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Can't Install any OS on two Dell PowerEdge 2650 Servers

We have two essentially identical Dell PowerEdge 2650s that we recently decommissioned applications on. In order to repurpose the servers, we simply went in and rebuilt the RAID array and attempted to install a CentOS-based Linux distribution. The servers boot fine from the CD and ISOLINUX loads. We get to the screen where it says "type linux to install", type linux, and hit enter. The screen says "Loading vmlinuz..........." and then completely freezes. This seemed odd so we tried another similar distribution and got exactly the same result.

Since these both failed we thought we would try Windows. We attempted to install Server 2003. Again it boots fine from the CD, and then begins loading files. Before it even gets to the screen where you accept the EULA, it says some file is corrupt and the installation fails. Tried it again and got the same result on a different file. So, we tried Windows XP. With XP it boots off the CD, shows the line "Setup is inspecting your hardware configuration" and then the system seems to crash and reboot. Upon reboot, it does the same thing again.

We have tried everything I can think of but cannot get any OS to install on these two servers. On one of them we upgraded the BIOS to the latest version, firmware to latest version, and the RAID controller firmware to latest version.... no change in results. We have tweaked all kinds of BIOS settings, no change. We are at a complete loss.

If anyone solves this one, we will be MOST appreciative!
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trimtabtech
Asked:
trimtabtech
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1 Solution
 
jd_programmer1Commented:
Have you tried rebuilding the RAID array? I know it should be empty, but it seems like all of those may be freezing when copying files to the HDD. Just an idea...
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trimtabtechAuthor Commented:
We have rebuilt the array several times on each server with different drive configurations and such with no change in results unfortunately. One server has 4 drives, the other has 5. This is really the only difference between the two servers.

We have tried putting al drives in one RAID 5 array (both servers), two RAID 1 arrays (4 drive server), a RAID 1 array and a RAID 5 array (5 drive server). etc. Seems to make no difference.

This is really a nightmare as we are really being pushed to get these servers running again.
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bcoyxpCommented:
have you tried booting using Dell's server start utility disc (Dell Installation and Server Manager)?

here's link i got. version 5.2

http://support.dell.com/support/downloads/download.aspx?c=us&l=en&s=gen&releaseid=R146318&formatcnt=1&libid=0&fileid=204270

hope it helps.

regards,

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Hugh FraserConsultantCommented:
Check for the official support for your version of Centos at:

http://www.adaptec.com/en-US/_common/linux/

You may need an updated driver (available at the same place) that can be loaded when you boot from the distribution.
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vaihaCommented:
Hmm... I suspect Memory.

Could you run a memtest on it? (www.memtest.org)

Hope it helps
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trimtabtechAuthor Commented:
@bcoyxp I did try that actually. I booted off of that and it starts up using ISOLINUX also it looks like also. It boots off the Dell CD fine, got to the "Server Assistant Boot Options" but from there I enter an option and it freezes, just like with the other Linux distros I tried. Here is a screenshot of where it freezes http://www.flickr.com/photos/trimtabtech/3403192737/in/set-72157616207243674/.

@hfraser result above indicates not a CentOS problem since Dell boot CD freezes also.

@vaiha interesting thought. Strange it happens on two servers right, not just one but I think you're right in that it is behavior consistent with bad memory. We will run Memtest this afternoon and see what happens.
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trimtabtechAuthor Commented:
So I booted using memtest on both servers. All I got was the following repeating down the screen, memtest never actually launched:

Loading...............
@X: <some number>
AX: <some number>
BX: <some number>
CX: <some number>
DX: <some number>
@X: <some number>
AX: <some number>
BX: <some number>
CX: <some number>
DX: <some number>

Trying to figure out the problem, I found this: http://www.memtest86.com/support.html. This said this problem only occurred when booting from floppy but I used CD. Tried to reburn the CD and try again anyway. Same result.

Does this indicate a memory issue? If so, still shocked it happened on both of the two servers. Any idea?
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vaihaCommented:
In order to isolate the problem, do you have any spare memory lying around?
Try this, remove all the memory and just attach the minimum amount of memory supported. Also if it still gives the error, try different slots.

Hope it helps.
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Hugh FraserConsultantCommented:
Looking for something in common, I have in the past had new packs of both CDs and DVDs that were flawed. In both cases I was creating Fedora ISOs. The distributions burned without any reported error, but failed while trying to boot. After going through several attempts, a co-worker said they'd had problems as well, so the blank disks were replaced with a new ones from a different vendor, and the problem magically disappeared.
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bcoyxpCommented:
trim,

aside from vaiha's advise, try to seat and re-seat some of the hardware parts, e.g. Array controller,RAMs and HDDs. reset the BIOS to factory default (review your settings first before you do it). this could be due caused by IRQ (interrupts) assignment.

Regards,  
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trimtabtechAuthor Commented:
Well I had just some extra PC2100 desktop memory laying around that I thought would work to test... no go. Just get panel error that no memory is installed. I guess PC2100 desktop memory doesn't work in these servers even though it is same DDR 266 or whatever per Dell's spec sheet for the 2650? Shows you what a memory expert I am.

Anyway, through a bunch of tweaking, I was able to get the servers to do a PXE boot and actually run memtest off of the server used to boot from. Sure enough, both servers had all kinds of errors in memtest. So I guess that is it... we need to order some memory that actually works, probably from Dell and I'm guessing things will work.
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