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Rule #1: Apply the service pack after every update to the OS. A general rule of thumb, that works well for me, is any time you update something that asks for the NT CD or a path to the i386 directory, reapply the service pack. This includes installing new network drivers, protocol's or services. It's not a bad idea to have a good backup of the server before attempting a service pack upgrade. I've never had a service pack kill NT, but there's a first time for everything.
Rule #2: Keep a current copy of the ERD (Emergency Recovery Disk) for each server. An easy way to make an ERD is to type rdisk /s at the run command. The /s doesn't back up the SAM database, which won't fit on a floppy in most cases. It's especially important to have an ERD if you are going to mess with the Registry.
Rule #3: Don't load any 3rd party software unless you really need it. NT is very stable by itself. The more stuff you load the greater chance you have of getting a bad piece of software that may crash your server.
Printers: When using network printers, I prefer to use LPR ports instead of loading 3rd party port drivers from HP or Lexmark. If you are have TCP/IP loaded, and the printer supports TCP/IP, there is no reason why you can't use an LPR port, and it will most likely be less troublesome than using a 3rd party solution. You must have TCP/IP printing installed to use LPR ports. TCP/IP printing does not have to be running. Most printers will pick up an address from the DHCP server (if you have one.) If you know what IP address your printer has you can Telnet into it to change network settings. If you telnet to a Lexmark printer, you must attach to port 9000. For example: telnet 192.168.0.100 9000. Most newer printers have a web based interface that you can reach from any browser on your network.
WINS: If you have a server configured as a WINS server, it is very important that both the primary and secondary WINS setting in the TCP/IP properties point to the local IP address. If you don't do this you will most likely have false entries in your WINS database. If a WINS database becomes corrupt, the easiest way to fix it is to:
1: Stop the WINS service
2: Delete the contents of the WINNT\System32\wins folder.
3: Start the WINS service. The WINS database will rebuild itself fairly quickly.
On a larger network, with more than a couple of hundred computers, it's a good idea to actually try to fix the database. Where I work, there are 20,000 entries in the WINS database, and if the master became corrupted, it would take a while to rebuild.
BOOT.INI: If you ever edit your Boot.ini file be sure to make it read only again when you are done. NT will not boot if the file is not set to read only.
NT Boot Disk: If your Boot.ini gets corrupted (or you forget to make it read only), or something happens to ntldr, or ntdetect.com. you can boot a NT box off of a floppy. Here's how:
1: Format a floppy disk from an NT box.
2: Copy boot.ini, ntldr, and ntdetect.com to the floppy. Make sure you make Boot.ini read Only. The boot.ini file must be configured correctly for your machine.
3: Boot the machine off the floppy. It should boot just like normal.
It's not a bad idea to make one of these and have it handy.
Parallel Install: If NT is down, and a repair doesn't fix the problem, you may be able to fix it by doing a parallel install. This is especially useful if a reload of the OS is out of the question. From a parallel install it is possible to edit the registry of the original install, restore files, or the whole winnt directory from tape, or clear out a corrupted print spooler directory. All you have to do is install NT into a different directory on you server. It is very important not to format or recreate any partitions, this will destroy your original install. I usually use WINNT2. It's even better to install it on a different partition if possible. Now when you boot the server you will have an pair of lines in the boot menu. The top line will be the parallel install regular mode. The second line will be parallel VGA mode. The third line will be the original install. When your done, don't forget to make you original install the default in Boot.ini.
Editing the Registry to stop services from a parallel install: From the parallel install do the following:
1: Type regedt32 at the Run command, and hit enter.
2: Highlight the window that says HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
3: Pull down the Registry menu and select Load Hive.
4: Browse to the registry files of the original install. Usually c:\winnt\system32\config. Select the "System" file, with no extension.
5: When prompted for a name type in something like the machine name, or parallel, and hit OK. The name isn't really important.
6: You now have access to the registry of the original install. To get to service, navigate to "name you picked"\controlset001\services.
7: Look for and stop all 3rd party apps, the spooler, WINS, and any other app you think might be causing your problem. To set a service to manual click on the folder for a service, and change the key Start: REG_DWORD:0X1 by double clicking on it. Change the 1 or 2 to a 3. 1 is start with the system. 2 is start automatically, 3 is manual, 4 is disabled.
NT Locks up: If NT locks up without a bluescreen, but you can still ping it, try rebooting first. If it locks up at the login screen after a reboot, there is probably a service that has become corrupted. The way to fix this is to do a parallel install as described above. You can then boot into the parallel install, and edit the registry of the original install to stop suspicious services, as described above. If this doesn't work, load your backup software, and restore your WINNT directory from a known good copy. (you are backing up your server, aren't you???) If NT does come back online, start the services one at a time, until the machine crashes. That way you will know exactly what service is causing the problems.
Spooler locks up server: If you have determined that the spooler service is locking up your server, the solution is to delete all the files from the spool folder, (leave the subdirectory). The default location of the spool directory is C:\winnt\system32\spool. It is possible that the spool directory has been moved to a different partition to conserve space on the C:. Unless you are using Fat16 (bad Idea), you will have to delete the files by booting into the parallel install.
Logon Script: Tired of running the logon script assigned to you at work? If you are, and you are running NT workstation, or Windows 2000 Professional, this trick will allow you bypass the logon script. Find cmd.exe and move it out of the path, (ie: to a different partition, or to a new folder in the root of C:). Now modify your shortcut to the Command Prompt to point to the new location. The only drawback to doing this is that batch files will no longer run by double clicking on them. You must execute them from DOS. Of course, most people don't run batch files, so it's not an issue. Before you do this, you should make sure you know the paths to all the shares you need, that way you can map them manually.
License Logging: Disable the license logging service. It eats up resources, and has actually been known to crash NT, especially if the database gets corrupted. This also rids you of the hassle of having to enter the correct number of licenses (like anyone has the correct number of licenses anyways)
Active Desktop: If you like active desktop, and you would like to install it on NT 4, you need to install IE 4.0x. If you go straight to IE 5, you don't get the option to install it. It does work to uninstall IE5.x, then install IE4.0x, then upgrade to 5 again. Whew, what a pain. If anyone knows a way around this let me know. Of course I doubt many people are spending a lot of time with NT4 anymore.
Batch File Fun: Create a batch file with the following 3 lines, and call it start.cmd
Now run the batch file. (do so at your own risk :-} ). Just kidding, don't run it, unless you want to see your system crash.
Mapped Drives act like Local Drives: It is possible to make a mapped drive look and act like a local drive. The way to do it is simple. Create a batch file that maps a drive. Name the batch file with the cmd extension. for example:
net use g: \\whatever\whenever password /user:domain\username /persistent:yes
Now put the cmd file somewhere safe, like
Using the service installer, or the Service Installation Wizard, make the batch file a service. Set it to run automatically at boot time. The mapped drive will show up in my computer as a local drive.
I haven't been able to get this to work in Windows 2000, but it does work in NT 4.0.