Server won't boot? Forgot to make that backup? Have no fear, just blame Microsoft

Everything is Windows' fault. Even when it really isn't


Who, Me? The perils of dusty old kit, a cashing-in of brownie points and if in doubt, blame Microsoft! Start the week with another Register reader Who, Me? confession.

"George" (for that is not his name) was that most common of breeds in the tech world – a self-taught IT guy responsible for a small network of users at a local firm. Keeping things ticking over were four crusty old Windows Server 2003 boxes taking care of Domain Controller duties, file sharing, email and backup.

"The 'servers'," admitted George, "were actually desktop boxes crammed beneath a desk and connected to a KVM, router, cable modem and such via an unholy rats' nest of cables which I never messed with – dust... what dust?

"The backup system was to xcopy the data files to the DC boxes then synchronize weekly with robocopy. There were always three copies of any file, none more than two hours older than the live version."

Homebrew backup scripts involving xcopy can be such a delight, as we're sure many a reader can attest.

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Thankfully, George eventually received funding to replace those ancient beige boxes with something a little swifter and rack-based. Having assembled and configured his new toys, he only had the data left to migrate. He wasn't the only one doing some maintenance; on the Sunday before his planned go-live the building power had to be shut off. So he arranged to come in when the power was restored in order to shift the files.

What could possibly go wrong?

One by one he fired up all the hardware, with only those dusty old Windows Servers left to switch on. Without really considering what he was doing, George reached under the desk and jabbed the power buttons in quick succession.

"To my horror," he said, "I heard zapping sounds."

A thick coating of dust and a power cycle do not make the happiest of bedfellows as George, to his alarm, discovered.

All the boxes were dead except one which, to George's unalloyed delight, seemed to be grinding back into life. Sort of. "I was thanking every deity of every religion in the history of the world when I saw that it was asking if I wanted to run chkdsk to repair the data drive," he said.

The problem was that it was Sunday and getting the spares to fix the servers, or adapters to move the data drives, wasn't an option. Certainly not before the bleating of the users would begin on Monday. Repairing the data drive on the only running server (which he dared not power cycle again) seemed the best, and only, course of action.

George gingerly pressed Y and put himself in the lap of the chkdsk gods.

"The stars aligned," he cheered, "and sometime later I had the data back. I copied it over to the rack then started Explorer to see what it all looked like."

The answer was... not great. His users were prone to fiddling with directory structures and filenames, which meant that by the end of the week everything on the backup looked a bit scrambled compared to the live version. "I suppose I should have sync'd before the power went off," he sighed, "but hey... what could go wrong?"

The next few hours were spent feverishly trying to piece the file system back together. He got close, but admitted that things weren't 100 per cent pristine.

"The next day people noticed that some directory structures had changed and some filenames differed from what they had been the previous Friday," said George.

He was faced with a dilemma. Should he confess all and throw himself at the mercy of the users? Or should he lie his ass off in an effort to divert attention from his own fsck-wittery?

"I put on an authoritative air," he said, "and informed anyone who asked that the new version of Windows Server (which we had to have as the new hardware wouldn't run on anything less!) had some subtle differences in file-handling procedures compared to the old version and there may be (ahem) 'unexpected differences' in some folders."

Thankfully, the users were so delighted with the much-improved performance from the new kit that nobody queried his explanation.

"It was the only time in my career I resorted to the 'baffle 'em with bullshit' tactic, thank God no one knew anything about Windows Server 2008 or file systems.

"As I had established a reputation for being honest and open about things IT, I had enough credit that I could get away with a little bit of economy with the truth (and no one noticed how long my nose was getting!)

"I went out and bought Backup Exec and a tape drive the same day!"

We're sure the majority of Register readers would never dream of dodging a stream of the brown stuff by such methods. But maybe you're one of the minority who would? Confess all with an email to Who, Me? ®

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