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Installing WHS Vail on a SSD or Hard drive smaller than 200gb

    General discussion

  • Can I have a moderator sticky this? I have been asked this question many times, and I myself had to do a good amount of searching along with trial and error to get a system down for this procedure. This is a tried and true error-free method which I have employed several times, along with having my friends and colleagues confirm this.

    Let me start by saying accomplishing this with vail was soooo much easier than doing it with the 2k3-based WHS (this is explained at the end)

    Enter Acronis. I assume you have tried installing vail to a ~60gb SSD drive only to discover that the installer gripes about having to be installed on a 200gb or greater hard drive... and then it goes and makes a 60gb partition for the OS - lol. After the install is finished you'll notice you have a 60gb OS partition and the remainder of the disk you used is allocated as storage.

    1. Get your hands on any Acronis software, I have used Acronis Home 2010 and server 2010 - they both work fine for this. You can pickup the 2011 Home version for about $40.

    2. Attach one hard disk (larger than 200gb) to the system, we will be "borrowing" this drive to do the install, you can wipe and use it for storage after we're finished... The disk will be wiped during this process so make sure you dont have any data on the drive. Install Vail normally to the 200+ gb disk. During the install, when it asks you which drive to install to, make SURE you click "New" on the disk after deleting whatever may be on there, this will force the creation of the system reserved partition as partition 0 with the remainder being partition 1. The Vail install will create its 60gb OS partition and partition the rest for storage as usual.

    4. You have two options which yeild the same results. A.)Install acronis and run while in the OS. or B.)Boot from the Acronis bootable media. I think doing this in the OS is easier, but if youre a diehard minimalist and want things nice 'n clean and dont want to install anything in your fresh OS, then do it with the bootable media. The remaining steps are the same regardless

    5. Shut down, attach your ssd to the system and boot back into the OS (make sure you delete any volumes on the SSD beforehand, use disk management on another PC or something but make sure it has no volumes or partitions) Once the OS boots go directly to step 6.

    6. Launch Acronis. Select "Backup". Source Type: Disks/Volumes. Change the "Items to backup", select only the system reserved and 60gb OS partition, unselect all others. Select your external drive as the image destination. It will finish imaging after a few mintes.

    7. Once the backup is complete, go back to the main screen and select "Recover". Select the image you just took as the "Archive". Data type: "volumes". Change content and select all the boxes (MBR, system reserved, and the 60gb OS partitions). You will recover to the "physical machine", recover the MBR to the SSD, select the unallocated space on the SSD's drop down for where to put the system reserved, and then do the same thing again for the 60gb OS partition.

    Note: this is where it matters that you do not have a volume on the SSD. And also that you forced the system partition as 0 in step 2. If you had a pre-existing partition on the SSD, the unallocated space will be greyed out when selecting where to backup the OS partition to. If you had not forced the system partition as partition 0 in step 2 then you would have loaded the OS partition to the SSD before the system partition and the unallocated space will again be greyed out due to lack of space, or it will play with your partition size/orientations....

    8. Click OK at the bottom and wait for the recovery to complete, it should take about as long as it did to take the image, a few minutes.

    9. Youre basically done. Shut down and add in the remainder of your hard drives, make the SSD the primary boot drive and boot from it to enjoy your WHS vail SSD experience. Once the OS is booted go into your drive manager and delete the volumes on the 200+gb drive we started with then add it to your storage pool. Is anyone else giddy about 2k8 r2 being the foundation for vail? That means trim is supported... nice

    another note: you can follow this guide for SSD's larger than 60gb. You will have remaining capacity after loading the OS partition to your ssd which you can then expand the partition to consume the remaining space (do this by clicking on "change" AGAIN for OS partition AFTER selecting where to restore it to, you will get an option to resize the partition, in 2010 there is a slider by which you can grab the small square on and consume the remaining unallocated space, this takes place in step 7). This is nice if you choose to include your OS drive as part of the storage pool, I personally dont, but if you were using a 120gb ssd or something then it might be a better idea. Also of note, you can also follow this guide for smaller SSD's (try to use one no smaller than 40gb though to give the OS room to breathe, WHS vail takes up about 12GB installed)

     loose ends? you may be asking "wait a second... shouldnt Vail still think theres an additional partition which should be present?" The answer is yes, it SHOULD be griping about it, but instead it shugs it off, removes what it remembered to be a member of the storage pool, and moves on with life sans errors or problems whatsoever. 

