Why won’t Vista install? It worked with the last OS I had on it…

Vista LogoI installed a clean copy of Vista recently, after replacing my Motherboard, Video Card, and Processor (detailed here).  As my last post focused on my Experience Index, I didn't cover the two strange issues I ran into.  I will cover them (and their solutions) in two posts.

The first problem I ran into was that the Vista install would fail with the strangest errors at the very beginning of the process.  Sometimes the DVD would fail to boot all of the way, I would get messages that it could not find install.wim, and the few times I got as far as entering the product key, it would say that I did not have a valid hard drive to install to.

Except... I did.  That hard drive had previously hosted Windows Home Server in another box, and had worked fine there.  I tried 3 or 4 different DVD drives (figuring I might have a bum drive that was having trouble reading from the DVD).  No go.

I know that some of the Beta versions of Vista I had tried to install failed due to the fact that I had burned to cheap DVD media at high speeds...  I tried re-burning the ISO, using good media, burning at 1X... no go.


At this point, I thought I would just get a good install disc.  I hopped in the car and drove all the way up to Redmond to purchase a packaged DVD from the company store.  Drove back home through traffic and...

Exact same problem.  The computer was acting as if I had a bad disc or drive, but I did not.  Tried a new IDE cable.  No go.

The only other component that could be causing problems had to be the hard drive.  Perhaps I had jostled it too hard when moving into my house.  I downloaded and ran the Seagate diagnostics, and everything passed.

At this point, I put in my old hard drive (setting the new drive as secondary) and booted up to see if I would have any problems accessing the drive.  Got into windows, and the new hard drive seemed okay.  Just for kicks, I decided to use the Seagate utility and zero the drive.  Not just reformat it, not just repartition it... wipe it completely clean.

Shut everything down, hooked the new drive back up as the master (well.. the only drive... it was SATA).

Booted to the Vista install DVD and Vista installed with NO PROBLEMS AT ALL.  Something strange had just gotten corrupted on that drive.  Maybe it was the partition table, maybe it was the formatting.  Who knows?

So... the following email came through my inbox today with a useful solution to the same problem (but the solution can be run from the Vista install DVD without requiring 3rd party tools):

Some OEMs do strange things to the disk, or the previous owner of the box may have left some weird stuff from a repro or older build of an OS.

Use Diskpart to clean the disk and remove any strangeness on the disk. (this will completely remove the partition table from the disk, as if it were new out of the wrapper)  This will also destroy any data on the disk. (although some recovery programs can still  recover files)

1. When booted to the Vista media, after Setup launches (after you click Install Now)  hit shift-F10 to bring up a command prompt.

2. run diskpart.exe

3. In diskpart’s interpreter, select the disk you want to wipe

Select disk 0

4. Clean

5. Exit

6. Alt tab back into Setup and proceed through setup normally.  If you were already on the disk selection page, you will want to refresh.  In some cases, you may also have to reboot, if the disk was particularly screwed up, and also sometimes a disk can enter a state where it is unreadable by a particular BIOS (for example, a RAID driver that corrupts the disk), in which case you may have to bring up the disk and clean it on a system with a totally different BIOS.

It goes without saying that the above steps will wipe your drive.  Your data will be gone.  Don't do it unless you want your data to no longer exist.  Your data will have passed on! Your data will have ceased to be! Your data will have expired and gone to meet its maker!


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