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Hyper-V Windows Failover Cluster and IsAlive Operation

September 22, 2017 by goodkeyhome  

By default, all resources in a Windows Failover cluster are handled by Resource Host Subsystem implemented in a single RHS.exe process unless you configure cluster resources to run in a separate RHS process. RHS controls the cluster resources and it communicates with Resource DLLs. A Resource DLL ships with a cluster-aware application. A Resource DLL in a cluster is responsible for executing various cluster specific functions against the resources maintained by the application. For example, HVCLUSRES.DLL is responsible for executing Online, "IsAlive", and "LooksAlive" functions for Hyper-V virtual machine resources. Similarly, ClusRes.DLL implements the same set of functions to interact with generic cluster resources such as Network Name, IP Address and File Server and Disk resources. The Windows failover cluster is designed to interact with cluster resources in below order:

There are various functions executed in a Windows failover cluster, but the functions that are executed to check resource availability and to ensure resources are healthy are explained below:

"Online" function is executed when a resource is brought online via Cluster Administrator tool or programmatically.

"LooksAlive" function is executed every 5 seconds and is responsible to check status of the resource in the cluster.

"IsAlive" function is executed every 60 and is responsible for doing a thorough check on the resource depending on the resource type.

Interaction of Windows Failover Cluster with Resources

This is what happens when cluster service starts:

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Cluster service starts.

Cluster Service implements RHS.exe processes for monitoring the resources in the cluster. By default, one RHS process is implemented in the cluster to monitor all resources. Multiple RHS.exe processes will be started, if you have configured any of the cluster resources to run in a separate RHS process.

RHS.exe process communicates with Resource DLLs (ClusRes.dll for Core cluster resources such as Cluster Name and IP Address and VMCLUSRES.DLL for Hyper-V virtual machine resources).

First time when the Windows Failover Cluster service starts, RHS instructs Resource DLLs to execute "Online" function to bring resources online.

Resource DLLs receives the instructions from the RHS.exe process and then bring the resources online.


The individual cluster resources can be brought online in a random order, but each Resource DLL is responsible for bringing its resources online by implementing worker threads. All cluster resources can be brought online simultaneously. For example, ClusRes.DLL will bring the Cluster Name, IP Address, Disk Resources and File Server Resources online and HVCLUSRES.DLL will bring Virtual Machine resources online.

Note that some of the cluster resources can come online successfully even if resources have some health issues. The resources might remain online until cluster executes "IsAlive" function to do a thorough check on the resources. When Cluster Service starts, the only function that it instructs RHS to execute is the "Online" function. "Online" function does not perform any health checks for the resources except resource dependency check. If a dependent resource has already been brought online by the cluster, all other resources depending on that resource will also be brought online when the "Online" function executes.

At this stage, Cluster Service provides the necessary instructions for RHS.exe processes to monitor resources by executing "IsAlive" and "LooksAlive" functions and this is where the actual check on the resources is performed.

When 5 seconds interval expires, RHS instructs Resource DLLs to execute "LooksAlive" call.


The first function that is executed by Resource DLL is "LooksAlive". "LooksAlive" is a quick and lightweight health check. It is the Resource DLL that implements the necessary checks to be performed as part of the "LooksAlive" call. For example, for a Disk Resource, "LooksAlive" executed by ClusRes.DLL will perform a reservation against all disks managed by the cluster. Similarly, for Virtual Machine resources, "LooksAlive" might check whether the virtual machine is on or not.

"IsAlive" call is executed only if the "LooksAlive" call fails for some reasons. "IsAlive" call is used to do a thorough check on the resources. For example, for disk resources, "IsAlive" issues a DIR or an equivalent command. Similarly, for SQL resources, "IsAlive" might try to connect to SQL Server instance to ensure service is responding to the requests. Depending on the resource category, "IsAlive" thorough test is performed. For Network Name resources, "IsAlive" call includes checking the registration status of the Network Name in the NBT Table on the local node and starting the DNS registration process.

Once the "IsAlive" call is completed, it reports the status of the resource back to RHS.exe process.


