Thursday, 27 March 2008

Vista Setup Error - Windows is unable to find a system volume that meets its criteria for installation.

When doing a bare metal setup of Windows Vista Ultimate, we were faced with the following error:

Windows Vista Error: Windows is unable to find a system volume that meets its criteria for installation.

The puzzling thing for us was the list of available hard disks for partitioning.

A quick search of the error turned up the following: MS KB 938984: Error message when you try to install Windows Vista: "Windows is unable to find a system volume which meets its criteria for installation".

From the KB article:
You experience this symptom if the following conditions are true:
  • In the BIOS, a universal serial bus (USB) removable device is set as the start device, or the USB removable device is set to a higher priority than the first hard disk drive in the start order.
  • You attach a non-bootable USB device to a USB port before you start the computer.
  • You try to install Windows Vista from DVD installation media.
While we did have a USB flash drive plugged into the system at boot with the necessary RAID controller drivers on it, the flash drive partition was not set to Active so one would assume that it would not even appear in the available boot devices.

A reboot into the BIOS revealed that this was not the case. The USB flash drive was listed, though not the first one in the available drives to boot from. However, the BIOS setting for "Boot USB Devices First" was set to enabled.

Since we had already successfully updated the BIOS from our Technician's Thumb Drive, we had no need to further boot from a USB device so we disabled the boot to USB first setting.

Thus, the second bullet was indeed the culprit for us.

Once we were back into the Vista setup, we were able to load the RAID drivers and continue the setup without issue.

A much simpler alternative would be to pull the USB flash drive until such time as the drivers were needed! But, that was not so obvious at first. ;)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.


Matthew Ingmire said...

Thanks a lot for this post. I was reinstalling SBS 2008 and couldn't figure out why I was getting this error message. Turns out that I had left the portable USB hard drive that I was using as a backup plugged into the machine. I unplugged it, restarted the machine, and am good to go! Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I also got this problem when both HDD and cdrom were in the same IDE channel. Although both were detected and working, Windows installer was rising this error.

Daniel B said...

I have also experienced this issue while install Windows Small Business Server 2008. I had a 1TB External USB HDD plugged in. Removed the drive and restarted the installation, all worked fine.