How to Install Windows Home Server Vail from a USB Flash Drive

by Alex Kuretz on April 26, 2010 · 89 comments

in Guides

No matter what type of server you are installing, I’ve found that having the Windows Home Server Vail Install DVD image on a USB flash key to be the easiest way to perform the installation. Most notably my HP MediaSmart Server EX475 does not recognize the only external DVD drive I own, which is an Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive, even though the drive works fine with every other model of MediaSmart Server as well as all the other PCs I use. Having the install image on a USB flash drive means I can install Vail anywhere, plus it is faster to install than from optical media and reduces the waste of a DVD that you will throw away in a couple of months.

Here are the steps you’ll need to follow in order to create a bootable USB flash drive with the Vail installer. I’ve also provided the unattended installation file so that you won’t even have to perform any manual configuration steps.

  1. Make sure you have a 4GB or larger USB flash key connected to your PC. Note that this flash key will be erased during this process, so remove any important files
  2. Download the Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool from here and install it on your PC
  3. Download the Vail install DVD from here
  4. Launch the Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool
  5. Select the .iso image of the install DVD as the source
  6. Select your USB flash key as the destination

  7. Wait a little while as the tool creates copy the image
  8. Create a text file named “cfg.ini” on the root of your USB flash key, and paste the following entries into that file (remove the line numbers, or use the Copy To Clipboard feature of the code block below). Make sure to change the servername, password, and hint to match your preferences. See the Vail Beta Release Notes for more details on what these options do.
  9. Update: The cfg.ini file has changed for the RTM release of Windows Home Server 2011, I’ve updated the below sample to work with the final shipping version.
    PasswordHint=some password hint
  10. Eject your USB flash key

You are now ready to install Windows Home Server Vail!

Article by

I'm Alex Kuretz, and I'm the founder of I was the Lead Test and Integration Engineer at HP for the MediaSmart Server until April 2008 when I moved on to other opportunities outside HP. I've kept active in the Windows Home Server community, creating several add-ins and helping users make the most of their Home Servers.


shollomon April 27, 2010 at 7:17 am

Will this permit me to install Vail on an HP EX495? Do I just create the install media as shown, and start the install from an remote desktop session and it does the rest? Thanks.

Alex Kuretz April 27, 2010 at 9:44 am
Timothy Daleo April 28, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Make sure your perform this VAIL USB procedure on a 64-bit machine or you may get a bootsec error at the end of the process.


The Kitty April 29, 2010 at 5:56 pm

The script bombed on my install, disk error (confusion between the thumb drive and HD?). Without the cfg.ini the install went fine from the thumb drive (remember to work with the motherboard on when to boot from what).

Thanks for the tutorial – MS should beef up their iso utility, pretty basic.

Alex Kuretz April 30, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Hey Tim, do you have any more details on the bootsec error you encountered and why you think it’s due to not creating the flash key on a 64-bit OS? I’ve not heard of such an issue before.

Timothy Daleo April 30, 2010 at 5:15 pm

I had the error when creating the VAIL installation on Monday night.

To solve it I went to

I scrolled to the bottom of the page and saw “When creating a bootable USB device, I am getting an error about bootsect. To make the USB device bootable, you need to run a tool named bootsect.exe. In some cases, this tool needs to be downloaded from your Microsoft Store account. This may happen if you’re trying to create a 64-bit bootable USB device from a 32-bit version of Windows.”

Instead of using the instructions below I just moved the VAIL ISO to 64-bit machine and redid the USB drive. If a 64-bit is not available (and the issue arises) then you would have to follow the instructions below.

To download bootsect:

1.Login to your Microsoft Store account to view your purchase history
2.Look for your Windows 7 purchase.
3.Next to Windows 7, there is an “Additional download options” drop-down menu.
4.In the drop-down menu, select “32-bit ISO.”
5.Right-click the link, and then save the bootsect.exe file to the location where you installed the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool (e.g. C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Apps\Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool).
6.Once the file has been saved, go back to the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download tool to create your bootable USB device.

Alex Kuretz April 30, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Very helpful, thanks Tim! 8)

Mark May 20, 2011 at 10:44 am

I don’t have a Windows Store Account – where else can I download this file ?


