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Bare Metal Recovery - Questions and Answers

Tony Millar
Occasional Visitor

Bare Metal Recovery - Questions and Answers

Anybody contemplating an SBS2008 full system restore is strongly encouraged to read this article very carefully before proceeding with the restoration operation.

Equipment list:

Server: HP Proliant ML110 G6
Memory: 4GB
RAID: P212 smart array
Internet HDD: 2 x 250GB Seagate Sata HDD's
Configured as 1 Logical Drive of ~500GB
Raid 0
External HDD: 1TB Samsung Sata HDD connected
via external USB port.
OS: Windows Small Business Server 2008 x64 Standard Edition

I manage the above server on behalf of a client and a few days go when we had the misfortunate to suffer a fatal internal hard disk drive crash.
(Drive 0)

Fortunately we have been backing up disk images to external USB drives on a daily basis so we had a complete copy of the entire OS, all installation and user data files to restore to the replacement HDD provided by HP.

I had thought that the restoration process should be a relatively simple affair .... how wrong I was!

My initial research told me that I could not initiate a complete disk image restore (Called a Bare Metal Restore or BMR) from within the Windows Environment. According to various sources you are supposed to boot from the OS installation DVD, select the appropriate language and keyboard options and then click on the "Repair your computer" option which appears next.

Well, that is not what happened. I inserted my SBS 2008 installation DVD and the System booted OK. The installation screen reported that Windows was loading. Eventually I arrived at the point where I was supposed to select my language and keyboard options but that screen never appeared. What I got instead was a message that said: "SBSBIOSLOCK - Could not find media"!

Puzzled, I rebooted several times but always I got the same message.

I then called HP who told me that I should start the installation process from the HP Easy Setup Disk rather than from the Microsoft SBS 2008 installation disc. Bad advice! I did what HP suggested and got all the way through the HP specific section of the installation and then was prompted to insert my Microsoft SBS2008 installation CD to continue. The dreaded SBSBIOSLOCK message did not appear but the installation of SBS2008 rattled on without ever pausing or offering me the opportunity to select "Repair your computer". OK so I was back to square one again.

Intensely frustrated I did some further research and learned that there was a bug with either the ML110 G6 BIOS or SBS 2008 that causes the system to fail to recognize an internal DVD drive long after the installation process has begun. Go figure that one please!

Two solutions to this problem were proposed:

1. Connect an external USB DVD drive and run the microsoft installation from there.
2. Start from the HP Quick Start disc as described above but *do not* insert the Microsoft SBS 2008 installation disc when prompted but rather switch the computer off instead. Upon rebooting you will arrive at a DOS prompt where you can manually selected the DVD drive and initiate the installation by running SBS2008_Setup.exe from the command line.

As I did not possess an external USB DVD drive I tried Option 2 first. Abject failure! The system rebooted and displayed the specified DOS Window exactly as suggested but unfortunately the system consistely failed to recognize the presence of any internal DVD drives. In desperation I borrowed an external USB DVD drive from a collegue and attached it to my system and guess what .... Option 1 worked. Yeah! SBS Install started, I was prompted for Language and Keyboard option right on cue, I got to select the "Repair your computer" option and I even got to pick the option to restore my computer from a backup! Whoopie!

For those of you who are interested please refer to the following article which supposedly describes the Bare Metal Recovery Process from this point onwards: http://blogs.technet.com/b/sbs/archive/2010/06/11/how-to-perform-a-bare-metal-restore-on-small-business-server-2008.aspx

Unfortunately this article is seriously misleading because of what it *does not* tell you and it is at this very point that I ran into my next major hurdle with the restoration process.

As soon as you select the "Repair your computer" option you are presented with a screen entitled "System Recovery Options". Inside this screen you are supposed to see the listing of all the discs in your computer so that you can select which one you want to repair. My list was completely empty! No drives were listed at all - not even the brand new HP disk that I had just had installed nor the one remaining intact drive either. I was puzzled and perplexed all over again! Even the external USB HDD was not listed!

Put simply what this means is that SBS 2008 fails to detect the presence of any unformatted new hard disk drive which is very odd considering that, as part of the restoration process SBS 2008 requires you to give it permission to repartition and reformat your hard disk drives! Just another example to add to the long list of failures of this lemon operating system!

So here I was back to square one again. By this time I figured out that, for recovery to proceed, I must partition and format my new hard disk before commencing the recovery process just so that it could be "discovered" by the operating system. I did this by going right back to the very beginning by inserting the HP Easy Setup disk and running with that right up to the point where the system reports that it has partitioned and formatted the HDD and has started loading files onto the hard disk. At this point I switched my computer off. After a minute or so I rebooted and selected the F10 option to load the Bios Setup Screen. From here I changed the boot order of devices so that the CD/DVD rom was the first boot device. (This is an important step because if you don't do this you will get an error message).

