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Uber Geek
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Topic # 185661 1-Dec-2015 07:44
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Hi everyone,

I have an old HP Data Vault X510 with the ageing Windows Home Server (Server 2003). Yesterday I decided to figure out how to install 2012 R2 on it. Unfortunately everything I could find with Google suggested opening the machine up and connecting custom cables to undocumented pin headers - hardly ideal!

Fortunately I succeeded in installing 2012 R2 without any hardware modifications, so I figure that there's no harm in sharing :)

You will need:


  • An HP Data Vault (although this should also work with a MediaSmart Server)
  • A USB drive, preferably with an activity LED
  • A hard drive to install to (this will be wiped)
  • The Server 2012 R2 ISO (I used Essentials)
  • A desktop PC for some prep work
  • I highly recommend upgrading to 4 GB of RAM before beginning.
First of all, download the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool. Run it, point it at your 2012 ISO, and let it generate a USB drive. Don't try using the Windows 10 version of the tool; it doesn't work with Server.

Next, grab the unattend file. This is where the "magic" happens. Open up the file with a text editor and find the following two lines near the bottom: "YOUR PRODUCT KEY HERE" and "YOUR PASSWORD HERE". Enter your Windows product key and pick a password for the Administrator user.

That file is configured to create a 60 GB Windows partition and to fill the rest of the disk with a "storage" partition. You can modify these if you wish, although apparently the Windows partition must be smaller than 2 TB or the Data Vault won't boot from it (I haven't tested this myself, it's just what I've heard) [Edit: I installed to a 6 TB drive and only the first 2 TB was accessible despite the 60 GB Windows partition].

When you've finished customising the file, rename it to Autounattend.xml and copy it to the root of your USB drive.

The next thing that you need to do is power down your desktop and connect the target hard drive. Boot back up, open Disk Management, and delete all partitions on the drive. This will stop the Data Vault from attempting to boot from it.

Once that's done, power down, and move the drive into bay 1 of the Data Vault. Remove any other drives; you don't want to format them by accident! Connect the USB drive to the bottom port on the back of the machine (apparently it won't boot from any other port) and power on*. With any luck, after a few seconds you'll see the USB drive's activity light start to run. Sit back and relax; the installation takes about 20 minutes (and the USB light won't run for the entire 20).

After 20 minutes, try pinging the machine. If it doesn't respond then try waiting a little longer. It it's working, great! Connect using Remote Desktop and log into the Administrator account. You can safely eject the USB drive at this point.

When working through Essentials' initial setup, you'll be told that the process will take about 30 minutes. This is not an exaggeration and the system may not respond to ping/RDP during this time. Don't panic :)

* Apparently with some models of MediaSmart Server you'll need a keyboard connected, will need to mash F12, and will then need to use the down arrow and Enter to select the invisible "USB-CDROM" option. Unfortunately I don't know how many times you need to press the down arrow as this wasn't a problem with my X510.


Hopefully that helps someone! Or if not, at least I have a "backup" of my process now :)

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251 posts

Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 1438330 1-Dec-2015 09:35
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Brilliant thanks, been looking at repurposing mine rather than buying a whole new unit.

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  Reply # 1438765 1-Dec-2015 17:45
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Good to see that I've potentially helped someone! :)

If anyone wants to "audit" my work, the original Microsoft sample unattend file is here (the "64-bit BIOS" one). My changes include removing the OEM section, defaulting to NZ regional settings, using a 60 GB Windows partition, prefilling the Administrator password, and (crucially!) enabling Remote Desktop and allowing it through the firewall.


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Uber Geek
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  Reply # 1438767 1-Dec-2015 17:47
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Nice post. Maybe it would be better to put as a blog or article?

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  Reply # 1438769 1-Dec-2015 17:55
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Thanks for the vote of confidence as it were, but I'm not sure how much promotion this needs considering that the hardware was discontinued five years ago :)

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  Reply # 1439452 2-Dec-2015 18:32
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I'd read that the Data Vault could handle large (more than 2 TB) drives when using 2012, but after installing a 6 TB drive today I found that only the first 2 TB is accessible. It seems that the boot drive is limited to 2 TB :(

I then tried to use an old 2 TB drive as the boot drive. I just wasted around 90 minutes trying to get the thing to boot from the USB install drive. The 2 TB drive originally had Windows 10 on it so I deleted the partitions with Disk Management, but the Data Vault refused to "notice" that the hard drive wasn't bootable (and therefore didn't try to boot from USB). I tried to convert the hard drive to MBR (no luck), wipe the first few GB with DBAN (no luck), and I even tried to connect a USB keyboard, mash F12, and hope to hit the mythical "USB" option with different combinations of the down arrow plus Enter. No luck.

Eventually I realised that my successful install the other day was onto a drive previously used for 2012. I put the 2 TB drive back into my desktop and used my USB install drive to install a fresh copy of 2012. I then booted back into my normal OS, deleted the partitions, moved the drive back to the Data Vault... success!

So, if anyone else simply can't get the machine to boot from USB then do what I did: Put the target drive into your desktop (make sure that it's the only connected drive!), boot from USB and let it install. Then reconnect your usual drive, boot into your usual OS, and use Disk Management to delete all three partitions from the target drive. The Data Vault should then boot from USB.

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  Reply # 1441697 7-Dec-2015 07:19
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One more little tip: Although the system requirements for 2012 call for 2 GB of RAM, I really don't recommend it. It's painstakingly slow (we're talking minutes to open the Dashboard). I have a 4 GB stick on order, which I believe is the most that this system can take.

Update: The memory upgrade has arrived and it's a huge help. Installing it was a bit of a mission though!

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Wannabe Geek

  Reply # 1641000 26-Sep-2016 22:57
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I'm about to upgrade one of these to server 2012 too, thanks for the advice here. Really helpful. I'm running into issues getting it to install too, going to try the trick of installing 2012 in a different machine using my unattended file to test. Is anyone still using theirs?

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Uber Geek
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  Reply # 1641023 27-Sep-2016 06:10
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Back when I installed WHS2011 on a headless system, the trick was to start the install on the desktop, then when it rebooted, pull the disk and put it in the target system.

Location: Dunedin

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