It is important to understand that every function in the cluster should report the status of its resources back to RHS.exe in a timely manner.

The issue that we had faced was a "DNS Time Out" during the "IsAlive" DNS registration process for the Network Name resources and we could notice "IsAlive" time out and RHS termination in the cluster log as shown below:

ERR [RHS] RhsCall::DeadlockMonitor: Call ISALIVE timed out for resource 'Cluster Name'.

ERR [RHS] Resource Cluster Name handling deadlock. Cleaning current operation and terminating RHS process.

Microsoft says that a "IsAlive" should return a response back to RHS within 300000 milliseconds which is 5 minutes. Since "IsAlive" was taking more than 300000 milliseconds to connect to DNS Server for updating/refreshing DNS record, cluster noticed this and terminated the RHS process.

What Happened to Windows 9?

September 14, 2017 by goodkeyhome  

Microsoft has been following a pretty steady version number scheme with their operating systems lately: Windows 7, then Windows 8, and then... Windows 10.

Wait, what?

That's right. They just skipped Windows 9. Microsoft simply decided not to name their Windows 8 successor as Windows 9, but went with Windows 10 instead, which was originally code-named Threshold.

So don't worry, you didn't miss a major version of Windows.

You don't have to download something called "Windows 9" and, technically, you don't even really need to understand why Microsoft skipped it.

However, keep reading to learn more about why the name skip was done and why you'd probably be better off avoiding downloading anything called "Windows 9."

Why Did Microsoft Skip Windows 9?

Mary Jo Foley, who regularly reports on Microsoft, explained it this way in a piece she wrote on September 30, 2014, the day of the Windows 10 announcement:

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"But Microsoft went instead with Windows 10 because they wanted to signify that the coming Windows release would be the last "major" Windows update. Going forward, Microsoft is planning to make regular, smaller updates to the Windows 10 codebase, rather than pushing out new major updates years apart. Windows 10 will have a common codebase across multiple screen sizes, with the UI tailored to work on those devices."

Later news about Windows 10 confirmed this idea - that Windows will be updated on a much more regular basis. So there may not ever be a Windows 11 or Windows 12, just an evolving and ever-better Windows. Period.

Sounds good to me.

Don't Download "Windows 9"!

As I've already said, Microsoft did not release a version of Windows called "Windows 9," and they probably won't ever.

This means even if you find a "download Windows 9" link online or an article on how to update to Windows 9, you must remember that Windows 9 does not exist.

Any download called Windows 9 is more than likely just an attempt to infect your computer with a virus by masquerading as an update to Windows or as a "rare Windows version" that only select users can install. That, or the person sharing it just misnamed the download, but that's unlikely.

Tip: If you have already downloaded software that's pretending to be Windows 9, make sure you scan your hard drive right now. An always-on virus protection program should already be installed to your computer and should be enough to remove the malware, but if you're extra cautious or don't have one installed, use one of these free on-demand virus scanners.

Windows Update Resources

Even though Windows 9 doesn't exist, you can still keep other versions of Windows, like Windows 10 and Windows 8, updated and free from bugs using Windows Update.

See What is Windows Update? for more information on what it's used for and how to access it in Windows 10 all the way back to Windows 98.

How to configure Windows Explorer in Windows 7

September 12, 2017 by goodkeyhome  

A reader wrote to tell us he doesn't like Windows Explorer in Windows 7, and asking if he could use it in a Windows XP mode. Our Helproom expert told him how to configure Windows Explorer so it works just the way you want.

QUESTION I'm running Windows 7, but I don't like Windows Explorer. It doesn't sort files alphabetically, instead splitting them across several columns. I can no longer bring up the folder I want with a single click - I now have to click the Explorer symbol, then choose a folder. From a productivity point of view it has slowed me down considerably. Is there any way (either by tinkering with Windows 7 or using third-party software) that I can return to the methods used by Windows XP to browse through folders and files? Glyn Foster

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HELPROOM ANSWER Believe it or not, Windows 7's Explorer is far more flexible and configurable than the XP version. Not only can you arrange files alphabetically, but you can also adjust the size of folder icons.