Alex Kuretz May 20, 2011 at 10:48 am

Microsoft removed the USB download tool, you can still find it on other sites such as here:

Mark May 20, 2011 at 10:53 am

Thanks for that Alex – what about the bootsect.exe file ? I only have access to a 32-bit XP box. I suppose I could RDP onto the media server and run it from there ?


Alex Kuretz May 20, 2011 at 10:57 am
Timothy Daleo April 30, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Any time. Great interview on HSS btw.

Ryan Phillips May 1, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Has anyone seen where the ISO does not get transferred to a USB device? I have tried this operation 2 times using different USB drives, each with enough space, but the process keeps telling me to check the USB or ISO file and try again. Each USB drive has been formatted with NTFS with no content on the drives.

Timothy Daleo May 1, 2010 at 7:30 pm

If you are having issues try the following steps for preparing the USB drive:

◦Insert your USB drive and wait for any USB drivers to load

◦Start diskpart from Start Menu

◦list disk command to find USB drive number

◦select disk 5 command (5 being whatever number YOUR USB drive number is)

◦clean command

◦create partition primary command

◦format fs=fat32 quick command

◦assign command

The newly conditioned and formatted drive should pop up on the screen. Open it with explorer if it does not open automatically and verify the format.

Ryan Phillips May 1, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Thanks to Tim for commenting, looks like I had to format the USB as a FAT32 partition and NOT NTFS, which I thought should be the case since I was installing a Windows OS.

Thanks Tim

Timothy Daleo May 1, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Sweet. Expect about 30 minutes and four restarts for the installation to complete.

Aaron May 3, 2010 at 3:36 pm

I installed Vail on my desktop hardrive then upon restart threw it in the hp server because i couldn’t install it. that worked great!

Ryan Phillips May 3, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I think I am having an issue with my little HP Home Server, which is maybe ~2 years old and is headless :-( I think I need to hold down a button or do something to force the machine to boot from a USB drive, as currently it doesn’t seem to use the USB Drive (I tried a boot from another machine and it worked), so I figure I have to force the Headless Home Server to boot from the USB somewhow.

Anyone happen to know what I need to do to force this HP mini-case headless Home Server to boot from USB?

Alex Kuretz May 3, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Ryan – What kind of USB device are you trying to boot off of, the Vail flash key? If so I have the instructions above. If that’s not working for you we’ll need more details about what you are trying to accomplish and how it’s failing. There’s some discussion in the Vail forums, too.

Timothy Daleo May 3, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Sweet. Some people have had great success with that type of installation. Kind of like a jump start!

Ryan Phillips May 3, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Thanks Admin! I am using a 12GB USB drive that I have used to create a boot Vail installation, as described above. When I plug the USB in, the drive seems to flash for a second and then nothing happens, I don’t think the machine is booting from the USB. Its headless so it is hard to tell, but I think I remember a very long time ago when having to reinstall Home Server that I had to hold in a very small button that forced the machine to boot from the Network and put the machine into reinstall mode. Not sure if this is possible for booting from a USB, but it is the only think I can think of, because I booted from this USB drive on another machine.

Not sure what a vali flash key is, I just took an old USB drive and used the above steps.

Alex Kuretz May 3, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Ryan, the Vail flash key is what I’m referring to in this tutorial, a flash drive that has the Vail installer on it. It sounds like you haven’t seen this tutorial on how to install Vail on your MediaSmart Server.

Ryan Phillips May 3, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Ah HAH, thanks! yeah I did go through these steps, but I think I found what I was looking for :-)

Thanks Alex!

The easiest way to install Vail on these servers is to make or purchase a debug cable to provide keyboard, video, and mouse access to the server. However, fellow MVP Christoph Harding discovered that by changing the boot order in the BIOS he was able to allow the Vail installation to proceed. The following procedure should allow you to install Vail on your MediaSmart Server without a video connection, though it does require a USB keyboard.

Set up the flash key and hard drives as described in the first part of this guide
Make sure the Flash Key is in the bottom rear USB port
Attach a USB keyboard to another USB port on the server
Power on the server, and almost immediately begin pressing F12 repeatedly on the keyboard for approximately 10 seconds (too long won’t matter). This will gain you access to the boot list
Press down on the keyboard 7 times, and then press Enter. This selects USB-CDRom as the boot source
The unattended installation should continue at this point.

aarom May 3, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Or just put the hd in a desktop and do the install turn it off when it restarts put the hd in mediasmart u are done.

