We had a bunch of HP Proliant DL580 G5 running with 4 x quad core CPUs. With all the cores turned on, this would give us 16 CPUs. When trying to build the servers into Window 2003, we found that Windows startup page (the one with the moving bar at the bottom) would hang and not continue.
After some trial and error, we found that if we disabled “”one-half of cores per Physical Processor” from the BIOS (effective with 8 CPUs), the server would then boot up correct. So we continued with the Windows build and completed building the servers into 32-bit Windows 2003 Enterprise Edition.
We then went to turn on the above settings again and indeed it was stuck at the Windows startup page again. Turned it off and it work. It was a strange symptom because I don’t believe that Window 2002 Ent Ed cannot support 16 CPUs but then we do have other Windows 2003 Ent Ed running with 16 CPUs without any issues.
At first we thought it has to do with the 8 way SMP support found in http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc758523.aspx, but this has more to do with socket support then cores support
Anyway, to cut the story short, one of my colleague actually found the problem. Apparently, this has to do with the NIC’s firmware version of external PCI network adapter and in DL580 G5 it was a HP NC360T PCIe DP Gigabit Server Adapter.
After upgrade the firmware to the latest, the issue never happened again.
In my work, I have seen network cards and driver causing various issues to Windows start up issue and this is another one in the basket of knowledge for me.