Windows NT Setup Issues

Microsoft Support Engineers help you troubleshoot Windows NT Setup.

Mark Minasi

January 31, 1996

6 Min Read
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Troubleshooting with Microsoft

During the first part of Setup, referred to as character-based Setup, Windows NT examines your system architecture for foundation-level information and drivers. This information includes:

  • CPU type (x86, MIPS, Alpha, PowerPC)

  • Motherboard type (PCI, VESA, MCA, EISA, ISA)

  • Hard-drive controllers

  • File systems

  • Free space on hard drives

  • Memory

NT looks for any devices that need to be initialized at system startup for your computer to run. It also constructs a "mini" version of NT, which is used to reboot the system into the GUI-mode portion of Setup. Therefore, it's critical that the information NT gathers at this point be accurate.

NT may incorrectly detect controllers and settings if the system uses non-
standard or proprietary bus components or enhancements that don't follow industry standards (e.g., SMP 1.1, PCI 2.1, special bus drivers, and caching chips for burst-mode transfer). If the information isn't correct, Setup will probably fail. Incorrect detection is often a symptom of a hardware or configuration problem that may also cause the installation to fail.

Choosing a Setup Method

  • Standard Setup: Installing directly from the CD-ROM or floppy installation disks is almost always the best method of setting up your Windows NT system. It offers the best support for alternative hardware application layers (HALs), timing, and third-party drivers. If you have a supported CD-ROM drive, you should choose this install method.

If you lose or misplace the Setup disks for the standard install, run either WINNT/OX or WINNT32 /OX to create new boot disks for a standard installation.

  • WINNT or WINNT32 Setup: This method of installation was designed for network installations or for computers with unsupported CD-ROM drives. It builds the boot disks and performs a file copy of the installation directory to the hard drive before the install procedure begins. It is the second best choice.

  • Network installs: For networks where the NT installation files are kept on a central server, installations can be accomplished using WINNTor by copying the entire i386 directory from the install CD-ROM to the hard drive and then running WINNT from the local drive. This can reduce network traffic and dependency.

The method of copying the i386 directory can also be used when there are hard drive or driver issues that otherwise block the use of the CD-ROM.

  • (Unsupported) WINNT/B: or WINNT32/B is used for floppyless installation. It copies the boot files to the root of the C: drive and then uses the hard disk as if it were the boot disk. If you have timing issues on your computer, such as problems accessing the hard drive or similar error messages, this method can be used, but WINNT is much more reliable.

This method will fail if you are running BIOS-level virus protection.

  • (Unsupported) WINNT /W allows you to install NT from within Windows, bypassing the drive-locking and enhanced-driver issues involved with a Microsoft Windows install. Again, this bypasses many of the NT-install safety features and is not recommended.

  • (Unsupported) WINNT /U is the command for unattended installation. It can only be used on systems where all the components are standard and no user input is required. If there are any problems, the Install will stop until the problem is resolved.

Q: When I put the boot disk in, I get the error "Operating System not found," and Setup doesn't begin. What's wrong?

Check the system BIOS to ensure that the A: drive is available as a boot drive. If it is and the error still occurs, you have a bad boot floppy or a drive that's out of calibration. To create new floppies, format three disks on the system you plan to install NT on. Then, from the CD-ROM i386 directory, type WINNT/OX to build a new set of Install floppies.

Q: Right after I boot the Install disk, my system hangs, and the floppy drive light stays on. It won't go any further. How do I get from stall mode to install mode?

It sounds like you have a corrupt boot disk or a disk-controller problem. Run WINNT /OX to create new floppies. The disks you create won't be for a WINNT installation but for a standard floppy boot installation. If you are using a SCSI controller for your floppy disks, make sure that all internal and external devices are properly terminated.

Q: When Setup inspects the hard drive, the error "Setup did not find any hard drives on your computer" appears. I know it's in there. What's up?

Make sure that all disk hard drives are powered up and properly connected to your computer. If you're sure that the hard drives are properly connected, check the following:

1. Scan the drive for viruses. If the Master Boot Record is infected, NT may not see the hard drive properly. Use a commercial scan program, as well as Microsoft Virus scan. Even if the drive is NTFS, the Master Boot Record can become infected.

2. If the hard drive is SCSI:
a) Does it have a valid boot sector?
b) Are all SCSI devices properly terminated?
c) If you are using a passive terminator, upgrade to an active terminator.
d) Is the BIOS on the boot-initiating SCSI adapter enabled?
e) Are the BIOSs on all non-initiating SCSI adapters disabled? When the BIOS on a non-initiating SCSI adapter is enabled, it can at boot up and/or interfere with hardware interrupt 13 calls to the initiating hard-drive controller, resulting in an inability to boot or random hangs during installation.
f) Was the hard drive partitioned and formatted using this SCSI adapter? If not, you may need to repartition it or possibly do a low-level format.
g) Verify that your SCSI configuration adheres to the standards (see Table 1).

NT currently supports only eight SCSI IDs, including the adapter ID. (See the sidebar "SCSI Definitions" for definitions of the terms used here.)

3. If the hard drive is EIDE:
a) Verify that the system drive is the first drive on the first IDE controller on the motherboard.
b) In the system BIOS, verify that file I/O and/or disk access are set to standard. Most computers ship set to either 32-bit or enhanced access.

4. If the drive is IDE or ESDI:
a) Verify that the controller is functional in a different computer, if possible.
b) If the drive is bigger than 1024 cylinders, make sure you're using a supported disk-configuration utility.
c) Verify that the drive is jumpered correctly for master, slave, or single drive.

Q: NT gives me an error that I don't have a valid partition. When I try to format the partition, NT gets to x% and then hangs. How long do I have to "hang in there?"

If the previous answer on hard drives doesn't solve your problem:

1. Make sure that you have a valid primary DOS partition on the drive. If you don't, you can create one using NT Setup or DOS FDISK.

2. Make sure that your hard drives don't have caching enabled. Set drive controllers that have caching capabilities to Write Through, not Write Back.

3. Format the drive to approximately 5MB to 10MB less than the actual size of the partition you first selected.

Q: Setup hangs while copying files to the hard drive. That doesn't sound hard to me. What's wrong?

You have one of two problems:

1. The incorrect HAL being loaded. Restart Setup. As soon as the message "Windows NT is examining your hardware configuration" appears, press F5. This will take you to a menu listing various HALs. If you're running on a single Pentium system, choose the Single Processor HAL; if you're running on a Compaq or Sequent computer using an OEM HAL, select Other, and insert that vendor's disk.

2. Setup uses reserved memory. Disable Video Shadow RAM and/or 32-bit Enhanced File Throughput in the BIOS.

Contact Info

Microsoft * 206-882-8080

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