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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Does your AMD-based computer boot after installing XP SP3?

Slashdot It! * Updated May 8 to add information on a second issue. * Updated May 9 to add information on possible additional issues as well as instructions for using the recovery console. * Updated May 10 with some clarifications, a possible video driver problem causing other STOP errors, and an additional work-around for the ASUS motherboard. * Updated May 11 with a pointer to a Microsoft article on removing SP3, and added some information on a possible version for the faulting ATI Catalyst driver.

The Problem

Last night WSUS deployed XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) to the sole remaining computer running XP that I have. This morning, I came down and was greeted with incessant reboots. The computer booted, apologized for not being able to boot properly, asked if I wanted to boot into safe mode, defaulted to normal boot, rebooted, and so on and so on. At this point, I want to clarify that the endless rebooting is not at all related to SP3 per se. The problem is that with some configurations, SP3 causes the computer to crash during boot, and Windows XP, by default, is set up to automatically reboot when it crashes. That is why you end up in the endless rebooting scenario.

There are many possible reasons why a computer may crash at boot time. SP3 seems to introduce two that are related to AMD-based computers, and, possibly, one or two more that appear to affect Intel-based computers. Which one it is impacts which work-around you use. At this point, the information is still trickling in. If you have a crash on boot problem that does not match what I describe below, and it happened as soon as you installed SP3, I'm sure others would like to know as well, including as much detail as you can give us.

First problem, affecting AMD-based computers with OEM images

In my case, the computer would boot into safe mode fine, so I did that. Not knowing what it was, I ran a disk check, which turned out to be a real mistake. Once I configured the computer to run a disk check at startup it would not even boot into safe mode.

Fortunately, I know Bill Castner, another Microsoft MVP, and he pointed me to a solution. It turns out that this computer is running an OEM OS image from HP. If you have an HP computer with a part number that ends with a 'z' you have an AMD-based computer. Other manufacturers have also shipped AMD-based computers, but it is unclear whether they have built their images the same way HP did.

The problem is that HP, and possibly other OEMs, deploy the same image to Intel-based desktops that they do to AMD-based desktops. It also appears that this is unique to their desktop image, and any HP AMD-based laptops are unaffected by the problem. Because the image for both Intel and AMD is the same all have the intelppm.sys driver installed and running. That driver provides power management on Intel-based computers. On an AMD-based computer, amdk8.sys provides the same functionality. Microsoft points out in a Knowledge Base article that installing both drivers on the same computer is an unsupported configuration, putting the blame on the OEM that deploys the image. The article in question was written when the same problem occurred after installing Service Pack 2 for Windows XP.

Ordinarily, having intelppm.sys running on an AMD-based computer appears to cause no problems. However, on the first reboot after a service pack installation, it causes a big problem. The computer either fails to boot, as in my case, or crashes with a STOP error code of 0x0000007e. If you see that error code you almost certainly have this problem. The computer will boot into safe mode because the drivers are disabled there. Please note here that simply having the intelppm.sys file on your computer is not the problem so searching for it in the Windows directory is not relevant. It must be running to cause a problem.

You may not see the error code because the computer reboots too fast. To force the computer to stop when it crashes, you need to set an option during startup. To do so, hit the F8 key during restart right when you see the black Windows XP screen come up. Then select the "Disable automatic restart on system failure" option, as shown below:

To fix the problem, boot into safe mode, or boot to a WinPE disk, or into the recovery console, and disable the intelppm.sys driver.

WARNING: Do NOT under any circumstance disable the intelppm driver on an Intel-based computer. It will make your computer not boot! If your computer will not boot because you disabled the intelppm driver on an Intel-based computer, follow the directions in the Recovery Console section below.

If you have an AMD-based computer, however, you do not need the intelppm driver and can disable it. Boot into Safe Mode by hitting the F8 key as above, but select Safe Mode instead. You will need your Administrator account to log on in safe mode. To disable the driver, take the following steps:

If you booted into the recovery console, from a command prompt, run "disable intelppm"

If you booted into safe mode you can run "sc config intelppm start= disabled"

If you booted into WinPE, you have to manually edit the registry. Do this:

  1. Run regedit
  3. From the File menu, select "Load hive"
  4. Navigate to %systemdriver%\Windows\System32\Config on the dead system and select the file name System
  5. Name it something you can remember, such as "horked"
  6. Navigate to horked\ControlSet001\Services\IntelPPM
  7. Double click the Start value and set it to 4
  8. If you did what I did and completely destroyed things by running a disk check, navigate to ControlSet001\Control\SessionManager. Open the BootExecute value and clear out the autochk entries
  9. Repeat steps 6-8 for the other control sets.
  10. Reboot

If this was your problem, the computer should now reboot just fine.

Second problem, affecting certain AMD motherboards

The second problem type manifests itself in a different error code during boot, and also seems to affect only AMD-based computers. The error code will say something similar to:

Problem was detected and windows has been shut down to protect your computer from damage.
The BIOS in this system is not fully ACPI compliant
You will then get some information about how to update your BIOS. The BIOS is the basic operating system built into the computer that handles reading and writing from disk and memory, as well as some other devices. That is most likely not your problem. The screen ends with the tell-tale error code: STOP: 0x000000A5. If you have that error code, and you just installed SP3, this is most likely your problem.
At the moment, I do not know for sure why this is happening, and I have not personally seen it. The people that have seen it seem to all have custom built AMD computers. Possibly, it is related to computers with the ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard, and possibly some others too, in them. Several different AMD processors have been fitted on that board, however, so it seems more likely to be the board than the processor.
The solution is simplicity itself: insert a USB flash drive, or some other form of secondary storage mechanism, before booting the computer. The people have that have seen this problem report that it goes away when they do. The catch is that the computer will only boot with a secondary drive attached. If you remove the secondary drive it will no longer boot.
It also appears that this could be related to using a USB mouse. If you have a USB mouse, try moving it to the PS/2 port instead (the little round port, you should have received an adapter with your mouse). That seems to resolve the problme without the use of an external USB flash drive.
If you have this problem, and either solution helps, or even if they do not help, I'd appreciate a comment on the blog so we can figure out what is going on here.

Other STOP Errors

Every time a service pack is installed, or any major maintenance like it is performed, a certain, very small, number of computers seem to not come back up. The reasons could range from malware on them that is conflicting with the installation or the new files, to bad hardware that somehow failed at that very moment.

For that reason, there may be other STOP errors involved in this problem. Due to the default settings in XP, all of them would result in an endless reboot cycle. Only if there are many of them does it usually indicate a problem with the service pack. A fair number of people are reporting an error code 0x00000024. It usually means either that the file system driver, ntfs.sys, has been corrupted, or you have a hard disk with bad blocks in bad places. It could be totally unrelated to the service pack. At this point, I just do not have enough details to tell. This one seems to be more related to Intel-based computers though.

It is also possible that 0x00000024 has to do with a faulty video driver. I have seen a couple of reports of crashes caused by the ATI Catalyst 8.4 drivers, and one of a crash involving an nVidia driver of some kind, but I do not know which one. To see if that is your problem, try booting into Safe Mode or VGA mode. If VGA mode works you very likely have a video driver issue. Gary Barclay, in a comment below, pointed out that the 8.432 version of the driver may be the one that is faulting, and that version 8.467 appears to work properly. If anyone else can confirm that I'm sure may others will be happy about it.

