HP DL180 G5 Server – Blue Screen on Windows 2003 Install

If you want the solution, skip to the bottom! Before that is the background and random troubleshooting steps I took before I solved it.

If I could put the last 8 weeks into perspective, and think of what has hacked me off the most, I would have to say the purchase of a new HP DL180 G5 server.
To compliment the new Blackberry project I was putting in at work, it was decided a small/medium server would be ideal to run the Blackberry Enterprise Server (for Groupwise) on. It was recommended to use the HP DL180 G5 server, so it was ordered.

Delivery was done within a day or two and I quickly unpacked to get the server going, as I wanted to get the Blackberry stuff up and running and leave it to manage itself.
After consideration, Windows Server 2003 was chosen for the operating system, we were going to trial 2008 – but since the Blackberry Enterprise Server software had no specific information on it working with 2008, 2003 was the choice – and so the installation began.
The DL180 has an internal DVD drive, and we got two discs for it, which were installed and configured on RAID with the HP tools CD which came boxed, then – the Windows 2003 disc went in and all looked good.
For anyone who’s installed Windows from 2000 to XP, you’ll know it basically boots up from the CD, and copies files it will need for the installation. At a point you may need to install 3rd party drivers but with the DL180, this was not the case, so the installation continued till the ‘Starting Windows’ part appeared in the bottom left of the setup screen. I expected it to load into the next screen without fail, but no – whack – a blue screen of death hit me with inaccessable boot device.
So – the puzzle began, retracing steps, opening the case to make sure the cabling was in, re-setting up the RAID, ensuring the discs were showing in the BOIS, I spent most of an afternoon working on it in the air-conditioned room, but there was no resolution. It continued to blue screen no matter what route I took. That’s when I turned to my secret tool, Google.
Google quickly showed this was not a unique happening, one guy on a forum had already packed his up and sent it back – lots of people were unhappy, this server was blue screening for everyone who was attempting a Windows installation. I spent about 3 hours looking into it, downloading tools from the HP support website (which is too big for its own good!) – and failing miserably.
The solution.
After playing around in the BIOS, I made the decision to disable the SATA channels 1 & 2 in the BIOS. Strange you’ll say, but this stopped the DVD drive working, and the discs stopped reporting their sizes – many at this point would say no, that’s wrong and re-enable them. I dug out a USB DVD drive and thought I’ll give it a shot. Some sound advice from an ex-colleague me that this was sometimes required to get a server going, and I took it – and tried it.
Suprise, it worked.
Somehow, the Windows installation recognised the disc size, and installation begun – once Windows was installed, the DVD drive started showing and strangely the server was up and running. Then the painful task of driver installation started – I got stuck on the network card, with about 30 different drivers available on the HP support website (the HP detect tools don’t work on this server for driver detection). I decided after pulling my (small amount of) hair out, to contact HP support on the phone and received excellent support specific to my serial number – and the server was 100% within an hour.
So if you’re having the same problems, disable all SATA, install from a USB DVD drive, and hey presto – you’re ready to go.
Please leave a comment if this has helped you, I’d like to know my posts help people solve their problems.

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