Ben Hamilton

Resurrecting Terminal Server

A Terminal Server I was attempting to work on today gave quite a lot of grief. The first hint was that users were unable to login to it. When I then tried to login, it gave an error message of:
Login Failed
You are connected to the remote computer. Howerver, an error occured while an initial user program was starting, so you are being logged off. Contact the system administrator for assistance.

So I rebooted it remotely using the command shutdown /r /f /m \\TSERVER1 while having a continuous ping running, from the ping results I could see it go down, come back up. However on trying to login now, after entering a username/password I could see the logon script run, but no taskbar, start button appeared. Right clicking the desktop didn’t give any menu.

I could however navigate to the hard drive on that machine by pointing My Computer to \\tserver1\c$\.

Copying some of the tools at live.sysinternals.com I was able to view the event logs, no issues apparent, check status of various services, all ok.

So I connected via RDP once more (mstsc /v:tserver1 /console) and viewed the background (still no start button or taskbar) and pressed CTRL-ALT-END which allowed me to start the Task Manager. This allowed me to run a new task (File | New tas (run...)) so now I was able to copy the sysinternals autoruns program to the root of the C: partition, and run it from the affected terminal server. Running c:\windows\explorer.exe didn’t work tho.

Delving into it’s depths I found an entry for HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options\Explorer – renaming this entry then allowed Explorer to run. So I’ve exported the key (in case I do want it sometime) and then deleted it.

Rebooted the server once more and bingo, it lets everyone log in. Very satisfying after a couple of hours of mad hair tearing.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted September 16, 2008 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Just realised that I didn’t note that this server was some 1200km away, so it was all remotely done.

  2. Gary
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    Very similar symptoms to our server (which started about the same time as this post!), except that we still can’t log onto it. There’s no Explorer entry under Image File Execution, so we’re still looking for possible solutions.

  3. ronad
    Posted November 3, 2008 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    same problem with windows server 2008 core, happend after adding machine to domain.
    above reg key was not the solution still looking

  4. Fede
    Posted March 21, 2009 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    Did you find the solution to this?
    Thanks!

    • Posted March 30, 2009 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      Other than the entry for HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options\Explorer ??

      No, no other solution found.