    how do you do this for the old WHS? If you follow these steps for the install of the former WHS, it will be doing some hardcore complaining about the abscence of a hard drive. I was able to get around that by doing the imaging inbetween setup steps. It was a clever workaround because once WHS verifies the drive capacity prerequesites, which is 80gb (i think), then it moves forward with the install. It creates the 20gb partition, copies files, and then reboots to continue installation. You interrupt the reboot at this time and boot from the acronis bootable media and image the partially installed WHS 20gb partition and recover it to the SSD, then boot from the SSD and the setup will continue as if nothing happened, and it wont complain about a missing hard drive because it will not have made the storage partition yet as that takes place in part 2 of the setup after the reboot...

    I hope this walkthrough helps any of you who are eager to enjoy using your coveted SSD's with vail. I think this all would have been a lot easier if MS just gave us the option to put the OS partition on a separate, smaller drive... Maybe offer this as part of an advanced setup? In either case, learning how to use Acronis or other imaging software is good knowledge for anyone who does windows installations, so this guide should be beneficial to us all.

    thanks for reading,

    -Spondronis

    Saturday, October 23, 2010 6:02 AM

All replies

  • No need for a sticky. Just read the release notes and Getting Started Guide, where you'll learn about the setup configuration file. Using that file, the size of the system partition is configurable, and you can override the hard stop on minimum hardware requirements. So install on your "smaller than minimum" drive, then exclude it from server storage (supported, as you can do it in the dashboard) and extend the system partition to fill the drive (not technically supported, nothing you do on the server desktop is, but entirely practical and no issues will result).

    I wouldn't use an SSD, though. It's an awfully expensive device from which you'll see little performance improvement, since most of the bottlenecks are going to be in areas other than system disk performance.


    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Saturday, October 23, 2010 1:55 PM
    Moderator
  • The SSD is used was a spare so there wasn't a reason not to use it to run Vail on. SSD's are also more reliable than harddrives so that should be reason enough in itself.
    Saturday, October 23, 2010 5:42 PM
  • I think the most compelling reason for using a SSD boot drive is for recovering quickly from a low power state. I think this is an excellent idea.
    Friday, November 05, 2010 1:11 PM
  • No need for a sticky. Just read the release notes and Getting Started Guide, where you'll learn about the setup configuration file. Using that file, the size of the system partition is configurable, and you can override the hard stop on minimum hardware requirements. So install on your "smaller than minimum" drive, then exclude it from server storage (supported, as you can do it in the dashboard) and extend the system partition to fill the drive (not technically supported, nothing you do on the server desktop is, but entirely practical and no issues will result).

    I wouldn't use an SSD, though. It's an awfully expensive device from which you'll see little performance improvement, since most of the bottlenecks are going to be in areas other than system disk performance.


    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)


    Ken,

    Where is this 'setup configuration file' and information on it?  It would be helpful if you provide links...

     EDIT: Is this what you are referring to?

    http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/en-us/vail/answer-file-install-2.aspx?ref=search

    Sunday, December 19, 2010 7:16 PM
  • This is a very interesting article.  I'm considering using a 240GB - OCZSSDPX-1RVD0240 Revo drive as the boot drive (no data).  I'm thinking that I should be able to install WHS2 directly.  Here's the rub, I have two 1GB data drives that I would like to use with WHS2 when it goes production (currently that are the data drives on my WHS2 Beta system).  Will they get initialized when I add them to the WHS2 production system (I will use the same entry level Dell server that I purchased for the WHS2 beta) after I install WHS2 on the Revo card?  Will it make a difference if I change the SATA port number for the data drives?