Ryan Phillips May 3, 2010 at 5:54 pm

SWEEET, so doing the install on another machine and then placing the drives back into my Home Server was my first thought (I hate working without seeing what is going on), but I wasn’t sure if the HAL would gripe because it was installed on a completely different hardware environment? I booted from my USB last night onto this other machine and stopped short of installing, so it is ready for use, just wasn’t sure if the Install would be invallidated when I move the HD to the Home Server?

Thanks for the great comments, really appreciate it guys :-)


Ryan Phillips May 3, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Hey thanks guys, installing on another machine seems to have worked great, now I need to swap out the drives and plug this one into my Home Server, I hope the HAL doesn’t bitch or moan, otherwise I’m on my way…..I hate not having a video card on this Home Machine, I have no idea when problems occur or whether a configuration screen is up…no way to tell unless the OS is up and I can RDP into the machine….oh well.


aaron May 3, 2010 at 10:07 pm

I have it up and running great i just made sure i turned off the desktop when it restarted after the install and it was the only hd hooked up in there (it was also blank) then i just put it into the server and connected normally. I am giong to post some youtube videos about it. I am really hoping I can virtualize some virtual desktops if anybody knows how to use server 2008 capabilites let me know If you look at my channel I am trying out alot of virutalization.

My Hp Mediasmart Website

Ryan Phillips May 4, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Can anyone comment as to whether there is a 32-bit version of this new Home Server? I have a HP MediaSmart Home Server that is headless and took the advice above and installed Home Server on a different machine and then plugged the HD back into the HP machine. It never boots, blinking several times and I think that has something to do with the the boot partition. I need to call HP support to know for sure, but wondering if I cannot run x64 OS’ on this machine or if there is a 32-bit version?


Alex Kuretz May 5, 2010 at 8:13 am

@Ryan – There is no 32 bit version, only 64 bit Vail. Have you seen my How to install on the MediaSmart Server guide? It has instructions on how to get it working. Note that the LEDs will not function, you’ll only get a blinking blue health LED.

aaron May 4, 2010 at 8:43 pm

I also have the hp mediasmart ex 485 did you go to the connect website?

Ryan Phillips May 4, 2010 at 8:47 pm

I checked my LinkSys router to see what IP address this machine was given but I never seen it getting an address. Ping and //connect don’t work and the health lights blink 5 times red and then rest of the time they are blue, and the tshooting book says there is an issue with the boot. I may try and reinstall from the USB drive, although I already have it installed on the HD. Not sure if it doesn’t like the OS being installed on another machine (HAL issues) or what.

aaron May 4, 2010 at 9:00 pm

I used the router to find the ip as well and it worked however i believe it took a little while to complete the install when i inserted the hd because i installed it but i did not complete the install i took the hd out after the first restart then let it continue inside the mediasmart server

Ryan Phillips May 5, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Hey Alex, thanks. yeah I read through that am I may be in trouble. My MediaSmart server only has 512 of memory and I may look into opening the machine and adding more memory or I may just use a different machine, as this dang headless machine is driving me crazy. Placing an HD that has Home Server installed doesn’t seem to boot and I just don’t know what is going on :-( It blinks red and blue lights and never seems to do anything, might have an issue with the machine itself…craptacular :-(

Alex Kuretz May 5, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Vail requires 1GB of RAM, it won’t install without that…

Ryan Phillips May 5, 2010 at 3:46 pm

I wonder if that is why it won’t boot. I installed on a very beefy machine and then plugge the drive into my 512 Home Server machine, however it doesn’t seem to boot. not sure if the lack of memory is the reason, but I will try and crack it open and add more memory!

Scott Brown May 6, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Hi Alex great post, I had 1 issue when using the USB Install with cfg.ini file. It was stuck in a install loop. Meaning it installed from the USB key rebooted and again installed the files from the USB from scratch. This just continued on and on and on….

What i had to do is after the first reboot I pulled the USB key waiting about 30 secs and placed USB key back into the system so that Windows can continue to use the cfg.ini file. I am lucky enough to have a test system with a monitor so I can see when I needed to remove and add the USB key but will this loop happen on the Data Vault x510?

aaron May 7, 2010 at 5:29 am

I was wondering what types of add ins people have run and also what types of improvements they were able to make to the server 2008 base of whs. What types of ms programs can be run?

