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Peter Strömblad

Peter lives in Sweden and is an independent contractor with hosting services.
You know Windows Update is flawed - don't you?

Automatic updates of software are good - aren't they? Well I'd answer yes in normal cases, but anything that is automatic can behave in ways the creators never imagined. So it is with fire alarms, burglar alarms, and of course with computing. This patch tuesday from Microsoft contains quite a number of fixes. Some that are very important to servers, regarding name resolution. However smart we are, automatic updates are not enabled on our servers - we consider them too dangerous - since in the past some driver updates have caused machines never to start again.

And so it happens - again. And now, with virtual servers running on top of the base server - when updates fail, you render three-four five or even eight machines stranded.

What happened then, why doesn't the server start as it should? - well it does, but just barely. I've never seen windows so inoperable that not even a task monitor is accessible, not even in safe mode. A small clue exists on sys\windows in the file WindowsUpdate.log - that is accessible over the network. It states

2008-08-17 10:19:44:472 4328 1594 AUClnt WARNING: Shell_NotifyIcon failed (dwMessage=0x0, uFlags=0x3, hr=0x80070002)
2008-08-17 10:19:44:472 4328 1594 CltUI FATAL: Failed to show client UI, directive=5, hr=80070002

Aha, something in the windows shell isn't starting as it should. And with the debate of removing Media Player from windows, since explorer is so tightly integrated, led me to investigate - what changes were made to explorer this time. Within KB953838-IE7.log I found it. It says:

6.937: DoInstallation:AnalyzeDiskUsage failed

Aha - so the sys volume ran out of disk space during the install - and let's not bother with the why or how at the moment. The reason I state that Windows Update is flawed, is that it requires a re-boot for some operations. This Patch Tuesday's pack of files required a re-start, and between the update and the restart, that continues the installation - disk space ran out. Sure, yes it probably did - but when updating really cruical files, shouldn't this be checked before? In fact it does, but the limit of free space is too tight - and there you have the result - a server heavily depended upon - needs to be re-installed.

Well, then, why wasn't 16 GB of system space enough? Because of all darned copies that Windows generates. In the Windows directory there are hidden KB directories. Besides these you have another directory called ServicePackFiles and another directory with files. Only the Windows directory contains more than 8 GB of files today, on a server that was installed december 2006. That is insane. To the downfall, we support many systems, older than some of my boys. When they we're installed with RAID controllers and high speed SCSI drives disk space was quite expensive and a total 32GB server system was considered more than enough. Some of the directories are safe to delete, some are not - and I haven't found any official information from Microsoft on how to conserve system volume space. If anyone has, please let me know.

So for the time being, take this advice if you run cruical machines:
Make sure you have plenty of free space on you system volume before running Windows Update aka Microsoft Update.

....

and now on to the task of backing up all drives (just about a terabyte of data.... - sigh)

Posted: Sunday, August 17, 2008 10:13 AM by Peter Strömblad

Comments

crushed ice maker said:

Peter Strömblad : You know Windows Update is flawed - don't you?

# November 4, 2014 8:47 AM
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