     

    Thanks

    Monday, December 20, 2010 2:53 PM
  • No, they won't be automatically initialized. However, they won't mount as non-default server storage either, since Microsoft is removing Drive Extender.
    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Monday, December 20, 2010 4:32 PM
    Moderator
  • Using a third party backup program is not needed, even if not chaning the install file.  I accomplished the use of a smaller system disk by setting up the server backup to only back up the system areas, then restored them to the smaller drive.  I did exclude the system drive from the pool before I did the backup/restore.

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010 9:03 PM
  • I like using SSD's for the system drive as they never spin down (Windows does constant I/O to the drives.)  With an SSD as the OS drive, you don't have to worry about the cost of spinning the drive (the SSD uses far less electricity), and, you can set all of your backup drives to spin down when you are not using them.  It also saves on heat.  Maybe I'm a little ____ on the power thing, but there are other uses for the SSD besides performance.
    Wednesday, December 29, 2010 10:17 AM
  • No need for a sticky. Just read the release notes and Getting Started Guide, where you'll learn about the setup configuration file. Using that file, the size of the system partition is configurable, and you can override the hard stop on minimum hardware requirements. So install on your "smaller than minimum" drive, then exclude it from server storage (supported, as you can do it in the dashboard) and extend the system partition to fill the drive (not technically supported, nothing you do on the server desktop is, but entirely practical and no issues will result).

    I wouldn't use an SSD, though. It's an awfully expensive device from which you'll see little performance improvement, since most of the bottlenecks are going to be in areas other than system disk performance.


    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    I tried using your suggestion and no amount of configuing the cfg.ini file would load the SSD. Error: partition too large....20191 or use MAX. Tried both on a 32GB SSD. May try one more time at 19xxx, but am not hopeful. At least I do own Acronis and can try the suggestion at the start of this subject.
    Tuesday, February 15, 2011 11:05 PM
  • Not sure whether you are installing VAIL or WHS2011.

    With regard to WHS2011

    a) I can confirm that it is possible to use Disk Management tools in the normal way to resize partitions i.e Shrink Volume, Delete Volume etc. This of course will be at the Server desktop and someone may tell me that that is not supported! Under VAIL definitely but I haven't yet seen evidence of the same "protection" under WHS2011.

    b) Dashboard Move Folder works very well so that folders can be temporarily parked to free up a drive before repartitioning

    c) I could not get Unattended install to take any notice of the SystemPartitionSize= anything < 60 in cfg.ini. It always installed a 60GB system partition (despite several trials).

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011 12:43 AM
  • Not sure whether you are installing VAIL or WHS2011.

    With regard to WHS2011

    a) I can confirm that it is possible to use Disk Management tools in the normal way to resize partitions i.e Shrink Volume, Delete Volume etc. This of course will be at the Server desktop and someone may tell me that that is not supported! Under VAIL definitely but I haven't yet seen evidence of the same "protection" under WHS2011.

    b) Dashboard Move Folder works very well so that folders can be temporarily parked to free up a drive before repartitioning

    c) I could not get Unattended install to take any notice of the SystemPartitionSize= anything < 60 in cfg.ini. It always installed a 60GB system partition (despite several trials).

    Thanks for input. A efforts failed on the unattended install so I will retry the solution at the top of this thread again. Using Acronis to clean and reset the SSD.
    Wednesday, February 16, 2011 3:19 PM
  • Installing WHS 2011 on an SSD would be a waste of money.  Put it in your desktop.  How I set my server up was by using a boot drive of at least 160gb.  Then once the initial install is complete, add the data drive(s), and use the move folder wizard to move the shared folders to the new data partition.  Once the folders are moved, delete the data partition from the boot drive and then extend the system partition.  I found myself wishing that during the install a person could choose a drive for the system, and a drive for the data.  The setup process doesn't allow it though, and it seems that this is the only current windows product that doesn't.  Windows 7, and server 2008 r2 will both allow a person to choose the target disk from a list if there is more than one.  WHS 2011 however chooses the biggest disk present to install everything on.  Pretty lame.  Maybe it will change for RTM.
    D.W.
    Wednesday, February 16, 2011 3:53 PM
  • That won't make a difference.  However if you have the two large data drive, and the revo drive, the system will choose one of the bigger drive to do the install on.  Hoping that changes by RTM, but thats how the install works at this point.  The way that worked for me is to do the install on what you want to be the boot drive, then when finished, add your data drives, and move the shared folders to those drives.  Then you can delete the data partition, and extend your system partition.

