SATA RAID problems during Windows Installation – Solution

29 01 2010

The dumb things Microsoft come up with never seem to amaze me. Yesterday I was loading a new server with Windows Server 2003. The machine had RAID 1 setup between the two 500GB SATA drives, installation started as normal and then I got a blue screen. Not any blue screen, the blue screen of death; the installation has not even started!!!

So doing some research I found that the problem is that Windows Server 2003 does not have RAID drivers for most systems, and that you can press F6 during start up to specify the RAID drivers, sounds good. But its NOT!

Typical Microsoft fashion, the installation can only read these drivers from a Floppy. A good old 1.44 MB Floppy disk. I do not own a floppy drive!! Had some hope that I might be able to use a USB stick; tried it, but the windows installation does not see the USB drive!!!

So I was about to give up when I found a article around making a streamline version of the Windows Disk, that contains all the required drivers etc, pre-packed.

What is required you may ask:

  • A machine that is already running windows and has a CD burner
  • The Windows Installation CD
  • The SATA RAID drivers, either on your motherboard CD or the manufacturers website
  • A freeware application named NLite
  • A Blank CD
  • 10-15 minutes

Download your drivers and unzip them to a folder on your hard drive. Then download and install the NLite application. When you start the Nlite application, you will be asked to provide the location for the Windows installation package. Insert the Windows Installation CD into the CD drive and, inside the application, select the CD drive letter.

To insert the SATA drivers within the installation package, you need to have it saved on the HDD. Hence, when the warning window appears click OK and select the destination folder for the files to be saved. Make sure that the destination partition / HDD has enough space to store the contents of the installation CD. Immediately after you have chosen the destination folder, the application will start copying the Windows installation files. When finished, it will display some version information regarding the newly copied Windows Installation Package.

Now, click next twice until you get to a screen where you get options sorted in 4 categories: Integrate, Remove, Setup, Create. We are interested in the integration procedure, therefore select the Drivers button and click next. From the next menu window, click Insert and select multiple drive folder option from the drop down menu. This option permits you to browse to the location where the downloaded drivers are found.

Select the containing directory and click next. You will get a list with the available drivers (in case there are more than one) or simply one driver. Select it (them) and click next. Now the application will ask for the permission to start the integration procedure. Choose Yes and wait for the drivers to be inserted into the installation package.

With problematic driver being included in the installation package you can install Windows on your SATA HDD…but…the installation package is on the HDD. You need a bootable CD in order to start an installation. Don’t worry, once the installation package has been adorned with additional user selected drivers it can be transformed into a bootable disk image and later burned on a CD. To encapsulate the installation into a ISO image use the same Nlite application.

Open it, make sure the HDD installation folder is selected and click next. Select “Last session” preset and click next again. Now from the options menu choose Bootable ISO and click next. In the following window, make sure that the mode is set to “Create Image” and click Make ISO. A destination folder is required where the resulting ISO image will be saved. Once the image saving process finished you have the freedom to burn it on a blank CD with whatever you favorite CD burner software may be.

The new CD will be the twin copy of the Windows Installation CD but with one difference, it includes the SATA driver.