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<The Case of the Slow Logons ⁄ >

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Emails containing troubleshooting cases keep arriving in my inbox. I've received many cases that start with a seemingly unsolvable problem and end a few steps later with a solution or - often just as useful - a workaround. I've amassed several hundred such cases that I've captured in over 400 PowerPoint slides, giving me great material from which to draw for my blog and the Case of the Unexplained talk series I've delivered at a number of major industry conferences

I'm always looking for fresh cases, use of obscure tool features, and unique troubleshooting techniques, so please keep them coming. This time, I'm sharing a fascinating case that highlights two useful techniques: comparing Sysinternals Process Monitor logs from working and problematic systems, and using Sysinternals PsExec to capture activity during a logon.

The case begins when a systems administrator at a large company got multiple end-user complaints that logon was taking over three minutes. The users didn't encounter any problems once logged on, but the delays were understandably frustrating. Many other users running with the same software configuration weren't experiencing issues, however. Looking for commonalities, the administrator queried the network configuration database and, sure enough, saw that all the systems with complaints were Dell Precision 670 workstations. He thought he had a major clue until he looked he saw that the systems running without issue included seemingly identical 670 workstations.

Looking for clues more directly, his next step was to try to analyze the logon process of the delayed systems. He used PsExec to run Process Explorer in the Local System account so that it would survive a logoff and be active at the next logon. Because the systems were running Windows XP, the command-line he used was the following (see the end of the post for how to do this on Windows Vista and higher):

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