Installing Windows Server 2008 R2 to a ThinkPad Ultrabay hard drive

ws2008 r2 blog logoA colleague from overseas sent me a series of emails today as we were troubleshooting his installation.  In this case he is using a USB stick to install Windows Server 2008 R2 into a .VHD file.  The machine he is using is the Lenovo ThinkPad W510.  There were a series of failures and we started knocking them off one by one.  The most perplexing issue was the easiest to fix and I don’t recall documenting it here on my blog.  I might have mentioned it in comments long ago, I don’t remember.

Sometimes installing software means you need to know the hardware pretty well.  For instance, getting the install to get past a certain step meant using the W510 powered USB 2.0 port on the back.  I stumbled across this long ago so I have it tucked in my personal best practices but it might not be well known.

The install proceeded but on first boot would fail.  The dynamic disk is 30GB and there’s 100GB free on the drive used for the storage of the .VHD.  The volume where the .VHD is being stored is not encrypted so a BitLocker incompatibility isn’t it.  Then I slapped my head and shot off the solution in email.

A tour of the ThinkPad W510 BIOS, and all recent ThinkPads for that matter, shows you the list of devices you can use to boot from.  In this case, the second hard drive in the Ultrabay Hard Drive Adapter is not listed as a device you can boot from.  Normally this would be fine for data storage, but in this case, we’re storing a .VHD file that is a container for the operating system.  So simply adding the drive to the list of bootable devices solved the problem and the installation completes.

I don’t have the exact technical explanation but I’m sure it’s a check by the Windows Boot Manager on the storage device.  Sure seems like a low level check.

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