     

    I mean if you have the money, thats cool, but a revo drive for WHS?  Really?


    D.W.
    Wednesday, February 16, 2011 3:58 PM
  • I am curious.

    Given that a default installation provides a 60GB system partition and that approx only 13GB are used why do you want to extend the partittion?

    As someone who has travelled in the opposite direction I am puzzled.

     

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011 4:40 PM
  • It's not necessary I guess.  I do it so I can have an entire drive dedicated to the system.  It's not like WHS v1 where the extra can just be added to the pool.
    D.W.
    Wednesday, February 16, 2011 5:08 PM
  • a) I can confirm that it is possible to use Disk Management tools in the normal way to resize partitions i.e Shrink Volume, Delete Volume etc. This of course will be at the Server desktop and someone may tell me that that is not supported! Under VAIL definitely but I haven't yet seen evidence of the same "protection" under WHS2011.

    The default desktop wall paper on WHS 2011 RC does mention that the console should only be used for advanced management, with normal day by day operation via the Dashboard. I do not have the exact wording with me but that is the gist of the information given on the screen.

    It would appear that RDP or console access is now discouraged and frowned on rather than non supported.

    Dave

     


    The Frog on the Lilypad at Home
    Wednesday, February 16, 2011 9:09 PM
  • The default desktop wall paper on WHS 2011 RC does mention that the console should only be used for advanced management, with normal day by day operation via the Dashboard. I do not have the exact wording with me but that is the gist of the information given on the screen.

    It would appear that RDP or console access is now discouraged and frowned on rather than non supported.

    Dave

     


    The Frog on the Lilypad at Home


    My previous comment was of course a slight dig at the VAIL regime.

    Yes I had noticed the "Caution" screen. I think the first paragraph is spot on.

    DE's power was seductive ( I saw a post where someone queried if there would be a 16(?) drive limit on the final product!). However because it was possible to just get on with it without much planning it may have brought with it a false sense of security.

    I must admit that despite the loss of DE I find the latest WHS incarnation quite hopeful.
    The Dashboard is pretty effective for most things but unless people do some realistic planning at the outset it may not be long before they (or someone for them) need to use Disk Management for "advanced" housekeeping. The second para of the "Caution" seems to accept this approach so I am quite happy.

    I think this area might be fertile for Add-Ins
     

    Thursday, February 17, 2011 11:01 AM
  • I'm using a REVO drive because I have one.  I only have room for four drives in my T100 case so I thought the REVO would be a good one to use for boot.  I'll probably use a Promise RAID 5 controller for the data side.  I will start up with three Seagate Baracuda ES2 1TB drives and keep one in reserve.  If I have to, I'll add the fourth ES2 to increase capacity and purchase another one for reserve.  I have had a lot of luck with the Baracuda ES2 in server drive situations. 

    I've seen some Promise RAID controllers support JBOD.  We don't us that technology at work (we have IBM SANs for our enterprise Dell servers) but from what I read, JBOD with backup to an external disk might get back some of the functionality lost with the elimination of DE.  It seems like the low cost options are getting scarce. 

     

    Thanks for the advice


    ~Cliff
    Sunday, February 20, 2011 2:04 AM
  • I'm using a REVO drive because I have one.  I only have room for four drives in my T100 case so I thought the REVO would be a good one to use for boot.  I'll probably use a Promise RAID 5 controller for the data side.  I will start up with three Seagate Baracuda ES2 1TB drives and keep one in reserve.  If I have to, I'll add the fourth ES2 to increase capacity and purchase another one for reserve.  I have had a lot of luck with the Baracuda ES2 in server drive situations. 