Dedi May 25, 2010 at 4:27 pm

usually i thank for such howtos. not this time. what a bad thing, you should add a BIG WARNING for the unattended install part, since it instantly formats the first disk found. Of course this wasnt the same disk where WHS Vail leak was installed on.

So please, dont add such stupid stupid things without warning the user what can happen.

Alex Kuretz May 25, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Dedi, sorry to hear you had data loss, but really, what did you expect to happen? Was an unattended installer supposed to figure out what information was important on your disk and do some partition magic?

Rhinoevans May 25, 2010 at 6:53 pm


Scott Brown May 25, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Alex I have to agree. What do people? Why do people do this on live systems with live data. Come on people…

aaron May 25, 2010 at 8:58 pm

First of all Dedi, do you know what a BETA is? Did you not see all the warnings on the microsoft site you downloaded Vail from? Plus there is warnings on every info site about this not being stable. I lost data because I hooked up all my drives. It says it during the install that you will lose your data and you have to agree?? Net time don’t participate if you are using your main server and need it to run perfectly the whole point of a Beta is to test all the bugs. The entire system could crash any day because of some 3rd party add in you will install without understanding and then lose all your data anyway. Bottom line you obviously didn’t do any research and you didn’t read anything while installing, or while downloading so now hopefully you learned your lesson.

Nigel May 26, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Stupid is as stupid does…..

Jim Brown June 6, 2010 at 7:59 am

Ryan – Still headless? I dig the unattended install – but hate being blind. Plus … i can think of a ton of ways i would use and love to have monitor/keyboard on my old, faithful EX-470. I discovered on this site a guy who has created a cable for VGA, PS2 Keyboad, Mouse and Serial here if interested.

Yanni June 27, 2010 at 11:06 am

Alexander the Great (Alex):

i am thrilled to learn that it is possible to install Vail via USB and for the past month i have not been successful.
i have followed the instructions provided in this fourm, step by step.
so far, i was able to have Vail copied successfully and completed on a USB.
i have copies the text (“cfg.ini”) and replaced the user name, password, and hint to match what i currently have.
i have replaced the first (bottom drive) to a clean drive and plugged the USB in the bottom rear USB of my EX495.
although blinking, nothing happens.

is Alexander the great to my help?

helpless, yet, persistent–to have Vail installed Fan (Yanni)

Alex Kuretz June 28, 2010 at 8:46 am

Yanni, thanks for the comments. :) Most likely your password, hint, or servername are invalid, WHS wants them to meet certain constraints for length and complexity. I’d be looking at those values you changed in the .ini file to make sure they are valid.

Yanni June 28, 2010 at 2:29 pm


thanks for the prompt response.
the user name, password and hint are just as i have them now (running WHS 2003).
changing them is not a big deal. you say i should try something which contains high case, numbers and capital combinations and that should do?
also, when i turn on (boot) the server and have the USB on the bottom, rear input, how long for an EX495 will it take to intall? how will i know that it is running? can you please show me, or write here a .ini file that for sure will work?

thank you.

Alex Kuretz June 28, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Yanni, my example in this article should work fine. I have timing details in the article about how to install on the MediaSmart Server.

Yanni June 29, 2010 at 11:42 am


how about i buy a USB to VGA adapter, remotely log on to the server, install the drivers of the adapter, and then connect a monitor with the USB to VGA adapter.
will this work?

Alex Kuretz June 29, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Yanni, a USB VGA adapter will only work in Windows, it won’t give you BIOS or Installation access.

Yanni June 29, 2010 at 3:10 pm


that is good to learn. so what else can i try? i tried again the usb, and nothing happens. i do not think it boots from the usb. i even tried with the F12 7 times and then enter, nothing happens.
my EX495 is fairly new system, i keep and maintain it well and would be very happy and excited to have Vail on it.

can i install Vail on a clean HD through another computer and then remove the drive and put it in the first MSS drive?

is there any way that you can help me with USn unattended installation besides the instruction provided here?

at this point, any help is appreciated.


Alex Kuretz June 29, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Yanni, you’ve not given us a description of what you are doing except to say “it doesn’t work”. I suggest you post in the forums with the exact details of the steps you are following and the community can work with you to see if we can help.

