Applied Windows updates - now stuck in "Preparing to configure Windows" for hours


  • Dell PowerEdge T410 - SBS 2011 out of the box on Monday.

    I'm getting ready to build a new server on this platform to replace a messed up old SBS 2003 now in use.  So far I've been busy reconfiguring the IP space (they had their LAN in a public address range), remapping printers, fixing all the little stuff that has come up since they last had an IT guy on-site, so the new server has just been sitting.  This morning I decided to check for updates and once they where installed the system reboot hung at the gray login background screen saying:

    Preparing to configure Windows...

    Do not turn off your computer.

    After 2 hours and a few web searches I see this seems to be a 'feature' of 2008R2 that I've not yet seen.  Tried remote desktop, control-alt-delete, safe mode, safe mode (it claimed to be backing out the updates), and safe mode with command prompt (this claimed to be "configuring"); all with no luck.  Can't remove the pending.xml file as suggested here.  Not looking forward to a complete rebuild but I guess I could count it as practice.  Other suggestions?  Official Microsoft KB doesn't seem to have anything to say.
    Friday, July 22, 2011 7:24 PM

All replies

  • I'd do a System State Recover from yesterdays backup of drive C:
    or recover C: completely

    Hopefully you have some backups

    I always do a Virgin Backup of any server I install before Users/Updates/Configuration
    Install SBS (Do not do Auto Update during install) (Backup)
    Install all Updates (Backup)
    Add Users IDs, Move Data Folders (Backup)
    Move Data (Backup)
    Add Machines (Backup)

    Yes this takes longer, but..
    Then you don't have to rebuild the whole server when things happen.

    I hope you have a good backup of the server and this helps


    Russell Grover - SBITS.Biz MCP, MCPS, MCNPS, SBSC
    Remote Small Business Server/Computer Support - www.SBITS.Biz
    Redirect to Microsoft's SBS Public Forum -
    Redirect to Microsoft's SBS Essentials Support -



    Friday, July 22, 2011 11:07 PM
  • I'd just hard power off and reboot it.  I've seen a system get stuck and
    then boot fine once I bit the bullet and turned it off.
    Saturday, July 23, 2011 12:13 AM
  • I'd just hard power off and reboot it.  I've seen a system get stuck and
    then boot fine once I bit the bullet and turned it off.

    I thought that was too obvious :)
    And assumed it was tried already.
    Russ :)
    Saturday, July 23, 2011 2:15 AM
  • I did have a bare metal backup I made yesterday but it was off-site today.  I ended up rebuilding the server from scratch and decided, before I saw your post, not to allow any updates during the install.  Until the dedicated on-site NAS arrives I'll be doing backups per your suggestion using an external hard drive or network share in my test environment.  All was not lost, as I got to time a full install on the new hardware (90 minutes) and changed the new server's name and domain to match a recent renaming of the customer's business.


    I'd still like to know what causes these hangs and what can be done to avoid them.  Restoring the server from a backup, even once or twice a year, won't sit well with this customer.  They've had bad experiences with WSUS on their old SBS 03 box and their response was to disable updates and not apply SP2 (until I told them it was a requirement to migrate).

    Saturday, July 23, 2011 6:16 AM
  • Guess I wasn't clear in my "what I've already tried" paragraph.  After it sat for 2 hours I did "bite the bullet" and hard powered it off.  When I restarted it I got the usual "didn't shut down cleanly" choices and tried "normal" a few times before I started trying the various flavors of safe mode while searching the web for a magic bullet.  The silver lining was I finally got down into the BIOS event log and discovered I'd already lost one of my two power supplies within hours of first powering it up Monday.  A quick check of the LEDs on the back, a few power cord swaps, and a chat with Dell has a replacement supply due this coming Monday.  We've replaced MBs in client machines at this location unusually frequently and I've noticed being on-site that the lights dim noticeably several times a day.  When I asked the people who work there, they say they don't even notice it!  And yes, both the new and old server are on their own separate UPSs.
    Saturday, July 23, 2011 6:29 AM
  • I guess it was so obvious that I didn't bother to state I'd also done that!
    Saturday, July 23, 2011 6:30 AM
  • I've got servers running years never having to be rebuilt or restored from backup.
    In fact I have a lot of SBS2003 servers that Run like swiss clocks.
    Basic Maintenance, learning the server and using wizards IMO is all it takes.
    (Yes I have some that defy logic)

    Run the SBS Best Practices tool can help.