Additional features also make the updated version much faster. For example, Favorites can be pinned to the left side of any Explorer window. This will allow you to access these folders with a single click.

If your files and folders are presented as multiple columns, you probably have the List view selected. Click the first of the three icons at the top right of the window, just below the search box, to cycle through five layout options. Clicking the small down arrow to the right brings up a vertical slider that lets you change the size of the folder icons or select a view style by name.

If you pick the 'details' view, you can sort files and folders in any order you want - including alphabetically.

Selecting the My Computer icon is in essence the same as selecting Computer in Windows 7. Both bring up an Explorer window containing icons for your available drives. These behave in the same fashion

as they do in Windows XP.

You may be having some trouble with the Taskbar. Whereas XP would create a separate button for each open window, Windows 7 combines all the windows for each program under a single button. It's worth sticking with the Taskbar and getting used to its many features, but you can view your windows as individual buttons if you prefer.

Right-click on any empty area of the Taskbar and select Properties. Select 'Use small icons'. Next, in the same window, select the option 'Never combine' under Taskbar buttons. Click Ok when you're done. If you find there's not enough room for all your buttons when you have several windows open, you can select 'Combine when Taskbar is full' instead.

How to use the Windows 8 Task Manager

September 8, 2017 by goodkeyhome  

Many people focus on Windows 8's new Start screen and Modern UI, and rightly so. However, the 'old' Windows is still very much present beneath the shiny new surface. Here we take an in-depth look at the revamped Task Manager.

Task Manager has been around since Windows 95, and has barely changed in almost two decades. Chances are, you've used Task Manager for a spot of troubleshooting or forcing applications to close when they've crashed.

In all likelihood, there's an equal chance you've never used Task Manager or even heard of it. In Windows 8, the humble Task Manager has been given a makeover which makes it considerably more user friendly, while a couple of new features make it especially useful on mobile devices - in fact, any device which has a metered internet connection.

As well as providing a list of programs and processes which are currently running, it also lets you keep an eye on your computer's performance. You can monitor how hard the processor is working, how much memory is being used and how much data is flowing over wired and wireless network connections.

There are several ways to launch Task Manager. The easiest is to press Ctrl-Shift-Esc together, since it brings the window up immediately. You can also access it by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del and clicking on Task Manager from the list. From Windows 8's Start screen, simply start typing 'task' (without the quotes) and the shortcut will appear in the list of results.

One of the most noticeable updates is that running applications are split into three sections: Apps, Background processes and Windows processes. This is far better than having everything in an alphabetical list where it's difficult to find what you're after.

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The other big change is that the information for each app or process is simplified and colour coded. Now, you can tell at a glance which programs or apps are using all your CPU power, or hogging memory. Darker shades represent bigger use, so you can quickly see where any problems lie.

It's still possible to click any of the items at the top to re-order the list. Click on Memory, for example, and the apps using the most memory will be shown at the top.

The Performance tab has also been changed. You get a choice of five graphs, including Wi-Fi if your computer has it. You can now see extra information below each graph, such as how fast the CPU is running.

How to use Windows 8's Task Manager

Step 1. From the Windows 8 Start screen, type Task and Click on Task Manager when it appears on the left. You can also right-click on the taskbar in the traditional desktop and choose Task Manager from there. It opens in compact mode, showing a list of running programs. You can scroll and select an app, then click End task.

Step 2. Click the More details button to expand the view to the see everything Task Manager has to offer. Apps are listed in alphabetical order, with their usage to the right. At the top of the four columns you can quickly see how much of your CPU, memory, disk or network bandwidth is being used.

Step 3. Click on the Performance tab to see usage of these resources over time. Leave Task Manager open to let the graph build up, and click on the thumbnails on the left-hand side to change the main graph, and note that you can see Wi-Fi and Ethernet graphs separately. Useful information such as processor speed and IP address is shown below each graph.

Step 4. The App history tab is new and shows activity from Modern UI apps only. The information shown is cumulative, and you can see how much data each has used - even for live tile updates. This is useful if you're using a Windows 8 laptops or tablet and have a limited allowance of mobile data each month.