    I've seen some Promise RAID controllers support JBOD.  We don't us that technology at work (we have IBM SANs for our enterprise Dell servers) but from what I read, JBOD with backup to an external disk might get back some of the functionality lost with the elimination of DE.  It seems like the low cost options are getting scarce. 

     

    Thanks for the advice


    ~Cliff

    This is rather pricey for most people.  I bought an 60gb SSD specifically for this WHS build.  I should have looked at the requirements for it before buying it.
    When in doubt empty the magazine...
    Sunday, February 20, 2011 5:54 AM

  • This is rather pricey for most people.  I bought an 60gb SSD specifically for this WHS build.  I should have looked at the requirements for it before buying it.
    When in doubt empty the magazine...

    And the parameter

    CheckReqs=0

    in a cfg.ini file doesn't work as intended?
    From the link earlier.

     


    One WHS v1 machine in the basement with a mixed setup of harddrives in and outside the storage pool.
    Sunday, February 20, 2011 9:04 AM
  • I understand where you are comming from on "being a bit pricey for most people".  I was going in this direction after I lost a disk with WHS1.  As you probably already know, Microsoft made it very difficult to use hardware RAID with WHS1 so with WHS2, I saw an opportunity to setup a RAID.  Since my case will only support the placement of four disks in the cabinet, the REVO drive was the obvious choice.  I will eventually put a USB3 controller in the server and attach a USB3 external drive to the case for backup.  Hopefully, this will keep me in business.
    ~Cliff
    Sunday, February 20, 2011 3:49 PM
  • I am curious.

    Given that a default installation provides a 60GB system partition and that approx only 13GB are used why do you want to extend the partittion?

    As someone who has travelled in the opposite direction I am puzzled.

    bearcat245= I did get a 32GB SSD to finally install WHS 2011, but I did not like the partition distrabution. Tried to adjust and had to do a reload and start over.

    Now I can't even reinstall the OS (Starting with clean HHD and SSD not connected) the system stops installing and waits for a cd/dvd driver that it never finds. I have used every driver available for my Gigabyte ATX MOBO to no joy. Lastest suggestion was to load using a FLASH Drive.....will up date if successful.

    Follow-up: All the trouble was with MBR. Since I had ACRONIS the problem was fixed using it to adjust the drives.

    If you use a "smaller" drive then you have a little work to do. I have a 32GB and needed to adjust the size and distribution of the two main partitions. This was due to needing space on the OS partition for future "Add-ins".

    This was done by having to create two separate backups and pulling one "MBR" partition from original backup and then pulling the two remaining partitions from the second backup. This is because I need to resize the two partitions from the default to more headroom on the OS for adding stuff at a later date. Main point is if you can afford a larger SSD (60GB or bigger) do so.

    This is just an exercise for me working with the server and see what benefits come from using a SSD. It is faster and you save some energy in the bargain. All for under a $100.

    • Edited by bearcat245 Thursday, February 24, 2011 2:15 PM update
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 2:09 PM
  • Using a third party backup program is not needed, even if not chaning the install file.  I accomplished the use of a smaller system disk by setting up the server backup to only back up the system areas, then restored them to the smaller drive.  I did exclude the system drive from the pool before I did the backup/restore.


    I tried this and it dosn't work.  I keep getting an error saying I shouldn't attach a USB drive.  How am I going to re-image the smaller driver with no way of getting the image?
    When in doubt empty the magazine...
    Tuesday, April 12, 2011 1:34 PM
  • Just tried this method and it ended up working for me.

    Tried it a couple different ways but it ended up working with just these 2 lines on the cfg.ini file

    [WinPE]
    CheckReqs=0

    Friday, April 22, 2011 2:20 PM
  • Just tried this method and it ended up working for me.

    Tried it a couple different ways but it ended up working with just these 2 lines on the cfg.ini file

     

     

     

    [WinPE]
    CheckReqs=0

    You all will get a laugh out of this.  The reason it wasn't working for me is I named the file, 'cgi.ini' instead of 'cfg.ini.  Its installing right now!
    When in doubt empty the magazine...
    Saturday, April 23, 2011 3:06 AM