A Dell PowerEdge Server, Windows 2003 x64, and the Battle Over SAS RAID Drivers

It seemed like a simple enough task – Install Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard x64 on a Dell PowerEdge 2950 x64 server that is about a year old. The server contains three 500GB SATA drives plugged into an internal PERC 5/i SAS RAID controller. The server also lacked an internal floppy drive, and there was no available slot to add one.

The problem started out being that the Windows installer didn’t see the system’s hard drives during the setup process.

This is a common problem, especially with newer RAID controllers. Normally you can load the manufacturer’s drivers during the Windows setup by pressing F6 – S to specify mass storage drivers once the blue installation screen appears. I had to search long and hard to find the Dell Windows Server 2003 64-bit drivers for the PERC 5/i because for some reason when you enter your server’s system tag and search for SAS RAID drivers only the 32-bit version is available for download.

I added the 64-bit RAID controller drivers to my floppy disk, but when I pressed F6 – S to specify new drivers, Windows did not detect the presence of my USB floppy drive, which I had plugged into the USB ports on the front of the server. I rebooted the server with the drive into plugged into a USB port on the back of the server, but had the same result.

Next I tried copying the drivers to my USB flash drive, which I tried in the ports on both the front and the back of the server, and the installation program failed to see that drive as well.

I searched support.dell.com for a solution, and of course I didn’t find one. I did find a link to the Dell USB Key F6 Driver Utility, which allows you to copy mass storage drivers to a USB flash drive and have them recognized by Windows during an installation. This sounded like exactly what I needed.

I downloaded the USB utility, and when I executed it I was informed this program would format my flash drive, which would obviously delete everything I had saved to it. I went and found a different drive that I didn’t care if it’s contents were deleted, and ran the program. It took about three seconds to run, and I went back to my server and ran the Windows 2003 setup again – and once again the installer did not recognize my flash drive. I tried to view the contents of the flash drive on a Windows XP computer, but I was informed the flash drive was not formatted. Obviously, I had done something wrong.

After reading the USB utility’s readme file, I found I had missed some very important details. Information from the USB utility’s readme file are highlighted in red.

1. One of the files in the driver package is TXTSETUP.OEM. Edit
TXTSETUP.OEM with NOTEPAD (or a text editor of your choice). In the
[Defaults] section locate the line that starts with “scsi = “. The
value on the right hand side of the equals sign must represent the
Windows Server 2003 mass storage driver.

The values permitted on the right hand side of the equals sign are defined in the [scsi] section.
If the value on the right hand side represents the Windows 2000 mass storage driver, it must be updated.

The following table lists the drivers that are available for download for 9G servers. The table
indicates whether the TXTSETUP.OEM file needs to be updated at the time this document was written (Oct 24, 2006).

Dell SAS 5/E Adapter No change needed
Dell SAS 5/i Integrated No change needed
Dell PERC 5/E Adapter Must be changed
Dell PERC 5/i Integrated Must be changed
Adaptec 39320A Controller No change needed
LSI Logic CERC ATA 100 Must be changed
LSI Logic PERC 4/DC Must be changed
LSI Logic PERC 4/Di Must be changed
LSI Logic PERC 4/SC Must be changed
LSI Logic PERC 4e/DC Must be changed
LSI Logic PERC 4e/Di Must be changed
LSI Logic PERC 4e/Si Must be changed
LSI Logic PERC3/DC Must be changed
LSI Logic PERC3/DCL Must be changed
LSI Logic PERC3/QC Must be changed
LSI Logic PERC3/SC Must be changed

I had the Dell PERC 5/i Integrated controller, so I had to modify TXTSETUP.OEM for the flash utility to operate properly.In the TXTSETUP.OEM file’s [Defaults] section I had to change the line that starts with “scsi = PERC_32” to “scsi = PERCsas”, where percsas.sys was the name of my 64-bit RAID controller driver.

2. Local administrator rights are required to create a bootable flash
drive from the USBKeyPrepF6 Utility. Flash drives up to 16 GB in size
are supported. After the USB key is prepared by the USBKeyPrepF6
Utility, the USB key’s contents are not accessible from Windows. If
the USB key is plugged into a system running the Windows operating
system, Windows may report that the USB key has an unrecognized file
system or that it is uninitialized. However the USB key’s contents may
be accessed from DOS, by using floppy emulation.

