Monday, February 11, 2008

Give Me Just a Little More Time

Every now and then a problem will pop up on a network and it will have no logical explanation. Programs that would normally be performing correctly will stop working or, worse, will create errors or bring the entire operating system down in a heartbeat. This happened to me this morning as I received a call from a friendly client. His legacy DOS program, which he runs from a server on his local area network (LAN) was quitting abruptly and giving him an error report or, worse, simply rebooting after two or three minutes. The problem had just started when he came in, so it wasn't chronic or anticipated. As I was inspecting his system, his administrator also began experiencing problems on her computer accessing the same legacy DOS software program. In her case she could log in, but couldn't supply a password. The server returned an error that "no passwords could be found." The red light started going off in my head. Two different problems associated with the same server. A prudent man could reason it didn't seem likely they were not related in some way. I went over to the nearby server in an adjacent room and examined the Event Log under Administrative Tools. I noticed several "red" errors in the log that had only begun a few hours before. They all related to the "W32Time" service or the Windows Time service that is a major feature of the Windows Server 2003 operating system. Then I looked at the clock in the lower right hand corner. The actual time was 11:18 a.m., but the clock showed 11:34. It was now 16 minutes ahead of all of the other computers on the LAN. Several protocols and services within Windows must run within a 15 minute period or else a Windows 2003 server will not communicate correctly with workstations in a workgroup or on a domain. That's something that is not widely known, but it was the root of all of the problems. All that had to be done was to reset the clock to the proper time, sync with a good Internet time server (part of the same Time/Date options), and the problem computers were functioning correctly again. Sometimes something as simple as the wrong time can have a plethora of problems associated with it. It's always a good idea to check that out on workstations too. A common mistake is to have your clock on the p.m. setting instead of the a.m. setting. Always make sure the time and date are correct because, as Tony Bennett once sang, "Time After Time" you'll find out that the Outsiders were correct: "Time Won't Let Me."

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