Installing WHS 2011 on SSD or SATA Hard Drives smaller than 160GB
As we all know (or most of us anyways) when Microsoft began working on their newest version of Windows Home Server (and subsequently Small Business Server 2011 Essentials) they felt once again the need to treat the rest of the consumer population like uneducated children. So in Microsoft’s infinite wisdom they set a pre-determined absolute minimum size of what the system partition should be and subsequently the size of the secondary partition on the primary hard drive as well (which usually is determined by what is left over when the WHS 2011 or SBS 2011 E installer finishes making the primary partition).
Now granted nowadays you can usually buy a 1TB SATA drive for about $50 (US) or when you buy your PC or small business server that usually comes with a minimum between 250GB and 500GB SATA hard drive. So for most consumers this is usually not an issue. However in very recent years with the advent of the Solid State Drives (or SSD’s) your higher average Joe consumer, like the Hobbyist or even professional IT want to take advantage of the faster speed times and application responses that SSD has to offer. The only problem is with this is they are still very, very expensive to obtain. So if you want to install your primary WHS 2011 or even your SBS 2011 E on one of these babies since the minimum coded requirement for either operating system is 160GB you would need to buy a 256GB Solid State Drive for approximately $400 (US). Holy Crap Batman! I can build an entire Windows Home Server (or even buy one) for less than that. So how can I build a Windows Home Server 2011 or even a Small Business 2011 Essentials Server with the advance technology of SSD hard drives and not have to Mortgage our house and sacrifice our first born? One of our own Forum Members found that very answer (See Acknowledgements at the end of this article).
By using the automated install option available with WHS 2011 our Forum Member was able to install WHS 2011 on a 64GB SSD Drive. A 64GB SSD drive is still slightly expensive ($100 – US) but a far cry cheaper than if you would have gotten the minimum required 256GB SSD for the Operating System. From there Cheaper SATA drives can be used for Storage of Backups and Server data files.
Who this Article is For?
This article is to be used with WHS 2011 who want to install the before mentioned operating system on Hard Drives smaller than 160GB. This can be either Solid State Drives or even the traditional IDE-SATA drives.
· A USB Flash Drive formatted NTFS
· WHS 2011 Install DVD
· A PC or Server that meets the minimum hardware requirements (with the exception of the hard drive minimum requirement)
· Monitor, Keyboard, and mouse.
The How to information is intended as a guide or a helping resource to those who are trying to install Windows Home Server 2011 on Hard Drives that are smaller than the usually minimum required 160GB. There is no 100% guarantee that this will install correctly as described in this article. I assume no responsibility for any consequences of the install and the user will assume the full risk of any adverse effects of a bad installation.
1. Remove all Hard Drives currently connected to you system with the exception of the targeted SSD or traditional SATA Drive that will be used for either your WHS 2011 Operating System .
NOTE – Remember to insure all previous Data you want saved from the targeted drive is removed before installation or it will be permanently lost.
2. Format an NTFS USB Flash Drive, and create a file on it using notepad in the root called cfg.ini. (Insure there is nothing else on the USB)
3. Open the cfg.ini in notepad or any other text editor
4. Cut and Paste the following into the cfg.ini file below…
5. Close the file and save it on the USB Flash Drive.
6. Insert the USB Flash Drive with the cfg.ini file into the targeted WHS 2011 Server’s empty USB Slot.
7. Power up your Server and insure that either your Windows Home Server 2011 install DVD has been inserted into your Servers ROM.
8. Once your Server has booted off the install DVD the Installer will read the CFG.ini file and begin the automated install process. There should be NO User Input required during this time.
9. When your Server Installer has finished its first part of the Install and goes to reboot for the 1st time REMOVE the USB Flash Drive and the Install DVD from your Server BEFORE your server boots back up ( As shown below). This will allow the Server upon rebooting to find your hard drive and continue the installation from there without further interruption.
10. No Further action on your part will be required and the rest of the install will finish automatically, again without any user intervention.
11. Once the installation has completed please plug in any other drives and continue with completing your server build.
I want to give big thanks to Forum Member Mr. John Inwood (AKA Coalfield) for spending countless hours and referencing many different Microsoft forums for initialing finding the solution to circumventing the 160GB minimum requirement for WHS 2011. I would like to also thank Forum Member Mr. Gnomatic for refining the execution process of this solution. This article is based on their contributions.