Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Friday, 28 May 2010

Two lies for the price of one!

This morning I took a new server out of the box for a small branch office. It’s an HP ProLiant ML150 G6 tower server: Xeon Quad-Core processor, 2GB RAM and a 250GB SATA HD. I also upped the RAM to 4GB, added a 2nd 250GB drive and a pair of 500GB drives to give me a RAID1 array for the OS & Apps and a RAID1 array for the data.

Once I configured the RAID arrays, I booted using the Easy Setup CD. The Easy setup CD is something that HP and Dell (among others?) send out with a server to speed up and make life easier on the person installing Windows. It’s Linux based and walks you through picking a drive to install it on (the HP one even comes with an admin tool for the SATA RAID controller to configure those if you hadn’t already done it in the BIOS) and then provide your Name, Company, Product Code and which version of OS you’re installing from a list incl Windows Server 2003, 2003 R2, and 2008 and different flavors (32-bit or 64-bit) The Dell one goes even further into pre-configuring IP addresses and even joining to a domain. Once it has all the information it needs, it creates partitions and copies/pre-stages drivers from the CD to the hard drive so Windows Setup knows where to find it and can “see” your drives on your RAID controller.

I went through the steps and when it came time to choose an OS, Windows Server 2008 R2 was not on the list. I figured Windows Server 2008 x64 was the closest thing and chose that. It did all it’s gyrations and then prompted me to insert the Windows OS disc. I put in my Windows Server 2008 R2 disc and… was rejected. Odd. I tried again, same response. “Please insert the Windows Server 2008 x64 OS Disc”.

At that point I realized that it was looking at the volume name on the disc and whatever my disc was, it wasn’t what was expected. Le Suck.

I got on to HP’s support site to find an updated Easy Setup CD, and eventually found the right page, but it only lists Server 2008, not Server 2008 R2. Lame. I kept looking and searching and ultimately hit the Support Chat button and got an HP Tech Support agent on the line. I explained to him my predicament and he sent me a link back to the page I was just looking at. I knew it was the same page, because the link was purple instead of blue. (ie already visited)

I explained that I already looked at that page and it wasn’t what I was looking for. Then he decided that I must have had a 2008 R2 Hyper-V error and pushed me a link to an MS KB article  that had 3 steps: 1) disable hardware virtualization. 2) install this hotfix. 3) re-enable hardware virtualization.

I calmly explained that I didn’t have Windows installed yet, so how could I possibly install a hotfix? He said I should download it, burn it to disc and then boot off the disc and apply the hotfix. I re-iterated that I did not have Windows installed, so there was nothing to patch with the hotfix.

“OK, skip step 2 then”

Riiiiight. so that leaves me with “disable hardware virtualizations” and “re-enable hardware virtualization”. Since I hadn’t turned it on yet in the first place, it was still a moot point and told him so. He had reached the end of his flowchart now and didn’t know what to do next.

At that point I booted off the Windows Server 2008 R2 disc itself and-as expected- it couldn’t see any drives. I downloaded the SATA RAID controller driver, extracted it to a USB flash drive, jammed it in the server and clicked “load driver”. I pointed it at the folder and it found a driver for an HP BI110i Embedded SATA RAID controller. Jackpot! the drives showed up, but… Windows could not be installed on the selected disk.

After searching Google with the error number that was presented, it turned up some “Windows 7/2008 R2 can only be installed to the first boot device/C drive” so I went back into the BIOS and RAID setups to make sure that Disk 1 was the first device. It was.

I got back up to the Load Driver screen and noticed that my USB flash Drive was designated C:, the DVD-ROM drive D:, Disk 1 Partition 1 was E:, and the WinPE boot drive X:. I deleted the partition on Disk 1 and tried again. Same thing.

Finally, I booted back again without the USB drive, waited for the Load Driver screen to show, clicked Browse and THEN jacked in my flash drive. It showed up as C. I picked the driver and loaded it, and then removed the flash drive, waited 5 seconds, just to be sure, then clicked “Disk 1 Drive 1 Unallocated Space”, held my breath and clicked “Next”…

 

It worked.

 

Windows Server 2008 R2 is now installed on my new server and I’m running through Windows Updates and configuring it to be part of my network. Had I done what I knew worked to begin with, I’d be sippin’ a margarita by now but instead I tried to do things “the HP way” and it wasted my lunch hour and most of the afternoon. The Easy CD way (if it had worked) would have been equally quick.

It galls me that a company the size of HP, with the volume of servers they sell, hasn’t released an update to their software yet. Windows Server 2008 R2 was released to manufacturing in June 2009 and went on sale October 2009. It’s almost June 2010 and they still have not addressed this yet. What makes it worse is that this entry-level server is aimed at the segment of the market that doesn’t really have their own IT departments that would be able to figure this out on their own.

I think I’d like that margarita now, senor, por favor!

Friday, 28 May 2010 14:35:35 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [4] | Hardware | Microsoft | Servers | Windows#
Friday, 03 September 2010 18:24:27 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Screw the easy setup, manual installation is the only way for ALL the DL/ML1xx servers. They deliberately break the "easy setup" I reckon, and with a name like that they're just mocking you. It's all part of the subtle campaign to get you to spend more for a ML/DL3xx instead, like how they have a stern female face looking down at you with cold blue coloration as the HP sticker on the 1xx, and a CEO-looking guy smiling/laughing on a brightly lit sticker... The "smart start" tends to work. Pro-tip: they usually ship the x86 easy starts and neglect to send you an x64 one, that could have been the cause of your OS being an option.
Tuesday, 14 September 2010 07:55:01 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Yeah, they're a bunch of dicks. I just got in another ML150G6 and went to see if they had updated their ISO yet, and they HAVE... but still not to support 2008 R2. Honestly, 2008 R2 has been out for what, a year now? and it was in Beta for how long before that? On the one hand, new versions are coming out of the pipeline at ludicrous speed and it's difficult for IT to keep up and practically impossible for the budget to keep up, but I'm getting pissed off with software providers who aren't keeping up. My desktop management software does not yet support Exchange 2010, and won't until Q1 2011 so meanwhile I have to set up mail profiles BY HAND right now. Ugh.
Tuesday, 09 November 2010 04:41:08 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Thanks a lot! I went throught the same steps, excluding only HP support call (they already proved to be rather useless). Following your steps I finally have server installed. I think these have quite a plain explanation - why Windows Setup behaves this way. Apparently HP server always takes USB as a drive 0x80, so sticking and unstiking USB makes it think that drive 0x80 is a real hard drive.

Thanks again pal.
Monday, 28 March 2011 06:48:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
How did you get the RAID monitoring and other apps for in-OS monitoring? Drivers? i installed all from CD but still have an unknown device in device manager. The apps for RAID etc are not on the Easy Setup CD or on website.
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