It seems that a number of people are having difficulties in installing Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 on their Gen7 N-series MicroServer. It’s caught many off guard as Server 2012 installs without an issue.
The MicroServer N36, N40L and N54L all share the same embedded NC107i PCI Express gigabit NIC. The NC107i uses the Broadcom BCM5723 chip which doesn’t have an updated driver included with the Server 2012 R2 installation media. The missing drivers will cause the installation process to hang at the spinning dots screen.
The current workaround is to disable the on-board NIC and install an add-on card. If this sounds familiar then you’ve probably tried installing ESXi on a whitebox PC 8-). Joe Miner over at Home Server Show describes the following steps he took to get this to work properly:
- Flash the custom BIOS to unlock the hidden BIOS screens
- Install a supported NIC in the PCIe slot (Joe used the Intel EXPI9301CTBLK
- Go into the BIOS and change the settings to match
- Boot Settings -> Embedded NIC Port 1 Control – [Disabled]
- Boot Settings -> Wake-On LAN – [Disabled]
- Chipset -> Atheros AR8132M NIC – [Disabled]
- After a reboot, Server 2012 R2 should install fine
Not everything is probably needed to be disabled in the BIOS but it looks like Joe didn’t take any chances. This is still a workaround and is going to be an issue for those that have already used the spare PCIe slot for something like a P410 HP Storage Array. You may have some luck trying to use a USB to Ethernet adapter but not sure if you would want to run Ethernet over USB 2.0.
HP have documented this as a known issue and are currently working with Microsoft to resolve prior to the official release of R2.
If anyone has been able to use the on-board NIC, we’d love to hear from you.