Post Setup Configurations
If you have no abnormal indications and the system appears to be functioning normally, you can declare a job well done and give yourself a week off. If Setup did not complete or had significant errors, check the section, "Correcting Common Setup Problems," in this chapter.
You may want to do a few things to tidy up. Here are a few hygiene checks you should perform.
The license agreement accompanying any Microsoft Windows product makes it very clear that the operating system is considered a part of the computer, no different than a chipset or the system BIOS. That's why most retail versions of Windows are called "upgrades," on the assumption that you must have received a Windows operating system with the original hardware. (This is not always the case, of course. It is possible to purchase a server without an operating system, or with an alternative OS such as Linux or NetWare.)
When you install the retail version of Windows Server 2003, you have 30 days to activate the product. This is handled by the Windows Product Activation (WPA) Wizard. The executable is called Msoobe.exe, which stands for MS Out-Of-Box Experience. WPA has three major components:
A 25-character product key on the jewel case or other container.
An Installation ID generated based on the hardware installed in the server at the time of activation. If you are interested in the hardware components that go into the makeup of the Installation ID, a German firm called Fully Licensed has analyzed the WPA process and published a white paper at www.licenturion.com/xp/fully-licensed-wpa.txt.
A Confirmation ID supplied by Microsoft via the Internet, modem, or phone. This number is what "activates" the Windows Server 2003 installation.
If your server does not have direct connection to the Internet but it has a modem, you can use dial-up to one of Microsoft's Product Activation Centers using a number provided in the WPA Wizard. If you do not have a modem, you can call the Product Activation Center directly to obtain a Confirmation ID. There are support centers in each country. Each one is available 7 x 24. The operator does not collect any user information. The operator may ask for a name, but only out of politeness. Microsoft insists that no personal information is recorded.
If you choose to activate via phone, the WPA Wizard displays a window that displays the Installation ID so you can read it to a customer support representative. Figure 1.12 shows an example.
Figure 1.12. Activate Windows screen—phone activation.
If you reinstall Windows Server 2003 using the same product key on the same machine with the same hardware, you need only validate the existing activation via the Internet or phone or modem. You can perform an unlimited number of validations.
If you do a radical change to your hardware, you will be required to reactivate. The exact nature of the change is something Microsoft will not publish. The retail version of XP is extremely forgiving. If the machine uses the same BIOS, activation will not be triggered.
WPA only applies to retail versions of the product. The product key you obtain from a Master License Agreement or a Volume Purchase Agreement is not subject to per-instance activation. The minimum number of overall licenses required to qualify for a VPA is relatively modest. Check with your reseller for current requirements.
Event Log Checks
You should check the Event log to make sure no abnormal situations came up during installation and the initial boot. Event logs are stored in the \Windows\System32\ Config folder along with the Registry hives. You can view the contents of the logs using the Event Viewer console, Eventvwr.msc, or the Event Viewer executable, Eventvwr.exe.
Windows Product Activation, as a process, is completely distinct from product registration. Registration lets Microsoft know who you are so you can obtain technical support, product update notifications, and lots of email concerning third-party product information.
Activation does not contain any information that relates a particular user or organization to a particular license of Windows Server 2003. Registration, on the other hand, contains a great deal of information about you and your organization. You do not need to register in order to activate.
The Event Viewer console can be opened from the Start menu via START | PROGRAMS | ADMINISTRATIVE TOOLS | EVENT VIEWER. Figure 1.13 shows an example of the Event Viewer console showing the System log. If you are an NT4 administrator, you'll be pleasantly surprised to see that the navigation arrows in the viewer now actually indicate how the cursor will move.
Figure 1.13. Event Viewer console showing typical System log entries after installing Windows Serve 2003.
There are several Event logs:
Events from user processes.
Events from drivers and Executive processes.
Used only if Auditing is enabled.
Installed only on domain controllers.
File Replication Service.
Installed only on domain controllers.
Installed only on DNS servers.
You should get familiar with the normal Event log entries for your system. Some errors happen all the time and are benign. Others should cause you immediate attention. Each entry in the Event log has a description of the event and many have suggestions for troubleshooting. Figure 1.14 shows what an error looks like in the Event log.
Figure 1.14. Sample Event log entry showing error details.
Move and Configure the Paging File
The paging file holds memory pages that have been swapped out of RAM. The pages are stored in a system file called Pagefile.sys, stored at the root of the system partition. The default minimum size of the paging file is 150 percent of system RAM with a maximum size of 300 percent of RAM.
For small systems with 256MB of RAM, you can get away with keeping the paging file on the system partition. But for large systems with multiple gigabytes of RAM, you should take a few actions to control the file's size and location.
Move the Paging File to Another Disk
You can improve overall system performance by putting the paging file on a fast drive that does not share connections with the operating system drive.
You can have up to 16 paging files as long as each one is on a separate logical drive. You will not get a performance improvement unless the paging files are on separate physical drives, as well.
You should leave a small paging file on the boot partition. This is because the system uses the paging file to hold memory dump information following a kernel-mode stop error (a.k.a. Blue Screen of Death). The memory is dumped first to the paging file and then copied to a dump file following the next restart. That's why the paging file must be at the root of the system partition, because the bugcheck executable has no access to the file system and so must use INT13 calls, which are limited to the root of the boot drive.
The option to dump system memory can force you to set aside very large chunks of disk real estate if you have lots of memory. An alternative is to dump only the operating system memory. This saves considerable disk space and gives Microsoft technical support a more compact file to examine in the event of a crash. Or you can dump just the stack heap if you really want to conserve space (<64KB total). This is outlined in Procedure 1.3.
In most situations, I've found that a stack heap dump gives sufficient information for servers that are not having problems. If you have a server that is crashing frequently, you may need to save a dump of the operating system or even of the entire memory space. At this point, you are probably going to call Microsoft Product Support Services, and they will tell you what sorts of information they need.
Procedure 1.3 Configuring the System to Dump Only the Contents of the Kernel Memory
Open the System applet in Control Panel.
Select the Advanced tab.
Click Settings under Startup and Recovery.
Under Write Debugging Information, select the option to do a Kernel Memory Dump or a Small Memory Dump (see Figure 1.15).
Figure 1.15. Startup and Recovery window showing memory dump options.
Avoid Paging File Fragmentation
The paging file can become fragmented, which hurts performance considerably. Finding pages in a fragmented paging file requires more work. Also, because the paging file is a system file, the disk defragmenter must work around it to defrag the remaining files.
To avoid fragmentation, make sure the drive you select for the paging file is already defragmented, then make the minimum and maximum file sizes the same. This causes the system to lay out the full paging file in a single, contiguous run that won't grow and get fragmented. Be sure to give a generous amount of space. If you are going to run Terminal Services, make the paging file at least double the size of memory up to 4GB.