That pretty much explained why I couldn’t read the drive’s contents from my XP machine.

3. Windows 2003 installation instructions:

Place the USB key into a USB port of the system on which you are
installing Windows Server 2003. Insert the Windows CD into the CD
drive. Reboot the system. During boot press F2 to enter the BIOS setup

If your system has a Dell Remote Access Controller 5 (DRAC 5) then also press Ctrl-E, when prompted, to enter Remote Access Setup, also known as the Remote Access Configuration Utility.

My server has a Dell Remote Access Controller 5, so I had to press Ctrl-E to access the DRAC configuration.

Within the Remote Access Configuration Utility, select Virtual Media
Configuration. Select Virtual Media and select Detached. Select
Virtual Flash and select Disabled. Save these changes and exit the
Remote Access Configuration Utility.

I changed the Virtual Flash setting from Attached to Detached. Virtual Flash was already disabled, so I saved the changes and exited the Remote Access Configuration Utility.

Within the BIOS setup utility, select USB Flash Drive Emulation Type.
On this menu select Floppy emulation for the USB key. Save this change
and exit the BIOS setup utility.

I entered the server’s BIOS and changed Drive Emulation Type from Auto to Floppy Emulation. I saved my settings and exited the BIOS setup utility and rebooted with my flash drive inserted into one of the front USB ports. I booted from the Windows Server 2003 CD, pressed F6 – S to specify an additional mass storage driver, and the setup program found the PERC drivers on the USB drive! Finally, my installation could progress!

My elation was short lived, though. When I got to the part of the installation where I could specify the boot partition size, the maximum size Windows would allow me to use was 957 MB (yes, that’s megabytes, not gigabytes).

I rebooted again and pressed Ctrl-R to enter the PERC controller configuration utility and confirmed my RAID 5 array was indeed 950 GB (as in gigabytes). Just to make sure nothing was corrupted on my array I began the array verification process and left the site for the evening. Of course I would find out later the array was just fine.

The next day I emailed Dell tech support and explained how the Windows installation program would only allow me to create a partition of 957 MB. The tech who responded to me suggested that I download the Dell Installation and Server Management Disk and boot from the .iso it creates to configure the RAID array and perform the Windows installation.

I downloaded and burned the .iso image, then booted the server from the CD. I chose to install a Windows 2003 x64 server, filled in all the field the Server Assistant required, and was finally able to successfully install Windows onto a partition much greater than 957 MB in size!

In hindsight I may have been able to just slipstream the controller drivers along with Service Pack 2 into the Windows 2003 x64 Server source files, but I’m thinking that probably would have only seen the drive array as 957 MB in size as well.

Comments [50]

  1. Julie, thanks for sharing this detailed documentation of your Windows Server installation on one of our 2950s. It’s good to see that Dell support was able to help you resolve some of the frustrations you faced with this. We appreciate your feedback, and are glad to hear that things worked out.

  2. Thomas,

    Your tech was dead on with his diagnosis of the problem. Keep up the good work, I’ve always said Dell US Server Support is top notch.

    – Julie

  3. Thank you for saving me many hours Juile … I am sure this process made perfect sense to the DELL engineers at the time! … 🙂

    Only one comment … my version of txtsetup did not have to be updated. It was pointing to the correct 64-bit driver.


  4. I’m about to do this exact same setup. I’m glad i ran across this first. downloading the ISO from Dell now. Thanks for the hyperlink!

  5. Dear Julie,
    Your article was very helpful indeed. I managed to see the drivers after i run the SAS driver. But my problem now is it is not working for the other DELL servers that I’m working on now.I press F6 during windows setup.It detects the SAS RAID driver and allow me to partition the disk and specify which partition I want to install on. But after that it ask me to enter the SAS RAID disk again.When I put in the disk again and press enter nothing happen. It keep displayiing the same page to enter the driver. My keyboard and USB are working. I’m not sure whats wrong.

  6. Dear Julie,
    The prob is resolved now.It was due to the Windows installation CD.Dunno how it was corrupted.So I redownloaded the installer again. then it worked fine..;-)
    Thanks for your article again.It was a great help for me.

