Tech Line

From Verifying to Vandalizing

Is Driver Verifier preventing your system from booting? Here's how to shut it off.

Chris: I'm in a jam. I set up a new Windows Server 2003 system and was having a problem with two device drivers, one for a SATA controller and the other for a video card. Both drivers were unsigned. I wanted to make sure that there weren't any problems with the drivers, so I ran and configured verifier.exe to test the drivers on bootup. However, now when my system boots I get a BSOD. Short of reinstalling, can you offer any guidance?
-- Thomas

For those of you not too familiar with Driver Verifier (verifier.exe), take a look at Microsoft KnowledgeBase Article 244617, "How to Use Driver Verifier to Troubleshoot Windows Drivers." The article explains how to use verifier.exe to effectively troubleshoot device driver problems on Windows 2000, XP, or 2003.

Thomas, your case is like several administrators who did not heed the warning provided by Microsoft before running the Driver Verifier to troubleshoot a device driver. In KB article 215233, "Things to consider before you enable Driver Verifier Manager on production servers," (which I highly recommend that anyone read before running verifier.exe) Microsoft states that:

You should use Driver Verifier to help test new kernel mode drivers in a test environment, but in some situations you may need to run the tool on a production server. When you use this tool on a production server and a problem is identified, an error message on a blue screen is displayed.

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I have to hand it to Microsoft for coming up with such a creative way to describe a blue screen of death. This passage actually reminded me of a time I was visiting a haunted house outside of Orlando. When asked about where we can find a rest room, the manager calmly described that the restrooms were in the white building out back. The "white building" he was referring to was a portable toilet!

The bottom line with verifier.exe is that while it is a good tool for identifying a problem, any problem that is found will be displayed in a BSOD along with a stop error message. This is usually a good thing, as the stop error can help you to further determine the root cause of the driver failure.

If you just accidentally installed the wrong driver, you're probably telling Windows, "Thanks for the BSOD, now can I get back in to uninstall the driver?" To get past the BSOD, you actually can take several different paths:

  • As the system boots, press F8 to access the Windows Advanced Options Menu and select Last Known Good Configuration
  • From the Windows Advanced Options Menu select Safe Mode
  • Boot to the Recovery Console and disable the driver that generated the BSOD
  • Disable Driver Verifier by performing an offline edit of the Registry

If you just set the Driver Verifier options, booting to the Last Known Good Configuration (LKGC) is the easiest and safest method. If that doesn't work, the Safe Mode boot could get you back in. If you can log in after a LKGC or Safe Mode boot, you would then just need to run verifier.exe /reset. This will remove all Driver Verifier settings from the Registry and prevent Driver Verifier from running again at startup.

Another approach is to disable the faulty driver in the Recovery Console. If Safe Mode boot is not possible due to the faulty driver belonging to a storage device, then disabling the driver in the Recovery Console can get the job done. From the Recovery Console, you would need to run the listsvc command to locate the name of the driver. Then you would run disable <driver name> to disable the driver.

One other way to disable Driver Verifier would be to perform an offline edit of the Registry. There are several boot disk tools that allow you to edit the system Registry independent of the OS, including the Bart's Preinstalled Environment (BartPE) bootable CD and the Offline NT Password & Registry Editor Boot Disk/CD. Note that with the BartPE disk you would need to download a Registry Editor plug-in. You can download free BartPE plug-ins here.

To turn off Driver Verifier by editing the Registry, you would need to navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management registry key. From here you would need to delete the following two values:

  • VerifyDriverLevel
  • VerifyDrivers

While the method of performing an offline edit of the Registry is probably the longest and most difficult, I thought that it's still worth mentioning.

Now that Microsoft has inspired me to be more creative in how I describe some of the less-appealing objects and tasks I see and do in life, I think I'll let the junior administrators know that they're not just resetting passwords. They're enlightening phrase-challenged users.

Now I'm off to my exciting scavenger hunt! (Also known as picking up milk and the dry cleaning on the way home.)

About the Author

Chris Wolf is a Microsoft MVP for Windows --Virtual Machine and is a MCSE, MCT, and CCNA. He's a Senior Analyst for Burton Group who specializes in the areas of virtualization solutions, high availability, storage and enterprise management. Chris is the author of Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress), Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley), and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).learningstore-20/">Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley) and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).

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