Yanni June 29, 2010 at 5:40 pm

what i have done so far is…downloaded the windows 7 tool so that i can copy the image of Vaildvd.iso on my desk top.
i then, download the dvd.iso (along with its recovery).
i have plugged the USB (which is a 8GB pen drive) to my windows 7 PC.
in the copy tool i have selected the iso DVD which i downloaded from icrosoft site, and copied it onto the pen drive.
it told me that all the data on the pen will be deleted and the files from the iso dvd will be copied.
it began copying and just as it was about 30% done, i enter the pen (from my Computer) and dragged the cfg.ini text file which i created.
in the cfg.ini file that i created i changed the values of the server name to match what i currently have (which is only letters), the password which is consist of capital letter, small letters and 2 numbers, and the hint which is all letters and there is a gap between the words.
after 10-13 minutes, the tool has completed and i received 100% green color complete successfully.
i then plugged the USb in the rear bottom of the HP Server, put on the 1st drive (the bottom drive) a 1.5TB clean drive. by , clean i mean, no previous OS on it, or data, or any partition. then boot the system and wait.
i do see the aqua/red lights go on and off……on and off.

when nothing happens for 20-30 minutes, i shut down the system, connect a USB keyboard, and then right as i booted it, i press F12 for 10-15 seconds and then 7 times the down error, and then enter.


vail to no avail.

please let me know if i’m doing anything wrong or what else is needed.

Jim Brown June 30, 2010 at 7:42 am


I too struggled for a few days with issues installing – even with having a VGA cable and eyes into my BIOS and the install.

I tried a TON of different things and here’s what i FINALLY discovered as to what worked – but I DO NOT know the reasons why.

The install did NOT work when i burned the image to the 8 GB SanDisk USB drive (I eventually got an message box requesting a Driver – I can only assume it was for the 8 GB USB) – but DID work when the image was burned to a 4 GB SanDisk USB.

Granted – becasue I had the VGA cable – and was not “headless” I did not create the cfg.ini file for the unattended install.

As of today – Vail is up and running but not without some troubleshooting.

Alex’s input has been very helpful, but no doubt he can’t cover all permiatations. I hope this helps … happy to continue to provide my assistance.


Alex Kuretz June 30, 2010 at 9:11 am

Yanni, if the server is not rebooting during the install, then the install process is getting hung at some point. Without a display I can only guess at why it is hung. The first guess is bad cfg.ini parameters, if you want to email those to me I can review them. The next guess would be bad install media or as Jim mentions, perhaps an issue with your USB flash key. I don’t have any other suggestions, sorry.

Yanni July 2, 2010 at 10:12 pm

JB and Alex,

i do use a 8GB drive, i will try with a different usb drive and hopefully will get it done.
i will aslo email you, Alex, my cfg.ini file prior to trying this.
we will get this vail on my system yes or yes.

thanks for the 100% support.


Yanni July 3, 2010 at 10:22 am


thanks, i will try this with 4GB drive. i already have the tool and will burn/copy the dvdinstall.iso onto it and see what happens.
i also emailed my parameters to Alex for review to be sure that i have it right.
again, doing this unattended can be a pain in the neck as you are blind to what is happening.
i’ll for sure keep you guys posted and will post my findings in effort to improve and help those who have been struggling with unattended install, and yet, found the need to post here.


Yanni July 4, 2010 at 7:22 am


i got a 4GB HP USB stick, burned the image onto it, pluged it in the bottom rear usb of my MSS, booted up the system, left it over night and in the morning……

Jim Brown July 4, 2010 at 9:11 am

man … and i thought i was having issues … Yanni … did you also be sure to “recleanse” your system drive before the process? Each time I tried to do the install, the process created the 60gb system partition on the system drive … the first thing that my WHS did when booting, was look for that partion. If that existed, it wouldn’t boot to the USB.

Just verify that the system drive is formated and clean … if it’s not that … I’ll see if i can think of anything else … but I have to say, having the VGA cable totally helps. Not only for the install, but post install as well. Glad I made the investment.