  7. i faced the same situation recently and also ended up downloading openmanage, i have just one comment though.. are you sure that the 975MB array that you mentioned isnt your USB flash drive??

  8. not all usb floppy drives work correctly with the f6 key

    only certain usb flop pymodels are compatible
    usually those which contain a mitsumi floppy drive are fine

  9. Well … I started in exactly the same situation but I have PERC 6/i and USB Flash utility worked for me. But anyway thanks for the info.

  10. I spent my entire Friday fighting this, then stumbled across your post first thing monday (this morning). Already fixed. Thanks! 🙂

  11. Thanks for your information!
    That’s exactly what I am looking for.

  12. I have the very same problem like puzzle.

    I am asked again to enter SAS RAID disk.

    any solution?

  13. So I can’t seem to get this Utility to work at all. I follow the readme exactly and I’ve tried several different drives and computers even formatted the flash drive in FAT and FAT32, but every time I do it, it tells me that it cannot read the command line paramaters. Its a 2950 32 bit any ideas?

    1. If you’re using USBKeyPrepF6.exe, it automatically fills in a volume name. Try erasing that.

  14. Windows 2003 R2 saw my Perc 4e/si with no problems at boot. I also did an install on a 2950 with Windows 2003 R2 and it say the Perc 5/i with no problems either. Only snag I ran into was installing the Dell x64 drivers. Like you, I could not find their 64 bit drivers on their downloads page. I took the Power Edge update DVD, 5.2 A02, and ran that. installed the x64 drivers for the 4e/si and the Intel Pro/1000. I’m sure it would have done the same for the Perc 5/i but I also blew that away and put Linux on it. 🙂

  15. The reason you only saw 957Mb was becuase your jump dirve was on the top of the list, selecting it would install windows on the jump drive……

  16. Max is right, that partition you saw was your jump drive…and the Dell tech did not actually fix your issue, he just gave you a work-around. Every Dell server comes with the IS&M CD’s or availability to download the iso, however, if you want to install direct from the W2K3 CD’s/DVD’s you can’t. That’s the issue I’m running into right now…the jump drive will show up, but not the RAID array. Oh well…I’ll post back if I find a solution.

  17. Actually, I just found out the reason…there are many versions of the PERC drivers, you just need to get the right one…we hit it on try #6. If you copy just the drivers extracted from Dell’s support site into the ‘files’ folder that the USBF6 utility uses, you’ll be ok and the RAID will show up based on your device boot-order. Good luck!

  18. Julie:

    Thanks a bunch for the help! My setup was a refurb PowerEdge 2900 w/ PERC 5i and SBS2003 R2 Premium x86. I ran the Dell Build and Update Utility v5.3 and it walked successfully through the steps, but on first boot where the Dell utility hands off to the Windows setup, a boot.ini error would flash, followed by a corrupt or missing ntoskrnl.exe msg.

    It seems like the Build and Update Utility successfully could see the PERC 5i SAS RAID 1 array, but it either wrote the boot.ini incorrectly, or didn’t hand the Windows mass storage drivers off to the Windows setup. Dunno.

    The fix for me was to run the Dell USBKeyPrepF6.exe, and walk through that, which is still tricky, as you have to drop your RAID controller files in the “Files” directory first, then possibly edit the textsetup.oem file (which I didn’t need to do). The trick there was:
    1. Download and expand the Dell F6 flash drive utility files.
    2. Drop the appropriate Dell PERC Windows driver files into the ..\files directory that is created in Step 1
    3. (Optional) Edit the textsetup.oem (That should now be in the ..\files directory).
    4. Run the USBKeyPrepF6.exe to prepare the flash drive.

    I had success with simply running my SBS2003 setup from the Windows (OEM in this case) SBS2003 install media, and not from the Dell Build and Update Utility. On the PowerEdge BIOS I set the USB to use floppy emulation.

    It’s a little astonishing that not only does a several-generations old Build & Update utility by Dell, not get the install correct, but that Microsoft & Windows 2003 has not developed a flash drive F6 functionality that is reliable. (The PowerEdge as it shipped still has a floppy I/O on the motherboard, but no power connector (the old, small, 4 contact floppy version).

    Julie, thanks again for your help and for everyone else’s comments.

