The specified CGI application misbehaved

I’m running a fairly standard WIMP setup at work: Win 2003, IIS, PHP4, MySQL (note, this website is LAMP). One of my users just got the dreaded CGI error:

The specified CGI application misbehaved by not returning a complete set of HTTP headers.

She is getting this error every time she tries to upload a 13MB zip file using a HTML form on the website. Worst thing is, I cannot for the life of me replicate this error. I was able to upload the same file from the local network in a matter of seconds. It looks like a persistent, but intermittent problem that only shows up in specific circumstances.

I googled for this error message, but I’m not finding anything that would help me with my problem. In fact, this message seems to indicate a wide variety of possible issues, which might be very hard to diagnose.

For example, you may need to modify the generated headers, but I don’t think this is a problem here. The upload form seems to be working for most of the other users just fine. If the headers were wrong, I would get this error all the time, no?

Some people say this is a known IIS bug that crops out on multiprocessor machines. My server has a single CPU however, so I don’t think this solution is for me either.

There is a huge thread in PHP bug report system with all kinds of solutions, none of which was confirmed to work. I think the thread got eventually closed when someone pointed to the multiprocessor solution I linked above. It does provide some interesting suggestions. For example, I like this one:

[5 Oct 2004 12:13am UTC] true_weakness at hotmail dot com

Hi All i have a windows 2003 sErver running IIS 6, I had the same problem with the cgi timeout, resolved by downloading the IIS 6 resource kit. With the IIS Metabase Explorer, go to the Server name, Expand LM, go to W3SVC. Find event CGI Timeout and change the default from 300 secs to whatever you need and it works

Following advice of someone whose email is true_weakness at may not be a good idea, but it does sound like a reasonable solution. Since my user was uploading a relatively big file, over a relatively slow DSL connection it is possible that we were dealing with some CGI timeout scenario. I adjusted the timeout value as described here. Unfortunately there is no way for me to test this again, because the user has emailed the file to the office and went off to do bigger and better things. :|

Oh well, I guess I’ll find out if it worked next time she is uploading a big file.

[tags]wimp, lamp, iis, cgi, the specified cgi application misbehaved, php, cgi error[/tags]

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4 Responses to The specified CGI application misbehaved

  1. Craig Betts UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Solaris Terminalist says:

    Remember, get all the details.

    What browser is she using? What OS? Is she on dial-up? I know, what does dial-up have to do with it? It is still using TCP, right? Well, TCP and ICMP. Let me explain . . .

    I used to run the perimeter systems at NASA. The webmaster told me that ever since I made a change on the firewall one particular night, all the dialup users were dropping-off. It took me a while (three weeks), but I finally figured out what happened. being the paranoid freak that I am, I blocked all ICMP traffic from coming in. The drawback was that I started to block the ICMP source quench packets. The modem couldn’t keep up with the server and was telling it to slow down with that ICMP message. The end effect was a drop-off that was unexplained (I even saw the reset packet come from the client).

    Also, get the ISP of the client. Sometimes they have funky rules . . .

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  2. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Hmm… Interesting. I might need to look into the firewall rules. I only remember tweaking rules for TCP and UDP…

    She is on Windows XP using IE7. Her ISP is either Comcast or Verizon – I could not figure out which one because she insisted that her “internet” is from Comcast but her “wireless” is from verizon… Go figure. She either has two lines, is stealing her neighbor’s wireless, or is just confused. :|

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  3. God, stupid users :D Actually I got lost after the subject line.. thats why i contacted Cbetts to come try and help ;)

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