Make a Word hyperlink UNC path

I had an issue in a document with a hyperlink to an existing file. The file existed on a network drive, so the link worked fine… until someone with a different mapping for the I drive had to look at the document. Then the link didn’t resolve and the person got an error message. A confusing error message. It turns out it’s tricky to make a Word hyperlink UNC path.

Fixing it wasn’t as easy as it should have been. Read more

Meet Robocopy

If you remember the days of DOS, you know the difference between COPY and XCOPY. For those times when XCOPY won’t cut it, there’s ROBOCOPY, part of the Windows resource kit.If you just need to sync up two directories, Robocopy does it happily. Type ROBOCOPY source destination, and it will happily copy new and changed files over, while leaving identical files alone. This can save lots of time.

ROBOCOPY.DOC will give you lots of tips and ideas for using the program.

I have to do a lot of work over a WAN, and sometimes the network conditions are less than optimal, to put it politely. By that I mean sometimes I get nostalgic for the 9600 bps modem I had in high school, because it was faster and more reliable. Robocopy will detect errors and retry, which is a huge help in these conditions.

One thing I do frequently is copy single large files. The documentation file isn’t very clear on how you do this, and the syntax is tricky. Here’s how to copy a single file between two servers or directories:

ROBOCOPY source destination file(s)

Here’s a line I use a lot, to shoot out new virus definitions to my management servers:

ROBOCOPY . "\\servername\c$\program files\symantec\symantec antivirus" *.xdb

This is just a glorified copy command, but if any part of it fails, it will retry until it works.

In the past I’ve also used Robocopy to move file shares when upgrading file servers. I’ll create the share on the new server, copy everything over, and then, in off hours the night before the cutover date, use Robocopy to sync them up. Here’s an example:

robocopy \\oldserver\accounting \\newserver\accounting /MIR

Of course, since Windows has had DFS for 8 years now, you’re using DFS for everything now, right? Of course not. So for the times when you have to replace a fileserver and migrating to DFS isn’t an option for whatever reason, Robocopy is your fastest and easiest option for a cutover.

I’ve been messing around with Backup Exec 10

Veritas is trying mightily to unseat Microsoft as my least-favorite software company. I do believe Backup Exec to be the worst piece of software of any kind on the market. In fact, babysitting Backup Exec is the reason I haven’t been around much.

I’m looking to version 10 for some relief (and the much-needed 1.0 quality that Microsoft usually delivers around version 3–when Veritas will deliver it probably is an interesting Calculus problem).The downside to version 10: I’m told there’s no more Windows NT 4.0 support. Can’t back ’em up. I haven’t actually tried installing the remote agent on an NT4 box to see if it’s unsupported as in we-won’t-help-when-it-breaks or unsupported as in no-can-do. Smart businesses hocked their NT4 servers a couple of years ago. I won’t say anything else, except that not every business is smart.

More downside: If a tape fills up and you can’t change it because the server is offsite and/or behind locked doors that require approval from 14 middle managers and a note from your mother to get to, under some circumstances Backup Exec 10 will hang indefinitely while cancelling the job. Version 9 had the same problem. Bouncing the services will usually relieve the hang, but sometimes you have to reboot.

It’s tempting to put Backup Exec and your tape drive on your biggest file server to get faster backups. But trust me, if you put it on a server that’s dedicated to backups–its day job can be as a domain controller or some other task that’s shared by multiple, redundant mahcines–you’ll thank yourself. It’s very nice to be able to reboot your Backup Exec server without giving your seven bosses something else besides the cover sheet on your TPS reports to grumble about.

If you must put Backup Exec on your file server, set up DFS and mirror the file shares to another server. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy–just something that can prop things up while the server’s rebooting. And run Windows 2003, because it boots fast.

The upside: I can make Backup Exec 9.1 die every time by creating a direct-to-tape job and running it concurrently with a disk-to-disk-to-tape job. The tape portion of the second job will bomb every time. Veritas technical support tells me that bug was fixed in 9.1SP1. It wasn’t. But it’s fixed in 10.

There are some other features in 10, like synthetic backups, that promise to speed backups along. That would be very nice. It would also be nice if it would be reliable.

I’m not going to put it in production yet–when I first deployed 9, it fixed a lot of problems but it made a whole bunch of new ones–but maybe, just maybe, Backup Exec 10 will do what it’s supposed to do well enough that I can work something close to regular hours again.

Otherwise I’ll look forward to Backup Exec 11 and hope that it features more changes than just a new Symantec black-and-gold color scheme and wizards featuring Peter Norton. We’ll see.

Two useful tools for upgrading Windows servers

Old servers never die. That’s part of the reason I share responsibility with two other people for administering 125 of the wretched things. And “wretched” is a nice way of describing the state of an NT server that’s almost old enough to drive.

How about two free tools for moving at least the shares and print queues off old servers and onto a new one? Moving the applications is still up to you, but moving file shares, either manually or via a batch file, is tedious work, so these are still welcome tools for the weary sysadmin.The first is Windows Print Migrator 3.1. This is a tool you should be running anyway, even if you can’t get rid of that particular print server, because it backs up everything about your printer configuration. Should that print server die by means of something other than a BOFH-style unfortunate (wink wink nudge nudge) incident, this tool’s backup copy lets you re-establish print queues in no time flat.

The second is Microsoft’s File Server Migration Toolkit, which allows you to move the shares from one server to another, and, if you have DFS set up, you can even preserve the UNCs so that the migration is completely transparent to the end users.

Both tools are a little bit tricky, so you want to play around with them in the test room with a couple of old machines on a hub or switch that’s not connected to the main network before you try them in production.

But once you master them, they can take work that would have taken you days to finish and reduce it to an hour or so.