I've asked this question a couple of times but I don't seem to be getting any real answers.

We have a SBS (Windows Server 2008 Rc) server and suddenly the screen has started freezing. Even when we go into the system via remote desktop it worked once or twice (since the problem started), but now the RDP screen freezes once it gets just past the Welcome screen.

The server itself is running, SQL is working, Exchange is working, file share is fine. It's just the UI that isn't working.

We've tried hard resetting and that works for a short while before the problem comes back.

EDIT: When the screen freezes we cannot get access to the operating system at all. That is, we can't access the GUI portion of the OS either via the machine itself or RDP. But, we can still access shared drives, run commands on the machine from a different machine (CMD).

  • You should phrase your question so someone can answer it. IT is not clear if you are asking why it is happening or how to fix it or both. – Bernie White Nov 5 '12 at 9:12
  • Hi Bernie, apologies I assumed that any server admin would automatically want to know why it's happening and how to fix it. Thanks for the tip – Jacques Nov 5 '12 at 13:25
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    Is this a VM or physical host? Either way try to access host screen, and see what see what happens when you send Ctr+Alt+Del. I had a similar issue on our R2 systems and this patch from Microsoft resolved the issue support.microsoft.com/kb/2661001. Dont apply this patch if doesnt relate to your problem, also before deploying a patch make sure you test before hand. – bonga86 Apr 6 '13 at 8:03
  • Hi Bonga, it's not a VM no. This problem eventually went away after we removed Exchange from the server. I'm thinking this was a memory issue since it only had 8Gb RAM, but I would have liked a definitive answer to know what to do if it happens in future. – Jacques Jul 19 '13 at 9:04

It might be the cause of memory exhaustion . I have the same problem , not able to login through remote or locally. Black screen comes out after login. As per the monitoring tool my server is consuming 99 percent of the memory.

  • +1 Actually in the end it was memory. We dropped Exchange off the server which freed up quite a bit of memory and then stopped all SBS monitoring services which was chewing up the hard drive. Since then we've never had this issue again. – Jacques Aug 8 '13 at 10:30

I have a redundant set of AD servers that periodically do the same. Those are (luckily) the only Windows servers we run. What happens is that the user.ini file gets corrupted, particularly on a lengthy Windows update session. The only thing that helps is (since of course it does not find its recovery partition, and a command line does not help) to take the OS disk out, put it on a USB-to-SATA adapter, connect it to any willing PC, and manually go through the directories in the \user folder and delete everything with the extension .ini. Pop the disk back into the server, boot it up, and restore all of the users' desktop and such, for all users (in our case there is only one user, and that is admin) since these servers really only need to run AD. Terrible software design.

  • What sounds "terrible" here is that you're apparently letting users log in to "AD servers" (by which I assume you mean domain controllers). This is an awful, dreadful idea. And incidentally, I've never had the problem you're describing on any windows servers, including terminal servers used by hundreds of users. If files are routinely being corrupted in your Windows server setup then something is wrong with your configuration. – Rob Moir Jan 1 '15 at 10:27

You need to provide more data. Is it just the desktop freezing ? if starting a cmd, does inside the cmd work ? try to remove all mapped network share. You can also send ctrl+shift+esc in full screen to get task manager, and then kill explorer.exe, and launch a cmd.

  • HI Mathieu, I've added some more information to my original question. Basically the operating system is operational, but the screen freezes both on the machine itself and RDP. We can still run commands from other machines against the server and access shared files and so on and services like exchange still work, its literally just the GUI that is frozen. – Jacques Apr 5 '12 at 7:17
  • so use pskill remotely from sysinternal to kill explorer when it freezes. What eventlog says ? – Mathieu Chateau Apr 5 '12 at 7:54
  • You may also activate crash on control to force a BSOD (blue screen) and so to get a memory dump. Then analyze memory dump to see what is happening when hanged. Most of time it's a driver problem if it's global. Could try to update all drivers first – Mathieu Chateau Apr 5 '12 at 7:56

Not exactly sure what causes this, however, I occasionally have the same problem. This is not a fix for the problem but it will get you moving again. Ctrl+Alt+Del, start the task manager, then kill it. Your local and remote GUIs should become responsive immediately. (I realize that the question is old but in case someone still needs a quick fix...)


Out of curiosity what antivirus program are you using on your server? I had a very similar issue with a customer using Kaspersky on an SBS 2011 server. The screen would lock up randomly when connect via RDP, the machine would lock when shutting down.

While we were still using Kaspersky we installed Teamviewer for remote management which was a fix, but we ultimately moved to using Sophos Antivirus and Puremessage. The machine hasn't locked up since.

  • We use Eset NOD32 Antivirus. Since we removed a couple of roles from the server this issue has never come up again so I'm guessing it was memory related, but we can't be sure which is frustrating. – Jacques Jul 19 '13 at 9:06

Do any Windows logs give you any direction what is happening when it freezes? Review all firmware and driver versions for known/similar issues (especially graphics, controllers, chipset, etc.). If it suddenly started, check to see what changed around this date such as a Windows update, resource utilization, hardware configuration, or new functionality. During off-peak hours when you can do a reboot, try some prodding such as restarting services (you can connect to the server remotely with the Services console). You are looking for RPC errors or timeouts that may suggest Operating System level problems or other. This is a generic problem/description so if nothing else these will help tell you what is NOT the problem.

  • Thanks John. There were unfortunately no logs associated with this issue. – Jacques Jul 19 '13 at 9:08

I have sometimes had very similar symptoms on my Windows 10 remote desktop, where the screen is frozen on login but network services are still responding. Typically when this happen I can connect to my existing session and see the desktop and the running apps, but everything is frozen and unresponsive to clicks and input.

The solution is usually to simply send Ctrl+Alt+End, which is like Ctrl-Alt-Del for remote machines. This usually unfreezes the remote machine, and you can log right back in, or bring up the task manager or whatever.

(I know this an old question, but RDP is still shaky in Windows 10 and this post is where Google takes people...)


Manual restarting explorer.exe treats the problem http://www.addictivetips.com/windows-tips/how-to-restart-explorer-exe-process-properly-in-windows-xp-and-vista/

  • The link provided is for client operating systems not server operating systems. Your answer should explain in words how to solve the issue, one sentence and a link is not a good answer. – Bernie White Nov 5 '12 at 9:55

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