Technical support memos


January 29, 1999
Downing a server; shutting down PC's
Anthony J. Frates (Copyright 1999 Addsum Business Software, Inc.)

All network servers should be periodically shut down. No matter how robust the network operating system, some memory areas for example in the server machine will not continue to be available after prolonged use. As these system resources become fewer and fewer, the server will ultimately "crash" (i.e. freeze or lock-up causing the servers shared resources such as its hard drive to no longer be available to workstations or clients on the network and potentially creating database file integrity/corruption problems and even data loss).

Peer to peer networks such as WIN95/98 or Lantastic are more vulnerable to "system resource build-up" than dedicated server networks like Novell and WIN NT.

The need for nightly back-ups and remote network access make shutting down a network server each day difficult if not possible. To help reduce the chances of a lock-up, our recommendation is to shut down (re-boot) any PC including PCs that are servers on peer networks at least once a day. If the PC must be left on for back-up or other purposes, the first network user who arrives into the office on the next working day should re-boot the PCs that have been left on.

(Unless a PC has a specific reason to be left on it should be turned off by the last person to use it each day; monitors, printers and any other peripherals attached to PCs that must be left on should be turned off. The argument that turning PCs on and off has a deleterious effect on switches and the life of the hard drive and other system components are, we believe, for the most part without merit and are outweighed by other considerations. The power consumed by PCs cannot be justified by this potential benefit. Further, by leaving the PC on, there is a greater chance that the PCs hard drive may be damaged by some movement - such as a vacuum. PCs also can cause office fires due to cooling system failures. In areas of the country where lightning strikes are a common occurrence - Florida for example - leaving PCs on and plugged in is an open invitation to equipment damage.)

Sometimes an operating system thinks that a file (for example a database file) is open or in use even though it is not. One way this can happen is when a program accessing such a file is abnormally aborted. This can occur in many ways. The power to a computer might be turned off before exiting the application; a user may intentionally close out a program without escaping out of it; the PC might "freeze"; a tape back-up program might lock-up while running. In all of these cases, files are not properly closed and errors may occur when trying to run the program again (these could relate to data corruption related errors or an error indicating that the file is already in use and cannot be re-opened). In such situations, the only recourse may be to shut down the PC where the files are actually located (i.e. not just the workstation but the "server"). In other cases where the Btrieve file table becomes full (Btrieve error 86), the user may similarly have no choice but to re-boot the PC and possibly the server.

Most users are more than familiar with the shut down procedure relating to a WIN95/98 PC. If files are reported to be open in shutting down such a system, a user needs to ensure that in fact all other PCs have exited out of any applications that open files on the PC being shut down and then proceed with completing the shut down.

It is less common for a user to shut down a Novell server since such machines are typically left running for extended periods of time without being turned off. Absent the presence of information technology or network support personnel, users may be in the situation of needing to shut down the server without knowing how to do it. Here are the steps:

  1. Make sure that all workstations are properly shut down, exiting completely out of any open applications.
  2. If the system console (monitor) is off, turn it on.
  3. If a screen saver is running, press the space bar to terminate it.
  4. Proceed to a command line prompt; if the Novell system console menu or other program is running, select the Exit option.
  5. At the prompt, type DOWN and the press the ENTER key.
  6. Wait for the system to notify stations and dismount the volume.
  7. At the prompt type EXIT and press ENTER.
  8. Wait for the MS-DOS prompt to be appear and then turn off the server and monitor. You may need to open a door or cover to find the power switch.
  9. Wait 60 seconds and simply turn the power back on. If the system was "downed" properly the system should come back-up without any further action. When the system Is back on, turn the monitor off and then boot up the workstations as usual.

Even dedicated servers should be periodically shut down even when no particular problem exists to give the server a fresh start and avoid potential problems.


Copyright ã 1999 ADDSUM BUSINESS SOFTWARE, INC. Salt Lake City, Utah
ADDSUM is a registered service mark of Addsum Business Software, Inc.
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Technical support phone number: 801-277-9240