  19. Thanks for writing this, I learned a lot!

    I did the BIOS, set the USB flash to “floppy”, set the boot order to be 1.cdrom 2. hdd, 3. usb flash <- that solved the partition too small issue, and then prepared the thumb drive with the ‘USBKeyPrepF6.exe’ utility.

    I have to add: the exact driver that worked was:

    I extracted the contents of the DELL driver right into the ‘Files’ keyprep folder, and ran the tool.

    I put the USB flash in the fron USB slot, my server 2003 x64 CD in the CDROM, and booted.

    F6, select Perc5, and done, clean install, happy camper.


  20. Thanks for this extremely useful information ! However, although being in the same situation, i did not had to modify the TXTSETUP.OEM file.

  21. The problem seems to be that someone at Dell doesn’t quite understand the proper syntax of the txtsetup.oem file. While your solution does work (for F6 installs only), the driver itself is still broken, and cannot be integrated into a setup CD with a tool like nLite, for example. See this link for a complete explanation of the problem, and the edits necessary to fix the file.


    This is a fairly common problem, unfortunately.

  22. Don-

    I know what you mean about problems integrating the driver into a setup CD. Believe me, I’ve tried and tried to make it work. If someone knows how to do it, I’d love to know how.


  23. I had the same issue. I went into the BIOS and changed the virtual floppy from auto to hard drive. From there everything worked. (The BIOS kept assigning the A: drive to the virtual floppy and so Windows wouldn’t map the external USB as the A:) Now the USB floppy will spin when I select drivers from the install.

  24. I’m sitting at the data center… Poweredge 860 with a SAS5/i. It works great detecting the drives. Then formats the drives! Then it asks for the driver to be put in Drive A again. So frustrating.

  25. I had the same problem, tried this out as written and it was still failing (It couldn’t find the right .inf file) but then I tried re-starting without the usbkey plugged in. It went through fine.
    I had previously updated all the firmware through the (latest) DELL Open Manage disk and was using the “OS Installation” option to get the partition the right size. It seems to have been then Virtual devices being disabled on the RAC that was causing the problem.

    That’s 3 days of down time cut short by another blogger. Horray for the back room tech!

  26. Fun fun fun.
    I’ve had enough of Dell server storage arrays.
    Installing 3Ware controllers since they actually provide working drivers.

    At least Server 2008 provides a much more robust mechanism for loading drivers without slipstreaming. Going back to a Server 2003/XP install is so painful after you’ve experienced the ability to load drivers off a USB stick.

  27. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!….

    This saved me hours of frustration. Where do I send the check??? Seriously, thank you for this post.

  28. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!….

    Thank You from Croatia, You saved my ass!!!!!!!!!!!!

  29. Hi, anyone who has problems with the Dell F6 usb trick when the install actually starts I think I found a quick solution. Set the F2 bios settings boot order to usb as first device. Reboot the system but hit f11 or the boot menu key and select boot from CD manually.

    The usb flash drive loads properly and is then seen during the installation phase. Worked for me on a 2950 with perc6i and sas drives.

    Hope it helps!

  30. Thank you so much! This artical saved my ass! Now I want to go hit someone from Dell that made this such a pain.

  31. Thanks for the article. Just a point on that, I do not agree with the constraint of 950Mbs for partitioning. I installed Win2k3 on a Power Edge 1950 with SAS5 using a USB floppy to get controller drivers installed and so far so good. Partition size is 30Gb.

  32. I setup the the usb to emulate as a floppy, when it gets to the part to insert a floppy and press enter. it tells me that the disk cannot be read because it contains an unrecognized file system.

    I formatted the usb many times with FAT and FAT32 on machine running XP and copied the driver files over after every format, still tell me the same message.

  33. Thanks a million. People like you make the world an easier place. I was about to go through the whole nonsense with the USB floppy and figured I’d do a bit of research first 😉

    All the best,

  34. THANK YOU !!!
    Over a year later, and that information you share is so valid.
    You managed to cover the issues I ran into, some hesitations (from thew stomach) and more, but finally provide a simple solution, which somehow not only Dell by my local vendor support fail to provide.
    That is the internet I knew ~20 years ago.

