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NOTHING is easy! The Windows Home Server saga continues

Tags: Windows Home Server Software
Hmmm, I didn't feel comfortable with the small initial first disk I described yesterday, so I thought it was a good idea to replace the the primary disk. At the same time I went from IDE to SATA and ACHI. What a mess.... and what a night!!
The saga continues! Increasing the size of the initial DATA partition.

Yesterday I wrote about my small, initial DATA partition size on my 120 GB hard disk.This was far too irritating to be left alone, and tonight I attempted to install a new and larger first disk. A little note on the notion "first disk". By this I mean the disk which WHS uses as its primary disk, where it creates the SYS- and DATA partition.

My old system and my original first disk was IDE while the other data disks are SATA. My new first disk is SATA and much larger, 500GB. So far so good!

Several posts on the net describe how you can replace the first disc, and one of them (link here) describes how to use Acronis to make an exact copy of the original disk, and how to replace the old with the new clone. I tried that and initially it looked like WHS booted as it was supposed to. After I while I discovered that the new first disk wasn't "added" to the WHS Storage Pool. When I tried to do that, I also saw that the old disk (with it's name and model number was listed as "Missing". WHS obviously keeps a good track of which disks it controls! And (I almost said "of course" ...) I couldn't remove the missing disk, since that was also indicated as the System disk. And when I tried to add to the new first disk, WHS treated that disk as an ordinary, additional, data disk. If I continued to add that disk, WHS would format it and add it to the pool of data disks. So far for the Acronis approach. It *did* create a successful clone, which booted and all, but WHS itself didn't have any notion of it as the system disk.

So next attempt. With the new clone disk in place, I booted the system with the WHS Boot DVD. After some screens I got to the screen "Select An Installation Type" where you can select "New installation" and "Server Reinstallation". WHS Boot DVD at least experienced the new cloned disk as an old system to reinstall. Now, according to a bunch of posts on the net, this "Server Reinstallation"-option will recreate the system drive and don't wipe all your data. Unfortunately it will reinstall pretty deep, and you will loose any additional installed software you may have installed on WHS. I had for example installed VMWARE Server 1.0.4 and Symantec Antivirus 10.1 to name a few.

My first "Server Reinstallation" try also looked like it was going to be a success. The WHS installer (note, NOT the Windows 2003 server installer) detected all 3 SATA disks, and also detected all the NTFS file systems. It installed all the Windows files to the disk, which took about 5 minuttes, and then it rebooted to launch the Windows 2003 server installer. THAT installer didn't have a clue about the SATA drivers (I have a Gigabyte GA-965P-DQ6 (rev. 3.3) motherboard with a Intel ICH8R Matrix Storage driver on it. I came to the "Press F6" to load additional drivers. I worked for about two hours to create a diskette (yes, a FLOPPY), including a trip to the attic to find the diskette drive, find some old diskettes and to get that bootdisk created!! No matter what I tried, the Windows 2003 server installer would never let me pass the F6 screen where it told me to insert the "Manufacturer-supplied hardware support disk". ... dang!

The second attempt; Now I did actually pay attention to the installation screens, the one just before "Select An Installation Type" is "Load Addition Storage Drivers" .... It has the "Load drivers" button ...

Ok, so now the trick was to get the drives in. In the second try, I tried to use the CD which I had copied the ICH8R and GigaByte sata drivers to. What a mistake! I could actually load the drivers (the drvload.exe runs fine), but the next screen "Select Your Regional and Keyboard Settings" in the WHS installer had lost all its values!!!!

Third try. No I have TWO separate FLOPPIES with the ICH8R and Gigabyte drivers on respectivly. I will certainly not remove the WHS Boot DVD anymore! And after a nailbiting period, WHS Installer finally acceped all my options and proceeded with installation ... amd UNBELIEVABLE!! The whole thing crashed big time during the second part of the install, in the Windows 2003 server install!!!

Fourth try; Via a very small notion in another usenet-post, I saw someone which disabled the ACHI-support in the BIOS totally. That post also said that it wasn't any surprise that the installer went BSOD due to errornous BIOS setup ... OK, from now on I tried again, and didn't use any F6 floppies ... What did you think happened? Boing!

Fifth try: I read the manual for the motherboard, and set all the BIOS settings to ACHI as vaguely indicated (hey, motherboard-vendors aren't exactly know for their fantastic manuals either!!). With my ICH8R-floppy placed in the floppy drive, and the WHS Boot DVD placed in the DVD player (I never removed them during installation!), I finally got WHS to install on my SATA disk. Jiiihhaa ...

Conslusion: No doubt about installers getting better and better, but still I can't help wondering; why is there ALWAYS some small detail that you miss during the install??? Software vendors should know by now that many people TRUST the installer to make if not the correct choices, then viable and decent ones, for you.

For example does WHS Installation Guide state that you can store those additional storage drivers onto an USB stick. What nonsense! My motherboard obviously doesn't know anything about it's USB ports until after Windows has been installed. Why couldn't the installer had told me that it couldn't find the USB port, and thus I had to use the floppy alternative? And by the way, stay away from the CD-variant, as you must be very careful about when you reinsert the WHS Boot DVD ...

Some where does that leave me? It took about 6 full hours to complete "Server Reinstallation", with all kinds of deviations to use non-available USB ports, use CD-if-used-then-forget-about-all-values and finally using STONE-AGE-FLOPPIES to get around all this! Again, I feel that I have to BEAT the software into position!!! The absolute final though? How on earth could I survive before Google and support-forums on the net?


Gravatar Image1 - WHS + SATA = PAIN

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