May 292012

Install Windows Server  from USB drive
I recently set up an HP MicroServer and installed Windows Home Server 2011 on it, but I first had to figure out how to do it without a DVD drive (which is the default configuration of the MicroServer and one more reason why it’s so affordable), so I had to make a USB flash drive bootable and copy the installation files from the Microsoft’s default setup DVD to run the setup.

I achieved this after I found this old set of instructions on TechNet and they worked fine, so below is my note to self with a list of the necessary diskpart.exe commands. The USB shouldn’t be smaller than 8 GB and I highly recommend USB 2.0 even if the machine to be installed doesn’t support it (it will still work, while the copying from the DVD onto the USB on your computer will go much quicker). The USB drive gets wiped with the procedure below, it becomes a bootable drive and the installation files are copied to it, .


Making USB Flash Drive Bootable and Copying Installation Files to It

WARNING: You can badly mess up (wipe off) your computer’s disk if you target the utility below to a hard drive instead of the USB thumb drive. Don’t do this if you’re not technically inclined, computer literate, geeky and absolutely sure you know what you’re doing!

These are the commands I ran in a command prompt (cmd.exe):

DISKPART> list disk

Select the USB device from the list and substitute the ‘x’ below with CORRECT disk number (see the above warning – you can mess up your computer big time if you use a wrong number)

DISKPART> select disk x
DISKPART> create partition primary
DISKPART> select partition 1
DISKPART> active
DISKPART> format fs=fat32
DISKPART> assign

xcopy X:*.* /s/e/f Y:

where X: is your DVD drive letter with installation media or the letter of the mounted ISO image of the installation DVD and Y: is your USB device.

Note: I reinstalled the OS a few times, not paying attention what was going on while browsing the wonderful and the ever-distracting internet, because each reboot was getting me back to the initial installation screen (new installation or recovery) until I realized I had to take out the USB flash drive during the first reboot, most likely because it was set to a higher boot priority than the HDD.


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  2 Responses to “Install Windows Home Server 2011 without a DVD Drive”

  1. After wrestling with the WHS 2011 OEM install for a day on my EX490:
    Don’t just clean the drive. Pull all the old drives and get a fresh,
    new OOTB HDD and insert it into the lower drive bay. The install
    wouldn’t even begin until I did that and once I did, it was fine. If
    you don’t hear the HDD clicking within less than a minute, it’s not
    working, don’t wait all night to find that out. The health lights will
    change color and go on and off randomly. Monitor your router to see
    when the server finally comes up (I set the router to give the server
    MAC a static IP address) then navigate there to finish the install. I
    used the verbose cfg.ini, but it was still waiting for my input.

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