HAL confusion

No, not the robot from 2001. I’m talking about the Hardware Abstraction Layer in the Windows NT family. This week, I was using the Microsoft System Information tool (Msinfo32.exe) to gather some details about three systems here in my office. I was surprised to see that all three machines reported different HAL versions. Checking in with my Windows Vista Inside Out co-authors, I learned that they’re all seeing the same number:


That’s on a total of seven systems, including one here. But on two systems, both Dells, I’m seeing later build numbers:


A quick search turns up nothing to explain the differences.

If you’re running Vista, do me a favor and check the HAL version on your system. Run Msinfo32 from the Run box (Windows logo key+R) of from Search box on the Start menu. Look about two-thirds of the way down the System Summary page, above the user name and time zone fields. If you see a number other than 16386, leave a comment here with more details about your system (especially mfr and OEM/retail status)

Update: Microsoft’s John Gray posts a comment that explains it all. Executive summary: these are fixes described in KB 929777 and 930261, delivered via Windows Update or preinstalled by some OEMs. During and after beta testing, I remember hearing many complaints from testers with Nvidia chipsets about performance problems, crashes, and general instability, especially in configurations with lots of RAM (3GB or more). This is the fix, apparently. Read John’s entire comment for more details and some interesting links about the differences between XP and Vista dual-branch development.

15 thoughts on “HAL confusion

  1. I’m running Vista Ultimate (oem) on a Dell Inspiron E1705 and have the 20500 version of the hal. I have the KB929777 patch installed (as of 4/2/2007) that Joe mentions in the first comment. Jim

  2. Ed:

    These are the two versions (GDR & Hotfix) for the fix described in these KBs . They are delivered via WU to systems with over 3 GB RAM and certain hardware, and Dell presintalls them if you are seeing one of them on the preinstalled system.


    Descriibes the “install” symptom, and has link to the package itself.


    Describes ongoing random crashes, same problem and same fix as 929777. I don’t know why the original KB wasn’t just updated with both scenarios.

    http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/windowsserver2003/deployment/winupdte.mspx#EYJAC (see branching section)

    Describe the basic dual-branch development for XP and Server 2003; Vista uses a different scheme where the file versions (16xxx and 20xxx) map to the different branches.

    You can extract the files from the above .MSU (use the Expand command), then expand the .CAB, and you will find the specific HALs in the x86_hal_inf* directories. (the appropriate versin of the HAL is renamed hal.dll). See http://support.microsoft.com/kb/928636 for how to use expand on vista.

    There may be other versions preinstalled by OEMs who needed various hotfixes for specific hardware.

    Hope this helps.

  3. Vista Ultimate Retail upgrade

    Hardware Abstraction Layer Version = “6.0.6000.16407”

    home-built PC

  4. Hi Ed,

    Not on topic, but since it’s impossible to find your email address I’ll leave this here.

    While trying to browse to this blog post my browser hung, second time on your blog in the past week, with the following error below after timing out. I’ve never had the problem until this week and nothing is different on this system.

    Just thought you might want to know.


  5. Well, your filter is blocking the error message, so if you want it write me at the email I left in the comments email section.


  6. Ray, I sent this to you as an e-mail, but will post it here for others to see also.

    The upgrade to WordPress 2.2 caused all sorts of odd problems, with this being one. I have no idea what the problem is and can’t find anything to help with it. Go ahead and send me the error message, it could help me track down the problem!

    Sorry for the inconvenience.

    Ed Bott

  7. uh… just off topic… “HAL” in 2001 is not a robot. It / he is a computer. There is a diffference, no? Have you seen the movie, Ed?

  8. Gord, not everyone agrees with you. This guy, for example, says: “At the heart of every robot is a computer. Although some may argue this is not a robot, Hal 9000 took control of the ship. In essence, the ship became his body. ”

    So there. Phhhhffft.

  9. My problem is that kb929777 does not install the file it says it is going to install under x64 Vista. I suspect that if it did, my problems would be solved.

    Maybe John can pop back by and suggest why the version installed under x64 is so much lower a build that then one it claims it is going to install.

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