Archive for the ‘FAT32’ Category

 Virtual Machines Have Prevented Disasters More than Once

Let me tell you about the latest situation where I look like a hero instead of a fool.  How can you not love someone who does that for you?

I have a client who is still on SBS 2011 for a variety of reasons.  Let’s sum them up by saying it is unlikely to change for a while.

A few years back, I suggested making SBS a virtual machine and running on a Hyper-v host.  The OS for the host was Windows Server 2008 R2.  Earlier this year, both of the USB drives they were using for Windows Backup (one for the host, one for SBS) had to be replaced.  The new drives were formatted NTFS with 4096 byte sectors.  If you don’t know already, Windows Backup in 2008 R2 and earlier can’t create a backup on these targets.  So for a while, the system has been running without backups.

Why not Just Upgrade?

Duh, why didn’t I think of that?  I did, but an inplace upgrade to 2012 R2 kept failing.  Finally, we located a 2012 Standard .iso and license for sale and grabbed that.  The in place upgrade went well, very well.  Much to our chagrin, the product key would not activate even though it was valid, and the client got his money back.  But there we were with an OS that was about to die from lack of activation.

So I tried the upgrade from 2012 to 2012 R2, and it succeeded.  Problem solved, right?

You Probably Picked the Wrong Answer

When it finally rebooted after the upgrade, a colorful blue screen appeared with the message


The scarce number of articles I found relating to this indicated that it was an invalid product key (I knew that) and re-installing would fix it.  So in goes the DVD and we boot from it.  Enter the correct 2012 R2 product key, select upgrade, and we are instructed to remove the disk and reboot.  When we do the same nasty error above appears.

So I Said…

Let’s just forget about the host system and create a new one.  I didn’t format any disks, just let the installation go.  It completed fine, booted into 2012 R2, and I added the Hyper-v role, reset the static IP address, and got down to setting up a new virtual machine.

I pointed to the existing .vhd for SBS and the virtual disks for Exchange, SharePoint, and data that were on physical drives on the host and attached them through ISCSI controllers, started the virtual machine and bingo!  There is was.  Almost.

I Nearly Cried when It First Started

Active directory showed NO users, NO joined computers, and SBS Console said the OS was not operative.  While I played around for a bit, then looked again after about 5-10 minutes, AD values were back!!  But there was no Internet connection and nothing looked right on the SBS Console network tab.

First I ran Connect to the Internet, and that restored the connection.  Then I ran Fix my network, and suddenly there was the trusted certificate and all the other goodies.  It has been running like a champ ever since.

One Last Thing

The 4096 sector drive for SBS still doesn’t work, so I am trying a WD drive that emulates 512 sectors,  I am going to create another post about this, although there is a lot of information on this topic out there already.

So, to sum it up, your Hyper-v host machine is disposable.  You can trash it and provided you don’t lose the date, you can reconstruct your workhorse servers.  I highly recommend this approach.

Even better, use an iSCSI device (like QNAP, which I love as well) and keep all your virtual information on the drives apart from your computer.  That means the entire platform is disposable.

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.