Vista Black Screen of Death and Altiris SVS

When we rolled out the HP 2730p tablets to Staff last year, we decided to try out the Altiris software virtualisation (SVS).

Since it came bundled with our Altiris purchase it seemed like the easiest choice for getting into software virtualisation. We had tried the demo for VMWare’s Thinapp but were discouraged by the pricing and had been impressed with demos if Microsoft App-V. Software virtualisation would let us have a much smaller SOE with just Vista, Office 2007 and the Adobe CS4 Master Collection, and have every other application installed as an SVS layer. This way we could reduce the time needed for imaging and control the application deployment through Altiris. We could also enable the web portal which would let Staff select which SVS layers they’d like deployed to their machine!

Since the 2730p machines have been imaged, we’ve had a few come back because Vista seems to hang on a black screen after the green progress bar on boot up

Vista Green Bars

The problem seems to be with a driver for SVS (fslx.sys) and after browsing the web for reasons why we’ve had this issue found that it may be a problem with one of the SVS packages we’ve deployed.

A thread on the Symantec forums details some of the SVS KSOD issues that people have had and found that troublesome SVS layers are the culprit. This thread confirmed our suspicions that we were having trouble with SVS packages that we’d made for applications like Skype and iTunes that have regular/frequent updates. The files in the SVS layer can’t be updated when there’s an update or patch for an application. With software virtualisation on the rise it would be handy if the application knew it was virtualised and would warn the user that new versions can’t be installed until the virtualised application is removed.

Anyway, here’s the fix:

· Boot the machine into Safe Mode

· Login as Admin

· Rename C:\Windows\system32\drivers\fslx.sys to C:\Windows\system32\drivers\fslx_old.sys

· Restart the machine

This will disable SVS and all the SVS layers. We’ve had some success with updating the SVS software to a slightly newer version, though, in most cases we’ve still had trouble after updating the SVS client. The best bet is to work out which SVS layer us causing the problem and disable it. Easier said than done.

We’re yet to decide if we’ll consider SVS for the 2010 Staff image. If we do, we’ll have to exclude applications like iTunes and Skype and try to avoid the black screen issues. We also need to decide if we’re going to move to Windows 7 for this image and whether it will be 32 or 64bit. Symantec have released the beta version of Symantec Workspace Virtualization,new version of SVS, which is compatible with 64bit Windows but it’s unlikely that the final version will be released in time for our internal testing.