Rebooting once again with the Microsoft SBS 2008 installation disc in the DVD Rom I was able to boot into windows, select the "Repair you computer" option and then initiate the process of loading the backup image onto my new HDD. This time the system correctly identified my C drive and my external backup HDD which was listed as "E". The backup files were all present and correct and the recovery process proceeded through to a somewhat successful conclusion. I had recovered my entire system as it was before our HDD crashed. Or so it seemed.

To describe the next problem I must backtrack somewhat. When we purchased our server from HP the operating system was preinstalled. As far as I can remember all I had to do was select a few user options (Name/company/passwords etc) and the whole setup process proceeded virtually without human intervention. I tell you this because I am not exactly sure how the two internal HDD's were preconfigured.

When installing my replacement hard disk drive (we originally had two Seagate 250GB Sata drives installed internally connected via a P212 Raid Controller) I set them up as 2 logical drives. After the recovery process concluded I ended up with a C Drive with all the files that were supposed to be there but the system reported that there were Zero Bytes free space on Drive C. That is all 250 GB appeared to be used. Domain Users were unable to save any files to the HDD because the system reported that there was "no space available". Obviously something was very wrong.

At this point I remembered reading somewhere that, with a raid controller, two independent drives are seen as one large drive as far as the OS is concerned. Given the lack of disc space I had no option but to start all over again from square one. This next time I selected the F8 option to configure the two separate HDD's as one logical drive and then I repeated the recovery process as described above. The process completed successfully and I ended up with a fully working and fully operational system. Well .... sort of.

Even though I had configured my two hard disk drives as one logical drive, and even though the HP Easy Setup process told me that it was partitioning and formatting a 500GB HDD what I ended up with at the end of this tedious process was one C Drive with of 250GB in size of which 80GB was used and around 170GB was free! What the ....??? (Compare this with the Zero Bytes reported when the two drives were handled independently and you will understand my dilemma). The Disc Management Console reported that there was one 500GB hdd installed but that only 250GB was partitioned and the remaining 250GB was unallocated. Furthermore there was, apparently, no option to "expand" the existing C drive into the remaining unallocated partition.

Those of you who have read through all this will appreciate that an SBS Bare Metal Restore is not such a simple process after all and that there are many traps for the unwary. Having suffered through this process I would like to find some explanation or answers to the following final questions:

1. Why does the SBSBIOSLOCK message appear?
2. Why is it that the SBS installation process can be initiated from CD/DVD rom and yet, a little down the track, fail to recognize the very same device?
3. Is there some Bios or other software fix to permanently resolve this issue?
4. Why the difference in available disc space two logical disc drives and one logical disc?
5. Is the report of only 80GB used and 170GB Free actually correct or is disc usage being misreported?
6. Can I use this allegedly unallocated 250GB disk drive or is again a misreporting of the real situation?
2 REPLIES
Michael A. McKenney
Respected Contributor

Re: Bare Metal Recovery - Questions and Answers

I would start with getting the latest firmware ISO for your server and upgrading all the hardware. Get the latest RAID drivers from HP to install. Smart Start works great. Does SBS come in 2008 R2? R2 revs work better on HP Servers. I install full Windows Server 2003 R2 and 2008 R2. BIOSLOCK could be a few issues. One your BIOS is not up to date for that OS. Two your server does not support that OS fully.

Microsoft Windows Server 2003
» Microsoft Windows Server 2003 for 64-bit Extended Systems
» Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Essential Business
» Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Foundation Edition
» Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2
» Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Foundation Edition
» Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Small Business
» Microsoft Windows Server 2008 W32
» Microsoft Windows Server 2008 x64
» Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2011

Did you upgrade the BIOS to the latest revision. This will not affect the bare restore.

For a bare bones install to work, the hardware must be identical and configured the same. If you had RAID on a controller, you need that controller and RAID config.
tjhooker
Occasional Visitor

Re: Bare Metal Recovery - Questions and Answers

The HP Recovery Disks will install Windows and even give the original 60 day free Norton again. The recovery procedure is not without faults though ( it requires you to know how to partition the hdd ).

If you use the recovery procedure as is ( out of the box ) the recovery partition will be created and Windows will be installed but...the partitions will not be correct. In my case the primary partitions on a 500G drive were created as C: 48.8G (20.6G free) and D: 9.76G (9.20G free). Now, do you know how to partition a bare drive?

Start by downloading an ISO file ( you do know how to burn an ISO to CD media don't you? ) from partitionwizard.com ( remember to donate ) called Minitool Partition Wizard Bootable CD 7.8 . Create one primary ( not logical ) with all the defaults partition of the drive. According to HP ( run the HP tool Cyberlink Recovery Tool and if you don't get the green check mark ?call HP ) otherwise follow the directions included with the recovery disks from HP.