Step 5. Another new tab is Start-up. This gives you an idea of how much each program (which loads when Windows starts) impacts on start-up time. It's a much better system than the old method of running msconfig and ticking or unticking boxes for apps and services that were hard to identify. You can right-click on an item and disable it to improve boot times.

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How to reinstall Windows | Reinstall Windows 10 | Reinstall Windows 10

September 6, 2017 by goodkeyhome  

There are many reasons why you might want to reinstall Windows. Your PC could be infected with a virus, or it could be clogged up to the point where it is running dog slow all the time. As long as there's no problem with your hardware (which, in most cases, there won't be) then reinstalling Windows will give you back a working, speedy computer.

(If your PC or laptop has Windows 8, you have a couple of extra option: Refresh and Reset. For more, see our guide to reinstalling Windows 8.)

You can also jump straight to the section on reinstalling Windows 7

It's a fact of life that PCs get slower with age. Even if you decide to give your computer a spring clean, there's a chance that it still won't quite end up as good as new. Reinstalling Windows is a relatively fast way to blow out the cobwebs, including all the stuff that you just can't get rid of manually. (Note that you will have to back up all your files, music, photos, videos and settings, and reinstall all your applications if you do a clean install, and this is a major undertaking.) Windows 10 allows you to upgrade and keep just about everything, but this can also copy across a lot of the detritus that could be holding your PC back. So in many cases, a clean install is the sensible option.

Reinstallation might also be the only solution if your PC refuses to boot, system restore won't work, and you've been able to discount any hardware fault. Reinstalling Windows might also be necessary if you decide to swap your hard disk for a solid state disk (see how to upgrade your laptop disk to an SSD).

How to reinstall Windows 10

When you first upgrade to Windows 10 a new copy of Windows is created on your hard drive, but since it's an upgrade and not a clean install, it will bring all the rubbish along with your files, apps and settings. To reinstall Windows 10 and get a clean install, preferably on an SSD, follow these steps:

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1. Download Microsoft's Media Creation tool which will create a bootable USB flash drive with Windows 10 on it. Hold onto this for future reinstalls, too. You can also use the drive for upgrading an existing Windows installation simply by running Setup.exe from the drive when running Windows 7 or 8.

2. You begin the clean install by using the Reset function in Windows 10. You'll find it at Start > Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Reset this PC (Get Started). Follow the on-screen instructions and you should see the option to remove everything and reinstall Windows.

3. Alternatively, simply shut down your PC and boot from your USB flash drive. But before you do, ensure you've backed up everything, as the process will wipe your C: drive. Also ensure that Windows 10 is activated by right-clicking on the Start button, choosing System from the menu that appears, and checking the status under the Windows activation section. It may take a few moments to say whether Windows is activated or not as it needs to verify this with Microsoft's servers.

As with the Windows 7 reinstallation guide below, you'll have to choose your language, and then where you install Windows. Make sure you choose the correct hard drive and partition. If it's a new drive, it will be blank, so you choose the only option available: the large unallocated space.

4. Once the installation starts, your PC will reboot. You'll see a Windows logo and a large circular progress indicator. Keep an eye on the install as it will reboot your computer several times and may ask you to remove the DVD or flash drive.

How to reinstall Windows 7

Here we're going to show you how to reinstall Windows 7 from a DVD. However, some PCs allow you to reinstall Windows from a separate recovery partition on your hard disk and, in that case, you should follow the manufacturer's instructions. Alternatively, if you've lost your Windows 7 disc and your PC doesn't have a recovery partition, take a look at our guide to reinstalling Windows without a disc.

If you're reinstalling Windows on the same hard drive as it's currently installed you have two choice: Upgrade or Clean install. The former will keep all your stuff but may not fix a problem you're having, while the latter will wipe your hard drive and you'll lose all the data from that partition (or the whole drive if there's only one partition on it). Make sure you've backed up everything you don't want to lose. You can burn files to a CD or DVDusing Windows 7's built-in backup tool, or you can simply drag and drop files to an external hard drive or USB flash drive.

