Solved: Mystery of the server the won’t boot to Windows

20 Jun

What started as a simple request to help someone boot up his Windows 2008R2 DVD to allow a vanilla build ended up in 3 days worth of trial and error and 3 hours straight in the tech room swapping hardware and pulling cables.

We had a request to help someone boot up a vanilla Windows 2008 R2 DVD. The problem is that that server did not have an internal DVD reader and it won’t read the USB DVD reader for whatever reasons. So naturally, the next step was to fire up iLO (this is a HP proliant server) and mount an ISO image and boot up the server.

“Easy enough” or so I thought. What happened was that during the boot sequence after the Windows marquee (progress bar), the server will goes into a black screen (just before the GUI appears) and stays there forever.

So I thought “lets update all the firmware”. So I mounted the Smart Start CD and updated all the firmware. Tried again and still its stuck at the black screen. Why would the server be able to boot up in the SS CD but not into Windows startup screen?

We then connected the server into the DHCP subnet and booted it up into PXE. The PXE menu came up and we tried to load WinPE to see how it goes… and the same thing happens! The server would be stuck at the black screen even trying to boot up in WinPE. Now I am beginning to suspect this server must have some weird  BIOS settings that caused this, only because this was a Linux box when we took up.

We reset the BIOS to default, looked around all the settings but still did not help. So we decided to swap out the hardware and see if help. We took out only the original hard disks and swapped out the hardware and inserted the original disks. Tried booting up AND the EXACT same thing happened. We were at a lost because its next to impossible for two hardware to exhibit the exact same issue.. is booting up into Windows so difficult?

In our desperation we had already removed all the spare network cards and unused HBA cards from the previous machine but it did not help. Now we think it might be the hard disk. Sounds weird but this is the only hardware that remained the same after the swap. So we pulled out the hard disks and tried boot the server san HDD and…. still we are seeing black screen.

Finally we decided not to connect any network cables and even removed the mouse and keyboard, keeping only the monitor cable. Tried booting up Windows 2008 using an internal DVD ROM (the swap server had one) and it finally booted up just fine!

What is happened?

The culprit, it turned out, are the mouse and keyboard that was connected to a KVM. The connection on the KVM side was loose and intermittent. After reseating their connection, both servers could boot up to Windows just fine.



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Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Windows


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