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I’ve read the case files. Have you?
Everything you need to find him is there in those pages.
– Then tell me how. 
– First principles, Clarice. Simplicity.

Hannibal Lecter’s advice works as well for DBAs as it does for FBI agents. What does SQL Server covet? A master database. And that starts us down the path to solving today’s SQL Server murder.
The victim was a SQL Server 2000 instance running on a single-node Windows 2003 cluster. A couple of months ago, our occasional client ran out of space and tried to move the database files to another drive. Which unfortunately was not a cluster resource, so the server wouldn’t come back on line. The client contacted us, we put everthing back the way it was, the client’s back in business.
This week the client got back in touch with (he thought) the same problem. After all, it produced the same error message:
“A connection could not be established to (the database). Reason: SQL Server does not exist or access denied.”
So I logged in and tried to start the service. No dice. Checked the application log and got this error:
Event Type:     Error
Event Source:  (Named instance)
Event Category:          (2)
Event ID:        17055
Date:               12/19/2011
Time:               1:54:42 PM
User:                N/A
Computer:       (Server

Description:

17113 : initconfig: Error 3(The system cannot find the path specified.) opening 'M:Programs FilesMicrosoft SQL ServerMSSQL$DSSTOREDBdatamaster.mdf' for configuration information.

Well, the master db was on the N drive, not the M drive. Somehow, the unclustered resource from the aborted file move in October found its way back into the registry. Don’t know how that happened. So I changed the startup parameter back to the N drive and tried to bring SQL Server back online from the cluster administrator. No dice.

I went to the Services mmc to try to start the service, and got the message, “The service started and then stopped. Some services stop automatically if they have no work to do.” I had a feeling this message had nothing to do with the problem.

So I tried to start SQL Server from the command line and got this: “Your SQL Server installation is either corrupt or has been tampered with (could not open SQLEVN70.rll). Please uninstall then re-run Setup to correct this problem.”

Yikes!

Well, let’s try to fix SQLEVN70.rll. According to this thread, if you can get a good copy and replace the old or missing one, you could be back in business. Tried, failed. And in the meantime, noticed that the registry had reverted to the invalid M-drive startup parameter. Rats.

So I went medieval on the registry, following the appropriate procedure, of course. This time the registray stayed fixed.

But still got all the same error messages. The one from the application event log was particularly troublesome: Error 3(The system cannot find the path specified.) opening ‘N:Programs FilesMicrosoft SQL ServerMSSQL$DSSTOREDBdatamaster.mdf‘ for configuration information.

But I know for a fact that master.mdf …

Hmmm. Let’s take a look at that path again:

N:Programs FilesMicrosoft SQL ServerMSSQL$DSSTOREDBdatamaster.mdf

First things, Clarice. I don’t know how that “s” got in there, but problem solved.

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