Rescue Media hangs after Loading Files completes....


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L. W. "Dan" Danz
L. W. "Dan" Danz
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I recently was attacked by a case of "Mumble Mode" when I tried to verify Rescue Mode using Rescue Media created on 7.0.2199.   It didn't matter where it was launched from (boot menu, cd/dvd, or USB stick) and it didn't matter what version of Windows PE (10, 5.1).  The rescue screen stayed black.  I tried many different builds including down-rev versions created on much earlier versions of Macrium Reflect.

{TLDR: the problem was an obscure ASUS BIOS setting: Above 4G Decoding.}

For the record, the system involved is a self-built Windows 10 Pro server that was upgraded about a year ago with a new motherboard (Asus Z170-AR), cpu (core I5), memory (8GB DDR4), two SSD's (one 500 MB for C:, the other, an older 80 MB was relegated to swap and temp file duty), two HDDs, and a permanently installed HDD shelf that allows insertion/removal of SATA drives.  It worked fine for nearly a year.  One of the permanent HDDs is dedicated to holding backups from this system, and three other systems in the household.   It can hold two months of MR images for each system.  Monthly, I insert one of my offsite backup HDDs in the shelf and use MR to clone the backup drive.  

When I investigated the cause of slow clone speed, I discovered that although the mother board had 6 SATA 6.0 ports and the disks were all capable of faster speeds, the SHELF itself was older SATA.  So I bought an newer SATA 6 shelf, but now I had run out of MB SATA ports, so I bought a PCIe 2-port SATA 6.0 board, and juggled the connections so that the new shelf had a SATA 6.0 connection.  And I left the old shelf in place just because it might come in handy, even if it was slower.   All of this rebuilding caused me to make change to the BIOS, and in the process I applied a BIOS update from ASUS.   This required me to go through all of the BIOS options, including the great ability to make the shelves hot-pluggable.  Soon, I was up and running on the new hardware, and was able to clone backup disks much faster.  I even experimented with 15% overclock.  No problems.

After running for this configuration long enough to have forgotten the specific changes, I decided to rebuild the rescue media from the latest MR (7.0.2199).  I installed it to the boot menu, and tested.  FAILURE.  No big deal, grab the USB stick from earlier builds, and FAILURE too!!  All the failures were the same:  The system booted okay, it ran Windows 10 if selected, but whenever I tried the rescue media, it got as far as "Loading Files...", followed by the 4-pane Windows-icon with a spinning "wait cursor" that stayed on the screen about 15 seconds and then the screen went blank.   The HDD light flickered once or twice in the next 5 seconds, and then NOTHING (what I call Mumble Mode...the system might have been mumbling to itself).  I tried many different things, including WinPE 5.1, Secure Boot on or off, you name it I changed it).  

Thinking the cause might be the 15% overlocking, I went thru BIOS and removed it.  Now the system wouldn't boot at all.  Finally, I wiped the BIOS by loading optimized defaults.  Then I went thru and setup the BIOS from scratch, and got the system to boot.   But rescue media/Win PE still wouldn't run.   So I went back to optimized defaults and changed only those BIOS options that I had to change in order to boot.  IT WORKED.  

So it had to be in the BIOS setup options that I set after loading the default settings.  Long story short:  The mother board, in the Advanced/Boot Options settings, has a switch called Above 4G Decoding [Disabled].  The manual says it allows 64-bit capable devices to be decoded in the above-4GB address space.  I have 8GB so I enabled it.  This was the problem that caused WinPE to fail - I suspect it was running all along but this affected the monitor display.  Later investigation found an Asus Tech Support note that said this only for use with certain display boards and should not be enabled for normal use, but the description of why was impossible to decipher.  I would never have found this if I didn't already know the switch was the culprit.

I went into a lot of detail so that anybody else who encounters this won't have to beat head against a brick wall for long.


L. W. "Dan" Danz
Overland Park KS
jphughan
jphughan
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The wording on that option is indeed rather opaque, and almost certainly the product of something being lost in translation.  I suspect what it does is allow device memory space to be MAPPED above the 4GB threshold.  Every device on a system that has memory needs a chunk of address space that can be used to refer to that memory, but that address space is system-wide.  So if you had a video card with 2GB of memory, it would need to "own" 2GB worth of address space, and that space would then become unusable for system memory.  This became a problem before 64-bit OSes became widely adopted, because a 32-bit OS only has 4GB of address space to begin with, so if you had a video card with 2GB of memory, that could seriously reduce your usable system memory.  A CPU technique called Physical Address Extension worked around that limitation, but not all CPUs at that time were capable of that.  So I suspect the reason that option exists on your motherboard is because now there are single video cards with up to 12GB of memory, so if the motherboard forced all devices to map their memory below 4GB, that video card would be leaving at least 8GB of its memory on the table.

Anyway, even if I'm correct in what that feature does, I'm not sure what device or software routine was "hostile" to having device memory space mapped above the 4GB threshold, but it's great that you reported this in case other users encounter the same issue! Smile

Edited 27 July 2017 1:22 AM by jphughan
tmjc
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Dan, when I read your post I was elated that I had found the answer to my very same issue with an ASUS mb I had installed! Rescue media hung at the same point in Win7, and old Rescue Media did likewise. However, my hopes were dashed when I checked the setting you mentioned and it was already Disabled. Just for the heck of it, I changed the setting back and forth to see it might "kick start" things into functioning correctly but alas, still have the same problem. It has to be something with this ASUS mb thats causing my issue I think, but I have no idea what it can be. Thanks for the info though...it's people like you that help many others through these weird problems.
L. W. "Dan" Danz
L. W. "Dan" Danz
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tmjc - 7 December 2017 2:49 PM
Dan, when I read your post I was elated that I had found the answer to my very same issue with an ASUS mb I had installed! Rescue media hung at the same point in Win7, and old Rescue Media did likewise. However, my hopes were dashed when I checked the setting you mentioned and it was already Disabled. Just for the heck of it, I changed the setting back and forth to see it might "kick start" things into functioning correctly but alas, still have the same problem. It has to be something with this ASUS mb thats causing my issue I think, but I have no idea what it can be. Thanks for the info though...it's people like you that help many others through these weird problems.

I have been working fine since solving the problem.  To really pin it down, I just went back into the BIOS, changed (on the Boot Menu) the option for Above 4G addressing from Disabled to Enabled and rebooted.   The boot proceeded thru the Loading Files... section then changed to a blue windows logo on a black background, and a spinning cursor that last for at least a minute.    Shutdown, changed that one parameter in the BIOS back to disabled, rebooted, and the blue Icon/Spinning cursor stayed for less than 15 seconds before Windows CE screens came up.   Note: I rebuild the PE 10 version with the latest version of MR every time it changes and I don't always build a USB or DVD, but I always install it as a boot option.   And the boot option is what I tested with today (no external media involved).

Have you tried resetting the BIOS to Optimal Defaults, and then changing only the minimum things you need to boot?  That's the way I finally diagnosed the problem.    A few other things ... open the box when  you boot, and notice the pattern of the red LEDs.  They move around as various sections are tested, but eventually go out if everything is good.  One of them (next to the MEM OK! button) stayed lit and my system wouldn't boot until I pushed that button while the LED was flashing.  That resets the memory compatibility stuff, and on the reboot I loaded Optimal Defaults, did minimal changes to be able to boot, and I was off and running.

Hope this helps.


L. W. "Dan" Danz
Overland Park KS
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