Edit: Sep. 26 2012 - I am updating this question and its tags because I have now encountered this error again, on a Server 2k8R2 VM. Still, there seems to be no authoritative information out there on the net for this, so in case I ever solve it, this page could become a valuable resource for others having the same issue.

I've Googled the hell out of this and can't find an answer.

I have a Windows Server 2003 VM. I run the following command on the server:

typeperf "\Processor(*)\% Processor Time"

And here is the output:

"(PDH-CSV 4.0)","\\SERVER01\\Processor(0)\% Processor Time","\\SERVER01\Processor(_Total)\% Processor Time"
"03/30/2012 11:40:13.881","0.000000","0.000000"
"03/30/2012 11:40:14.795","22.374429","22.374429"
"03/30/2012 11:40:15.807","-1","-1"
"03/30/2012 11:40:16.707","0.000000","0.000000"
"03/30/2012 11:40:17.607","18.402778","18.402778"
"03/30/2012 11:40:18.507","0.000000","0.000000"
"03/30/2012 11:40:19.407","-1","-1"
"03/30/2012 11:40:20.307","-1","-1"
"03/30/2012 11:40:21.207","-1","-1"
"03/30/2012 11:40:22.107","-1","-1"
"03/30/2012 11:40:23.007","-1","-1"
"03/30/2012 11:40:23.907","0.000000","0.000000"
"03/30/2012 11:40:24.807","-1","-1"
"03/30/2012 11:40:25.707","-1","-1"
"03/30/2012 11:40:26.607","-1","-1"
"03/30/2012 11:40:27.507","-1","-1"
"03/30/2012 11:40:28.407","0.000000","0.000000"
"03/30/2012 11:40:29.307","-1","-1"
"03/30/2012 11:40:30.207","-1","-1"
"03/30/2012 11:40:31.107","-1","-1"
"03/30/2012 11:40:32.007","-1","-1"
"03/30/2012 11:40:32.907","0.000000","0.000000"

Error: A counter with a negative denominator value was detected.

Alright, so why the intermittent negative ones? I have a thousand other systems on which this behavior does not occur, but I can't figure out why it's happening here. Any help would be appreciated.


After six months of (off and on) searching, I have finally found the solution to this problem.

I had seen that KB mentioned by brain99 before as well. It vaguely alludes to a "hardware timing issue," but doesn't give any specifics. Since I had really only seen this on VMs, the idea of a "hardware timing issue" seemed strange, but it did make me think about how VMs communicate with their host.

These were VMware virtual machines, and in the VM Tools, there is a "Time synchronization between the virtual machine and the ESX server" setting that was checked. Unchecking that solves the problem.

All this time I never fiddled with the VMware tools and the solution was so simple. :P


According to this Microsoft KB article, the error has something to do with timing issues but does not necessarily indicate a problem. It doesn't explicitly mention the negative values, but it stands to reason that the two are connected since the article specifically mentions a problem reading the Processor Utilization counter.

Unfortunately, no specific solution is provided in the article.

  • I figured that's about as good of an answer as I was going to get. It's not a big deal - I can rebuild the counters database or even rebuild the entire operating system... I mainly just wanted to know for academic purposes how exactly it happened. – Ryan Ries Aug 30 '12 at 15:10
  • I'm sorry I had to un-check you... I found the definitive answer. :) – Ryan Ries Oct 2 '12 at 19:38

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