Solution: Backup Configuration in SBS 2008 Fails – Dell Servers in Particular

Posted: December 24, 2010 in Backup, Configuration Wizard, Dell Disk configuration, FAT32, NTFS, SBS 2008
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It’s Christmas Eve morning, very early and still, and it seemed like a great time to give you readers another gift of a SBS solution that is, while not all that common, at least very frustrating because there are no event log postings or other information that clues you in to what is really going on.  Fortunately, the fix is simple and quick.  And I knew in a moment, I felt like St. Nick.

First, the scenario.  You install SBS 2008, and everything seems just fine.  You have done the heavy lifting part of installation: got all the connectivity issues done, installed the trusted certificate, added users, created shares, and so on.  Then you attach a USB drive or two, or install a local hard disk (or as I really like, crate an iSCSI drive and connect it) and then launch the configure backup wizard.  The wizard takes you through all the choices, cautions you about formatting the disk, runs for a few seconds then fails with a vague error.  Details of that error confirm the the configuration failed but are equally vague.  Nothing posts in either the application or system event logs.  For good measure, you try again, perhaps with a different USB drive, change the backup device label, or re-boot the server.  None of those standby cure-alls works.

That is because none of them are the source of the error.  Instead, the source of that error comes from Dell’s machine configuration, and perhaps from other manufacturers as well.  Let’s take a look at disk management information from a Dell server:











Notice that Disk 0 has three partitions.  The first is a 63MB reserved partition, the second is a 2.01 GB partition named OS and allocated to drive D:, and the third is the partition for SBS as drive C:.  The culprit, it turns out, is the second partition as it can come configured from Dell.  A little more explanation about server configuration from them is needed, though to fully explain the issue.

When you order a Dell server, you must order at least one disk with it.  Many people don’t order fully populated disk drives from Dell because they buy them much cheaper on the open market and add them once the server arrives.  Also, they may not order any OS pre-installed.  If you have a server from Dell, or any other manufacturer, that falls into this category, then this may be a configuration waiting to create the backup configuration error I am about to explain.

The precise reason for the backup configuration error is because that OS, Drive D: partition arrived configured as FAT32.  When you run the wizard, it knows it cannot deal with FAT32 partitions, but instead of actually reporting this fact, you get, instead, the vague configuration failure.

If you have not ordered an OS pre-installed, the best thing to do is to delete all the partitions on the drive as it ships from the manufacturer during the installation of SBS.  Create a new partition that spans the entire drive, and it will automatically format as NTFS.  Problem solved.

If, on the other hand, the OS recovery partition is one you need and want to keep, then don’t delete it by all means.  But do check to see if it is formatted as FAT32.  If it is, then convert it to NTFS from a command prompt:









First, BE SURE TO RUN CMD AS ADMINISTRATOR to perform this step.  At the prompt, enter the command CONVERT <drive letter>: /FS:NTFS and enter.  In order to proceed, you will need to enter the volume label as it exists.  Obviously, this is a caution to prevent this command from executing against the wrong volume.  In the case of Dell systems, the volume label is OS.

Although the execution of CONVERT above does not show it, as this was a staged demonstration, you are probably also going to get a message telling you that the conversion cannot continue because the drive is mounted and in use.  Fortunately, you also get a prompt asking if you want to dismount and continue, so respond with a Y and press enter, and the conversion takes place.

Now you can run the Backup Configuration Wizard successfully, assuming you have no other FAT32 volumes lurking about either on the source or destination sides of the configuration.

Okay, time for a cup of coffee, then to finish my candy making, distribute some to family and friends, and settle in to enjoy the remainder of Christmas Eve.  Not one more shopping errand left, just some gifts to wrap.  And family to enjoy.

I sincerely wish all of you a Merry Christmas, a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year, and all the best of the holiday season wherever you are and whatever you celebrate.  I encourage you to post your greetings that extend to holidays and customs that touch you and share them with us all.

  1. Paul says:

    Awsome, thanks so much and a great write up. I had to do this on my backup server… with no backup, in a corporate environment….GULP!!!!

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