2. Later, you'll need to activate Windows using the product key (five groups of five characters) so make sure you can find it on a Microsoft sticker somewhere on your PC. If there's no sticker or it's illegible, you can find it using Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder. (When you install it, be careful not to also install the optional search bar.)

3. Shut down your PC, put the Windows disc in the CD/DVD slot and start it up. All being well, it should boot from this. If it boots to Windows normally, you'll have to use the BIOS menus to make your PC boot from a disk - see How to enter the BIOS for instructions.

4. Windows Setup will start and, on the first screen you should specify your preferred language, time and currency format, and the nationality of your keyboard. You'll also be shown a screen on which you're required to agree to the licence conditions.

5. You'll now be asked "Which type of installation do you want?" and both options will be explained. Choose the "Custom (advanced)" option will take you back to the way your PC was when it left the factory. (Note that you could try the Upgrade option to reinstall Windows "over the top" of your existing installation to see if it fixes a particular problem you're having. This will keep all your files, programs and settings intact.) We'll show you how to to a clean install here.

6. Next you'll be asked "Where do you want to install Windows?". Sometimes just one partition will be shown, in which case just click on Next. If multiple partitions are displayed, select the first primary partition (usually the largest) before clicking on Next.

7. Windows 7 will now be installed and progress will be reported in the list of actions and the progress bar. This could take some time. Often it'll seem that the installation has got stuck in the "Completing installation" phase so be patient.

8. Next, you'll be guided in setting up a user account. Also, you'll need to provide the product key that you identified in Step 2. This will be used later, when you're online, to activate the new installation of Windows.

9. Follow the instructions to select security options (we suggest accepting the default setting), the time and date format, and perhaps to connect to a wireless network and join a Homegroup if these are detected.

10. Windows will now start but the desktop will look different and rather empty. Your next job, therefore, is to re-install the various applications that you use on a regular basis. Resist the temptation to reinstall everything or you'll be heading for a cluttered system again.

11. Now go to Device Manager - search for it in the Start menu - and check that drivers have been installed for all the hardware. If you see and devices with an exclamation mark, go to the manufacturer's website and download the latest versions. You should find the appropriate drivers by using your laptop's exact model code; for a PC, you'll need to know the motherboard make and model, and the model numbers of other key components such as the graphics card.

Even if you see no problems, it's worth installing manufacturer-specific drivers (rather than the generic Microsoft drivers which Windows will have installed) for components such as the graphics card, motherboard chipset, laptop touchpad etc.

Plus, there may be manufacturer utilities (especially for laptops) which won't be reinstalled with a 'clean' copy of Windows. For example, some laptops have utilities which prevent the battery charging to 100 percent, prolonging its life.

12. Now, using the backup you created in Step 1, copy all your files back onto your PC. You'll probably also want to select your favourite wallpaper and make all the other changes necessary to customise your PC the way you like it.

Demystified! windows server 2016 licensing and servicing options

September 4, 2017 by goodkeyhome  

Microsoft has always prided itself on innovation and evolution, and the trend is continuing with Windows Server 2016. The server, now in its fifth technical preview, has undergone significant changes as the company tries to streamline the software and make it more user-oriented and future-proof. 


Among the latest developments, the most interesting one seems to be a shift in the licensing and servicing models. Gone are the old rules, and a slew of new ones take their place. You have to get the latest edition of Windows Server 2016 for these rules to apply to you. 


Even if you prefer to deploy an older version, the latest rules will apply, so it's a good idea for you to update your understanding about them. Let's take a look at what they are and what they mean. 


Licensing based on core count 


Technology has progressed to an extent that it's now possible for you to buy a Xeon processor that features 24 cores. What this means in the context of servers is that Microsoft was losing money on larger consumers. To combat the issue, Microsoft has switched to per-core licensing. Every Windows Server 2016 copy will license up to two physical processor cores. This means that you've got to license every physical core in the host or server. That's not all. 


The tech giant has set a minimum purchase requirement for each physical server. You're now required to license at least two processors with eight cores for every server. Overall, 16 cores need to be licensed, even if you're going to work with one quad-core processor. So, for the processors that have 24 cores, 12 copies of Windows Server 2016 are mandatory to license it either as a host or as a server. 