Yanni July 4, 2010 at 2:15 pm


i tried with the 4GB USB and nothing happens.
i took my 1TB drive, connected it with wires (sata) to my HP laptop, formatted it (via my computer, manage and so on) and formatted it to NTFS. no partition are on it.
then pop it back in, plugged the 4GB HP USB with the ISO copied on to it via the windows 7 tool provided to us, and booted the system.

when i copied the .iso to the USB, the tool proceeded step by step with no issues what so ever. i have a laptop 64bit and it went smooth. it gives me the message that all is successfully completed (the green color bar).
so we have the USB and the ISO good.
i added to it the cfg.ini file which i copied from this site (without the numbers and lines of course) and i changed only the server name, sever password and the hint.
the server name i have is one word (no capitals or numbers), the password has 1 letter high case, and it has numerical values as well, the hint is three words (no high cases no numerical).
(it says copy this to the root of the USB, that means simply in the USB where all the extracted files are, right?).
when i boot the system i get red and aqua blinking repeatedly.
my system is EX495 and it is connected to the house router while installing (or as i hope installing).
i do not get any partition, or anything on the drive when i take it out. i get it just as i put it.
what am i doing wrong?

Jim Brown July 4, 2010 at 2:39 pm


So … i dunno. Mine is an EX470 so i had the steps of hitting F12 to interrupt the boot and hitting the down key seven times to boot from the USB. But … i also had the VGA cable.

I have no further guesses and if I were you, I’d invest the $65 in the VGA cable here: .

Sorry man. Wish I had more suggestions but without “seeing” it’s really hard to know what you’re experiencing. It could be so many things and I had hoped that my experience with the 8 GB to 4 GB stick was relavent.

The other items that I read was the possibility of the original .iso file I downloaded was corrupt, so i downloaded it again from all 3 sources. I don’t think that was the issue in the end, but it could be worth an attempt for you before going to the VGA cable.

Good luck .. happy to answer more questions, but I’m out of ideas now.


Yanni July 4, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Hi JB,

thanks, i will buy the VGA cable, but just so you know, even then, it is not sure to be able to get it on. i do not have a DVD drive, and hoping that i can do it with USB as the files do not have a “set up” icon.

thanks. please if anyone here can help and s/he is from South Florida, i’d be very happy and excited to get together and try anything (regarding MSS–of course)


yanni July 4, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Alex, JB, and Anyone else,

by the way, does anyone know what addin can i use for now in order to be able to remotely play other formats of videos? as of now, mp4 are supported, but what about avi, and mkv..and viseo_ts. any add in can do it?
please provide a link to download.

Yanni July 12, 2010 at 1:29 pm


i got the Vail on and installed it.

the health light in blinking aqua how can i make it solid please?

any link please for addon for playing video formats remotely on Vail?

Thank You So much for all the help.

Alex Kuretz July 12, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Yanni, what was the problem, or what did you change to make it work?

There is no enclosure management driver for Vail, so the lights will not function correctly.

aaron bennett July 12, 2010 at 1:33 pm

My health light has been blinking since it came out. These HP servers mayneberofficially support bail

Jim Brown July 14, 2010 at 8:05 am

Yea Yanni … I’m very curious, too, as to what was the issue and how you solved it.

I haven’t dug into video formats yet but when I do, I’ll post.

Yanni July 14, 2010 at 10:57 am

well…i opened it up, debugged a monitor cable, and attempted to install.
the first time it ran…then failed over a restart, then i extracted it all again on the USB (Sandisk 8GB) via the windows 7 tool and got it to boot (once only which was all i needed) as it was from a dvd boot. got the new install, ran it with smile from side to side–knowing that this is going to go through, and done successfully.
i can not tell you that it is easy or that possible unattended, but for $65 cable from Sir Charles (to whom i have much credit, and strongly recommend his product to anyone), i was able to get it done.

what do we do, and/or what happens after 29 days once it expires?

thank you Jim for your support, Alexander the great for your devotion to MSS owners and the fun, and sir Charles who take us out of the dark and bring light (monitor) to our eyes.
i will always post and help anyone who is interested to advance his/her MSS.

Darren August 27, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Hi folks – just wondering if there is an unattended config file available for the newly released Vail preview that can be used for an unattended USB install on Mediasmart servers?

Alex Kuretz August 27, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Darren, to my knowledge the cfg.ini is the same as described above.

Darren August 28, 2010 at 11:02 am

Alex – I tried but doesn’t seem to work for my ex487. Made bootable USB, and seems to load, and even reboots, but then just sits there (I’ve left it for over an hour), blue health light flashing and I’m not able to access it via browser window http://vailserver/connect

Any ideas? Thx

Alex Kuretz August 29, 2010 at 11:02 am

Darren and Stephen, there’s some troubleshooting suggestions in the comments of the tutorial on how to install on the MediaSmart Server.