If you are getting the 0x00000024 error, there are a couple of things to try:

  1. There is some good information in the Microsoft knowledge base on how to trouble-shoot STOP errors. Try following that.
  2. If you have multiple drives in the computer, disconnect them one by one and try booting. The problem may not be on your primary drive and this could let you isolate which one has the problem.
  3. Run chkdsk /r. The problem could be file system related, and chkdsk could fix it. However, to do that you have to boot the computer successfully. If you have a 0x00000024 error, it will not boot even into safe mode. You will need to follow the instructions in the Recovery Console or WinPE sections below to boot the computer.
  4. Replace the ntfs.sys driver. If the driver file itself has become corrupted there is a backup copy in the %windir%\system32\dllcache folder. If nothing else helps, you could try replacing the version in %windir%\system32\drivers folder with the one from dllcache and see if maybe it was a corrupted file problem.
  5. If you have an ATI or nVidia driver for for your graphics card, notably the ATI Catalyst 8.4, and your computer will not boot, try booting into VGA mode and see if that works. If it does, you almost certainly have a video driver problem. Uninstall the driver and see if Windows will find a better one. If this works for you, please either contact me using the contact link, or post a comment, so others can learn what is really happening here.

There have also been sporadic reports of video driver problems as well as other issues, like the VPN issues. Most of those have to do with some form of third-party software that does not work with SP3. If you have a problem that is not covered here, it would be good if you could let us know. It may be related to SP3, in which case others may have it too. The VPN issue mentioned by one of the posters has me very interested, for example.

Using the Recovery Console in XP

If you cannot boot into safe mode you can try using the Recovery Console in Windows XP. This requires you to have a Windows XP CD. Knowledge Base Article 307654 has directions on how to use it. You do not need to follow the instructions for how to install it. In fact, if you have a problem like the 0x00000024 issue above, you probably can not boot from an installed recovery console anyway.

In brief, to boot from the recovery console in XP, do this:

  1. Insert your Windows XP CD
  2. Boot the computer
  3. Select to boot from the CD. On many computers you have to hit a button to do that. On Dell computers the button is usually F12. On HP it is usually ESC.
  4. The computer will work for a while and eventually you get a screen that says "Welcome to Setup". Hit the R key here
  5. If will ask you which installation you want to boot. If you have several XP installations on this computer, select the one you want. Of course, if you have several installations, and one still works, you would not need these steps.
  6. Type the administrator password for the installation you need to repair.

At this point, you should be at a command prompt. The commands you can run are very limited and they are often different from what you are used to. If you have disabled the intelppm driver on an Intel-based computer and need to re-enable it, run "enable intelppm SERVICE_SYSTEM_START".

If you need to run chkdsk you can do it from the recovery console window as well. The C: drive is the boot volume in your Windows XP installation. To run the full check run "chkdsk c: /p /r"

Build a WinPE Disk on a Flash Drive

Another option, recommended for advanced users, is to have a Windows PE disk handy. Windows PE is a miniature version of Window that can boot from a CD, and starting with Windows Vista, a USB Flash Drive. I wrote up directions on how to build a Flash Drive with Windows PE in the Vista book, and there are now also directions on TechNet. You need to have access to a computer that boots, and you need a copy of the Automated Installation Kit (WAIK). Once you burn the AIK image to a disk you can install it and start building your Win PE disk.

Using a Windows PE disk you get access to all the normal tools, like regedit. It has far more features than what you have with the recovery console, but requires a lot more prep work to get started.

Removing SP3

A few people decided the problems were sufficient to just remove SP3 altogether. If you have a problem that is not covered above, that may be your best option for the moment. Microsoft just published an article on how to remove the service pack. It includes information on how to remove it even from the Recovery Console, so even if your computer will not boot you should be able to do it.

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Anonymous said...

Boy, you described my predicament precisely. I have the second problem, (0x000000A5 on AMD motherboard). It is self-built with A8N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard and AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+. I have two such computers, both with the same MB and CPU, but one with XP Pro, the other with XP Home. Only the XP Home edition is plagued by the problem and has had it for several months now, but I've been unable to solve it. I have found that it is not necessary to use a USB drive if I use the F8 both to select the boot drive and again to select "normal boot". I hope someone has found a more permanent fix though!

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