It's easy to see why many users think that Microsoft's trying to squeeze more cash out of them. Are they the IRS or what? However, the reality is that the company has lowered the per-server cost so that the minimum purchase in the new Windows Server 2016 edition costs you the same as a single copy of Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter edition. 


Thus, even when you're licensing a small server with a small processor, you won't have to deal with increased server costs. The only inconvenience you might face is the logistics of the purchase, which have become somewhat complicated. However, that's a small price to pay when you look at the bigger picture, and no, we are not talking about a larger flat-screen TV size! 




Hosts are licensed by customers to cover the maximum number of possible Windows Server virtual machines that can run on that host. In the iteration of Windows Server 2016, the rules remain almost the same, at least when it comes to the advantages you get from the Datacenter editions. The only change is in the Standard edition, and that too is simply minor. 


You no longer enjoy access to two virtual operating system environments (VOSE) for every Standard that's assigned to a host. Rather, you get access to two VOSEs for every fully licensed host. This indicates that for the first time in a long time there's going to be some real differences between the Standard and Datacenter editions, which is what users have clamored for all along. 


Nano Server option 


Continuing the trend of meeting customer expectations, Microsoft's Windows Server 2016 features a headless Nano Server installation option. It can be deployed using either edition of Windows Server 2016, but in order to be supported during production, one requires Software Assurance attached to the licensing of the physical server. No, you do not need rubber cement to attach these two together. Not necessary! 


Servicing options explained 


Servicing in this context doesn't mean how long your warranty lasts. Rather, it indicates just how fast you'll receive the features being released by Microsoft, and install them. Microsoft is in the habit of releasing updates via different branches, like previews, long-term servicing branch, current branch, and current branch for business. On the other hand, Windows Server 2016 focuses on cloud-based services. 


This is due to Microsoft's belief that customers desire cloud agility, which means that they'll get access to feature improvements as soon as they're available. This will not only help customers become more competitive, but also enable them to experience innovation without delay.

11 networking commands every windows admin should use

September 4, 2017 by goodkeyhome  

The Windows operating system contains numerous built-in, command line networking utilities. These tools range from the obscure to the commonplace. However, there are 11 built-in networking tools that Windows networking administrators should be familiar with.


I am guessing that the ping command is probably the most familiar, and most widely used of the utilities being discussed in this article, but that does not make it any less essential.

Ping is used to test the ability of one network host to communicate with another. Simply enter the Ping command, followed by the name or the IP address of the destination host. Assuming that there are no network problems or firewalls preventing the ping from completing, the remote host will respond to the ping with four packets. Receiving these packets confirms that a valid and functional network path exists between the two hosts.


If you are experiencing problems with network communications, then network statistics can sometimes help point you toward the root cause of the problem. That's where the aptly named NetStat command comes into play. This command has a number of different functions, but the most useful of these is to display network summary information for the device. To see this type of summary information, just type NetStat -e.


The ARP command corresponds to the Address Resolution Protocol. Although it is easy to think of network communications in terms of IP addressing, packet delivery is ultimately dependent on the Media Access Control (MAC) address of the device's network adapter. This is where the Address Resolution Protocol comes into play. Its job is to map IP addresses to MAC addresses.

Windows devices maintain an ARP cache, which contains the results of recent ARP queries. You can see the contents of this cache by using the ARP -A command. If you are having problems communicating with one specific host, you can append the remote host's IP address to the ARP -A command.


As I am sure you probably know, computers that are running a Windows operating system are assigned a computer name. Oftentimes, there is a domain name or a workgroup name that is also assigned to the computer. The computer name is sometimes referred to as the NetBIOS name.

Windows uses several different methods to map NetBIOS names to IP addresses, such as broadcast, LMHost lookup, or even using the nearly extinct method of querying a WINS server.

Of course, NetBIOS over TCP/IP can occasionally break down. The NbtStat command can help you to diagnose and correct such problems. The NbtStat -n command for example, shows the NetBIOS names that are in use by a device. The NbtStat -r command shows how many NetBIOS names the device has been able to resolve recently.