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I have a Windows SBS 2003 R2 server that has a strange problem. If the server is left running for approximately 4 days, I cannot get the login screen to appear at the console - all that displays is a blank grey screen. Weirdly I have no problem logging into the server remotely (using RDP) and in every other respect, the server is performing faultlessly. This inability to login at the console continues until the server is restarted at which point everything is fine for about 4 days and then it happens again!

I have researched this problem on the internet and although there are lots of cases of people experiencing the GSOD (grey screen of death), they seem to get this both at console and remote login.

This problem only started to occur recently and changes to the server during this period have been minimal - only Windows Updates and some maintenance patches for Backup Exec 12.5.

I have also examined the Windows Event Log and cannot find any error relating to this problem.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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If you hit Ctrl+Alt+Del, do you get a login prompt? We have several servers that display this behaviour. – LukeR Jul 14 '09 at 11:31
@LukeR - Ctrl+Alt+Del unfortunately does nothing :( – Chris Driver Jul 14 '09 at 11:34
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I had a similar issue on a couple of ML350 G5s a while back. After a few days of uptime all I would see on the console was a blue backround (not BSOD). All services, fileshares, etc appear to be working. Updating the firmware on the SmartArray controller fixed the issue on the two servers for me.

HP ML350 G5 Driver and firmware page

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Great suggestion, I'll investigate this further. – Chris Driver Jul 15 '09 at 8:52

That sounds to me as if the server is in a stalled shutdown. If a shutdown/restart hangs you sometimes get a blank screen at the interactive session but you can still TS into it.


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I don't think it is a stalled shutdown. There is nothing in the event log to indicate the server was attempting to shutdown, all the services are running and I certainly didn't instigate a shutdown. Thanks for the suggestion though. – Chris Driver Jul 14 '09 at 11:27

So, you go to the console, see that the screen has the Windows 2003 Screen saver, shake the mouse and get the grey background?

Do you have a CTRL ALT DEL screen and then the Username and Password box doesn't appear? Or does neither appear?

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That is exactly it, I shake the mouse to stop the screen saver and all I have is a grey screen. It looks exactly like the standard Windows server login screen except there is no white 'Press CTRL ALT DEL to begin' window. – Chris Driver Jul 14 '09 at 11:30
Hi Chris, Could you tell me what's in the following Registry key? HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\WinLogon – RhysSH Jul 14 '09 at 12:36
I have about 35 sub-keys under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\WinLogon. – Chris Driver Jul 14 '09 at 13:05
Anything mentioning GinaDLL? – RhysSH Jul 14 '09 at 14:09
Nope, nothing mentioning GinaDLL. – Chris Driver Jul 14 '09 at 14:31

Rollback drivers to get rid of the problem, then use occams razor; re-add patches one by one.

Sorry, I know it's boring, but painfully true.

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I appreciate your response, but your suggestion is my last resort option! – Chris Driver Jul 14 '09 at 12:01

Is the server connected to a KVM switch? If so, and if possible, you may want to connect a real mouse, keyboard and monitor and see if the problem persists.

Also, are your hardware patches up to date? BTW, what is the hardware?

share|improve this answer
No KVM used. Mouse, keyboard and monitor connected directly to the server. The server is an HP Proliant ML350 G5 – Chris Driver Jul 14 '09 at 12:29

I had this problem and it turned out to be a RAID driver issue; check for any strange Application Popup events, the driver was sending thousands of messages to the console and after a couple of days it couldn't handle any more queued messages.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for the suggestion but my last application popup was about 6 weeks ago. – Chris Driver Jul 14 '09 at 13:08

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