There’s also some discussion in the forums. Unfortunately I don’t have any further suggestions.

Stephen Crescenti August 28, 2010 at 5:08 pm

I decided to go this install headless on my HP EX4XX… don’t recall the exact model number because I have owned it for a bit of time now.

I upgraded my home server a while back with a faster processor and 2gb of ram. I pulled all my drives out and am only using the original 500gb sata drive in the system. I put the cfg.ini in the root of the USB key and I can get a connection remotely from the install disk and when it tells me to wipe and I do the i agree, it comes back with this following error message:

Could not complete the server restore

Cannot restore your server to factory default settings. The XML file that describes the OEM specified disk configuration could not be found. Please contact the manufacturer of your server.

Any ideas guys?

Brady October 13, 2010 at 9:50 am

Does anyone know if Vail setup will use additional cfg.ini settings? Specifically I want to configure TCP/IP settings and change the workgroup name. Should I put the NetID section with the initial configuration section?

so what aI want to do is this:


PasswordHint=Some Hint



Miles Reid February 25, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Did anyone get this to work with the RC? I have not been able to get it to work. Are there modifications to the cfg.ini file that are needed?

Nick February 26, 2011 at 2:34 am

I couldn’t manage to install the RC on my ex490 as well

Tom Inch July 12, 2011 at 11:43 am

Ok, so I see a lot about installing Vail on an HP EX495, but now that the OEM is out, how do I create a bootable USB drive and find/move the install files from the OEM to the flash drive. I don’t see any ISO files on the disk. Am I missing something?

Jaweek August 29, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Ok, about to throw my upgraded EX485 out the window!!!!

I love WHS, bought a MSS EX485, and fell in love. Upgraded the processor and RAM as described in “removing the smoke and mirrors”. Ready to load WHS20111! Removed all the data from the old 750G Seagate drive, and ready to go!

Then the wheels fell off. I bought an OEM version from Newegg, created the ISO file, and the usb cfg.ini file as discussed here….and nothing happens.

Erased the hard drive, removed all data, made sure no partitions. Redid the cfg.ini file…..nothing!!

I took the EOM installation disk, created an ISO file from it, and put that on the USB stick……PLEASE HELP!!! I am so frustrated!!


Alex Kuretz August 30, 2011 at 10:30 am

Some similar issues being discussed in the forums here that might help you:

Jaweek August 30, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Alex, thanks this site is a blessing. I’ll keep you posted on how my re-load goes.

Thank you again

Joe Weeks August 31, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Alex….sorry, I am a “newbie” on this one..

I have an OEM packaged WHS2011 disks. From my research i believe my “intallation disk” and the USB cfg.ini file are all I need to upgrade my 485.

I have tried and tried and tried… I have a really stupid question. Should my “installation disk” setup start the installation process??? I tried to run it on my 64 bit windows 7 laptop, and the installation disk does nothing.

Is it possible that I recevied a bad OEM disk??


Alex Kuretz August 31, 2011 at 4:02 pm

It’s possible the disk is bad but unlikely. I’ve not used the OEM media, only ISO files. You can create an ISO from the disk using many different tools, then use the USB DVD tool from Microsoft to build the bootable USB key. Test the USB key on a PC to make sure it boots successfully.

Alternatively, people have inserted their primary hard drive into their PC for the install, some discussion here:

The most helpful info will be in the forums.

martian September 1, 2011 at 7:54 pm


Get a cable for VGA, PS2 Keyboad & Mouse. Access the BIOS. Navigate to the “HP” window. The first option is “Enable Onboard USB Flash”. Set this to “Disabled”.

Once I did that, it worked for me. I tried everything else, just like you are doing.


Jeroen Mies December 8, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Thanks. Worked for me too…

Alfonso May 22, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I am installing WHS 2011 on HP EX-470 using USB method. After the first reboot the installation will continue according to cfg.ini or will start a new installation again?

JIM November 10, 2012 at 4:08 pm

I am trying the USB stick method to install WHS2011 on my HP EX495.

After in booted from the stick it has been blinking and the disk is showing activity but it has been 30+ minutes. How long should it take. The health light is also red. Suggestions?

Comments are closed, visit the forums to continue the discussion.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: