Server Replacement Using Hardware Independent Imaging

In the last year or so, hardware-independent imaging has received increasing
attention. The idea is that you can create an image of a live server and restore
it to another machine, updating device information in the process. This promises
to be much simpler and faster than having to build a new machine from scratch,
add it to the domain, elevate its role, etc.

A client recently agreed to replace their five-year-old Dell PowerEdge 1500SC
with a new Dell PowerEdge 1900. This small organization uses one server running
Windows Server 2003 R2. It acts as a domain controller, web server, file server,
print server, and (non-Exchange) mail server.

I decided to give the hardware-independent option a try. StorageCraft's
ShadowProtect seems well-respected in the Small Business Specialist community,
so that is the product I used.

With maybe eight to ten hours of preparation, I was able to successfully
migrate the server in about five and a half hours. While not as fast and easy as
I had hoped, it is still nice to have the new server in place with all of its
unique enhancements and configurations fully implemented. Remember, to do this
manually would mean not only installing and configuring the operating system,
but also UPS software, anti-virus management and client software, backup
software, printers, file shares with permissions, Services for Macintosh, IIS,
web sites and applications, mail server software, line-of-business applications
like QuickBooks, etc. With a manual migration, I would expect there to be
ongoing issues regarding things that didn't get configured correctly, or that I
forgot to configure. With this approach, I feel more confident that the project
is actually completed (knock on wood!).

Notes for Next Time

Rather than publish eight pages of notes on all my trials and errors during
the project, I thought I would try to summarize the things that I want to
remember next time I do this.

ShadowProtect Editions

I used ShadowProtect IT Edition for my initial testing, then thought
I would try ShadowProtect Server Edition for the actual deployment. Both
editions let you boot from a CD into a recovery environment where you can create
and restore images. However, when I tried to do a hardware-independent-restore (HIR)
using the Server Edition, in spite of the green check mark indicating that the
operation completed, there was this obscure warning:  “HIR Configuration
Status: stopped (target is not a supported Windows volume).” Sure enough, the
new machine would not boot successfully:  as soon as it tried to start
Windows, it immediately rebooted the server in a continuous loop.

StorageCraft's knowledge base does not list this error. Google led me to a
with the answer:  “The HIR functionality that ships inside the
Desktop/Server Edition 3.0 Recovery Environment can only be applied toward
supported OS volumes on which ShadowProtect itself is installed. The HIR
functionality in IT Edition 3.0 has no such limitation.” In other words, it was
failing because I had not installed ShadowProtect Server on the server before
creating the image. Switching to the IT Edition allowed me to successfully
complete the hardware-independent restore.

Moral:  be sure to select View Details so you can check whether the HIR
really worked!

ShadowProtect Environments

ShadowProtect has developed a new environment based on VistaPE. In the Server
Edition, this is simply called the “Recommended” environment, while the previous
environment, based on WinPE, is called the “Legacy” environment. However, in the
IT Edition, these are labeled “Vista” and “XP/2003” respectively. This led to
some confusion, as I thought I needed to use the “XP/2003” environment to image
and restore a Windows 2003 machine. It turns out that the Vista environment can
be used for imaging and restoring any supported operating system. There are a
few “gotchas” in both environments:

  • In either environment, if you are not seeing your disks, click on
    Refresh Volumes Info a couple times.
  • I found that the Legacy environment would only recognize the PERC 5/i
    RAID controller in the PowerEdge 1900 if I enabled network support. Since I
    was working with physically-attached drives, I had no need for network
    support, but every time I chose not to enable it, the PERC 5/i disk (and
    hence the volumes to which I needed to restore) was not visible. This was
    not a problem in the Vista environment.
  • The Disk Map feature is identified in the ReadMe file as experimental. I
    found the version in the Legacy environment to be more stable. On at least
    two occasions, Disk Map in the Vista environment produced flaky results: 
    a partition re-appeared after it had been deleted, and an attempt to format
    a partition with a non-default cluster size failed.

Drivers, Drivers, Drivers

It makes sense that during a hardware-independent restore, ShadowProtect
needs drivers for the new hardware. I was prepared to provide drivers for the
network and RAID cards. I was surprised that it also needed much more common
drivers like various USB and disk support drivers. Some tips on getting the
drivers ready as quickly as possible:

