This isn't obvious to me from the FAQ, so I'd like to know if SF is a good place to ask these kinds of questions:

  • Why does KB-xyzzy not install on our mail server? Here are the error codes I get... (MS support instead?)
  • I am getting the following blue-screen crash on one of our Vista workstations, can you help me diagnose the cause? (Google for error code?)
  • On login one of my users is getting a crash from MS service foobar.exe, how can I fix? (MS support again?)

I have a pile of things in the event logs for our servers that I want to either understand or resolve, and I'm afraid that if I post questions about each here I'll get smacked down with a "this is why you should call tech support". I've had terrible luck with tech support on some of our vendors (though some are stellar, and I always go to them first).

And of course I've found that if I search the web for a DLL or driver filename involved in a bluescreen crash, or an error code, I end up with thousands of pages of fools shooting HijackThis logs at each other. Or "dllandexeinfo.com" hits that are trying to sell virus software.

Is SF the right place to ask questions about diagnosing problems like the above examples?

My instinct says "it depends". Some questions are just too specific to a particular setup to be useful to anyone except the person asking (voiding the point of asking on a public forum). But others, such as a driver crash, could be very broad in usefulness.

What do you think?

  • 3
    This should be edited as a community wiki
    – Matt Simmons
    Jun 7, 2009 at 20:04
  • From the FAQ: "Please note that Server Fault is not for general computer troubleshooting questions". Only your first example is a good fit. (This may belong on uservoice, let the votes decide)
    – Kara Marfia
    Jun 7, 2009 at 21:42
  • community wikified
    – Scott Bilas
    Jun 7, 2009 at 22:02

5 Answers 5


I think this would be a good application of Attwood's rule #628 (apocryphal number) from StackOverflow podcast: "if you paid your own money for that machine, it's probably not a good question for Server Fault.".

None of the three questions you posted above fit in that bracket, if you have searched for a solution and not found one then ServerFault is a good place for your questions. I would suggest not posting them all at once.

There are no stupid questions!

  • "Until you ask it!", "Except for Billy's", etc. Seriusly, I guess those are questions that should be un superuser.
    – perbert
    Jun 7, 2009 at 22:46
  • 2
    I paid my own money for all my servers, because I'm the business owner. Every rule has its exceptions.
    – Tim Long
    Jun 7, 2009 at 22:53
  • Yes, there will always be exceptions. Rules are meant to be broken, they should get the general concept across then the community has the tools to manage the response to the breaking of the rule.
    – Richard Slater
    Jun 8, 2009 at 5:58
  • It sounds like a big difference from StackOverflow is that there I will always post questions first, because I want SO to be the definitive source and not random sites on Google. Here, I think I need to exhaust all search options and tech support first and then ask. Maybe I'll post a question or two and see how people react to them.
    – Scott Bilas
    Jun 8, 2009 at 13:49
  • 1
    Personally I believe ServerFault should be the definitve source, there are far too many sites that come up in google search results with promising results then seemingly hold the answer to ransom.
    – Richard Slater
    Jun 8, 2009 at 14:28

I have to say that if you think you should call tech support you probably should call tech support. Serverfault is a great resource but I've seen too many just plain wrong answers that have been voted up to the top of the pile to trust without having a test server onhand to verify whatevers been suggested for a production server.

Event log questions seem to be a great fit. Even more of a fit is how to troubleshoot any particualr problem.

as far as single workstation issues I'd say problems on your workstation belong on superuser, problems fixing a users workstation belong on serverfault. Fixing users systems is one of the things a sysadmin gets called on to do more and more especially as the desktop support guys get laid off


I actually think this is an excellent question because it will help new users determine what is appropriate on the site.

For event log errors, your best friend is http://eventid.net - you can search for free but paying the annual subscription is worth it. It's something like twenty dollars and you get links directly to relevant resources.

If you can't resolve your problem that way, then I would have thought it was a legitimate question for SF.


I say:

1) - Yes, errors installing software on the mail server == serverfault

2) - No, single workstation issues belong on superuser

3) - I could see it going either way. It could be a problem with the domain account, in which case it belongs here, or a problem on the workstation, in which it belongs on superuser. Since you really can't tell until it's been debugged, I don't think it would get kicked back from either.

or you catch the mods in a really bad mood and it gets booted from both.


I think your answer sums it up pretty well, Matt. Though I wanted to post some samples, because it seems like there's still a lot of murk around this topic.

vs. Workstation Theory (reopened)

Clearly "workstation" is not taboo in itself, but maybe a good question to ask is "does this belong on superuser?" Obviously VS2008 installation is something with relevance to the workplace, yet it was closed - it seems that the goal of this site is to serve a particular niche.

It seems that good questions can and should be closed - when they do not match up with the intent of the site. According to the types of questions that Jeff closes, and according to the FAQ - that intent is not for workstation/helpdesk type questions.

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