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Server 2003 SP2 problems

September 15th, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

After its recent release I installed Service Pack 2 on all computers running Microsoft Windows Server 2003 at work. I encountered a few strange problems.

The most noticeable was a problem with all Vista clients. After patching the servers it seemed all Vista clients were incredibly slow at authenticating and generally transferring any form of data between client and server. A quick test with a Windows XP client revealed that browsing a file server was not unbearable like the Vista client, but there was a noticeable difference in waiting for directory listings etc.

Another problem that immediately came to light was the dramatic degradation of performance on terminal servers. Although I could still log onto the terminal server (albeit very slowly), the client was very slow to respond to any changes I made on the server such as typing into a text document and the sudden movement of minimizing different windows etc.

So it seemed I had a very big problem on my hands, luckily I didn't install the Service Pack during the working day. I was stumped as to what was causing the problem, but a quick Google returned some interesting results. The first was this:

Wally McClure's Blog

Apparently Vista automatically tunes its network settings to make the most of the available bandwidth. In some scenarios though Windows Vista can fail to connect to the network. To view the current TCP optimisation settings issue the following command in a command prompt:

netsh interface tcp show global

The procedure for fixing the problem with Vista clients seemed easy enough, log onto the Vista clients as an administrator and issue the following commands in a command prompt to disable autotuning:

netsh interface tcp set global rss=disabled
netsh interface tcp set global autotuninglevel=disabled

I have to confess that I never tried the above method to cure the problem of Vista clients experiencing slow data transfer. The reason for this was that I was more concerned with the problem that terminal services users were going to experience and any other problems that Windows XP clients faced (since it was only a colleague and myself that were using Windows Vista). On Wally McClure's Blog was a link to an interesting article on Google Groups:

Google Groups - microsoft.public.windows.server.general

A post made in the Google Groups article suggested "The fix is to start the Windows Firewall service on the Windows 2K3 SP2 server". After a discussion with a friend and fellow admin it was decided to start the 'Windows Firewall/Internet Connection Sharing (ICS)' service on all Windows 2003 servers. I actually implemented this through group policy on all Windows 2003 file and terminal servers. I also changed the policy setting for 'Windows Firewall: Protect all network connections' to Disabled. So effectively the firewall service is running but not protecting.

After running a gpupdate on the servers everything was fine. Vista clients were able to authenticate and browse for files at speeds prior to those of the SP2 installation and terminal services was responding as it should. I didn't have to disable autotuning on the Vista clients.

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