SBS 2008 Migration Error: Windows could not determine if the computer contains a valid system volume

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Last week during an SBS 2003 – SBS 2008 migration we ran into a problem with the installer that has not occurred in any of our previous migrations. (and we’ve done lots of them) Upon creating partitions and selecting the partition that we wanted to install the OS to, it fails to install immediately saying “Windows could not determine if the computer contains a valid system volume”.

After some fussing, rebuilding the RAID array, calling hardware support at Equus (who by the way was wonderful) we finally found something of a solution on the Internet. Apparently what we ran into is pretty common, though the solution that worked for us was not exactly as found by an Internet search.

The problem was that the server was attempting to install the OS onto the USB key (which we needed for the answer file). It was doing this even though, the USB key was not an option to select in the where do you want to install the OS screen in the installer.

The puzzling part for us is that we have done many migrations and never run into this problem before. We have used this exact same server hardware configuration. We have booted with a USB key already plugged in. We have used OEM media. This we think was our first OEM media with SP2 slipstream, but that hardly seems like something that would cause what really appears to be an installer issue. Was it the particular USB key we used? So while we’re stumped on the cause, at least we found a solution.

The Internet search solution was to go into the BIOS and move the USB key in the boot order to the last option. We did that, no dice. Same problem, this solution did not work for us but if you are having this problem it may be worth a try as others report that it does work. Our install absolutely insisted on not installing where we selected and attempting to install to a drive that was not even available as a selection in the installer!

We had to remove the USB key from the server during installation and plug it in at the appropriate time to read the answer file. The appropriate time we selected was immediately following the confirmation that the OS is installing. When your server reboots be sure to again remove the key and wait until the installation resumes before plugging it in. This will allow the installation to start and your migration to succeed.


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0 thoughts on “SBS 2008 Migration Error: Windows could not determine if the computer contains a valid system volume

  • James Feldman

    I just came across this issue while doing a Swing migration. I found that leaving the USB drive unplugged during the initial boot, then inserting it at the “Install Now” window solved the problem. Migration is going ahead smoothly right now…

    PS love this site – lots of good articles. I’ll definitely call you if I ever need tier 3 support.