Friday, November 30, 2012

OS Installation BSOD with Windows Server 2012 Boot Media on UEFI Server Hardware

I was working with one of my customers a few nights ago and ran into a huge roadblock when trying to boot the Windows Server 2012 Datacenter installation media (DVD\USB) on a brand new piece of server hardware. We booted the installation media on the machine, the Windows logo would display on screen for a moment, displayed a blue screen error for only a second, then automatically rebooted. The error said "Your PC ran into a problem and needs to restart. We're just collecting some error info, and then we'll restart for you."

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It didn't matter if we used DVD or USB boot media. The machine just kept on rebooting itself after the blue screen error would appear. Basically, the server was stuck in a reboot loop with the installation media. We re-burned the DVD,  We were not interested in attempting to install Windows Server 2008 R2 to see if that would work so we did not try to do so.

Unfortunately, the vendor from which the server was purchased does not have any online support resources. They are an OEM vendor and simply bundle up systems and sell them direct. We tried some different BIOS settings, different RAID options, and different boot options but nothing worked. After a few hours of trying a few things, we finally figured out how to resolve the problem.

The server hardware contained an Intel MegaRAID card pre-configured for RAID5 as well as an Intel R2000GZ series motherboard. These new families of motherboards have UEFI BIOS and operate in a different manner. The UEFI software version installed on the shipping hardware was several revisions behind the newest version on the Intel download center website. According to the Intel site, the current UEFI BIOS software was released on Nov 19, 2012. That was only 11 days ago from this article date! After downloading and installing the latest EFI software for the motherboard is when we were able to boot and install Windows Server 2012 on the machine with no further issues. The EFI update still took 30 minutes on its own, but at least we could now install Windows Server 2012!

You can find the latest UEFI software for R2000GZ/GL series motherboards at http://downloadcenter.intel.com. Choose to find by category as shown below:

  1. Product Family: Server Products
  2. Select a Product Line: Intel Server Systems
  3. Select a Product Name: Intel Server System R2000GZ/GL family
  4. Click find, then choose the Firmware download type, and download the title "Intel Server Board S2600GZ/GL Firmware update package for EFI".

Do NOT forget to read the installation documentation for upgrading the UEFI software for the motherboard. Do this BEFORE attempting the install because the process is very different from traditional BIOS updates.

I know that this information will help out others with the exact same problem. The lesson learned here is always update the BIOS firmware before installing a brand new server OS.

- Joe