  35. Hi Julie,
    Thanks for the post. It did help me to an extent however I am getting stuck after the SATA Drivers are read from the floppy disk. The setup stops by saying that the Hard Disks are not powered up?? I am not sure what the problem is.
    I even tried the ISO boot disk you suggested however, it never gives me an option for Windows 2003 server.

    Is there some reccomendation you have that I can try?

    Thanks for your help in advace.


  36. Some of this may fall on Dell’s head, but Microsoft should have made provisions for putting a path in to find the drivers, such as to the CD drive, etc., rather than forcing it to look for drivers on A:.

  37. Forgive me for asking this, i may be not educated on this one. but can you tell me the further steps one by one. Cause i am having trouble installing windows server 2003 to dell poweredge 1900.

  38. I had the same issue as described by puzzle and a few others on my PE860. I ended up using the OpenManage CD that came with the server to install Win2k3R2 Server. I didn’t see anyone with a solution, so I am posting to say that this is the correct way to install to avoid the windows installer from being unable to find the driver.

    OpenManage ISO

    1. Christian,
      we ran into this same issue, and we got it thru just by leaving the textsetup.oem file as is, no changes where needed (we have the same Raid as Julie but we are using x32 bit Windows version on this box (PE1950).

      Following Julie’s instructions with this minor change to it. By trying this way, everything worked just that way it should be.

      Hope this helps someone

      BTW. Julie, thanks for your help, very accurate and clear information.

  39. Thanks for this thread…though I did not find my exact solution here but it helped me tremendously. Here was my scenario:

    All of the above symptoms holds true for me BUT I was 400 miles away from my client’s server (PowerEdge 2950). I can do this all day long on my other ibm’s and hp’s but this issue was for sure new to me. I was connected via a remote kvm so, in theory, I should be able to emulate floppy’s, usb drives or usb cdroms without any issues (works on other servers!). Here is what I tried and what happened with each attempt:

    1. Genuine 2003 Server Disk in drive bay and emulating a floppy & usb disk with controller drivers via remote kvm (RESULT: NOTHING BUT ERRORS WHEN LOOKING FOR THE CONTROLLER DRIVER) 🙁

    2. Genuine 2003 Server Disk in drive bay and emulating a usb cdrom of Dell OpenManage via remote kvm (RESULT: OM KERNEL BOOTED BUT NEVER MADE IT TO WINDOWS SETUP SCREEN) 🙁

    3. Genuine 2003 Server Disk in drive bay and emulating a usb cdrom of Dell USBKey Prep with drivers via remote kvm (RESULT: COULD BOOT FROM USBKEY PREP IMAGE…ONLY WORKS FOR CERTAIN DELL SMALL GB USB DRIVES) 🙁

    4. Then I figured I can emulate a usb cdrom via remote kvm connected to my local web server on my laptop containing an entire 2003 server iso with the raid controller drivers slipstreamed (RESULT: IT BOOTED AND SHOWED THE RAID CONTROLLER BUT IT NEVER LOADED THE DRIVERS) 🙁

    {{NOTE: At this point I realized that being physically there vs. operating remotely is not making much difference. I’ve tried procedures that would put an OS on a meteor successfully but this dell was putting up a fight!}}

    I called Dell and they confirmed all of my issues and wanted to email me a driverdisk.iso specifically for that model and os that would allow me to slipstream the raid controller drivers and get the local cdrom to recognize it. All I had to do is emulate that .iso as a usb cdrom via remote kvm…right????

    Well, my kvm over ip was telling me that the driverdisk.iso was too small (192kb) to be considered a cdrom iso!!!!!

    So I cranked up imgburn, added two jpeg’s to the iso and saved it to make just over 1mb in size.

    W()()T! The server booted from this image and I selected the option to boot from the local cdrom…..and 2003 server setup started, found the drivers that were slipstreamed and got passed the disk partition screen!!!!!!!!!!

    Hope this helps…….me going to get beerz!

  40. Thank you very much for posting this information! I ended up getting the installer to recognize my raid drive after following your steps and some tips i found in the comments section.

    This has been quite an ordeal and i’m glad you posted your experience as it has helped me solve my issue!

    I summarized your post with step by step instructions for folks with the perc 5i that just need to do a “repair” install of their windows server 2003 x64 installation.



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