Windows Server 2008 “Stage 3 of 3” Fixes

Lots of chatter on the web about this .. of course, who uses Windows Server 2008 when Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012 have been released?

Well, unfortunately, I do .. if only for a little while longer (famous last words, for a production server).

Anyhow, these symptoms appear from a routine update operation:

  • You order a system restart.
  • The system displays the “Configuring Windows Updates – do not unplug .. “.
  • The system goes into POST operations.

From here, all is well, until it displays the message: “Configuring Windows Updates – Stage 3 of 3 0% Complete”, from which it never recovers.

There are several unrelated causes for this, per other aggrieved users .. your mileage may vary. However, you simply cannot fix issues with the system when it’s in the “3 of 3” state, so here’s how to get back to the console to debug:

  • Try pressing Control-Alt-Delete. In about half the cases, you will get the login screen, but it can take a few minutes to appear. If you can, log on and check your system logs for evidence of the hang (LSASS.EXE deadlock is a likely culprit .. try fixing that first).
  • If you cannot get into the system gracefully, hold down the power button until the system switches off. Restart the machine in normal mode.
  • If the system hangs at the “3 of 3” state, hold down the power button again until the system switches off. Restart the system in safe mode with networking.
  • Once restarted in safe mode, the system will likely show the “3 of 3” state, but this time, should get to 100%.
  • Navigate to C:\WINDOWS\WINSXS and look for a file called “pending.xml”. If you find it, delete it and restart the system in normal mode.

From here, you’re troubleshooting .. I like the deadlock reference above for starts. This condition was fixed in the hotfix referenced by KB2379016: “A computer that is running Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 stops responding and hangs at the "Applying User Settings" stage of the logon process”, I’d give that a try first.

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About Michael Coates
I am a pragmatic evangelist. The products, services and solutions I write about fulfill real-world expectations and use cases. I stay up-to-date on real products I use and review, and share my thoughts here. I apply the same lens when designing an architecture, product or when writing papers. I am always looking for ways that technology can create or enhance a business opportunity .. not just technology for technology's sake. My CV says: Seasoned technology executive, leveraging years of experience with enterprise and integration architectural patterns, executed with healthy doses of business acumen and pragmatism. That's me. My web site says: Technology innovations provide a myriad of opportunities for businesses. That said, having the "latest and greatest" for its own sake isn't always a recipe for success. Business successes gained through exploiting innovation relies on analysis of how the new features will enhance your business followed by effective implementation. Goals vary far and wide: streamlining operations, improving customer experience, extending brand, and many more. In all cases, you must identify and collect the metrics you can apply to measure your success. Analysis must be holistic and balanced: business and operational needs must be considered when capitalizing on a new technology asset or opportunity.

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