Server 2008 BIOS Install issues

Well, it was bound to happen. The week before Thanksgiving our shop was building a Windows 2008 server. The technicians and I could not get past the Intel POST screen, the one with the Intel logos only. We removed and tested hard drives. They keyboard and mouse would just not respond and leaving it alone for hours resolved nothing. With the support of Intel, we swapped the motherboard, both CPUs, the RAM (3 times – I’ll get to that later). We tried 3 power supplies, taking the system off the KVM and direct connecting, nothing. Last Thursday we began the build of another server with a different motherboard and CPU, same issue.

Needless to say, The Weekly Geek was not a happy camper. Four different experienced technicians (with 5 to 20 years experience each) could not get these systems running. I had made up my mind to order prebuilt servers at noon on Monday and send the parts back if we could not get them running by then.

Step back in time with me. The first server a dual CPU Xeon 5500 series was built by our least experienced tech but he does have over 5 years experience. He had been in and out for 3 weeks with a tooth infection and now a cold. The server just would not start. Alright, no big deal we don’t need to deliver it until the Monday before Thanksgiving. Our senior office tech and manager was building 5 or 6 desktop computers for the same project. Now forward to the Thursday before Thanksgiving, the server still does not work. The tech manager gets involved. The Weekly Geek does not worry, he and the other owner are very busy with service calls and the tech manager is a master of figuring out “stuff” and issues with computers.

Now comes Monday morning, “Hey, why is the server in parts on the bench, it is supposed to be delivered for training today.” It seems that we could not figure out what was going on. After a few phone calls it turns out the wrong type of RAM was sent by the parts house. To make matters worse the parts house was 3 days away. Ok, don’t panic, there is a parts house one day away, cancel the RAM at the farthest and return it and order RAM from the closer parts house.

Now we need to rush to the customers and make an older PC a server for training, install Server 2003 setup yadda yadda, a full day’s work.

Tuesday the RAM comes in, and we still have the same issue. Funky BIOS post (2 slow, 3 fast, 2 slow or 2 slow 3 fast or 2 slow and 1 fast) beeps were inconsistent. Now THW is getting into boss mode (those who can fix things are assets and those that cannot are expenses and businesses only cut expenses). The first tech is still sick off and on and told to keep away from the project (too many hands) so tech manager and owner 1 are to get on the phone with Intel and get things done. Remember it is now Tuesday before Thanksgiving, people are just not answering their phones. Intel decides we have the wrong type of RAM again. So no more trusting the parts house, we order from Crucial the part numbers from Intel and pay 2 day delivery. That means Friday before the RAM will come in.

Wednesday the RAM from the first parts house that is 3 days away comes in. Yes, the tech manager was supposed to cancel the order but in the mayhem of business forgot to. It is the right ram from Kingston, yeah! It is of course 3:30 on Wednesday before Thanksgiving. New RAM same issue, TWG is now in ticked off mode but decides to let the other owner take care of it. Thursday, instead of Thanksgiving the other owner is on the phone with Intel for almost 3 hours. Their decision, bad motherboard. Tech support from another country assures owner that a motherboard will be shipped today and arrive Friday, owner questions this due to the Holiday.

Friday, no motherboard, Monday no motherboard. Monday 4:30 Owner calls Intel, Intel’s response “oh, we have that on hold for some reason, don’t know why, we will get it out tomorrow.” How about today says owner, “can’t truck left already”. Miracle of Miracles, Tuesday comes and the board does show up. Same issue, motherboard starts POST and the BIOS screen comes up with the Intel logos but nothing else, no keyboard response, no mouse, just an Intel logo screen. Another series of calls and hours on the phone with Intel, “Must be two bad CPUs, well send them right away.” Wednesday the new processors come and the issue stays.

Fast forward to Monday the 7th. Still no working server. TWG requests that tech manager build server 2 now just in case there is an issue. With owner 1 out of town on business and tech out sick it is tech manager and TWG only this week. Guess what, same issue.

Thursday TWG and tech manager have a series of interviews for a full time tech. One, a very young kid who is extremely bright comes into the shop after the interview for a tour, he sees the server and asks a couple of questions and then pops off “it’s the monitor”. Yeah right says TWG to himself, we have built 8 or 9 PC’s during this time on that monitor and bench repaired 5 or 6 more “silly kid”.

Sunday the 13th during church, TWG decides, we have changed every other part, we will swap monitors first thing Monday if that fails we will install a different motherboard in the first system (TWG had ordered a different model board the previous week just in case) and of course if neither worked by noon then pre-built servers would be ordered (yuck!). That evening the other owner calls to say he missed his flight and asked the status of things. While explaining the server dilemma he suggest (without being prompted), “Well if the keyboard and mouse don’t respond and we have swapped every other part, how about the monitor…”

Monday morning arrives. The current monitor is a 17” CRT (tube type) 1280 x 1024 resolution for testing we put on LCD 17” with same resolution and get the same beeps BUT there is text at the bottom of the screen <esc> to continue, f2 to setup … WHAT!!!! So tech manager and THW press f1 and we can get into the BIOS, set it up and begin RAID build. Yes, we did try those keys even when we could not see them!

So lessons learned, Intel’s newest 5500 and 3300 series motherboard will not POST with CRT monitors (we have build several servers this year on the same monitor but they were series 5000 and 3000 motherboards), another lesson, Intel has not heard of this and denies that it could be the problem (yes, I have a lump in my breast, yes the Doctor said it is cancer but I don’t believe it therefore it does not exist mentality) and the final lesson, sometimes a newbie gets a lucky guess (or maybe he knows something The Weekly Geek and staff don’t hmmm… that could not be).

Well, until we meet again, have a virus free week.

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