    On the PS
    Wasn't there an Error Code BEEP on the dell on start up?
    or if you have the T Series Didn't the display say there was an issue?
    Bring this up to the Dell Dude if this didn't happen.
    (But I'm glad it's getting fixed)

    on Backups
    Ok Reminder with SBS2011 You won't be able to use the Built in SBS Backup to back to the NAS drives
    You would have to use a third party like Shadow Protect or something.
    (or command line script backup)

    This explains the backup in SBS2011 it's the same as SBS2008

    Basically the SBS takes over the USB/eSATA Drive and configures it. so
    No NAS drive.

    I suggest at least 2 Backup drives in rotation every 1 week.
    (I have some clients that rotate drives daily)

    In addition, do not get a 3TB drive that has new block Sector if you are using the SBS backup
    It will not see the new block sector size and backups will fail.
    (Some peole claim there is a hot fix, but I've never seen it work.)

    I like WSUS however never let it do Device Drivers or Patches
    (Which is where most Updates crash)
    So do those only on a schedule so you can fix it at the time.
    (if issues happen)

    WSUS is not configured by default on SBS
    So just because it's "INSTALLED" does not make it configured.
    Take some time to look at it and configure it..
    It's either a curse or a blessing depending on how it's configured.

    I hope this helps

    Russell Grover - SBITS.Biz MCP, MCPS, MCNPS, SBSC
    Remote Small Business Server/Computer Support - www.SBITS.Biz
    Redirect to Microsoft's SBS Public Forum -
    Redirect to Microsoft's SBS Essentials Support -
    Saturday, July 23, 2011 6:55 AM
  • I don't know why I didn't pick up on the PS failure sooner.  The "Bat Cave" where it is located is dimly lite (I've loaned them two "trouble lights" already) and pretty noisy.  I've got the two server, a laptop, and an old desktop as my test client, so I may simply may not have been watching.

    I didn't have anything to do with the setup of the SBS 2003 machine.  I was called in on the first business day of 2011 when they couldn't find most of the apps they use for daily business.  They let a retiring employee (a lawyer) in over New Year's weekend to "clean up" his PC.  Not knowing where his PC ended and where shared apps on the server started, he wiped everything his desktop had shortcuts to.  They had run out of space on C: so had been installing apps on E: while sharing the root of the drive to all employees so they could exchange files quickly.  Also found their LAN using public IP addresses, their DSL modem/router running an unknown (to them) open wireless network, etc.  I've also had to explain to them that a fingerprint reader on a laptop isn't as secure as whole-disk encryption, that they really should run backups, that Windows updates aren't always evil, etc.  A work in progress.

    I know 2008 R2 likes to fully control any internal hard drive you offer it for backups.  I have been able to get bare 2008 R2 to backup to a network drive for another customer who uses an old Dell Dimension running FreeNAS.  Scripting on FreeNAS takes care of renaming to form a backup series.  Both the new Dell and my trial machine seem happy to backup to local disks, of course using 2008 R2 rather than SBS's backup wizard.

    I played with WSUS using another client's 2008 R2 but it simply took too much DSL bandwidth to populate the backups locally and didn't seem smart enough to cache them otherwise.  Maybe I missed something but downloading the same update from MS once for each client that needed it seemed to be the only other option in a one server town.

    Thanks for the suggestions.


    P.S.  I never got far enough to install the Dell server management software or configure the BIOS extension's IP settings, so perhaps the server just wasn't ready to tell me it was sick!
    Sunday, July 24, 2011 7:32 AM