Running Firebird Server on Windows - Firebird


The Firebird Superserver executable is fbserver.exe. Although it can run as a stand-alone program, it can be monitored by the Guardian program, fbguard.exe. The Guardian provides a capability that emulates the auto-restart capabilities of Windows services and POSIX services running with the –forever switch. If the fbserver.exe application should terminate abnormally, the Guardian will attempt to restart it. It is recommended that you use the Guardian option on hosts running Windows 95/98 and ME and on the NT/XP platforms when running the server as an application.

On Windows NT and Windows 2000, the Firebird server program can run as a service or as an application. The default installation installs the Firebird server—and the Guardian, if selected—to run automatically as services. Both can be changed to run instead as applications.

On Windows 95/98, ME, and XP Home Edition, Firebird can run only as an application. When Firebird runs as an application, an icon appears in the system tray. Certain administration tasks can be done manually by right-clicking the tray icon.

Running Firebird As a Service on Windows NT, 2000, and XP

Unless you have a special contrary requirement, it is strongly recommended that you keep Firebird server running as a service.

Stopping and Starting the Service Manually

To stop the service manually, open a command shell window and enter the following command:

NET STOP FirebirdServer

To start or restart the server manually, enter this command:

NET START FirebirdServer

Using the instsvc Utility

The alternative, “native Firebird” way to start and stop the Firebird and Guardian services is to use the instsvc.exe utility, which is located in the /bin folder beneath the Firebird root directory. instsvc.exe is used by the system to install the Firebird service—and Guardian, if selected —when the host server is booted up. Because it was not originally intended for general use by humans, it is a DOS-style command with switches.

Stopping and Restarting the Service Using instsvc

Open a command shell and navigate to the rootdirectory/bin folder. To stop the Firebird service, enter this:

C:\Program Files\Firebird\Firebird_1_5\bin> instsvc stop

To(re)start the Firebird service, optionally with altered process priority, use this in a single command-line:

C:\Program Files\Firebird\Firebird_1_5\bin> instsvc start [-boostpriority | -regularpriority]

Firebird Manager Applets

When Firebird runs as a service, a small degree of administration, including stopping and restarting, can be done through the Firebird Manager Control Panel applet. A barebones applet is installed with Firebird. Richer -featured applets, including international language versions, can be downloaded from the Firebird CVS tree on SourceForge or from several Firebird-related websites.

Running Firebird As an Application on Any Windows Platform

If Firebird server is running as an application, you should see an icon in the system tray of the server machine, as shown in Figure. The appearance of the tray icon depends on whether you are running the server stand-alone or you have the Guardian controlling its running. It is recommended that you use the Guardian when running Superserver as an application and to avoid it when running Classic server.

Application tray icon

Application tray icon

You will not see a tray icon if the server has not been started (in the case of the Superserver) or initialized (in the case of the Classic server). Unless you checked the installation option to start the server automatically, you will need to start or initialize it manually.

Starting the Server As an Application Manually

If the Superserver is not running, or the Classic server is not initialized, it can be started or restarted manually by selecting it from the Start ➤Programs ➤Firebird menu.

Alternatively, the Guardian or the server can be started from the command prompt. Invoke the command shell window and change to the \bin folder of your Firebird installation. Proceed as follows, according to whether you want to have Guardian protection or to run the server without the capability to restart automatically.


The Guardian program is called fbguard.exe on Firebird 1.5 and ibguard.exe on lower versions. Use the following command to start the Guardian:

fbguard.exe -a ibguard.exe -a /* for v.1.0.x */

The Guardian places its icon in the tray and automatically starts the Superserver.

The name of the server program for Superserver is fbserver.exe (ibserver.exe on Firebird 1.0.x). To start the Superserver directly yourself, without no Guardian protection, use this command instead:

fbserver.exe -a ibserver.exe -a /* for v.1.0.x */

The server starts and places its own icon in the tray.

Classic Server

An appreciable benefit of running a Classic server on Windows is its ability to use multiple processors, a feature not available to the Superserver with many SMP systems. However, because memory usage on the Classic server is directly related to the number of concurrent attachments, it may be impracticable to deploy at sites where server resource capacity is not adequate to support large numbers of users on the system.

The process that is the “ears” for clients requesting attachment to a Classic server is an initial instance of a program named fb_inet_server.exe. If this initial instance of fb_inet_server is not running, it will not be possible for a client/server connection to be made and you will get the error “Unable to connect to server. Database cannot be found.”

When clients attach to the database, one instance of this 1.2MB executable and, if configured, one instance of the Guardian (72KB) runs for each client attachment. One allocation of database cache memory is made to each attachment.

Classic Server and the Guardian

By accident or by design, the Firebird 1.5.0 installer is capable of causing a minor but confusing anomaly. If you don’t check the option Use Guardian during installation, the installer will write the Superserver version of the Guardian into your Firebird \bin directory and it will never work with the Classic server. If you do check this option, you will encounter an error message during installation, but the Guardian version that is installed will work with the Classic server. You can test whether you have the right version by attempting to start it. If you see an error dialog box containing the word “fbserver,” you will know you did not select Guardian support during installation.

The Guardian is redundant for the Classic server, in any case. You will lose nothing if it turns out that you didn’t install it. I recommend ignoring the Guardian for the Classic server.

To start the initializing instance of the Classic server manually as an application, go to a command window, cd to your Firebird\ bin directory, and type

fb_inet_server.exe -a

The server icon should appear in the tray, and your server is ready to start receiving connections.

Alternatively, if you selected the Use Guardian option during installation, you may start the Guardian instead, from the same location:

fbguard.exe -c –a

In this case, the Guardian’s icon appears in the tray, but it cannot be used to deinitialize the server (see the note about the Classic server in the upcoming section titled “Classic Server”).

Stopping the Server

Stopping the server is an operation that affects the Superserver and the Classic server differently.


Right-click the Firebird Guardian or server icon and choose Shutdown from the context menu. If the Guardian is running, it first stops the server and then shuts down itself. Users currently logged on will lose any uncommitted work.

Classic Server

Under most conditions, it should be unnecessary to “stop” the Classic server. Taking the Shutdown option from the server tray icon will prevent any further connections to the server, but it does not affect any processes that are currently connected.

It is rarely, if ever, necessary to shut down Classic processes manually, since closing a client connection terminates its process instance cleanly and correctly. The only way to stop a Classic process that is running as an application is by applying brute force, via the Task List.

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