In a previous tip, I described how to load mass storage drivers during the Windows Server 2008 installation process. However, many administrators may come across situations where a driver load becomes a challenge due to hardware and environment configurations.

Windows Server 2008 makes this process a little more flexible. Here are various ways that a driver can be passed into the setup program.

  • IDE floppy disk: I’m going old school here, but the Windows Server 2008  setup can read from the floppy drive during the installation process.
  • USB floppy drive: The Windows setup can read from a USB drive, or the computer’s BIOS will enumerate the floppy drive as an A:\ drive. It’s somewhat of a cover song of the old school approach.
  • USB flash drive: The Windows Server 2008 install will recognize USB storage devices, and you can have the driver located on the removable media.
  • Map a network drive: Yes you can! This is a little more advanced, but if you boot the server from a Vista PE bootable environment, map a network drive, and then run the setup.exe program interactively from a network location that you copied from the Windows Server 2008 DVD, you can browse to another network resource for a driver for the mass storage controller. This is especially beneficial if the Vista PE boot environment can be booted from a CD instead of a DVD, which is helpful for servers without a DVD drive. (For more information about Vista PE, read this TechNet article.)
  • Place the driver on an existing file system: If you can boot the server currently, make a drive partition of NTFS or FAT, you can put the driver on that drive and ensure it is available to the Windows Server 2008 install. Don’t make it available on the C:\ drive, but some location at the end of the drive. If you need to resize your drives after installation, no worries — Windows Server 2008 makes that quite easy as well with new sizing tools.
  • Additional optical drives: If your server has a DVD and a CD drive, you can make a simple disk that has the driver files contained there and browse to that location during the Windows Server 2008 install.

The list goes on, but this will cover most of the common scenarios for interactive Windows Server 2008 installations.

If you’ve had to get creative on passing drivers based on server equipment configuration, share your experiences in the discussion forum.

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