Wading through Windows


There comes a time in your life when you have to get your hands dirty and face up to the fact that you just have to do the one thing you wish you would never have to do.

Installing a Windows operating system. On a brand new Dell desktop. It makes you shudder, doesn't it?

To be precise, I had to install Microsoft Windows 2003 Server x64 on a Dell Precision 690, which comes with a Dell SAS 5/iR integrated raid controller.

<sarcasm>As usual, you would not expect Windows to install cleanly and without fuss... Where would that warm and fuzzy sense of accomplishment that accompanies every successful install go otherwise?</sarcasm>

Anyway, for those of you out there unfortunate enough to have to deal with any incarnation of Microsoft technology (*), here is a couple of tips to help you out and quickly get you on track.

Windows' installation program barfs out an error that it cannot load any mass storage device drivers and therefore it cannot find any hard drives to install to.

Dell's website is not that helpful. Navigating through their support pages in search of a driver and entering your system details only returns (at the time of writing) a list of firmware updates.

However, using the Downloads Search box in the top right corner with keywords `dell sas controller windows 2003 server x64' leads to the much sought after driver.

You will need to copy the file extracted from the downloaded zip file on a floppy disk (an ancient medium used to store data and read by a floppy drive). Luckily, the workstation I was working with came with a floppy drive.

You are now ready for the extenuatingly long Windows installation procedure. As soon as the Windows blue installation screen pops up, type F6 to enable loading of additional drives. A few minutes later, you will be prompted to insert a floppy disk containing the custom drivers.

Hope this helps.

(*) To be fair, I think that the quality and reliability of Microsoft's operating systems has steadily increased since Windows 95 (with the notable exception of Windows Millenium, and with the clause that I have not yet tried out Windows Vista).