Troubleshooting Server Issues

Troubleshooting Server Issues


The HES Digital Lighting Server computers are all built with industry standard components utilizing with a customized XP Embedded O/S that allows us to lock the system down and eliminate many issues that face a standard desktop computer. As with any computer though, components can fail and stability issues can occur.

Understanding and being able to communicate the different types of errors will help the HES Support staff quickly address the issues your are encountering. We often receive a report that a user had a server "Blue Screen" or "BSOD" (Blue Screen of Death), when we investigate further we find that another type of crash occured or that the server simply didn't boot properly. The troubleshooting paths are very different for each of these events, so understanding and communicating the different types of potential issues is critical for solving the problem.

There are several categories of issues we will cover here:

  • Blue Screen or BSOD events
  • Application Errors
  • General Booting issues

Blue Screen events

The Blue Screen crash, or BSOD, is often one of the most mis-reported events. It is important to only refer to it as such if it displays an actual blue screen with white text on it as shown below:

Blue Screen crash

Any other type of error or issue technically is not considered a "blue screen".


There are several possible causes that can result in a Blue Screen event, most often they are related to hardware. Below are the most frequent causes:

  • Hardware failure or error, most commonly a bad video card, motherboard, or possibly RAM.
  • Video Card Driver or other driver issue.
  • In a few cases, a corrupted file on the harddrive.
  • Power quality issues, such as running from a generator.

Boots instantly into Blue Screen every time
If the server boots up into a blue screen error each time instantly, then you most likely have a failed piece of hardware. Determining exactly which piece of hardware failed can often be difficult without having another server to test the components in.

If you do have another computer then check to see if it has the same model video card to swap and test in the working server. If the cards are different models then it will be necessary to re-image the server to install and configure the proper drivers in the system for that video card.

It could also be a result of a corrupted O/S file. Re-imaging the server with the current Recovery disc will resolve the problem if this is the cause.

Blue Screen occurs after running for a period of time or when inside fixture
If the server appears to run fine for a while but then blue screens when inside the fixture after it has been running for a while, then it may be that there is a possibly a component that is failing and is susceptible to heat.

There is a test we have developed that can be used to help identify if this is the issue.

Elevated temperature test click here

Blue Screen with no text at all
If you are seeing a solid blue screen with no text at all, this is not BSOD event, but instead the symptom of the video projector not receiving any video signal. If this occurs, check to make sure the Projector Input relay for the fixture is set to "Graphics Engine" and not "RGBHV". If it already says it is in "Graphics Engine" then it is a good idea to toggle it to RGBHV and back to force the relay to switch.

Application Errors

In some circumstances it is possible to encounter an application error which causes the main graphics engine application to crash. This can result in either a black screen or an error dialog box such as below.

application error

It is important to note, that this is NOT a "Blue Screen" or BSOD error but an application error.


There are several possible causes that can result in an Application Error, most often they are related to software rather than hardware.. Below are the most frequent causes:

  • Content encoding issues.
  • Corrupted content files
  • Software bugs

The most important thing in finding the cause is understanding what was executing when this occurred.

  • In the case of bad content files the issue is typically easy to reproduce by playing that same file and seeing if the issue occurs again. If it does, then it is likely the content file itself. This can be verified by leaving all the other parameters in your cue the same, and switching to a stock content file for playback.
  • If the issue still occurs with stock content, when performing a certain action, then it may be a software defect. Contact HES Support to alert them of the issue along with the showfile or steps to reproduce the issue and a workaround can likely be found.
  • If the issue can't be reproduced or is random then it may be a more subtle software issue related to memory or timing...or gremlins.
  • If the issue is random or persistent then it could a problem with an application file or registry setting. Uploading the same software to the fixture again typically resolves these problems.

Booting Issues

The third scenario we are going to look at is a server that doesn't fully boot. While this results in the same problem of not achieving graphics engine output, it is important to recognize this as a very different scenario from the other cases discussed above.


There are a number of different causes that we will troubleshoot in stages through the booting process. Below are the most frequent causes of what can cause a booting issue:

  • Failed Hardware
  • Loose connectors

Does the HES logo come up in the display at power up?
The HES logo that displays when the unit is first powered up is the BIOS splash screen for the motherboard. If you do not see the BIOS splash screen come up at all then it is an indication of of either a loose connection or hardware issue.

  • Open up the unit and check all the video connections to make sure they are tight.
  • Open the lid to the server, when you power the unit up does the fan CPU fan come on and stay on?
    CPU fan

If the fan only comes on for a moment then stops or does not come on at all, then there is a hardware issue. Typically this type of failure indicates a failed motherboard or possibly a rare power supply issue.

If the fan stays on and you can hear the harddrive "chatter" as it boots and see drive activity on the "Drive" LED on the front of the fixture this would normally point to a video card issue.

Does the server display the text "Insert Bootable Media"?
If you see the unit start to boot and it displays a screen the contains the phrase "Insert Bootable Media" then this is mostly likely an indication of the following:

  • Loose Hard Drive connection
  • Bad SATA cable
  • Failed Hard Drive

Most often this is a loose connection, although in some cases it can be a defective SATA cable. While it is rare, it can also be a result of a failed hard drive. If it does appear to be a Hard Drive failure, then please contact HES Support for a replacement drive that is pre-imaged with software and stock content for your server.