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Don Burleson Blog 







What to do when you cannot connect to Oracle

Oracle Database Tips by Donald BurlesonJanuary 8, 2015

Question:  My database is hung, and I cannot connect to Oracle with Enterprise Manager, it just hangs.  I cannot connect via SQL*Plus either.  How to I fix a hanging database when I cannot connect with OEM?  I see no messages in the alter log.

Answer:  Oracle can "hang" for many reasons.  In addition to the alert log, you need to check server-side logs (/etc/syslog, /var/adm/syslog), and check the listener log files as well as the bdump, cdump and pfile directories for trace files. 

For more complete details on diagnosing a hung database with Oracle Utilities, see the book "Advanced Oracle Utilities: The Definitive Reference".

Back in Oracle 10g a hung database was a real problem, especially if the DBA could not connect via SQL*Plus to release the source of the hanging.  In these cases, the DBA had few options other than to force-down the instance and warmstart it.

Gathering a trace file in a hung 11g database

There is a new feature in Oracle 11g SQL*Plus called the ?prelim? option. This option is very useful for running oradebug and other utilities that do not require a real connection to the database.

root> sqlplus ?prelim



SQL> set _prelim on

SQL> connect / as sysdba

At this point, you are free to run the oradebug commands to diagnose a hung database issue using the new 11g hanganalyze utility:

  1. SQL> oradebug hanganalyze 3
  2. Wait at least 2 minutes to give time to identify process state changes.
  3. SQL> oradebug hanganalyze 3
  4. Open a separate SQL session and immediately generate a system state dump.
  5. SQL> alter session set events 'immediate trace name SYSTEMSTATE level 10';

If the instance was unavailable due to a crash, you might not see an entry in the alert log, so start by checking that the instance is running (ps -ef|grep ora|grep pmon). 

In some cases where Oracle us hanging and no users can connect, you have no choice but to bounce the instance.  Other possibilities for Oracle hanging include:

  • Pathing - Make sure that your Oracle environment variables are properly set ($ORACLE_HOME).

# First, we must set the environment . . . .
ORACLE_HOME=`cat /etc/oratab|grep ^$ORACLE_SID:|cut -f2 -d':'`
export PATH

$ORACLE_HOME/bin/sqlplus system/manager<<!


  • External issues - The network being down, Kerberos security issues, SSO or a firewall issue can cause an Oracle connection to hang.  One way to test this is to set sqlnet.authentication_services=(none) in your sqlnet.ora file and retry connecting.

  • Listener is not running - Start by checking the listener (check lsnrctl stat).  Also, see my notes on diagnosing Oracle network connectivity issues.

  • No RAM - Over allocation of server resources, usually RAM, whereby there is not enough RAM to spawn another connection to Oracle.

  • Contention - It is not uncommon for an end-user session to ?hang? when they are trying to grab a shared data resource that is held by another end-user. The end-user often calls the help desk trying to understand why they cannot complete their transaction, and the Oracle professional must quickly identify the source of the contention.

    Whenever Oracle is has a session waiting on a resource, this information can be found in the v$session view in the row_wait_file# and row_wait_block#.

    The file number and block number can then be cross-referenced into the dba_extents view to see the name of the table where the session is waiting on a block.

    Column host format a6;
    Column username format a10;
    Column os_user format a8;
    Column program format a30;
    Column tsname format a12;

       b.machine host,
       b.username username,
       b.osuser os_user,
       b.program program,
       a.tablespace_name ts_name,
       row_wait_file# file_nbr,
       row_wait_block# block_nbr,
       dba_data_files a,
       v$session      b,
       dba_extents    c
    b.row_wait_file# = a.file_id
    c.file_id = row_wait_file#
    row_wait_block# between c.block_id and c.block_id + c.blocks - 1
    row_wait_file# <> 0


If you like Oracle tuning, you might enjoy my book "Oracle Tuning: The Definitive Reference", with 950 pages of tuning tips and scripts. 

You can buy it direct from the publisher for 30%-off and get instant access to the code depot of Oracle tuning scripts.



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