About a month ago Alex documented using Server Recovery to upgrade from his HP MediaSmart Server EX475 to the EX487. Overall, the process went smooth and Alex was able to successfully migrate his data from the EX475 to the EX487. I decided it was now my turn to do this, but instead do a server recovery moving the data from my EX470 to a DIY WHS build (codename Shawshank) that I had been working on. After 4 grueling days of trial and error and many nights crying myself to sleep (I just told my wife it was due to my love for her overwhelming me, earned a few brownie points there, as long as she does not read this post!!!) I am happy to report that the server recovery was a success. In hopes that no one ever goes through what I went through, I thought it would make sense to document everything.
- Chenbro SR109 Chassis
- GIGABYTE GA-MA785G-UD3H Motherboard
- AMD Athlon II X2 245 Regor 2.9GHz
- 3 x 5 in 3 Hot Swap HDD Cages
- Supermicro AOC-SAT2-MV8
- Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8
- 2-Port eSATA PCIe Adapter Card
- 500GB O/S Hard drive
- 8TB (among 7 drives) Storage Pool Data in HP MediaSmart Server EX470 and Sans Digital TR4M
Additional Tools Needed:
- Floppy drive and 3.5″ disks
- Windows Home Server Installation Disk
- ROM Drive – I used an Xbox360 HD DVD Rom drive via USB
- Drivers for any Sata/RAID Controller Cards being used
You can see from the picture below my setup, with the Xbox360 Rom Drive on top of the case and an internal Floppy Drive hanging off the side, I felt like a mad scientist running some crazy experiment!!!
Before starting with the server recovery, there are a few things that need to be done. The first thing is to determine what drivers are needed for the recovery (should just be for any special setup you will have with your hard disk drives such as RAID/Sata controller cards, using the mobo sata ports in AHCI mode, etc…) and to create a floppy disk for each driver (copy the drivers over from the hardware setup disk or the manufacturers site). There are two important steps with creating the floppy disk. Each driver MUST be on its own disk. Also, and this is what tripped me up, you need to make sure that the file “txtsetup.oem” for the driver is in the root of the floppy disk. The actual driver files can be in the root of the floppy disk or in a sub folder, but without “txtsetup.oem” in the root the drivers will not load properly during recovery (you will get this message below).
The second thing is to make sure that the HDD you plan on using as the O/S drive is clean. When I first set up Shawshank I had it running with just the O/S drive to make sure all the hardware was working. Even though I never added any pooled storage a D: partition was created. It appears that in this case the D: partition takes priority in the recovery process and WHS ignores the foreign pool drives (my MSS drives). You can either delete the D: partition prior to doing the server recovery or best bet would be to reformat the O/S drive. Without doing this you will be left doing a server recovery that does not add any of your pooled drives.
Step By Step Instructions:
With a clean O/S drive, driver floppy disks, and all the pooled drives installed into Shawshank, it is now time for the server recovery:
- Install WHS Installation CD (you could also create a USB drive) and boot up the system
- This next step will be dependent on your setup and may not be necessary. I have three controller cards that are being installed into my system. It turns out that the SASLP requires you to make a change in the BIOS for it to work properly with WHS. On boot up, hit Ctrl + m which will take you to the SASLP BIOS. Under controller this is an option called “INT 3h”. By default this is set as enabled, so change to disabled. Not realizing that this change needed to be made let to numerous recovery failures and hardware conflicts, and was probably the biggest reason why my attempt at a server recovery took so long.
- The system should now reboot itself. One final check I did before loading WHS, when the system reboots it should scan all controller cards and list out all ports being used. This is a good check to make sure that all drives you have connected to your system are being detected correctly
- With the controller cards all set, next step is going to be getting into the Boot Menu. For my system this requires pressing F12 at boot. Since the WHS installation disk is in the USB ROM drive, I can go ahead and select this option.
- A screen should now show up stating that “Windows is loading files…”, followed by a screen stating “Setup is initializing…”. After these screens pass you should now be in the Windows Home Server Setup screen. Here you will have your first opportunity to load your drivers. Since I had created 3 driver disks I loaded all three drivers and then confirmed that all my hard drives had been recognized.
- Once the drivers have been loaded the next step will be to choose what type of installation you want to do. This is probably the most critical step since if you select “New Installation” instead of “Server Reinstallation” all your data will be wiped out and the server recovery will have been pointless.
- The setup process should continue to move along, going through a few more steps before the system reboots again. Once the system reboots you will be taken to the Windows Setup screen. STAY ALERT, when this screen pops up you will be prompted to hit F6 to load additional drivers. This screen will only show for about 5-10 seconds, if you miss it you have to manually restart your system and try again.
Press “S” to select drivers to be loaded
Enter floppy disk with driver and press ENTER
Choose correct driver and press ENTER
Repeat these steps for all drivers. Once complete you should now see a lost of all drivers that will be loaded. Press ENTER to proceed.
- You will be asked one final time to insert the floppy disk and load the drivers. This should be the last time you will interact with WHS during the installation process, so you can just kick your feet up, grab a beer or cold glass of milk, and let WHS do its thing. One thing to look out for which will be a clue as to whether your storage pools will be added correctly, during “Finalizing installation” a process should run called “Recovering Data”. If you do not see this process run odds are your server recovery was not successful.
- Once the installation is complete there will be a few more screens to go through.
Click on the Welcome arrow
Enter in your password and hint
There will be a few more options to set up such as Automatic Updates, etc. Once done, you will now be taken to your WHS desktop!!!
The moment of truth, if the server restore was successful you should see your data drives part of the storage pool, phew!!!
Signs Something Is Wrong:
The good thing, I guess, about going through all the problems I went through is you soon learn what to look out for that could be an indication of a problem with the recovery. Here are a few things I observed that would indicate a problem (and in my case it did):
- At the very beginning the “Windows is loading files…” process will not complete unless you remove all connected storage pool hard drives
- Before you get to the Windows Setup screen where you press F6 a quick message pops up that says something to the affect “Windows is analyzing your hardware configuration”. This message you only last a few seconds, not 10-20 minutes as it did in my situation
- You press F6 during the Windows Setup but nothing happens (I was trying to load the drivers for a USB thumb drive until I realized it had to be from a floppy disk)
- You load all the drivers but one of the storage pool hard drives appears to hang causing the system to freeze. This ended up being due to a hardware conflict with the controller cards (BIOS setting needed to be changed on SASLP).
One last thing I wanted to point out. After I did the server restore there was a Network Critical notification in the WHS console regarding my backup databases that they needed to be repaired. I ran the repair tool but unfortunately WHS was unable to repair and I lost them. It appears the most likely cause of this was I did not complete all the necessary Windows Updates to bring WHS to the latest versions. If you do a server restore make sure you install all available Windows Update prior to repairing the backup databases (I had shut off Automatic updates so I needed to do this manually).
Now that I have had a chance to reflect on the experience I can’t believe it took me nearly 4 days to get the server restore to work correctly. Unfortunately I ran into the “perfect storm” of problems, with hardware problems of the HDD cages delaying the WHS build for nearly a month. Overall, I am glad I went through the experience as it gave me a chance to really understand the entire process. Hopefully my pain will help a lot of people go through this process with as little hiccups as possible. I also wanted to give a big thanks to Alex, erail, and cavediver for their immense help and patience in working through the server restore with me.