  • You cannot remove the ShadowProtect CD during a restore, nor can you add
    and recognize a USB drive once ShadowProtect starts complaining about
    drivers. If you start getting missing driver messages and the drivers aren't
    already available on media that is currently attached to the server, just
    note the driver name and ignore the error. Do this for each missed driver
    (11 of 63 in my case) and you will have a complete list ready for your next
  • Once you know the drivers that you need, copy all of them to a USB hard
    drive or thumb drive. I found that I needed not only the PowerEdge 1900
    drivers (extracted via a rather arcane command line from the CD that came
    with the server), but also the drivers for a SIIG eSATA card, and the
    Windows Server 2003 R2 install CD #1. Add paths to the specific .inf files
    when you specify that you want to do a hardware-independent restore. Once I
    added the Win2003 \I386 path, all of the warnings about missing USB and disk
    drivers went away.
  • The new server uses USB for keyboard and mouse. I was glad when I got to
    my first logon prompt, but then panicked when I could not type or move the
    mouse. I went away for a minute to look for answers. By the time I came
    back, the mouse and keyboard were working. Apparently Windows 2003 just
    needed a minute to install those drivers, which it fortunately could do even
    before I logged on.
  • Even after doing the HIR, when you first log in to the operating system
    on the new server, it will do lots of its own hardware installation, in some
    cases prompting you for driver files. Lucky you, you already have the driver
    files in an attached USB drive, so just point it there and you're good to

After the Restore

Following the practice that Handy Andy published, I used Directory Service
Restore Mode (DSRM) for initial server configuration of this domain controller.
These are the tasks that I had to complete after the restore (many of them
specific to this environment):

  1. Install hardware drivers as prompted.
  2. Set the correct time.
  3. In Add/Remove Programs, uninstall hardware-specific programs, e.g. old
    Dell DRAC and OpenManage software.
  4. In Disk Manager, make sure that the new drive mappings match the old,
    and correct if necessary.
  5. In Device Manager, uninstall a duplicate COM1 port, and update the
    Display Adapter driver from Standard VGA to the display driver from the
    server's driver CD.
  6. In Network Connections, duplicate the settings in the new network card
    that you had on the old card, including the fixed IP address and DNS server.
    Even if you told ShadowProtect to uninstall the old network card, it
    apparently doesn't do that, because I got a warning about creating an IP
    address that duplicated a hidden adapter. You have to choose No, do not use
    a different IP address.
  7. In Computer Properties > Advanced > Performance > Advanced, Change
    Virtual Memory, set your virtual memory based on the size of RAM in the new
  8. Under Administrative Tools > Routing and Remote Access, reconfigure
    AppleTalk on the new network adapter.
  9. The new machine does not have a parallel port. To stop the “service
    failed to start” message, disable the parallel port in the registry. From
    regedit, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Parport \Start
    to 4 (Disable).
  10. The old Shadow Copy configuration is now invalid. In Task Manager,
    delete the existing ShadowCopyVolume task. Then in Explorer drive D
    Properties, enable shadow copies on D. Set schedule to run Daily (not just
    Monday through Friday) at 7:00am and 12:00pm. Leave Storage area limit at
    default 10% of drive size.
  11. Reboot into normal mode. Check event logs for services that failed to
    start. PowerAlert (UPS monitor) service fails to start; let's hold off on
  12. Test line-of-business applications and locally-hosted web site.
  13. Unplug the router from the Internet. Connect the server to the LAN. Test
    workstation logon and access to the server. Test a Terminal Services
    connection from a workstation to the server.
  14. Install new Dell OpenManage. Install Broadcom Drivers and Management
    Applications. Configure the Broadcom offload engine (TOE).
  15. Make sure anti-virus software is running. Connect router to the
    Internet. Test web access. Test incoming and outgoing email. PowerAlert is
    happy now that it has network connectivity.
  16. Go home!

P.S. The day after the restore, I was getting some unusual Srv 2021 errors in the event log. These were probalby due to the new hardware, not the restore itself. But in the process of working through Microsoft KB 317249, I discovered that both of the volumes were fragmented. Also, even though I had formatted drive D with 16KB clusters, it was back to 4K clusters. Apparently ShadowProtect does a cluster-level restore, duplicating the format of the source volume. So I defragmented both volumes, then ran chkdsk /r, which found and cleaned up several minor inconsistencies. So, another note for next time:  run defrag and chkdsk before capturing the image, and to be safe, again after the restore.

5 thoughts on “Server Replacement Using Hardware Independent Imaging

  1. Nate

    Hey Mark, those are some pretty good observations. I’m going to discuss some of the things you mentioned with our team to see if we can refine our documentation and some aspects of our UI so as to reduce the learning curve.

    Best Regards,

    Nate Bushman
    Sr. Principal Software Engineer
    StorageCraft Technology Corp.

  2. Mark Berry

    Wow Nate, not sure how you found that post within hours of posting, but thanks for being on top of this!

  3. Darren

    I’ve been playing with Shadowprotect IT for 2 years, I just did a pretty simple backup of a Vista PC and trying to restore to some new hardware. I used the Vista recovery environment to take the image and was trying to use that to put the image back. I was getting the same error as above – target is not a supported Windows Volume. After reading what Mark wrote I tried booting into the XP Recovery environment and hey Presto, no error and it did what it was supposed to do. Try this, I restored twice before I tried it and wasted 2 hours.

    Good luck.

  4. John Benjamin

    Mark, the link to Handy Andy’s practices for DSRM isn’t working. Do you know an updated link or could you provide the info? Thanks very much for your information!! John

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