requirements for RAM, usually you have to buy a set of 3 identical ones with the same voltage to fill one bank to get the most out of your system. If you buy the wrong voltage RAM (i7 requires low voltage RAM, 1.25 or lower), or RAM with the wrong timings, you will probably see a lot of errors. However seeing as you've built it with 3 dimms I think you probably knew this and have purchased the right RAM.

b) Sometimes manufacturers release updates to the BIOS rom on your motherboard due to unforeseen issues (such as memory compatibility). Check your manufacturers website for any updates available for BIOS and perform updates if their are any. Be very careful with this though and, if possible, install the bios update in diagnostic mode (available in msconfig) as if a bios is flashed wrong you can brick your motherboard. It may also be worth clearing the CMOS memory on the motherboard, sometimes if you fiddle a lot with motherboard settings it can store some pretty weird settings that don't show in the bios UI and can cause stability settings, as a test I'd suggest going in to settings and restoring factory bios settings.

c) Many of the early i7 boards were unreliable due to the fact i7 was a brand new architecture, many people had issues with certain boards and were forced to do RMAs or refunds and alternative replacements. Have a google for your motherboard model number to see if anyone had the same issues.

d) The i7 was the first intel processor to include a memory controller on-chip, so RAM issues can now be linked to the processor as well as the motherboard. Unfortunately it's very tricky to give a solid diagnosis of CPU issues such as this, the only way being a RAM check and that isn't foolproof for intermittent memory controller issues.

Also, just in case I've missed something, could you please explain exactly what you mean by won't boot? Does it get any further than the post screen, does it try to load windows but fail, or do you just have a black screen?

And finally, on a side note, bear in mind that the i7 and corresponding motherboards are not designed to be used as servers, even though they are perfectly capable. Realistically the only difference between xeons and i7s are the quality of the fab; the best of the bunch get stamped xeon and the rest are i7, but it's something to bear in mind.

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I know it's bizarre, but honestly - I'm quietly confident we can restart the server and it comes up fine, but if we see Windows updates being applied when the server is shutdown, we might not be able to restart unless we pull 2 dimms out! I am pretty sure the server has never frozen/crashed once it's on (apps/services might, but not Windows/hardware) – Dan Jun 20 '11 at 21:07
It's not overclocked, and some good points, thanks - I'll check these. (3 RAM dimms are identical, but not sure about voltage - will look at that) – Dan Jun 20 '11 at 21:09

I'd do an intense ram check. Any ubuntu live cd has memtest in it.

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Win2008 server has a tool "Windows Memory Diagnostic" that I ran (requires a reboot and then starts the tool), but that didn't report any problems. I'll try a Ubuntu live CD and see if that shows anything else. – Dan Jun 20 '11 at 21:03

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