Windows 7: What a difference time makes!

February 6th, 2013 by William Smith

While visiting our Santa Monica office I called on a client having difficulties connecting his Windows 7 computer to his file server. I expected this to be a pretty straight-forward issue since the environment was pretty simple:

  • Only his PC wouldn’t connect—everyone else was connecting without issue
  • Just a handful of users (about five)
  • All wired connections (no wireless)
  • A Windows Server 2003 file server
  • No domain—just a workgroup
  • A small simple router for DHCP and Internet

I went through basic troubleshooting steps and verified that the client could indeed browse devices on the network (including the server), had no unusual ping times or network settings and that his account password for the server was correct. Every attempt to connect prompted for his name and password but the server wouldn’t accept his credentials. He was repeatedly prompted for his credentials.

Likewise, a new server account that I created myself would work on other PCs but not his. I narrowed my focus to his machine and started asking questions:

Q: Was this a new machine?

A: Yes, pretty new.

Q: Had it ever connected to the server?

A: Yes, it had.

Q: Any recent unusual activity in the office?

A: Yes, the office had to be shut down for some recent power maintenance in the building a week ago. When he restarted the server it wouldn’t power up. Hardware technicians had diagnosed a few failed components. Only yesterday afternoon had the server been back online.

Q: Did he have the only Windows 7 PC in the office?

A: Yes.

The last question led me to believe he was having an issue with security negotiations between his PC and the server because the two OS versions were nearly 10 years apart and Windows 7 has considerably stricter security. Nothing in the PC’s local policy nor the server’s local policy for Microsoft Networking looked unusual. I tested a little registry change that seemed logical:

Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\LSA

Create Dword LmCompatibilityLevel with a value of 1

Restart computer and try to connect again.

No change.

After more research I found another potential solution on Microsoft Answers but was skeptical it would solve my issue since the computers were in a workgroup and not a domain. Check the time.

Just as soon as I was ready to pursue that idea the office manager asked me to check the backups on the server because they were reporting dates from October 2010. That was a smack to the face!

A quick resync to the time.windows.com NTP server corrected the time and the Windows 7 user logged in immediately.

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